Arab Writers Ponder Whether U.S. Elections Will Mean Regime Change

By Valenti, Peter C. | Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, November 2004 | Go to article overview

Arab Writers Ponder Whether U.S. Elections Will Mean Regime Change


Valenti, Peter C., Washington Report on Middle East Affairs


Arab Writers Ponder Whether U.S. Elections Will Mean Regime Change

Middle Easterners avidly follow domestic news from the U.S. because they know that American foreign policy is an extension of domestic politics. While a steady number of articles have commented on the presidential campaign over the past year, the Republican National Convention in New York City was the catalyst that inspired many Arab writers to look ahead to the election itself. It is not surprising for a region known for its diversity that there is no unanimity of support for either George W. Bush or John F. Kerry.

Bush: The Next Action Hero?

From the Aug. 30 opening of the convention, Arabs knew that the Middle East would figure prominently in Republican rhetoric. That night's keynote speaker, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, made at least six references to Israel and Jews. The Middle East- -which, in Republican parlance, essentially symbolizes Iraq and terrorism-was repeatedly cited throughout the convention as one of the main reasons Bush should remain in office. No wonder that Arab writers found a lot of grist for the mill.

In his Sept. 5 op-ed in Jordan's al-Ra'i, Fakhri Qu'war expressed surprise that Republicans didn't spend much time trying to explain away the spurious claims made about Iraq prior to the U.S. invasion. This seemed to indicate to Qu'war that the validity of the justifications was a secondary issue; since the occupation of Iraq already had been a dream for ncoconservative ideologues for a decade, it was simply a case of "any means necessary" to convince the American public. For an administration that so obviously has lied and pursued such misguided foreign policies, Qu'war wrote, he is incredulous of the high level of support that still remains for President Bush. The convention only reinforced Qu'war's belief that the U.S. needs to go in a different direction- -i.e., with Kerry.

Azmi Bisharah also was astounded by the Republican convention. In his Sept. 9 op-ed in the Palestinian al-Quds, Bisharah wrote that the convention was like a movie trailer that shows the audience a very selective collection of imagery. The hero of this actionpacked film is George W. Bush, and for promotional reasons it was important for the Herculean governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger, to impart a macho quality to Bush's foreign policy by saying, "He's a man of inner strength. He is a leader who doesn't flinch, doesn't waiver, does not back down.. .He knows you don't reason with terrorists. You defeat them."

Amazingly, Schwarzenegger's lines haven't changed much since his 1982 film "Conan the Barbarian," wherein Conan, asked what is best in life, responds: "To crush your enemies-see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of their women!"

Second Bush Term as secret Weapon

Despite the harsh critiques of the convention, numerous Arab writers espoused support for Bush. Writing in Kuwait's Al-Seyassah on Sept. 3, former Kuwaiti Ambassador to the UN. Abdullah Bisharah threw his hat in the ring. While admitting that nothing would dislodge Bush's-or any U.S. president's-strong support for Israel, Bisharah argued that Bush remaining in office is advantageous for citizens of both the U.S. and for Arab states, because Bush's War on Terror[ism] represents a good start toward improving global security. According to Bisharah, Arabs living in Gulf states should particularly appreciate the efforts Bush has made against terrorist groups that seek to destabilize the region and overthrow their governments. He also believes that the U.S. presence in Iraq is a stabilizing force, and is necessary to prevent the strife and violence instigated by such groups as Sadr's militia, Ansar Islam, al-Zarqawi's al-Qaeda splinter cell and various other jihadist groups. Bisharah also maintained that a hawkish Bush is better than Kerry in effectively dealing with other regional threats, like Iran.

Best exemplifying the realpolitik approach was Dr. …

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