Obama and the wrong side of history

By Bernd Debusmann
May 21, 2009

Bernd Debusmann - Great Debate—Bernd Debusmann is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.—

Ringing words, smoothly delivered: “To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history, but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.”

Did that memorable line from President Barack Obama’s inaugural address on January 20 mean his administration would break with a long American tradition of paying lip service to democracy and human rights while supporting authoritarian rulers friendly to Washington? Too early to say for sure, but probably not.

Four months into his presidency, Obama and his Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, lean towards pragmatism over ideology and principle, closer in foreign policy outlook to Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger than to George W. Bush and Condoleezza Rice.

On her first official visit to China, Clinton said concern over human rights must not “interfere” with cooperation on the global financial crisis, climate change and security issues such as North Korea’s nuclear arms programme.

As for those on the wrong side of history, one leader who fits Obama’s description is President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, from where the U.S. president is scheduled to make a high-profile speech to the Muslim world early in June.

A long-time U.S. ally, Mubarak has been in power since 1981. He won uncontested elections four times. The fifth and latest, in 2005, featured charges of vote-rigging and the arrest of his main opponent.

The U.S. Department of State, which issues annual reports on human rights, gives Egypt poor grades and notes “the government’s respect for freedoms of press, association and religion declined during the year (2008).” No unclenched fist here.

To boot, Mubarak has played host and acted as a sponsor to Omar al-Bashir, the Sudanese president who has been indicted by the International Criminal Court in The Hague for war crimes in Darfur. The court issued a warrant for Bashir’s arrest in March.

At the height of the Bush administration’s “freedom agenda,” the second-term drive for “democracy promotion,” Washington publicly scolded Mubarak. Rice, during a visit to Cairo, announced a break with the past:

“For 60 years, my country, the United States, pursued stability at the expense of democracy in the region. And we achieved neither. Now we are taking a different course. We are supporting the democratic aspirations of the people.”

TARNISHED IMAGE

By 2005, when Rice made her democratic aspirations speech, the U.S. image in the Arab world was so badly tarnished by the war in Iraq, the Abu Ghraib prison scandal and Guantanamo that few Arabs were inclined to believe anything the Bush administration said.

Her remark stood out for its bluntness and its venue but the idea was not new. Support for democracy against dictatorships has been a key theme of American foreign policy since the U.S. rose to big power status at the turn of the 20th century.

That did not keep the U.S. from overthrowing democratically-elected leaders it did not like (Chile’s Salvador Allende, Guatemala’s Jacobo Arbenz) and propping up dictators it did (the Shah of Iran, Congo’s Mobutu Sese Seko, Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines). Saying one thing and doing another earned the U.S. an enduring reputation for hypocrisy.

The Bush administration’s enthusiasm for democracy promotion in the Middle East fizzled rapidly after the Islamist group Hamas, shunned as a terrorist group by the West, won a resounding electoral victory in Gaza in 2006. Since then, part of the American foreign policy establishment has framed the alternatives in the region as Islamists or authoritarians.

If there were free elections today in Egypt, many experts predict that the Muslim Brotherhood, whose aim is the establishment of an Islamic state, would win easily, an uncomfortable prospect for Washington.

To push an Arab peace plan Obama wants to make part of an effort to create a Palestinian state side-by-side with Israel, Mubarak is clearly a better partner even though he may be on the wrong side of history. The plan offers Israel normal relations with all Arab states in return for withdrawing from territory it seized in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.

The plan was first floated by Saudi Arabia, another staunch U.S. ally far from democracy and prone to silence dissent.

How (and whether) Obama intends to persuade countries on the wrong side of history to switch to the right side should become clear in his speech to the Muslim world. It could be a turning point in America’s relations with a fifth of the world’s population, but there is a lot that could go wrong, even for a president with Obama’s charisma and outstanding political skills. Not to mention a middle name that resonates: Hussein.

The goal he set himself for the speech, spelt out before he took office, is ambitious: “Reboot America’s image” in the Muslim world. Words alone won’t do it, but they are a start.

176 comments

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Well, it’s teh same old problem, or rather geo-political game that started 50 years ago.
I’m French, fomr our side of history, we had seen in the USA, Immensly respectable politicals figures untill the 80′s.
Starting at teh Yalta conferance in 44 or 45 I think, the Allies devised a way out of 2nd world war.
In teh summer of 1945, after liberasation of much of Western Europe, UK, USA faced the Soviet problem, who despite all assurances made by Lenin during the Yalta conference, used their advance on the western front to promote communism ideollogy, and to undermine fragile democracy in Eastern Europe who will opposes Communisms.
The end of WW2 witnesses the biggest land grabbing in the history of Europe.
In April 1946, the US,UK and France, sent their respective Foreign secretaries and minister in Moscow to start negotiating with Molotov and Stalin: (Marshall, Bevin, Bidault), after one months of negotiation concerning war reparation, economic recovery actions, and determining most of all a strategy for Germany, the pivot point in the negotation, nothing positive came out, adn no solution were reached.
What followed is then the beginning of the cold war.
The soviet, lead by Lenin, were more interested in advancing communism ideology in Europe to gain Western Europe, mainly france and Italia, as well as the whle of germany.
In effect a weak Economy in Europe would have been more prone to sudain or gradual take over by soviet coup.
Especially in France, where the communiste party almost gain a majority in the French parlement, backed up by the USSR.
The then french political apparatus was extremly worried about a communiste majority if its economic situation continued to deteriorate. on this basis, teh USA who was already senidng vast ammount of aid to Europe but not enough to lead to economic recovery, offer European contries to propose a plan for recovery to the USA, who iwll in turn finace the plan on a massive scale.
The plan was the now famous : Marshall Plan, who helped Western Europe to economic recovery, but also to set up the fundation of the European Union, starting with free trade agreement between France and Germany over steel and coal.
Men like Marshall, have literally carried the world to peace, despite all ods, form lake of US fiance to unfaforable Public opinion obout foreign aid.
Without men like Marshall, Clayton, kennan and others, the futur of Europe would have been much more incertain if not under soviet rules.
This Economic recovery wasn’t helping the USSR in its expenssionite plan, and was a major factor for teh cold war.
Now so far history shows that middle-eastern problems are more linked to cold war left overs,than religion.
When the USSR leaders understood that they couldn’t not win domination in Western Europe, strategy for expenssion was oriented in South-East-near Asia and the middle East.
As nixon explain with intense clarity in his book “teh real war” USSR goal was to undermine energy feed from the middle east to Western nations, which is why the MIddle East became a strategic point not only for its energy reserve, but most of all for its strategic position against USSR, the USSR war in Afganistan was no more than the result of Strategic ambition toward middle eastern Oil reserve, and so did many conflict in Africa and the middle East, but also, why Israel has been seen so important to the Eyes of western Power, has it was the lastest county who would not give in USSR ambition, it was a safe-gard against Russian advance.
The cold war unfortunatly has lead to numeral “bavures”; as the politic of the US became more focus on result rather than democratic values and who was simply supporting any totalitarian regime, as long as it oppose USSR advance in the world, that will explain Chili, Angola, Irak, Iran (althought he US failed supporting the iran Cha) vietnam, and much more.
The whole cold war wasn’t about democracy but about Energy reserves, and for good raisons.
In the last 8 years, the Bush administration has actively pursued its own cold war against, China I guess, or was it Europe, or was it Russia.??
The war in Irak, has been anyway a cold war left over, lead by man, forged in the outdated cold war strategy.
They could have based their strategy instead on sustanable development and by phrasing out the used of oil by pushing for Electric Cars, as Obama and the EU are doing today, they did not, which can lead to the conclusion, but that’s own so I’m all ears to alternatives, that the war in Irak, was more about US and UK Oil company making a final run for oil suppremacy and generating obcene profit from it than really trying to fight china or the EU.
Which is why, and I apologies for bringing back a 5 year old debate, numerous country in the EU did not backed up the war, especially Germany and france, because it was simply seen as a war run by private business, for corporate profit, but using public funds and ressources.
With teh end of the oil age, as new technologies offer pretty good alternative to oil, the cold war strategy is vanishing as well as oil reserve.
This is maybe the most major shift of policies that the world will experience for the last 60 years.
Obama role, as far as the US is concern, is to progressively phrase out old cold war strategy and replace them with active economic development in the MIddle East, I think his conference yesterday with Ben Netanyahu, and his garantee of turning down blank check and Though Love attidude toward Israel are a sign, that things are starting to move around.
It is time to let go Israel pretention toward the right to exist at the expenses of others, and to start building a bold plan for economic development in the MIddle East and more importantly in Africa.
The the US or the EU can do it alone, and it is time to come together rather than pursuing distinctive goals on each side.
the EU and the US are faced with instable totalitarian regime, such as China/Russia, who despite as much good deed the chinese people can offer on their own, their view of the world is in all economic expenssion at the expenses of others where it is for energy or natural ressources, as we can see in Darfur.
The challenge we face ranging from unprecedented economic crisis, oil price rise, new energies to be developed, global warming, cannot be carried alone by either the EU or the USA.
There’s a point where Americans will have to stop isolating themselves from the rest of the world, and where the EU must stop being so suspicious of the USA.
It is also a point in time, where just as 60 years ago, we need to come with a bold plan for recovery after 8 years of war.
We need a new Marshall Plan.

Posted by jean | Report as abusive

I am proud that Israel was given to the Jews. What was left of them after Hitler.
Anyone that does not support Israel is Un-American.
The muslims in this world that hate Israel so bad are Jealous of the sucess that Israel has accomplished in the short few years of its very existance. They are a determined society and very intelligent people. They have built Israel into a thriving country. They give Muslims jobs and have done a lot to help the other people in the area. What do they get in return ?? Killings bombings, etc. etc. Why….because the very people that depise them as a society are jealous that they do not have the drive and desire to want to better themselves. They want something for nothing. They hate the jews and Israel because they are sucessful. Just like they hate America. Envy and jealously.
They have hate and envy in their hearts and minds. Not love and compassion for their fellow man. The Koran is a peice of garbage. It is all a lie. You can take what I have said as you may. I do not care. But all I have said is the truth. Look at that strip of land called Gaza. Nothing but trash lives there. These people have no desire to better themselves. If they did, they would go elsewhere, get a job, go to school and learn and make something of themselves. I have no sympathy for the people in that area that are so full of hate, that they kill, cut of heads, burn people, \”really\” torture folks and I don\’t mean BS kids play like waterboarding.
Obama I hope will be toast in 4 years. I feel sure of this. The people drank the KOOL AID, but I think it is working its way out of their system and more and more folks are waking up now to see him for what he really is. An empty suit. Yeah he has that great skill of speaking well form a telephompter. That is about all I will give him credit for.
His policies stink. He has no clue about the economy and the people that he has put into place to run all these different departments are socialists just like he is.
I for one do not wish to buy my neighbor a car, put food on their table, pay their mortgage for them while I work my a– off to pay for their sorriness. They have the choice just like I did to get an education and get a damn job and get up and go to work everyday, just like millions of other Americans do.
People need to wake up and wake up now ! When the elections come around in 2010, 2012, and 2014 there needs to be a real change. Term limits would be great for all of congress. It has become so corrupt that I at times wonder what the heck America has become. A nation of liars, thieves, tax cheats and child molesters, women chasers and on and on. Most all on our Government are made up of a bunch of rich folks that coudl care less about you are me. yeah they pretend they do but they only care about power and money. All of them need to be booted back home. A lot of them belong in jail.
This country needs change alright but it sure aint Obamas kinda change that are going to make things better.
The news media in this country has poisoned peoples mind and they try hard to guide and direct them on Politics. The newspapers are as bad as the National Enquirer.
The Unions have ruined the Auto industry and other companies in this country. All they care about is their dues so they can live high on the hog and funnel money to the Democratic Party. Hollywood has become a bunch of crazy people and morons.
Wall street has become a nightmare with crooks, mobsters and more. Not all are bad at Wall street but there are enough bad eggs to make it all look bad.
Check car, global warming, Carbon Tax, Free Health care, the UN, THE G20, THE G7 and the World bank, the monetary fund, World Health Organization and all the other Orginizations and last but not least….The Bilderburg Group.. if people even know much about them. Find out where Timothy Geithner was last week. He was in Greece from Wednesday til Saturday. Look at his schedule.
They together are all like a big cluster F…! The world is out of control. All these groups want to establish a NEW WORLD ORDER.
CROOKS, LIARS AND THIEVES.
What do to ??? Don\’t look the other way. It will only get worse. STAND UP AND FIGHT ! FIGHT FOR AMERICA !
Expand your mind. Research and learn what is REALLY going on in the world and all around you.
Just do it.

Posted by Mary | Report as abusive

What some posters fail to report is the 4 Trillion Dollars the west has paid to the countries of Saudi Arabia, et al in the last 40 years for their oil. It has been the largest transfer of wealth.

The West is not like basically because we are not Muslim and that is the bottom line. It has been that way for 1300 years. We will never be liked as long as we practice Judea-Christianity. We may co-exist, but fundamentally their religion only tolerates other religions as long as they are in control. Jews are not allowed to practice their faith in Saudi Arabia or Dubai by law. The Bible is not even allowed in Saudi Arabia.

Posted by Wags | Report as abusive

During the 1980s, there were two superpowers, struggling for domination. It was easy for each of them to defend their actions as nessessery to prevent the other side from winning. A lot of compromises have been done in the name of the greater good.
In 1990 the world was left with only one superpower. It was a good time for the US to become the pillar of the world community.
Of course, we are living in a real world. The habit of protecting the US interests whatever the costs was hard to overcome. USA became the world bully.
I don’t know of a powerful country not doing exactly the same, but since the last time a country was strong enough to stand unoposed (the British empire) the world has become a lot more civilized. Besides, from the ‘we fight for freedom, democracy and justice’ boasts I was kind of expecting less hypocrisy. A logical person would either say they do the right thing and do it, or more likely act egoistically and don’t brag about it. Not the US.
Sure, they did the right thing fighting for Kosovo independence. The Serbs had been killing Albanians for a long time and even though Kosovo is the historical cradle of Serbia killing people to get it back is not justified in the modern era.
Sure, they scold China for oppressing Tibet.
Only they support Turkey in its campaign against the Kurds. Let me tell you, people don’t want to break apart of a big developed country that protects their rights, they want to emigrate there. What country would imprison a member of the parliament for saying “I take this oath for the brotherhood between the Turkish people and the Kurdish people.” in Kurdish after taking the oath? If you don’t believe it search ‘Leyla Zana’ in the internet.
They supported Georgia in North Ossetia. What country would level its own cities with artillery, as Georgia did with Tskhinvali, a city they claimed was theirs.
They supported Israel in keeping the living conditions in Palestine unbearable. If you are left without electricity, food, water and kept in a city with hundreds of thousands of desperate people in the same position will you not fight back? Israel claims Hamas are terrorists, yet they committed act of terrorism im the past, as bombing King David Hotel. Its Likud party originated from the Irgun, an Israeli terrorist group.
Happy, satisfied people rarely commit suicide bombings or support communism for that matter. America stopped Soviet domination in western Europe just by lifting the living standard. They can remove the popular support for Hamas by sending food and medical supplies to Palestine.
By using a double standard the US have shown themselves as hippocrates. By being dependant on non-democratic states funding their budget deficits have lost their economy lead, whatever GDP figures may show.
USA is sinking like the Titanic, slowly but inevitably. They still have the best military, but how long can they fund it?
Obama could have done something eight years ago. Not any more.

Posted by NDT | Report as abusive

Thanks Liberals,

For proving the theory that you do blame the USA at all costs..

It is easy to Monday morning quarterback political decisions over the last 100 years from one side of the fence. It is true, the US backed Dictators at the cost of freedom in certain cases. However, Soviet and Maoist Communism as a political movement in the 20th Century resulted in the needless murder of over 30 Million people (not counting the people killed numerous wars fomented by the required “revolution” for Marxist theory to exist). Sometimes, you pick the Devil you know.

Case in point, the Shah of Iran. Iran was a staunch ally of the USA. Iran was, is and has been, for the last five thousand years, a very powerful military and political force in the region. President Carter decided that a religious government of any kind would be better than a Dictator who supports the USA. So, he drops support for the Shah and encourages Ayatollah Khomeini to foment revolution. Khomeini does just that, stabs Carter in the back and, in 1979, we have a Soviet friendly totalitarian state who views America as “Shaitan” based on our support of Israel. Within a few months, the Soviets invade Afghanistan because they aren’t concerned about Iran counterattacking. Osama Bin Laden fights the Soviets there. A great deal of the Mujihadeen of Afghanistan later become the Taliban. The Taliban create training camps where Osama trains a bunch of guys to attack the USA – 9/11 happens and suddenly I have to put up with TSA screeching at me to take my shoes off every time I fly.

Call it a 6 degrees of separation moment but the timeline illustrates why picking allies solely over Morals isn’t always the best course of action.

Let’s not forget, 9-11 happened because Muslim Extremists attacked the US without provocation (unless you want to call supporting Israel provocation). Since that day, Liberals have tried everything imaginable to make 9-11 the fault of the United States. When the schoolyard bully hits you in the face, you don’t give him flowers.

After 9-11, Bin Laden stated that the 9-11 attacks were done to force the US to abandon it’s bases in Saudi Arabia. Since then, the Islamists who have political control have repeatedly stated that their goal is to create the world Caliphate envisioned by 7th – 10th Century Muslim leaders. Followers of this radical form of Islam believe that “Kaffirs” (non-believers – I’m one of them – My guess is that most of you Libs are agnostic at best so you are too..) do not have the right to exist. To Islamists, all non-believers must convert or be killed. That is the tack of the people you Liberals so wish to cozy up with. The Islamists use the lunacy of self loathing American and European Liberals provide in order to create the Western power base they need to succeed in their goals.

We didn’t start this. You aren’t helping us finish it either.

Posted by Thomas | Report as abusive

Nice lesson in history jean, but are the world leaders ready to learn or are they still stubborn as an ASS.
They either repeat history or make history.
Now in the time we live in ISLAMISATION of the world is the goal of the islamic clergies as in “if your are not with us you are against us mentality” where will our freedom be if this happen. Look also to the fact that those islamist are fighting among themselves and to make matter worst they prefer to terrorize those who are around them.They are lucky to be oil rich, if not who in his right mind would give attention to them.
And if we hear of the Islamic Nuke what will we do? Do we surrender or fight?
Those world leaders knows something we do not know which could really repeat or make history. Let us do what we can to make a better world and let our leaders know that we are against crime on humanity and freedom.
I am not against any Muslim or Arab. What I am against is terrorism using Islam to reach their goal.

Posted by Mar | Report as abusive

The first US contacts with the Muslim world occurred two centuries ago, and the Arabs were blackmailing our young country. The military sucesses over the Arabs was not one of conquest, but of correction to a powerful group of corrupt religious and political leaders. Of the three major religions in Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East, none has gained more converts in such a short period time than Islam. Most of those converts were at the point of a sword. For those who love the film Casablanca, let’s not forget that the Nazi’s wanted something that France and Great Britian already had-overseas colonies which brougt lucre to the mother countries. Even poor little Belgium and Holland had major colonies when Germany attacked them in WWI. The Russians formed the Soviet Union after 300 years of military conquest over its neighbors. In the face of all that, why is the US hated, as so often claimed. Could it possibly be ignorance of history? What colony has the US had? Does anyone think we will stay in Iraq? Or Afganistan? Is Viet-Nam better off because we “lost” the war? When I was stationed in Spain, the Spainish often were confused by my white skin and the fact I spoke English, whom the Spanish hate. I had to explain that I was American, and then they loved me. A friend, a professor from a very liberal University just returned from a trip on the Orient Express. He found that Americans are held in esteem by the Russia and China. Perhaps the only people who hate are the politicians and hacks who whip up the hatred towards their own country.

Posted by mike hammer | Report as abusive

Reboot America’s image? Obama supporters are fixated on the benefits of image. What does image do for you in confronting those that don’t have the same principles you have, and are committed to wiping you off the face of the earth if you don’t believe in their God?

Are not our values about freedom, choice, life and personal responsibility? Let’s talk about ideas, results, and values; and not do we look and sound good.

Carter had a good image, Clinton had a good image and look what it got us, Carter put in place the current Iranian situation (that’s really been a positive) and Clinton oversaw many terrorist attacks on US properties around the world, plus two genocide events, one against Muslims in Europe and one against blacks in Africa.

Lets be sure to look good!

Posted by D Brown | Report as abusive

Very good post.
I would like to say that not just the ME hates the american foreign policy!! And not just muslims hate american policy.
I think it is important not to confuse extreme islamist and muslims… I guess like any other religion. Some have a very short memories. Christians are not saints, they did kill in the name of thier god too.
Regarding Marshall plan, well the american after the WW2 were the only ones with gold. The old Europe had used all of it for the war which went into the american pockets. Without the plan marshall well, the US will have a limited expectation of economic growth, because it will not been many export. And De Gaulle accepted the plan Marshall because we did need the money to recontrust France, not because he trusted Americans. But his vision of Europe was to counter power the rise of the US economically and politically. I dont think it was wrong, we have seen the USA going to war which are not justified in any way, except by the american way.
I am French and catholic.

Posted by Celine | Report as abusive

Our diplomacy in the Middle East is all too one-sided – in favor of Israel and our oil interests. We’ve been fighting a ‘proxy war’ in the Middle East for years, supplying Israel with trillions (not just billions) of our money for its ‘defense’.

And in Israel, we already know,
the seeds of terror daily continue to grow.
Each bombing strafe, each bulldozer foray,
makes the Islamics madder than they are today.”

Israel currently has one of the biggest nuclear arsenals ready to fire. Israel repeatedly pushes its policies with games of genocide, ethnic cleansing, chemical defoliation and murder, as well as its own discriminatory practices against non-Jews.

The current problems in Jerusalem further emphasize that discrimination inasmuch as it has recently destroyed homes that have been built without the proper ‘approvals’. ‘Approvals’ from whom? In Israel, Arabs cannot live wherever they want; however, Jews can. Schools are segregated, entire neighborhoods within Israel are segregated. Much as the current fiasco over Bernard Madoff who resided in a ‘Jewish enclave’ in Florida, has demonstrated, the problem is not just within ‘Israel-proper’ – it is global.

Immigration preference is given to those of the Jewish faith; all policies are highly bent in favor of a majority Jewish population that is being constantly threatened.

Is this democracy or theocracy?

Recently, also, Israel banned the press from Gaza – and a few years ago from Jenin. Why? Cluster bombs were used in Lebanon, against all international accords against their use. Why? Phosphorus flares were used, too, maiming hundreds of innocent civilians in both Gaza and Jenin. Simply put, they wanted to conceal their ruthless, inhumane slaughter.

What will not be immediately exposed in our biased media is that Israel has used “Roundup”, a chemical defoliant with reputed cancer-causing chemicals to defoliate areas of the Negev desert in a vicious attempt to roust Arab nomads have been raising sheep for centuries.

The mantra “Israel is good and Islam is bad” is entirely without basis. And as long as we avoid a necessary confrontation with Israel over their discriminatory policies, we’ll continue to have threats against us.

Posted by Bernie | Report as abusive

It’s interesting hearing the neocons on this website, whether they be republican or democrat.

Governments consistently use society’s prejudice and racist for means of their profiteering in war. Fact is most Christians in this country (the US) want Muslims dead and most Muslims in the Middle East want Christians dead. Both are simply fanatical, crazy theologies and gov’t stomps on the opportunity.

You think the neocons in this country would put up with 120,000 dead Iraqi’s if they were Bible-toting blondes?

You think the neocons in this country would put up with us destroying the 3rd poorest country in the world if it were full of Christian missions?

Where is it that you people have faith in what this government does over there? Does the photo of Rumsfeld shaking hands with Saddam mean nothing? Do the blank checks and blind military support of Bin Laden from the Reagan/Bush/Clinton/Bush presidencies mean nothing?

We should do nothing over there, stop trying to influence the world and spend our money and resources on defending our borders and having satelite missiles, nothing else is necessary. Look at the strain and fear this puts on our economy, we can no longer afford militarily or economically to try and be the world’s hall moniter.

Posted by Michael Ham | Report as abusive

“To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history, but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.”

Exactly. It is time for the administration to look in the mirror, and see the applicability of that statement to its own actions, both foreign and domestic.

Celine,

Your understanding of the Marshall Plan isn’t very good. America had money at the end of World War 2 because we had a manufacturing base. No one had actually repaid war debt at the time (the UK paid off it’s debt in 2006 and France never will). So the “gold” to which you refer wasn’t in US pockets at the time. Europe was never a target for US Export, even in the post war years. The Marshall Plan was based on Humanitarian and Political exigencies of the time.

Humanitarian because, just like the Belgian Relief of 1918-19, the US felt a responsibility to rebuild what Europeans themselves had destroyed. Political because the Soviets were positioning themselves to take Western Europe to join the East as satellites. Ensuring economic prosperity along with a heavy US military presence was the best way to ensure freedom in the West.

DeGaulle was a man driven by patriotism. What few Americans understand is that the French and Americans are so very much alike in the ways we view our country and our world outlook. So, when DeGaulle saw NATO as a threat to French sovriegnity he walked away. The US would have done the same thing. However, due to his decision American and French opinions of each other were indellibly changed at that very moment.

The US had two things going for it at the end of the War:
We had a manufacturing base and we hadn’t fallen in to a spiral of self destruction as Europe did almost every 30-50 years since the 16th Century. We utilized our productivity to become a rich nation and, since the ’80′s, have done everything possible to destroy our ability to produce. Shame on us.

Posted by thomas | Report as abusive

Mr. Debusmann,

I’d like to hear your thoughts about Obama’s “prolonged detention” concept, raised in his speech last night. Many of us liberal/leftists here were quite upset. I’m still undecided as to whether Obama is actually going back on his resolve to stay within the law. I would prefer that these prisoners go through the U.S. Federal court system. Surely we can manage it somehow. As for prisons, unfortunately we have plenty of them, with more than enough room for a few jihadists.

What do you think? Is this a big departure for Obama from the “rule of law,” or is it just because of a special, difficult situation? Should we give Obama the benefit of the doubt?

Thank you.

Regards,

Ralph

I understand why people get so upset with America. (Full disclosure: I’m American). Throughout history, my govt has contradicted itself time and time again. You lay out just a few of the many examples. But what the world and, more importantly, Americans, need to understand, is that our gov’t does what’s best for America. Period. And most of the time, what’s best for America doesn’t align with the morals and values we tell everyone we have. If we think a dictator like Mubarak is better for the American agenda, which he is, then we support him. If he gets out of line, we change our tone to scare him back into place. America does not want the Muslim Brotherhood in power in Egypt, nor will it ever let that happen. But that’s why we have the CIA.

Personally, I was shocked that the Bush Administration went into Iraq. Suddam was the perfect dictator and ally to the US. Its been evident these past years the level of turmoil and unrest a “free” Iraq can cause. I would have thought no matter how much of a pain Saddam was, his iron hand rule of law was exactly what America wanted. Unfortunately, Cheney, in the height of Hubris, thought he could do a better job.

I would have hoped that this past decade opened the eyes of many Americans. We desparately need to reconcile our words with our actions and our perception of our actions. Many Americans beleive we are a great people, with the highest moral standard and that everyone loves us. Unfortunately, this is not the case. We are not great, we dont have high morals and not everyone loves us. But instead of confronting that and dealing with it, our politicians use it as a pep rally to charge the team with going out and attacking those people that dont like us. Hopefully, Mr Obama starts to change that dialogue.

Posted by Tony | Report as abusive

An old joke from USSR.
Ukrainian Nationalists converse:
– Have you heard what the damn Moskals (a slur for Russians in Ukraine Nationalist speak) talk about? “Beat the Jews to save Russia!”.
– Sure I heard. A great thing to do, but the goal stinks big time.

That’s exactly how the Muslims would react to “Pressure Israel to promote American policies in the Middle East, the chief of them democracy and freedom”.
For them, Israel is only a convenient pretext to explain their hate of America and West in general. If there was no Israel they’d find something else. But the root cause is that we are “Infidels” to them. The fact that Infidels live on this Earth, and don’t bend to recognize the supremacy of Islam, is an insult to every faithful Muslim. The fact that Infidels generally live better than Muslims is an insult many times over.
Bending over before them as Barack Hussein Obama did before Saudi king will only embolden them. Giving them concessions as Barack Hussein Obama is apparently going to in his planned Egypt visit will only send the wrong message to them that they are right and should press even further with their idea of global Islam supremacy.
Persuading the countries on the wrong side to switch to the right side is an exercise in futility because leaders like Mubarak and all the oil monarchs know that free and fair elections will spell the end to them, not only politically but physically as well. The worst part of it is that whoever will then democratically grab the power will be only more repressive to their own people, and surely much more anti-West. As bad as Palestinian Fatah is, Hamas is even worse, and they are poised to win elections if those were held today. Algeria suffered a civil war as a result of Islamic radicals winning the elections – luckily the Army chose to protect law and order instead of bending over to the democratically elected radicals who didn’t even try to hide their plans to throw law and order (and democracy as well) down the toilet and replace them with their radical Islam. Try to conduct free, fair, and democratic elections in Afghanistan now – Taleban will win, just to make sure the elections were the last ever.

Posted by Immigrant from USSR | Report as abusive

America’s image in the Middle East has never been good stemming from the policies and actions of business men and politicians since before WW II. The American population may have a short memory and shorter attention spans, but those in the Middle East do not forget. To understand our image problem in the area, we must understand the past.

Simply put, mostly US Oil businessmen basically ripped off the Arab world for decades after oil was discovered in the area by “trading” cars and other items of material to the Sheiks, Sultans, and tribal leaders while making millions in profits. Rather like how European settlers traded the Native Americans beads and clothes for all their land, more than a fair deal from one sides point of view, and a heinous crime from the other.

To add insult to injury, The United States government backed the Arab worlds old enemy, Israel, and without any kind of consent from any Palestinian or Arabian, the U.N., backed by Brittan, France, and USA, simply took land from Arabs to give to Israel. Put yourself in Arabian shoes – The world is against you, businessmen lie and cheat you, other Nations Governments back your enemy, who the whole of Arabia expelled from the land centuries ago(you’ll get a different story why depending on who you talk to), steal your land, and your religion is under attack from Christianity, the Roman Catholic Church, and Jewish movements around the world.

And the Bush administration told us the Islamic world hates us for our freedom. Well, I guess I would hate a country and world who use such “Freedoms” to lie, cheat, steal, oppress, undermine, corrupt, and extort my people, my country, my religion, my natural resources, my freedoms, my governments, and my way of life.

It would be one thing if America practiced what it preached, but it is Business as usual here in America with Obama slowly but steadily backing away from the “Change we can believe in” and the powers behind congress, (Lobbyists=Banks, Business, Industry, and why does the nation of Israel have on of the largest Lobbying firms in USA? What kind of Nation buys influence in another? isn’t it treason to accept money from another nation to affect policy in this one?) rear their ugly head to continue their predictable road of greed, selfishness, and disdain for the Constitution, the greatest document on human freedom, liberty, and the rights every soul on earth deserves.

“Fact is most Christians in this country (the US) want Muslims dead and most Muslims in the Middle East want Christians dead.”
-Michael Ham

You must be very accurate when make such statements!!! It talk more about your surrounding rather than whole country! There is big gap between want “somebody dead” and “don’t like”/”don’t trust”.
There is little love to Muslims to loose in US, but I don’t see “most Christians in US want to see Muslims dead”.
In general Americans avoid using words “kill”/”dead” when it comes to group of people. I guess politically correct behavior takes roots.

Posted by SKV | Report as abusive

Wanting war with and wanting dead, SKV i dunno the difference. The more religious the area of the US, the more willing they are to give the thumbs up to mass muslim killings.

The Bible says all those who don’t accept Jesus as their savior belong in hell, so if you’re Christian than that means you think 7 billion people currently on the planet deserve to burn for eternity and be tortured for an infinite period of time.

Posted by Michael Ham | Report as abusive

leftist crap. get an education.

Posted by Will Carter | Report as abusive