A gap between US ideals and regional polic
Almost a year later, and Washington is still playing catch up. The Obama administration has talked tough on Bashar Al-Assad’s regime in Syria, and backed the GCC plan to push Ali Abdullah Saleh from power, yet there are obvious tensions. The United States continues to sacrifice its own standing in the region in favor of its reflexive bias towards Israel. And for all of the Obama administration’s statements about human rights, no one doubts that many in Washington miss the warm, predictable relationships with dictators.
Throughout the region, there is more room for common ground than ever before, if only Washington could see it. Indeed, people in the Middle East seem to understand this historic opportunity better than leaders in the West. As The National reported yesterday, new data from the Abu Dhabi Gallup Center shows that in countries that have overthrown dictators, namely Tunisia and Egypt, people believe they are now respected more by western societies than ever before, and are "less focused on what divides" the Muslim world and the West. In short, the door for diplomacy is open.
Few in the region will forget the speech that US president Barack Obama delivered in Cairo in June 2009, when he called for regional governments to "reflect the will of the people". But as Egyptians went to the polls last month, it was Washington that agonized over who Egypt’s people might choose.
Washington is not the only one to be wary of the rise of Islamists, and the Muslim Brotherhood’s role moving forward in Egypt is still in question. But the will of the Egyptian people as expressed at the polls has to be respected, or every speech about democracy and political freedoms has been just empty words.
There is a history here, from the colonial era to western support for dictatorial regimes, which prevents any simple solution. Yet, as Gallup’s data suggests, citizens of this region are willing to bridge the divide. If Washington, London and Paris are true to the ideals they espouse, now is the time to show it.