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US Foreign Policy - Middle East - Quo Vadis?





deanhills
I was wondering what everyone thought of Obama's speech about the US policy with regard to the Middle East. He covered quite a wide field from Egypt, Tunisia, Libya to Yemen, Syria, Iran as well as Israel and Palestine. He was using nice words about freedom and democracy, however looks as though the US is going to stay out of getting involved in the civil wars, which is probably a wise course of action. I agree with him that the people of those countries need to take ownership of their own problems, however have to wonder how that is not universally applied. What is interesting from an "action" point of view is that the US is going to be investing lots of money in Egypt and Tunisia, wonder where the funds for these investments will be coming from? US tax payers? Would it mean that US tax payers would indirectly be covering the cost of the Peace Square revolution in Cairo? Interesting how money can make a difference in a war, both from the point of motivating the war as well as buying the right kind of support from the right kind of people. I can't help but think that these speeches have something to do with trying to lobby for support for expenditure in the Middle East? There is really nothing new to the US Foreign Policy and for those people in Bahrain and other countries who had been hoping they were going to get plenty of assistance from the US in terms of joining the fights in their countries, this must have been a very disappointing speech.
Quote:
Second, we do not want a democratic Egypt to be saddled by the debts of its past. So we will relieve a democratic Egypt of up to $1 billion in debt, and work with our Egyptian partners to invest these resources to foster growth and entrepreneurship. We will help Egypt regain access to markets by guaranteeing $1 billion in borrowing that is needed to finance infrastructure and job creation. And we will help newly democratic governments recover assets that were stolen.

Third, we’re working with Congress to create Enterprise Funds to invest in Tunisia and Egypt. And these will be modeled on funds that supported the transitions in Eastern Europe after the fall of the Berlin Wall. OPIC will soon launch a $2 billion facility to support private investment across the region. And we will work with the allies to refocus the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development so that it provides the same support for democratic transitions and economic modernization in the Middle East and North Africa as it has in Europe.

Source: Washington Post

Here's a YouTube production of the President's speech with comment by Hillary Clinton as well:
Bikerman
This 'issue' of investing 'lots of money' in Egypt is a non-issue. The US has been pumping money into Egypt for years and a $1 billion loan guarantee (which costs the US nothing, unless Egypt defaults) is peanuts in comparison and barely worthy of mention.
deanhills
Bikerman wrote:
This 'issue' of investing 'lots of money' in Egypt is a non-issue. The US has been pumping money into Egypt for years and a $1 billion loan guarantee (which costs the US nothing, unless Egypt defaults) is peanuts in comparison and barely worthy of mention.
Right, and everyone knows it. Including that the US has been cooperating with the Egyptian Military as well as they have roots that go deep. However, there is an enormous bill that has to be paid, and it would appear that Obama is going to have to ask for funds from the Federal Government to assist Egypt. These funds are in addition to investments that have been there forever.

Have you listened to Hillary Clinton's portion of the speech, where she made quite a case for the "resources" abroad in the Middle East?
Bikerman
I don't see why. The US already gives Egypt about $1.5 billion per year. Nobody seemed much inclined to call that an 'enormous' bill. The only thing promised in that article is debt relief of $1 billion. That represents what the US government would normally give-over in 8 months*

*And that is allowing the preposterous idea that debt forgiveness of $1 billion would represent the US actually handing over 1 billion - it would be a tiny fraction of that.
deanhills
Bikerman wrote:
I don't see why. The US already gives Egypt about $1.5 billion per year. Nobody seemed much inclined to call that an 'enormous' bill. The only thing promised in that article is debt relief of $1 billion. That represents what the US government would normally give-over in 8 months*

*And that is allowing the preposterous idea that debt forgiveness of $1 billion would represent the US actually handing over 1 billion - it would be a tiny fraction of that.
To me it is common sense that if a country wants to strengthen its position in the Middle East such as the US is definitely in the process of doing, that it would have to spend tons of money to do so. There is plenty of US funding involved in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq, and now the US is working on additional funds for Egypt and Tunisia, just for starters. Hillary Clinton in the introduction to Obama's speech all but made a plea for beefing up US resources in the Middle East by saying everyone needs to appreciate and look after it. Then Obama went on and on about the US's interest in all areas of the Middle East. You can't let anyone believe that that comes at no price at all, and that he won't need to go to Congress to ask for additional funding? Bear in mind of course that the US is a member of all of those organizations who are going to be contributing billions of support to Egypt. Where would the IMF World Bank etc. be getting their billions from?

If a country wants power in the Middle East, that country has to invest funds - Egypt and Tunisia are presently up for grabs, and the US is jumping in with full gusto. If the US does not jump in, there are other big countries who will do so. Yes, the US already has a strong presence in Egypt, but in order for it to maintain its strong presence, it will have to invest lots of additional funds to prop up Egypt and keep it indebted to the United States. Hillary and Obama are working on getting funds from the US. That was what this speech had been about as well. No doubt about that!

Here is a very rational op-ed column by Ross Douthat on Whose Foreign Policy is it? in the New York Times that makes great sense to me:
Quote:
But there are dangers in this turnabout as well. Now that Democrats have learned to stop worrying and embrace the imperial presidency, the United States lacks a strong institutional check on the tendency toward executive hubris and wartime overreach. The speed with which many once-dovish liberals rallied behind the Libyan war — at best a gamble, at worst a folly — was revealing and depressing. The absence of any sustained outcry over the White House’s willingness to assassinate American citizens without trial should be equally disquieting.

As Barack Obama has discovered, an open-ended, borderless conflict requires a certain comfort with moral gray areas. But it requires vigilance as well, and a skepticism about giving the executive branch a free hand in a forever war. During the Bush era, such vigilance was supplied (albeit sometimes cynically, and often in excess) by one of the country’s two major political parties. But in the Obama era, it’s mainly confined to the far left and the libertarian right.

This vigilance needs to be mathematical as well as moral. The most dangerous continuity between the Bush and Obama presidencies, perhaps, is their shared unwillingness to level with the country about what our current foreign policy posture costs, and how it fits into our broader fiscal liabilities.

Instead, big government conservatism has given way to big government liberalism, America’s overseas footprint keeps expanding, and nobody has been willing to explain to the public that the global war on terror isn’t a free lunch.

The next president won’t have that luxury. In one form or another, the war on terror is likely to continue long after Osama bin Laden’s bones have turned to coral. But we’ll know that the Bush-Obama era is officially over when somebody presents us with the bill.

Quote:
Overall, Mr. Obama will try to convince American audiences that the fate of countries in the region is worth the money and attention of the United States even during weak economic times at home. To his global audience, Mr. Obama wants to leave no doubt that the U.S. stands behind those seeking greater human rights even as it has had to defend its responses to crises.

Source: CBCNews
Quote:
Obama seeks to reward change in Egypt by forgiving roughly $1 billion in debt to free up money for job creation efforts there.

He also wants aid for Yemen and guarantees of up to $1 billion in loans for Egypt through the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, a U.S. government institution that mobilizes private capital.

The White House also plans to launch a new trade partnership in the Middle East and North Africa - and to prod world financial institutions to help Egypt and Tunisia more.

Obama faces the challenge of selling the aid proposals to a Congress and constituents focused on reining in government spending and debt.

Source: NYDailyNews
jmlworld
I see that Obama shot himself in the leg when he said that the U.S. is not going to get involved in the Middle East upraise, while their foreign affairs department is horribly in the middle of the turmoil.

Oh, and what's the point of giving $1 billion loan to Egypt while there are lots of closer friends in need for that money? Mind games anyone?
deanhills
jmlworld wrote:
I see that Obama shot himself in the leg when he said that the U.S. is not going to get involved in the Middle East upraise, while their foreign affairs department is horribly in the middle of the turmoil.

Oh, and what's the point of giving $1 billion loan to Egypt while there are lots of closer friends in need for that money? Mind games anyone?
Perhaps it is wise for the United States not to get involved in individual Middle East uprisings and to allow the Arab countries to work out their own fate. I'm sure Libyans for example don't want any of the Western powers to set foot in Libya, as they then know how difficult it would be to get rid of them. As far as I can see Obama is trying to get Arabs to take responsibility for their own problems by getting the Arab League of Nations for example to work on solutions.
jmlworld
deanhills wrote:
As far as I can see Obama is trying to get Arabs to take responsibility for their own problems by getting the Arab League of Nations for example to work on solutions.

Of course the U.S. have enough experience to estimate the price of intervening foreign countries, but I still believe that Obama and his colleagues are playing big rule in the Middle East upraise.

The problem with the Arabs is that they're their own enemy. Most of their monarchies and dictatorship governments are not likely to quit even in a bloodshed revolutions and they're not going to change their governance system and the Arab League doesn't seem to be able to solve the situation in the negotiations table.
deanhills
jmlworld wrote:
The problem with the Arabs is that they're their own enemy. Most of their monarchies and dictatorship governments are not likely to quit even in a bloodshed revolutions and they're not going to change their governance system and the Arab League doesn't seem to be able to solve the situation in the negotiations table.
That is so very true. And one can then argue a little bit further. These dictatorships have been around for almost all time, why should the West only get involved when people are involved in uprisings? Again, as much as the West allowed that dictatorship to exist for all of that time without interfering in the affairs of that government, why should it get involved in an uprising now? Surely that would also be seen as interference? Also, not all of the uprisings are genuine uprisings, and not all uprisings are of the kind that will lead to a positive outcome. Like Saddam Hussein, he somehow kept all the opposing forces in check in Iraq, so that when he had been taken down, all of the cards came tumbling down. If there is an uprising, then people need to look at whether there would be a viable alternative to the dictatorship, once it has been disposed off. As it could be worse, for example, there could be a complete civil war as people battle it out who the next leader will be, and who is to say that leader may not turn into a dictator as well?
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