A review of column inches would convince most observers that America’s media has covered this year’s Arab revolutions fairly comprehensively.
There’s also little doubt, however, that Middle East foreign policy has yet to make a serious appearance in the policy platforms of the many hopefuls running for election to the White House in 2012.
Now one well-known Arab commentator has reached some rather stark conclusions as to why Americans are in two minds over the Arab Spring.
Rami Khouri is a journalist and editor with joint Palestinian-Jordanian and U.S. citizenship. In his weekend column for Lebanon’s Daily Star, he recounts the results of several months of conversation with “Middle East specialist and interested citizens” in America. He came away, it seems, with the distinct impression that the usual American instinct to support the fight for freedom has been thwarted by self-interest.
“Washington finds itself in a position of having to decide if it values liberty for the citizenry more than it values close ties with family-based authoritarian Arab security regimes. This would normally be a no-brainer, with Americans wholeheartedly supporting freedom over autocracy. But in the Middle East two other factors kick in that distort American policy-making: Israel and oil.”
Khouri’s sentiments are mirrored somewhat in another column which appeared over the weekend on Al Jazeera’s website, written by Georgetown professor, Abdullah al-Arian.
But is it all that simple?
The Obama administration has struggled – sometimes all-too visibly – with its role in such fluid situations. The policies which emerged have been called everything from”nuanced” to “dithering.”
But there’s also overwhelming evidence that American voters are more interested in who’s going to save their jobs and homes from falling off another economic cliff than in what’s going on in the Middle East.