Can Obama erode built up hostility in the Middle East?

November 5, 2008

 The last time I stayed up all night was in Baghdad when U.S. warplanes bombed the city in an overnight raid that announced the start of the 2003 U.S.-led invasion. Last night I was up all night by choice.  I wasn’t covering the U.S. presidential elections but I joined the millions of people across the world who were anxious to know who will be taking charge of America — and whether they really would presage change. For anyone from and involved in the Middle East this is no small question.

The Americans have cast their vote for change all right; they have voted clearly for a new America, for a change of direction. People across the Middle East have been eager to see change in America, not just a change of personality but a real change of policy and vision.

Many countries, particularly emerging countries, have many misgivings about the United States. They have been longing for a new U.S. administration that reaches out to them through dialogue and engagement, understanding and the pursuit of common interests rather than the exercise of supremacy and hegemony.

The policies of outgoing President George W. Bush had a depressing and often violent impact on the Middle East, especially in Iraq, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories, where antagonism toward Washington is widespread and deeply felt.

People across the region are particularly hopeful that the new administration will deliver on peace and democracy rather than courting dictators and authoritarian regimes that suppress any opposing voice or opinion.

Will Obama deliver? The list of issues that awaits him is long and old – from pulling out troops from Iraq, to engaging Iran on its nuclear ambitions and security concerns, to finding a peaceful settlement to the 60-year-old Arab-Israeli conflict.

And all that without mentioning what will surely be his first priority –  the global financial crisis.

He might not have any magic wand but a new approach, a new  policy and a new language  is not a bad start.  Tone is a very important part of foreign policy.

Could a new U.S. approach erode a built up hostility?

6 comments

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Diplomacy can, has and will move mountains.

I think Obama has the qualities he needs to bring people on board. He is a naturally giften, sophisticated yet shoot-from-the-hip type of person with exceptional communication skils – and above all, people skills. Diplomacy would propbably be second nature – as well as his incisive intelligence.

The dignity with which handled the campaign was internationally admired and appreciated.

I am certain that he will prove to be able to move those mountains and restore America’s good name, and the confidence that former allies once had.

Indeed, Obama could be the leader the whole world has been praying for.

His task is legion, but his style is highly effective and his ability may well prove to be undeniable.

Posted by TheTruthIs... | Report as abusive

“A new approach, a new policy” – the middle east will only be happy if we abandon Israel – I would also like to know who you have in mind when you say “rather than courting dictators and authoritarian regimes that suppress any opposing voice or opinion.” Which dictators do you mean when you say this? it would be good to know who you count as a “dictator” – is it someone who does not share your opinion, are they then considered to be a dictator? I guess I qualify

Posted by mimi | Report as abusive

I find this article confusing and contradictory. First it is claimed that people in the middle east ” have been longing for a new U.S. administration that reaches out to them through dialogue and engagement, understanding and the pursuit of common interests rather than the exercise of supremacy and hegemony.” and then further down it states that people in the region are : “hopeful that the new administration will deliver on peace and democracy rather than courting dictators and authoritarian regimes that suppress any opposing voice or opinion.”

So do you propose that dialogue should be engaged with the dictators and authoritarian regimes ? or that people of the region want the U.S. administration to reach out to them and deliver them from the tyranny and the dictators ? And how are they going to get democracy , when the road is littered with dictators and oppressive regimes ? unless the U.S. deploys its democratic ideals and uses its might.

Posted by FA | Report as abusive

Obama and his administration will do everything they possibly can to ease the tensions in the Middle East. However, this is an interesting discussion. Did not the U.S. contribute to the volatility in the Middle East by waging war on Iraq? Yes. Was the Bush administration careful in any way in deliberating about going into war? No. Bush and Cheney and Rumsfeld, etc. are responsible for the war in Iraq. So now we have this incredibly violent scenario in Irag and Pakistan, which falls on the shoulders of Obama. Obama seems far more objective, deliberate and grounded than many who have sat in the Oval Office before him. Hopefully, with Joe Biden as Vice President and his many years of life experience and political experience, together they will help calm tensions in the Middle East.

Who really can do ease these global tensions afterall? One President? One person? It must be a united effort between the White House and the rest of the world to resolve the wars now. As far as the other ferocious crisis looming like sharp daggers over America’s landscape, the economy must be addressed!

Interestingly, our pitiful economy and both wars are linked. Why not reduce our spending by withdrawing from the wars and using that money and people-power to create jobs here in the U.S.? Enough imperialism, already; the U.S. needs to heal itself by looking inward. We have caused so much damage around the world that only by introspection and taking care of the U.S. economy can the U.S. pull itself out of the all-around awful mire it is now. Hopefully, by withdrawing military troops everywhere, we can do some good for ourselves and in turn, then help others elsewhere, like Darfur! We should also open our doors to those displaced in the Middle East and welcome them here to the U.S. (Andrew Bacevich, interviewed by Bill Moyers, spoke about introspection and “get thy house in order” which seems like the U.S. should do). What a time in history!

Cheers from the U.S.!

Posted by good day | Report as abusive

America will do more good for the entire world, if we heal ourselves first.
Let’s take care of our children, our medical care, our economy, and our people.

Once we have built ourselves up again, then we can really help the rest of the world. But America has to come first.
Otherwise we will continue our downward spiral and then we will cease to be the beacon of hope that we should be.

Posted by Dave | Report as abusive

How can the best comment be a comment from the 1930s where the isolation ideas are rampant. We have learned throughout modern history that the world is all connected, every continent and every country. By helping those in need will result in helping yourself. It’s true that we do have a lot of internal problems, but we will always have them. It is important for us to help those who really needs it and really have no one else to turn to. In return, we can and will inspire those we helped to pay it forward. We will never see a day where there will be no problems in the world or within the U.S. But we should never see the day where we turn our backs to those asking for our help and guidance.

Posted by Jim | Report as abusive