As I was saying…

Just a few headlines from today to confirm yesterday’s message:

“Jailed Al-Jazeera journalists convicted in Egypt. …

In an interview on Al Jazeera shortly after the verdicts were read, Amnesty International director Steve Crawshaw deplored what he called an “outrageous ruling” and called it an “absolute affront to justice.”

Mostefa Souag, the acting director general of Al Jazeera, called the verdict “shocking” in a televised interview.

“I don’t think it has anything to do with justice,” he said, calling it another step in Egypt’s “campaign of terrorizing people and terrorizing the media.”

Al Jazeera English managing director Al Anstey said in a statement that the sentencing “defies logic, sense, and any semblance of justice.”

And nearby:

“John Kerry holds talks in Iraq as more cities fall to ISIS militants”

According to the article:

“As radical Sunni militants snatch city after city in their march toward Baghdad, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Iraq on Monday. …”I’m here to convey to you President Obama’s and the American people’s commitment to help Iraq,” Kerry said when greeting Iraq’s speaker of parliament, Osama al-Nujayfi. “The principal concern is the integrity of the country, its borders, its sovereignty,” …. His trip is emphasizing “our highest-level commitment to Iraq during this time of crisis,” a State Department official said.

OK — so what exactly represents our “highest level commitment?” 300 advisors?  What exactly was Kerry thinking when he said “the American People’s commitment” to help Iraq is concerned with keeping the integrity of their borders.  Really??  Can you find any poll that remotely suggests a majority of the American people have a commitment to maintaining the integrity of Iraq’s borders?

This loose language is foolish and dangerous.  It is foolish at home because it presumes to commit the American people to a state they hardly know and certainly no longer want to support; it is foolish abroad because it commits us to the cause of a regime that we will in fact not fight to defend, and when that regime falls the US will again look impotent to both enemies and allies.

No one likes an I told you so, so let me just say it again:  We have no business supporting the governments of Iraq or Egypt at this time. We should be staying as far away from both as we can, and Kerry’s actions to engage and support them is a bad policy that we will come to regret.

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About jackgoldstone

Hazel Professor of Public Policy at George Mason University
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2 Responses to As I was saying…

  1. Tim McCandless says:

    Jack,
    300 advisers are our “eyes and ears” on the ground of a fast-moving situation involving our national interests. More would be perceived as taking sides. What exactly was Kerry thinking when he said “the American People’s commitment” to help Iraq is concerned with keeping the integrity of their borders.

    It’s all about security! Security trumps freedom of the press, every time. Would you prefer mass chaos? The Middle East is a tinder box ready to explode…

    Can you find any poll that remotely suggests a majority of the American people have a commitment to maintaining the integrity of Iraq’s borders?

    I doubt we have any poll so specific but on 28 February this year, Gallup posted an article by Art Swift, “Fundamentalism rising as perceived threat” which was based on a poll showing 77% of Americans viewed Terrorism as a “critical threat” to the vital interests of the U.S.
    See link at:
    http://www.gallup.com/poll/167672/terrorism-iranian-nukes-considered-greatest-threats.aspxIslamic

    Here’s what Swift wrote:
    WASHINGTON, D.C. — More than a decade after the 9/11 terror attacks, Americans rank international terrorism as the greatest threat to the U.S. in the next 10 years, along with Iran’s development of nuclear weapons. Majorities also perceive Islamic fundamentalism, the conflict between North and South Korea, and China’s economic power as critical threats. Fewer Americans see Russia’s military power as a critical threat to the U.S. in the coming decade.

    I think it’s pretty clear Americans support security in the Middle East generally.

    I rather agree with what Fareed Zakariah wrote last week for the Washington Post “An enclave strategy for Iraq” in which he said, “The United States can’t stop a tidal trend. What it can do is try to limit the fallout, bolster stable countries and zones, support those who believe in reconciliation, and protect itself and its friends.”

    Turning to Egypt, why did Al-Sisi get over 90% of the vote? I don’t know if there were any exit polls but at least one voter was quoted in Time as saying, ““Sisi doesn’t need a program,” said one, Mohammed Hussein. “We just want security.”
    See – http://time.com/134772/egypt-el-sissi-wins-election-by-landslide/

    Loose language gives you diplomatic “room to maneuver” and is both wise and prudent given the circumstances we face in the Middle East.

    Our national interests are at stake and yes, we do have have business supporting security in both Iraq and Egypt at this time (and for the foreseeable future). We cannot and should not allow the would-be match-throwers ignite the tinder box that is the Middle East. That would be most unwise and have dire consequences both for the United States and its allies in the Middle East (and elsewhere). The administration has shown admirable restraint in walking a careful and skillful line…

    Best wishes, Tim

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