1By Ken Blackwell
President Obama came into office pledging a new approach to the Middle East.
We were told that his middle name -- Hussein -- would give him
unprecedented entrée to the corridors of power in that troubled region --
and to the Arab street.
We thought a Mideast policy could not be more confused, more feckless than
Jimmy Carter's. Carter acceded to, if he did not welcome, the ouster of the
Shah in 1979. The Shah was horrible in Carter's eyes. Well, the Ayatollah
Khomeini and his mullahs who replaced the Shah were horribler. And still
Mr. Obama pledged an "open hand" to the mullahs in Tehran. It was spat on.
When thousands of young Iranians massed in the streets demanding democracy,
it looked like a Hope and Change rally. But this administration turned its
back on them and promised to avoid "meddling" in the mullahs' affairs.
President Obama respects Iran's sovereignty, we were told at that time.
Iran, of course, respects nobody's sovereignty. Ask the Lebanese.
Especially the Maronite Christians there.
When he went to London, Mr. Obama bowed to the King of Saudi Arabia. King
Abdullah is an absolute monarch whose rule is maintained by the sword.
Dissidents are beheaded -- usually on Fridays after Mosque.
No Jews, no Christians are permitted in the Kingdom. But we have
nonetheless had an arms-length relationship with this desert despot and his
Now, we read, that Abdullah is so upset with President Obama that he is
extending feelers to Moscow and Beijing. Abdullah is afraid that the "Arab
Spring" spoken of by the President may turn out to be not so much a spring
season as a bed spring -- ready to bounce longtime rulers right out of bed.
President Obama made a point of going to al-Azhar Mosque to deliver his
overture to what he calls "the Muslim world." Strange, he never talks about
a Christian world. Nor, in choosing Egypt as his venue, did he acknowledge
the fact that one-tenth of Egyptians are Coptic Christians. They found it
hard to hang on before the President of the United States referred to their
country as the Muslim world.
President Mubarak seemed to be firmly in control when Mr. Obama delivered
his Cairo speech. For thirty years, Hosni Mubarak had maintained a cold
peace -- but a peace nonetheless -- with neighboring Israel. Now, in the
face of massive street demonstrations orchestrated in part by the
murderously anti-Israel Muslim Brotherhood, the Obama administration gave
Mubarak full support, than less than full support, and finally a sharp shove
If Mubarak's rule was horrible, we may soon find that a new alliance between
an Egyptian military we fund and the Muslim Brotherhood even horribler.
What was the point of going to a nest of Muslim Brotherhood activity to
deliver that 2009 Obama address if not to puff up their stature and their
influence? Osama bin Laden tells us that Arabs like to go with "the strong
horse." Did Mr. Obama saddle up Mubarak or the Muslim Brotherhood as the
strong horse with that Cairo speech?
President Obama delivered another Mideast speech, this one in Turkey. That
nation -- a member of NATO since its founding -- was once viewed as the
strongest U.S. ally in a region dominated by hostile Muslim regimes.
Culturally Muslim but politically secular, Turkey once cooperated quietly
but effectively with Israel. No more.
Prime Minister Erdogan's government has lurched toward Islamism. Erdogan
recently promoted a flotilla whose object was to break the Israeli arms
embargo of Gaza.
Now, we come to the only country in the Middle East that has been a constant
U.S. ally, that is the only functioning democracy, that is the only
political system in the region where religious minority rights have any
standing -- Israel. We cannot quote any Obama speeches to the Knesset, but
he recently met with Israeli President Shimon Peres in the White House. He
...with the winds of change blowing through the Arab world, it's more
urgent than ever that we try to seize the opportunity to create a peaceful
solution between the Palestinians and the Israelis.
Those winds of change prove the Arab-Israeli conflict is not the cause of
discontent on the Arab street. This whole region-wide ferment began in
December when a poor Tunisian street vendor -- distraught at not being able
to pay off crooked cops who demanded protection money -- set himself on fire
. And that flame spread across the Middle East. No Israelis. No
In the midst of vast changes, Mr. Obama is able to derive precisely the
wrong message. His policies are not only horribler than Carter's, they are
his horriblur. He has surely brought change to the Middle East. It's now
the Muddle East.
Ken Blackwell is a senior Fellow at the Family Research Council and a former
U.S. Ambassador to U.N. Human Rights Commission.