Selling Tehran’s Rejectionist Stance

Having tossed out a poorly explained assertion that Tehran has little attractive ideology to offer the world in its campaign to lead a challenge to the U.S.-centric world political system, I would like to underscore the distinction between an “ideology” and a “policy position.” An ideology, I would argue, is a broad construct, much more substantive than a simple policy position. Ideologies include capitalism, communism, socialism, and Khomenei’s version of Shi’i clerical dictatorship. I would maintain that this ideology offers little attraction to the rest of the world, even its mistreated Shi’a. Be they Pakistani, Iraqi, Lebanese, Bahraini, or Saudi, Shi’a in general do not appear to find the idea of submitting to Khomenei’s particular vision as very attractive. (Comments from those who have more expertise on this issue would be more than welcome.)

Policy is another matter, and Tehran offers the disadvantaged of the world some (potentially) very attractive policies. In a unipolar world, the big guy of course gets blamed for everything that goes wrong, and indeed when you strive to be Numero Uno, you deserve it. Tehran is the world’s most open critic of the U.S.-centric global political system. Tehran may not have a very inspirational ideology, but it does offer a clear policy: replace unipolarity with…whatever. More specifically, it has a policy of rejecting Israeli military dominance over the Mideast and Israeli exceptionalism (e.g., only Israel is allowed nuclear arms, only Israel is allowed to maintain occupation forces outside its legally recognized borders).

Tehran becomes a significant player for free simply because it is essentially has a monopoly on that policy line of “resistance.” This position is “free” because it does not actually have to do anything except assert the policy position and accrue the benefit of being the only actor in the world with the guts to “say no.”

What Washington needs to understand is that this puts Tehran in a fundamentally passive position – its dissident stance is significant only to the degree that Washington takes such a hard-line counter-position as to make Tehran look like Robin Hood to Washington’s King John. If King John had been just a bit more generous with the poor and had been a bit more willing to share power with the nobles, he could have pulled the rug out from under his opponents and been a popular king. An Obama calling for Arab democracy and insisting on the rights of Palestinians leaves Tehran rejectionists out in the cold, talking to themselves. An Obama protecting individual Arab dictators against the interests of the Arab people or kowtowing to an extremist and expansionist Israeli faction, however, hands to Tehran rejectionists a degree of global political influence they could never obtain for themselves. Tehran’s future is in the hands of Washington, and so far Washington is giving Tehran exactly what it wants: an easy target.

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Arab Revolt in Context

Americans can be forgiven for perplexity about the massive protests raging across the Arab world: the Boston Tea Party, the abolition movement, the women’s rights movement, and Bull Conner’s dogs threatening little black girls trying to go to school all seem to have occurred a long time ago. The Arab Revolt is all of these.
Three related questions may help to understand the big picture:
  1. What does “liberty” mean?
  2. What is the relationship between “liberty” and “national security?”
  3. How will the Arab revolt influence American liberty and national security?
1. Liberty.   
Forget the Arab world; think about a family with a domineering father. Suppose Dad decided who you could date, who you could marry, what you could read, when you could express your opinion, what you could study at college, where you would work, what party you could vote for? Imagine that Dad was a free man, free to make all the above decisions for himself. Would you describe your family as free?
How would you, in such a family, gain personal liberty? Would you somehow demonstrate your ability to handle freedom and bargain with Dad? Would you protest? Would you leave home? Most Arabs of course do not have all these choices vis-à-vis oppressive dictators: expressing an opinion can land you in jail, protesting can get you beaten by brutal police, Gazans are prohibited by Israel from leaving. The bottom line is that liberty is not “natural” but an achievement of human society at its very rare best, a goal to be pursued, a growth that survives only when nourished.
2. Liberty & National Security.
Some, usually those who have more money than they can spend and no intention of sharing any of it, make the argument that a trade-off exists between liberty and national security. It goes roughly like this: “If you sacrifice some of your (not ‘our’) liberty, then ‘we’ will protect you from ‘them.’” It is never quite clear why the “we”—e.g., Egyptian generals and secret police or Iranian mullahs who assert the right to pass judgment on the government and civil society or neo-cons who want to pass “patriot” acts to gain the power to watch what kind of books you check out of the library—actually need to circumscribe civil liberties in order to provide national security. The reason is that the whole argument is a cover for protecting something altogether different – not national security but elite privilege.
In Egypt this may be the ability of the elite to stifle a democracy that would instantly vote them out of power.
In Israel, it is increasingly the ability of the expansionist faction to suppress traditional Israeli democracy, as formerly exemplified by the Meretz Party and as currently exemplified by a long list of Israeli historians, peace activists, and journalists who defend traditional Israeli civil rights against an increasingly authoritarian ruling faction.
In the U.S., it includes protecting the ability of the financial elite to gamble investor funds and make a profit even when the investors lose their shirts…or get paid back by taxpayers as well as the ability of the military-industrial complex to make a profit selling weapons for wars that exploit the fear of terrorism but in fact provoke terrorism.
The case of Egypt illustrates a dangerous dynamic: repression by the elite in the false name of national security generates resentment leading to protest. The more the elite suppresses the protesters and refuses to listen to their grievances, the more likely it becomes that the population will turn to extremists. When moderation fails, violence or slavery are the only two choices that remain. And thus, the self-serving argument of the elite that liberty must be sacrificed for security turns out to be a false dichotomy. In truth, while liberty is a risky venture with no certain outcome, it opens the door to a stable, enduring security.
3. Arab liberty and U.S. national security. 
Liberty as the foundation for a stable national security supported by the whole population provides the link between Arab liberty and U.S. national security. Resting the fortress of U.S. national security on the foundation of hated right-wing Arab dictators and aggressive right-wing factions in Israel provides but a short-term expedient, and the longer such a strategy is pursued, the more repressive it must become to survive, thus making a catastrophic collapse ever more likely.
Rather than, in the Egyptian case, marginalizing the moderate (judging from their behavior for many years) Muslim Brotherhood as well as the mass of Egyptians who just want minimal civil rights, a wiser course for Americans interested in long-term, stable cooperation with Egypt would be to encourage all Egyptian groups to participate in a peaceful, open, democratic system. Let any that wins an election be put to the test of performance, with the world watching. The rising moderation of both Islamic parties and the military in Turkey, today probably the most democratic state in the Mideast (including Israel), exemplifies the promise of this strategy. The Islamic Revolution in Iran, provoked by short-sighted U.S. support for an increasingly repressive right-wing dictatorship by the Shah, exemplifies the failure of the elite’s false dichotomy between liberty and national security.
Liberty is a common good, stronger the more it is shared. King George denied this and provoked the American Revolution. With globalization and the Internet and al Jazeera, the principle of liberty as a common good is all the more true today.

Turkish Opportunities

If supported by Washington, could Ankara transform Mideast political dynamics away from reliance on force to resolve all disputes?
Turkey is emerging onto the regional stage as an independent actor as it simultaneously begins to face up to its Muslim roots and attempts to strengthen democracy at home – a tall but commendable order and perhaps a set of goals that can only be achieved in unison. Domestically, Turkey faces the sensitive challenges of recognizing Muslim roots without frightening modernizing sectors of the society concerned about civil rights, of strengthening traditionally weak civilian control over a traditionally uncontrollable and dictatorial military, and of integrating the Kurds politically while freeing them culturally. Difficult as these reforms may be, it is hard to see how Ankara can meet the international challenge of replacing client status toward the U.S. with genuine foreign policy independence unless it can unite Turkish society, and it is hard to see how Ankara can make the case that it deserves to have its new foreign policy of friendship toward all taken seriously unless it practices an analogous domestic policy of political inclusion of and cultural freedom for all social groups.
If these are inspiring times for Turks, Ankara’s new policy represents an historic opportunity for the U.S. to promote a moderate Mideast middle to serve as a buffer between the violence-prone forces currently setting the Mideast political agenda. The political coin currently carries questions on each side:
1.)    Can Ankara explain its new foreign policy in a way that alleviates Washington tendencies to interpret any independent thinking as a threat?
2.)    Can Washington find the maturity and vision to help Ankara in its very ambitious effort to find positive-sum solutions to Mideast conflicts?
Washington has demonstrated its inability to bring stability to the Mideast, and democracy can hardly be imposed from outside, but Washington might be able greatly to facilitate a home-grown process of cultivating both stability and democracy. With its roots in both Muslim and Western traditions, Turkey is well placed to be the catalyst of such a change.
The Mideast today is split by political fault lines separating the U.S. from Iran, Israelis from Palestinians, Israelis from those who support Palestinians, the West from jihadis. All these fault lines are characterized by the reliance by both sides on force as the primary means of resolving conflict, and nowhere is there a force counseling understanding, compromise, or—more important—the search for positive-sum solutions.
Some Mideast disputes will simply require hard compromises. In the Levant, for example, sufficient water simply does not exist, so both Israelis and Palestinians will have to accept the need to share what little there is and use less than they would like. Water, then, will require a compromise.
Other Mideast disputes, in contrast, are amenable to positive-sum solutions that hold the potential of providing real security benefits from diminishing tensions to both sides. The Iranian-Israeli nuclear dispute, for example, could be muted to mutual benefit through the incremental implementation of common standards for nuclear transparency and the regulation of nuclear arms.
As long as the political environment is bifurcated into two hostile, emotional, fearful camps with no party in the center counseling calm analysis of options, solutions are difficult to see.  Ankara today is offering a way around this impasse. Those parties interested in solutions, rather than endless chaos, should jump at the chance. Those parties who indeed favor the chaos will increasingly find themselves on the defensive if Ankara finds a way to implement its optimistic rhetoric.

Election 2010: Republican Party Split?

Election 2010 does not feel to me like a Republican victory so much as a fundamentalist coup that threatens to split the Republicans. Democrats should use their slap in the face as a wake-up call, stop chasing the neo-cons, and send the voters a clear message. They won’t of course; too many have been on bent knees for too long, ever since 9/11.

The message of the election is that by cozying up to your opponents you simply succeed in making a fool of yourself. Progressives should take advantage of the tumult to form an organized faction and concentrate on offering a candidate in every Congressional district in two years. Give the voters a clear choice.

In that regard, perhaps of all the many issues one could select as the place to make a stand is the Bush tax cuts for the rich. The idea of cutting taxes for the rich during a recession with 17 million unemployed is so astonishingly self-serving that any leader worth his salt could hardly fail to ride it to victory. All the progressives need is a leader and the willingness to organize openly to get members elected, just as the Tea Party has done.

Israeli Police Shoot Member of Knesset

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Haneen Zoubi, member of the Israeli Knesset (parliament) since 2009, was shot in the back by Israeli police. She was on the June international flotilla to Gaza that the Israeli military attacked and embarrassed the Israeli government by reporting that the Israeli naval vessels had fired on the flotilla before Israeli commandos were lowered from helicopters, that two of the flotilla members killed had been shot in the head (suggesting intent to kill), and that Israeli soldiers allowed passengers to bleed to death.
Details on the highly successful Jewish extremist plot to provoke violence and the support the extremists received from the Israeli police are indeed, as Stephen Lendman pointed out, “reminiscent of Kristallnacht.” For those concerned about the struggle between the forces of democracy and fascism in Israel, the shooting by police of a member of the Knesset must surely be one of the most ominous pieces of evidence.
Of course, the incident just happened, and the evidence could go either way. Israel could launch a serious investigation of its police. Israel could clamp down on rightwing extremist Jewish demonstrations in Palestine designed to provoke violence. Israel could establish and enforce new rules to maintain the right to freedom of expression with police protection for both sides rather than police attacks on liberals. Such steps would alter the balance of evidence.

Obama: Secondrate Neo-Con or Master of Change?

Could Obama save his presidency by walking the talk, by–like Clark Kent–actually shedding his neo-con suit so we can see his Master of Change cloak?
If we accept the contentious viewpoint that “10 years is enough”—i.e., that 10 years of neo-con policy in Washington is enough, then what should Obama do to save his presidency?
Well, he could start a war, but that approach is getting a little old.
He could apologize for talking liberal and admit that he really, deep down just wants to be accepted into the Washington elite of financiers who visit the Potomac to pass laws for their personal convenience and imperialists who attack or otherwise subvert oil exporting countries for their personal profit, but that would just make him look like Palin, except less pretty.
He has, fortunately, another choice. He could become the Master of Change:
  1. Govern for Change, not to Make Neo-Cons Feel Good. Apologize for talking reform while walking elite, for being so naïve as to imagine that if he kissed up to neo-con policies that the Republicans would then be so kind as to support a moderate effort to clean up the neo-con mess in foreign policy, health care policy, environmental policy, and economic policy. Having said this, Obama could then state that he would, in his remaining two years, govern for the majority (that is not 60 Senators, but 51, assuming he is lucky enough to retain 51), then focus on proposing real reforms. Invite patriotic Republicans to work with him and ignore the rest. If Congress will not pass them, then he can blame the Republicans for preventing reform and go into the election with a clear record. But…what reforms?
  2. Bail Out People, Not Corporations. Remove all appointed officials from the financial sector if they previously worked in Wall Street. Instead, appoint a mix of academics who have NOT made millions advising Big Finance, government reformers (there are several whose names we know well now in Washington, more and more are emerging at the level of state prosecutors), and perhaps some small-town honest bankers who have carefully avoided the various Wall Street scams of recent years. Then, Obama should direct his new team to:
    1. Scrutinize what Big Finance has done with its bailout;
    2. Bring charges against any CEO’s who hid evidence from investors or regulators;
    3. Redirect policy away from bailing out the rich to funding the reconstruction of America;
    4. Propose clear legislation forcing mortgage companies to prove they hold the paper before they pressure a house-owner toward foreclosure;
    5. Bring serious criminal charges against any mortgage company & banking officials who may be guilty of mistreating those facing foreclosure.
  3. Heath Care As a Right, Not a Business. Announce the principle of socialized health care, explaining in a speech lasting no more than five minutes, that “socialized” means “for society” and that health care is henceforth to be considered a natural right of all Americans. Challenge the industry to come up with an acceptable private plan within 60 days to avoid direct government competition.
  4. Compromise With Iran. Quietly (OK – maybe he already has; I would be the last to know) invite Tehran to sit down to discuss a coordinated effort to resolve both the Iraq and Afghan situations. Separately, announce that U.S. military officials in the field have been authorized to shoot down any aerial force crossing the Persian Gulf in either direction for aggressive purposes. Strongly condemn any American or allied figure that threatens nuclear aggression against Iran.
  5. Support Democracy, Not Imperialism in the Levant. Noisily open all channels to the Israeli intellectual community to stimulate the Israeli “left,” for want of a better word, to devise a solution that frees the Palestinians and solidifies Israeli democracy. Announce that the Hamas policy of trying to participate in electoral politics (which they did at the invitation of both Israel and the U.S. in 2006) and trying to limit rocket attacks even in the face of continuing Israeli military pressure against Gaza justifies both removing Hamas from the terrorist list and opening talks with Hamas. Send the U.S. Navy to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza.
  6. Punish Environmental Crime. End all off-shore drilling until safe technology can be developed, start telling the truth about BP’s pre-oil gusher and post-oil gusher behavior and bring charges against guilty officials.
They say humans can remember plus-or-minus 7 points. Try these six, Mr. President, and maybe enough voters will remember to reelect you.

Erdogan Broadens His Diplomacy…Still Further

Erdogan is searching in all directions for a solid foreign policy victory.

The Erdogan International Adventure continues, this time with an initiative to lead the world’s Turkish-language states. Just as Erdogan’s rejection of Israel’s foreign policy reliance on force challenges the regional superpower and his effort to achieve a compromise between the U.S. and Iran challenges the global superpower, Erdogan’s effort to carve out a Turkish heritage zone of influence challenges whatever pretensions Moscow may have of reasserting control over Central Asia. Erdogan is challenging a disunited group, of course, and it is not clear that either Washington or Moscow has concluded that his challenge need be met with a frontal rejection.

A Russian perspective, for example, recently noted the shared interest of Russia and Turkey as “Black Sea superpowers” acting as cross-national bridges:

на планете формируются новые центры силы. Один из них — как раз Турция, которая вместе с Россией сегодня принадлежит к числу “черноморских сверхдержав”.

Nonetheless, he is pushing against an increasingly large set of resistance forces. His recent domestic political victory may well help, but he needs a foreign policy victory. The ratio of political meetings full of rhetoric to actual solid accomplishments is verging on the embarrassing. If the above-cited opinion represents Moscow’s perspective and were Washington to adopt a similar attitude, then Erdogan would indeed be on the way to making history, but that, in both cases, remains highly questionable. Erdogan’s rhetoric may be a breathe of fresh air, but somewhere he badly needs to deliver.

Theocracy vs.Democracy: The Israeli Case

Democracy is a vision of hope that has never been well implemented in any mass society. Americans should learn the lessons inherent in the missteps of other societies struggling against internal factions that attempt to use democracy in order to destroy it.
Democracy, if civil liberties are not taken to be an inherent part, is a concept with little meaning and less value. If Stalin’s USSR were “democratic” just because the law required everyone to vote, with 100% happening to vote for him, then “democracy” would be just another political rip-off. Therefore, I take the term “democracy” to incorporate civil liberties. That said, a democracy and a theocracy can only overlap if exactly 100% of the population desires a religious state; should even one person choose another path, then either the democracy will become a dictatorship or the theocracy must be abandoned.

This conflict between democracy and theocracy is increasingly becoming the central issue in Israeli politics and, with the militarists who advocate a garrison state deepening their alliance with the theocrats, threatens to become a fight to the death for the future of Israel. [For a more theoretical discussion of a distinct but closely related perspective on the struggle against authoritarianism—democracy vs. fascism—see “Mideast Peace or Fascism,” Online Journal 3/16/10.]

    One recent piece of evidence that theocratic forces are winning this battle for control of Israel is the bill just approved by a Knesset committee to give the “orthodox rabbinate” [Alana Newhouse, “The Diaspora Need Not Apply,” New York Times, 7/15/10.]
    authority over who is legally considered a Jew in Israel, a fundamental question in a theocracy because the answer defines who is a citizen.
    Going hand-in-hand with the above example of rising Israeli theocracy is the recent Israeli cabinet approval of a law that would require illegal residents aspiring to citizenship to swear allegiance to a “Jewish democratic state.” [“Israeli ‘Loyalty Oath’ Approved” MWC 7/19/10.]
    Israeli legal affairs editor for the newspaper Yediot and retired judge Boaz Okon published on June 22 his own list:
    • A school that began segregating students on ethnic lines with the support of the community;
    • A Knesset member is humiliated by her peers for joining the Gaza flotilla;
    • Apartheid on the streets of Hebron has become institutionalized;
    • Punishment of Arabs is harsher than punishment of Israelis;
    • The extraction of false confessions from minorities by police are not investigated;
    • Illegal wiretapping by the government is not investigated.
    This is only part of the judge’s list, which he summarizes as “growing evidence of the lack of the spirit of freedom and the emergence of apartheid and fascism.” [Didi Remez, “Yediot’s Legal Affairs Editor on ‘the Emergence of Apartheid and Fascism’ in Israel,” Coteret.com 6/23/2010.]
    Writing in Haaretz a few months ago, Carlo Strenger, Chair of the Clinical Graduate Program at Tel Aviv University, put it this way:
    In this time of rising anxiety Israel‘s political echelon has taken a number of steps toward undermining Israel‘s sometimes flawed but always vibrant democracy. The Knesset’s shameful passing of Yisrael Beiteinu’s so-called Nakba Law in a first reading is a dangerous precedent: Once freedom of expression starts to be curtailed, a state enters a slippery slope and nobody can know where it ends. The Israel Defense Forces’ declaring Bil’in a closed military area is an active step against political freedom and a way to undercut decisions taken by Israel‘s Supreme Court. [Muzzling Israel’s Left Only Harms Its Democracy, Haaretz 4/2/10.]
    One can easily imagine where this is headed: in the future, lifelong Jewish Israeli citizens who dare to oppose government policies will find a rabbinate court stripping them of their “Jewishness” and the government stripping them of their citizenship and themselves being fined the cost of a one-way flight to somewhere else.
    When the privilege of enjoying democratic rights is reserved for a subset of the population, say, whites, or males, or the rich, then the society is already set on a slippery slope down to authoritarianism. After all, if “the poor” or those lacking blue eyes can rightfully be excluded, then why not you…or, indeed, everyone except “the leader?” Israel is now clinging to this slippery slope and losing its grip.
    All is of course not lost. The U.S., with its 18th century democracy for rich white men, managed to climb some ways up this slope but at the cost of the Civil War, which cracked open the door not just for blacks but for Indians and white women as well. So the course can be reversed, but slipping down the slope is far easier than crawling back up.
    Those Israelis so fond of talking about existential threats should think about the contradiction between democracy and theocracy before it becomes the real existential threat facing Israel. But that is the business of Israelis. For Americans, the issue is different: having been taught a lesson about the dangers of external violent fundamentalism, it is now time for Americans to learn about the dangers of internal fundamentalists who pursue their anti-democratic goals by democratic means.
    When democracy is reduced to democratic processes without a secure foundation in popular responsibility to defend civil liberties, then democracy becomes a dangerous tool in the hands of extremists subtle enough to conceal their penchant for force. The first lesson for Americans is that this danger exists in the U.S. as well, although for Americans, it may be easier to perceive it by looking overseas. In both Israel and Iran today, the contending forces are particularly clear, but Israel is the country Americans should be watching the most closely, both because it is still a relatively open society and because many Americans pursuing a special agenda are pleased to insist loudly that Israelis “share American values.” If Israel is to be taken as a model for or a reflection of American values, then we owe it to ourselves to make sure we know exactly what values Israelis today believe in.
    The second lesson is that Americans should support those who share its values, doing business cautiously with the rest, but with the clear caveat in mind that this distinction cannot be made by dividing the countries of t world into “good” countries and “bad” countries. After all, if a whole country were to be given a single classification, presumably based on the behavior of its government, then where would we classify the U.S. itself, with its recent history of unprovoked aggression and attacks on civilians? Societies can modify their beliefs very quickly, and different parts of society, as has become crystal clear to both liberals and conservatives in the U.S. over the past decade, can represent fundamentally distinct perspectives. Watching how Israelis or Americans or…Iranians behave, the distinction between those groups in each society that are worthy allies and those that are not becomes clear. It is, to cite just one example, not in the interests of the American people to support political factions that advocate or practice the violent suppression of those exercising civil rights, unless, of course, you really believe it to be in your interest to have a minimally educated but power-hungry politician deciding what you should think. In a word, it is no more in the interests of Americans to be in an alliance with a theocratic Israel than it is to be in an alliance with a theocratic Iran;  conversely, it is very much in the interest of Americans to support those circles in both the Israeli and Iranian societies that share the values that Americans, at their finest, have been struggling to realize for the last two centuries.

    The initial version of this article, entitled “Israeli Theocracy,” was published by Media With Conscience on 7/20/10.

    Israelis On Israel’s Gaza Blunder

    Attempting to reason with the current regime in Tel Aviv may be a fool’s errand, but there are Israeli citizens thinking very hard about their country’s circumstances, and their views are being published by the sometimes remarkably open-minded Israeli media. It is too bad that almost no one in the U.S. will ever see these analyses.

    Israel Is Its Own Worst Enemy
    Bradley Burston [Haaretz 5/31/10 ]:

    In going to war in Gaza in late 2008, Israeli military and political leaders hoped to teach Hamas a lesson. They succeeded. Hamas learned that the best way to fight Israel is to let Israel do what it has begun to do naturally: bluster, blunder, stonewall, and fume.

    Hamas, and no less, Iran and Hezbollah, learned early on that Israel’s own embargo against Hamas-ruled Gaza was the most sophisticated and powerful weapon they could have deployed against the Jewish state.

    Here in Israel, we have still yet to learn the lesson: We are no longer defending Israel. We are now defending the siege. The siege itself is becoming Israel’s Vietnam.

    The Great Leader
    Gideon Levy [Haaretz 6/4/10]

    Some 7 billion human beings (less about 5 million Israeli Jews ) are wrong. They haven’t got a leader like Netanyahu, and that’s why they go on thinking that seizing passenger ships in international waters is an act of piracy, no different from the deeds committed by the pirates of Somalia. They think (wrongly of course ) that Israel has no right to stop a fleet of boats; that the victims are the people of Gaza and the bleeding passengers, not the naval commandos who raided the ship and were beaten; and that the aggressors were the troops who were dropped onto the ship from a helicopter, killing nine civilians with live fire and wounding dozens.

    Le Paradigme Modérés-Militants

    The White House remains, nine years after 9/11, mired in the false paradigm that the Mideast is divided neatly into two opposing camps – “good” moderates vs. “bad” militants, which is exactly why Washington should start listening to the real moderates such as Erdogan and Lula.

    Robert Malley and Peter Harling from International Crisis Group present, in an article in Le Monde on 5/24/10, a pointed summary of the Mideast trap left by Bush for Obama:

    Tout d’abord, le legs de l’administration Bush est d’avoir réveillé les trois épicentres de tensions mentionnés plus haut, provoquant des changements tectoniques en invitant à une renégociation des rapports de force à un niveau interétatique (opposant notamment Israël, l’Iran, l’Arabie saoudite, la Syrie, l’Egypte et la Turquie) et infraétatique (au Liban, sur la scène palestinienne et en Irak).
    Cette multiplication des zones de tension s’est produite conjointement avec un affaiblissement de la crédibilité et de l’influence américaines, et ce à double titre. D’une part, la capacité militaire des Etats-Unis a révélé ses profondes limites – directement, à travers ses déboires irakiens et, indirectement, par le biais des échecs israéliens au Liban et à Gaza.
    D’autre part, la politique des Etats-Unis s’est placée systématiquement sur le plan des valeurs, déployant sans relâche un argumentaire moraliste, à un moment où l’image du pays constituait justement son plus grand point faible. Impérialisme en Irak, attitude réductrice face à l’islamisme, rejet du résultat des élections palestiniennes, aveuglement face aux agissements israéliens, violations des droits de l’homme : difficile d’imaginer administration plus repoussante pour une opinion publique arabe qu’elle entendait pourtant galvaniser.
    Le manichéisme de Washington, sommant les acteurs locaux de choisir résolument leur camp, a eu pour autre conséquence d’enfermer ses alliés dans une relation aussi exclusive qu’inconfortable, tout en renforçant l’axe opposé. L’iniquité des Etats-Unis dans les perceptions populaires donnait force aux pôles de “résistance”, notamment l’Iran, la Syrie, le Hezbollah et le Hamas. Une logique de confrontation systématique venait ressouder les relations souvent ambivalentes que ces acteurs entretiennent entre eux.
    Enfin, dans chacune des trois arènes régionales, la politique de Washington leva, très concrètement, les obstacles qui se posaient à la montée en puissance de ses ennemis. Ainsi, les Etats-Unis permirent celle de l’Iran en Irak, du Hezbollah au Liban et du Hamas en Palestine.
    En somme, l’administration Bush employait un paradigme hérité de la guerre froide, quand la diplomatie s’ancrait dans des relations bilatérales relativement stables, et que Washington pouvait s’appuyer sur ses alliés pour promouvoir des intérêts clairement définis.
    La guerre globale contre le terrorisme n’était, à vrai dire, qu’une tentative grossière de restituer un ordre binaire, une idéologie pouvant subsumer la diversité des adversaires et les contradictions inhérentes à son propre camp. Elle était d’emblée vouée à l’échec parce qu’elle n’était que le rejeton un peu difforme d’une ère dépassée. Ce manichéisme s’est sapé de lui-même, qui plus est, en contribuant au déclin de la puissance américaine, à l’embarras du camp des modérés, et à la prolifération des conflits.

    In this false image from fevered neo-con minds, “moderate” and “militant” are defined not on the basis of behavior by in terms of the degree of subservience to Washington. All who salute are moderate regardless of how violent they may be; all who insist on the right to independent policies are “militant,” regardless of how dedicated they may be to reform or democracy or peace. With religious fundamentalists, expansionists, those who “understand only the language of force,” those who overthrow democratic governments, those with vicious secret police forces to suppress domestic civil liberties, and those who practice collective punishment all jumbled together under the label of moderates who “share our values,” how is Obama or anyone else to make sense of U.S. policy toward the Mideast?
    Erdogan and Lulu see this trap clearly; the White House–still mired in le paradigme modérés-militants— evidently still does not.