American presidents come and go, but few, if any, seem to have the will to change the status quo in the Middle East.
By Larbi Sadiki
Thus US foreign policy calls for readjustment. In the context of the Arab Spring it must not be driven by the imperative of introducing "order" into the lives of "Orientals". Security seems to be the constant that informs foreign policy-making before and after the Arab Spring; and this happens at the expense of development and a degree of self-determination such as in democratic reconstruction.
Beyond security and oil
Moreover, Western leaders seem hell bent on repeating the same mistakes of manipulating "elites", recruiting them into their spheres of influence. In theory, many Western actors stand for institution-building and due process; in practice, it is largely business as usual seeking policy preferences and objectives through communication with elites, sometimes with limited legitimacy.
Policy failure is obvious in Bahrain, where conflict resolution is managed through dialogue with elites in Manama and Riyadh. Similarly, the impasse in the Palestinian question can be put down to preference to deal with select politicians in the polarised polity. So instead of using existing legal UN frameworks as the basis for engaging with peace-making, reference is made to "client" leaders who speak and act, in the absence of legitimate mandate, on behalf of the occluded populace, the Arab "Orientals", often assumed to be silent, passive and in need of mentoring and guidance.
Obama's second term will not be a promenade in the White House given the onerous tasks awaiting him on the domestic front, especially in a Congress dominated by the Republicans. Even with a leaf from the books of Eisenhower, Carter and Clinton, the Middle East will prove more difficult to navigate if the moral compass of America is limited by the blind spots of security, oil and client-politicians."