Sunday, October 27, 2013

Humility Seems Like a Good Idea

I awoke this morning to find folks on twitter upset that Susan Rice's review of US Middle East policy excluded large swaths of the US policy apparatus.  Given that I am still in the midst of writing (if in the midst means the piece has been on a shelf for a few years) about how the broken Bush process helped to facilitate really awful decisions, it will be hypocritical of me to say here: the outcome is create, who cares about the process.

Why?  Because the review calls for modesty in US aims in the Middle East and is an effort to make the region much less the focal point of the US foreign policy.  Both make a great deal of sense to me, the non-Mideast expert (I am waiting for Marc Lynch to address this stuff as he is both an expert and someone usually tapped by this White House to consult on such matters).  I have long been frustrated that the Mideast seems to be the part of the world getting the most attention, crowding out damn near everything else.  Sure, Iran is important and so is Israel, but are they more important than China?  Is the threat of nuclear war greater here or in South Asia? 

The second part, modesty, in both means and goals also makes great sense, even if it were not a time of austerity and sequestration.  The use of force has its limits, and the US has experienced heaps of blowback over the years for its interventions.  Getting to democracy is really hard, but should still be a goal but not The Goal.

I do love the take of the critics:
  • "Critics say the retooled policy will not shield the United States from the hazards of the Middle East. By holding back, they say, the United States risks being buffeted by crisis after crisis."  As if that has not already been the case since  1973 if not 1956.
  • Richard Haas is quoted: “But here [Egypt], the administration is largely silent and seems uncertain as to what to do.”As if there is a right way to proceed.  Really?  Sure, the US policy towards Egypt could be a bit more assertive--more penalties for the coup-sters--but it is a case where any effort the US extends is likely to taint whoever we are trying to help. "Do no harm" seems to be a good starting principle.
“There’s a whole world out there,” Ms. Rice said, “and we’ve got interests and opportunities in that whole world.” 


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