President Barack Hussain Obama accepted nominations for second term during the Democratic Convention of 2012, while settling the crown for a “better U.S” on his head. The speech delivered by his ‘democratic comrade’, Bill Clinton, somehow reinforced the notion that; ‘Obama might be bad, but anyone else can be worse’. Clinton gave what Obama earnestly wanted in order to restore his confidence, especially among the ‘white voters’. As expected, the motif of the convention revolved around a rebuttal of allegations against the incumbent president. However, the first black president of the U.S amplified his ‘foreign policy’ as a successful one. The long ‘to do’ list included the most prominent volition of ‘spending less’ on ‘war’ and ‘investing more’ in ‘nation-building’. A dignified end to war in Afghanistan in near future, getting rid of Osama Bin Laden, putting Al Qaeda on the road that is leading to defeat and the promotion of democratic values was used as a persuasive force to endorse his existing policies. The democratic rhetoric of ‘fairness’, ‘equality of opportunity’, ‘promotion of democracy’, ‘gender equity’, missed out the billows of ‘Arab spring’ (which is an insatiable aspirant of ‘democracy’).
Little had been mentioned about the political transitions burbling in the Arab world. The ‘Arab Spring’ and the myriad ‘liberal protesters’ of Middle East are intertwined with the U.S foreign policy. The initial focal point of Obama’s policy with regards to Middle East was the resolution of ‘Arab-Israel’ conflict. Compared with its predecessor, the Obama administration placed negligible emphasis on promoting democracy abroad. The administration’s priority, instead, was strengthening government-to-government relations, something that Obama administration officials felt had suffered unnecessarily under the Bush administration. The common thread throughout the statements and speeches of Obama and his senior advisers, till 2011, was the target to achieve institutional reform, economic development, and poverty alleviation first, and free and fair elections later. In other words, ‘democracy promotion’ was a secondary motive followed by ‘dignity promotion’. The reasons can be various, from the preservation of the U.S interests in the region to the fear of ‘rapid’, ‘untidy democratisation ‘ of the Arab World. Contrary to the administration’s desired policy, Arab uprisings, pushed it to a position where it had no other choice than to purport the struggles of ‘freedom’ and ‘self-determination’.
President Obama had to celebrate the triumph of protesters calling for change in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. On the other hand, Obama’s move to celebrate along with the pioneers of ‘Arab Spring’ was considered an ‘ominous sign’ by the monarchs of Jordan and Saudi Arabia. Obama was seen by the Kings as an instigator, who is backing protests around the Arab world. To ensure support of Washington’s allies in the region, people of Bahrain were deprived of their right to become the creators of their destiny. Leaders in some parts of the Middle East weren’t compelled to give up their dictatorial pursuits like Colonel Muammar Qaddafi and Bashar al-Assad. The United States tried to reassure Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and other allies that it stood behind them. Obama’s apparent success in Libya was neutralized by the volatile situation in Syria. The chorus which demands for a democratic dispensation in which people’s voice synchronises with that of the rulers is swelling up in the Middle East. This is likely to continue regardless of who wins the next presidential elections in the U.S.
The region yearning for democracy (the belt running from Tunisia through Libya to Egypt) has already established an unprecedented example for the Arab world to follow. The new regime of Jibril in Libya will look towards Tunisia and develop links with the recovered Tunisian economy. Secular-minded liberals will have to adjust with the Islamists in Egypt, which is likely to rise as the most organized example of ‘democratic switch over’. With Muslim Brotherhood leading a compromise with the secular way of life, an appeal of extreme Islamists such as Al – Qaeda will also fade away from the Arab world. Morsi’s idea of ‘United States of Islam’ is a difficult, yet attainable target. Furthermore, upheavals will continue in other parts like Algeria, which won’t be impervious to resentful calls for change. Royals of Jordan and Morocco will be pushed by their subjects to expand the operational premises of politics within their respective regions. The iridescent, oil-rich Gulf will also be swayed by the demand for democracy. United Arab Emirates and Qatar can manage to hold back their people. However, an increased number of young educated Arabs will question their rulers that ‘why democracy is being denied by them at home’, while support is being granted to it in regions like Libya. Saudi Arabia, the giant of the Gulf will also find it difficult to satisfy the impatient and well-informed, mobilized middle class. The only solution to sustain the kingdom will be to bequeath power to a younger generation. Religion-driven conflicts, a characteristic feature of Middle East politics, will also join the bandwagon of ‘democracy’ and ‘freedom’.
Whether Obama or Romney, both of them will have to attend to the inconsistent developments in the political arena of Middle East. The resonance of discord and dissent cannot be bottled for the sake of Republicans or Democrats. A recent study of Global Attitudes by Pew Research Center concluded that; most Muslims want democracy, personal freedoms, and Islam in political life, while few believe that the U.S backs democracy. Support for an institutionalized democracy and a re-orientation of the U.S foreign policy in order to negotiate with the Islamists is pertinent. Democratisation of the Arab world has turned the tables over, now, what Arabs ‘want’ carries more weight as compared to what governments have to ‘do’.
The verbal content of this post was originally published in the October (2012) issue of Jahangir’s World Times.