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الأحد، 3 أغسطس، 2014
الجمعة، 31 يناير، 2014
What About the State of the Globe, Mr. Obama?
|President Obama at his State of the Union Address in January 2014|
It is appropriate for the State of the Union (SOTU) address to focus on the “Union,” but this year, as in years past, it ignored its global reach and the anticipation of international communities to hear what the President of the United States has to say and whether the priorities listed will affect their lives. In fact, Obama dedicated the bulk of his speech to the pressing issue of helping the U.S. economy move forward, limiting the wealth disparity, and education. No surprise there, these are what matter most to Americans.
In last year’s SOTU address, Obama had 42 requests of Congress, but the legislative body only acted on two of them. He has used the SOTU address throughout his presidency to call on Congress to raise the minimum wage, to move on immigration reform, to pass sensible gun controls; to close campaign finance loopholes, among other asks that fell by the wayside. For the President to stop at asking is particularly degrading. He announced in his latest SOTU address, this past Tuesday, that he will use the power of his pen “America does not stand still and neither will I so wherever and whenever I can take steps without legislation … that’s what I’m going to do!” This is the least Obama can say at this point in his presidency.
There might be limited opportunity for grand ideas, for sweeping changes in this very contentious political atmosphere in Washington, but not putting up a fight will only prolong the status quo of legislative gridlock in Congress; a Congress that has earned the dubious distinction of being the worst one yet. Surprisingly, Obama announced that he will bypass Congress if he has to, in order to advance his policies through executive orders. Although such orders are limited in scope, they just might stir the political pot enough to get things done. As a result, Congress will attempt to assert itself and prove to its constituents that its members are earning their keep as they face the American people in this year’s midterm elections in November. When and only when he leverages the power of his presidency, might Obama be able to rise up to the slogan he ran to win the imagination of the American people and the White House.
“Yes, we can!” was a message of hope and for change. This same message that candidate Barack Hussein Obama intended for American voters, echoed around the world. For the son a Black, Muslim, Kenyan immigrant to assume the highest office in the most powerful country in the world surely would make the whole world a better place. Images of Obama as superman flashed in my mind as I imagined what disenfranchised people around the world must be fantasizing. Indeed, an American superhero would jump out of the pages of fiction to make better the reality of downtrodden, despondent people wherever they may be and his name- Barack Obama.
Unfortunately, this Superman chose to hide behind his cape of justice- isolating himself and retreating, to become a docile president that is obsessed with extracting the U.S. from the realities of an unstable world. All the fights Obama fought were to disengage and retreat; withdrawing the troops from Iraq and Afghanistan is not a strategy but a defeat. Albeit, not a military one, rather a defeat for the people of Iraq and Afghanistan, to whom the U.S. promised improvement in their lives. Obama took pride is saying that “Today, all our troops are out of Iraq. More than 60,000 of our troops have already come home from Afghanistan. With Afghan forces now in the lead for their own security, our troops have moved to a support role. Together with our allies, we will complete our mission there by the end of this year, and America's longest war will finally be over.” This is a defeat for the U.S. as it wreaked havoc in the sandbox that is Afghanistan and then, stood by to watch locals scramble to acclimate to the powerful greedy leaders the U.S. helped prop up. Personally I was disappointed and so were many Americans.
The world is too small and the U.S. is too big to pretend that it can avoid global issues; they will come back to haunt the nation if not dealt with. Obama has extracted the U.S. from pressing global affairs to the point that Hamid Karzai is accusing the U.S. of carrying out some of the latest terrorist bombings in his country, including the assault on a Lebanese restaurant in Kabul, knowing full well that the Obama administration will try to appease him before it will try to force his hand. Syria is negotiating from a place of power, denying the basic request of allowing aid to the starving people of besieged Homs. Edward Snowden continues to reveal state secrets at will. General el-Sisi went to the Gulf countries when Obama held off on paying a promised $300million and got billions from them instead. The U.S., during Obama’s tenure, has lost the respect it once commanded.
If Mr. Obama has finally come to the realization that he has the authority and tools to exercise his will beyond the confines and limitations of Congress, he should embrace the fact that he can operate globally outside the constrictive parameters of the United Nations. This option becomes pressing when the world looks to the U.S. for action; Syria comes to mind. Action taken to stop atrocities against civilians should not need U.N. permission. To gain legitimacy, the U.S. can go to the Arab League for authorization. After all, some kind of authority will need to be gained to act globally if the U.S. wants to avoid being viewed as an imperialist power. The U.S. should continue engaging the international community provided no genocide or ethnic cleansing takes place.
To that end, the U.S. has a responsibility to take action where it can, for the greater good, to save defenseless people around the world. It is necessary for Mr. Obama and consecutive presidents to deliver similar speeches at the SOTU address, directed at the global community. This speech should address the global citizen as opposed to the current practice where a president mentions international issues to his American audience. Such a speech must be a roadmap for what the international community should expect from the U.S. Surely, the global citizen would like to know how U.S. policies would affect them, including surveillance, drone operations, energy outlook and trade orientations. The days of government-to-government talks, behind closed doors, are over. The U.S. president needs to talk to the global citizen directly and candidly, but will he do that?
Technically, Obama has two years in office, but in reality he will become a transitional president after the midterm elections in November, particularly if the Republicans become the majority in the Senate, in addition to the House of Representatives. He has a mere few months to deliver on his message of hope and change and declare “Yes, we did!”
-Walid A. Jawad
الاثنين، 13 يناير، 2014
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s efforts to strike a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians should not be viewed as the final destination of his shuttle diplomacy efforts, rather as the first step toward resolving decades of the systematic weakening of the Palestinian people. The two overarching factors the U.S. should be concerned with are; firstly, whether a peace deal will lead to the fulfillment of Palestinian aspirations and secondly, whether the Islamic and Arab worlds accept the peace process as a just and fair resolution.
U.S. anxiety over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict
The internal discussion within the U.S. Department of State, for many years, has been one of “Return On Diplomacy Invested;” will the diplomacy capital expended on shepherding the Israelis and Palestinians toward a permanent peace agreement yield any dividend? The discouraging track record of many consecutive administrations have been evident in the U.S. losing face at major junctures throughout its involvement as it brought the conflicting parties closer together around a shared vision for peace only to find the chasm of contentious disagreement growing even wider. Alas, diplomacy is not for the faint of heart.
President Obama launched a public relations blitz as soon as he took office, confirming his interest in the Middle East conflict by naming former Senator George Mitchell as a peace envoy in one of his first acts as president. He didn’t stop there, he gave his first interview as America’s chief diplomat to Al Arabiya News Channel, refuting claims of America’s hostility toward Islam and Muslims while promising a balanced approached to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Allocating $20 million in financial aid to Gaza within the first two weeks of his presidency rounded up his Mideast trifecta. This gave the impression that his administration is made the Israeli-Palestinian peace deal a priority. Unfortunately, that was not the case. Obama had the Clinton peace process lesson fresh in his mind. Clinton believed that he was able to get enough concessions from the conflicting parties at Camp David II to allow both sides to strike a final deal. But, as we all know, it never materialized. Obama got the moral of the story all-wrong. The lesson is not that striking an agreement is an impossibility, but that U.S. foreign policy priority must be to facilitate an agreement founded on amicability and mutually beneficial dynamics.
To address the issue of justice, individual Palestinians will need to receive a sincere apology and monetary compensations. Obviously this will not right the wrong that has befallen them, but it’s the next best thingWalid Jawad
Nevertheless, American decision makers pose the question: will a peace agreement over the Palestinian question resolve the conflict? What does it look like and how do we get there? These questions constitute a naive and shortsighted approach to an entrenched complex conflict that predates America’s involvement and is beyond the political four year cycle American administrations are capable of working within. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is, and will remain, a work in progress. Yes, Kerry and Obama are imagining a historic photo-op moment when they will preside over the signing of permanent peace agreement; warm handshakes, smiles, victory/peace signs. But if the theatrics of the agreement is what they are looking for then they shouldn’t even start because it’s the wrong end goal. In fact, getting to that photo-op will signal the beginning of a second phase of American’s involvement, which will require an ongoing engagement to ensure the survival of the peace that both parties agreed to.
Damned if you ignore the conflict, damned if you resolve it
When, and if, a peace agreement is achieved, we can be assured that many people will not be satisfied with it no matter how realistic or fair it can be - after all compromise is the only way to bring the two parties to an agreement. Calls for “justice” will ring out. No one can publicly oppose the right of anyone seeking justice even if that justice is a vengeful one. This “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” situation can be remedied by a dual pronged approach; a tangible one for the Palestinians and a framing/contextual one for the Muslim/Arab world.
To address the issue of justice, individual Palestinians will need to receive a sincere apology and monetary compensations. Obviously this will not right the wrong that has befallen them, but it’s the next best thing. So, if not in adherence to the letter of the principle of “an eye for an eye” it will be in the spirit of fairness, which will take the people of the region much further than a limited justice can ever take them. Despite that, individual fairness is not enough. Palestinians, as a people, will need economic prosperity, collective dignity and national sovereignty. None of these elements should be exclusively shouldered by the U.S., never mind that the U.S. has the most to gain from a peaceful Middle East. If that is not enough of a motivator, the administrator needs to keep in mind that the U.S. has been offering blood and treasure as sacrifice to the gods of ethnic and religious violence in the greater Mideast for decades and thus will need to lead the effort to peaceful coexistence. Furthermore, The U.S. is the sole actor capable of moderating peace talks between the primary (Israelis and Palestinians) and secondary (Arab countries and Islamic world) parties. Although parties to the conflict might not agree with U.S. tactics toward resolving the strife, they’re willing to extend the trust necessary for it to moderate the process.
What is good for the Palestinians is not necessarily good for the Muslim/Arab worlds
Once the U.S. is able to crack the peace agreement code and usher in an era of fairness to the Palestinians it will need to alleviate the concerns of the Arab and Islamic worlds. The prevailing narrative emphasizes freeing al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem and ending the occupation of Muslim lands. The puzzle of al-Aqsa Mosque will need a creative and courageous approach by all parties concerned. But for Muslims to be satisfied, they will need al-Aqsa, at a minimum, to be under Muslim administration and Arab control. There is no amount of creativity that will alter the significance of Al-Aqsa as the third holiest place in Islam. Al-Aqsa, and Jerusalem by extension, is a thorny issue that might never be resolved in the traditional sense - a fluid and dynamic approach turning all parties involved into stakeholders instead of observers might be the answer, as long as it satisfies Muslim desire for access to their holy site.
Increasing trade activities between Palestine and Israel will change the nature of the relationship between the two as well as between Israel and countries in the region. After all, for the landlocked West Bank to be a viable and prosperous part of the soon to be Palestinian state it will need to have unfettered access through Israeli borders as a trade destination and as a thoroughfare to Gaza and its port. In affect, a prosperous Palestine benefiting from Israel as trade partner and a regional stakeholder holds the key to a lasting peace and Muslim acceptance of that peace.
The implication for American procrastination in nudging the conflicting parties toward a permanent peace agreement is a continued strengthening of Islamist political and jihadist grassroots efforts, which wins over new impressionable recruits enlisting as god’s soldiers for the war on Islam in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt etc. Palestine is the focal issue fueling the narrative of twisted jihadist leaders wherever they operate. The U.S. must become cognizant of the implications, scope, and limitation of a narrow final agreement between Israelis and Palestinians; it is not a be-all and end-all to peace. A big picture approach and a commitment to a long-term American engagement that goes beyond the signing of a peace agreement is paramount.
Walid Jawad is a former Senior Policy Analyst at U.S. Department of State and a former Washington, DC correspondent. He covered American politics for a number of TV outlets since 1997. Walid holds an undergraduate degree (B.A) in Decision Science and Management Information Systems and a Masters in Conflict Analysis and Resolution. You can follow him @walidaj
الاثنين، 9 ديسمبر، 2013
الإتصال الخارجي من أمريكا إلى أي مكان في العالم ليس بالمكلف – شكرا لـ "سكايب" و "ماجيك جاك" وغيرهما من الخيارات. ولذلك وفي عطلة نهاية الأسبوع تختفي خطيبتي للتحدث إلى أهلها عبر سكايب لتطمئن عليهم وتسمع إلى آخر الأخبار. من تزوج من، ومن ذهب إلى أين، وماذا فعل فلان، وكيف حال علان. لا، خطيبتي ليس حجازية ولا نجدية ولا حتى عربية من الأساس. نعم هناك نوع من الألفة عندما نقترن ببنات البلد ولكن روح المغامرة تتغلب عندما نجد رفيق الروح في الغريب؛ خطيبتي أمريكية من أصول جنوب أفريقية – السؤال المحير هو: هل هي بيضاء أم سمراء؟ سأترك للقارئ الاستمتاع بالحيرة.
إعتزمنا زيارة والديها الصيف المقبل في بريتوريا لكي أتعرف على العائلة ولكي تتاح لهم الفرصة ليطمئنوا على إبنتهم. تلقوا خبر الزيارة في محادثة "سكايب" السبت قبل الماضي بسعادة بالغة. ولكن في محادثة هذا الأسبوع "راحت السكرة وبدأت الفكرة" كما يقول المثل فكان السؤال الدبلوماسي الأول من والدتها "ماذا يأكل وليد – لحم خرفان؟" بعد نهاية المحادثة سألت خطبيتي "لماذا سألت والدتك ذلك السؤال؟" بدأت بتفسير السؤال لتشرح أن سمعة السعوديين في جنوب أفريقا ليست بالسمعة الجيدة وأن ذلك ليس أهم شيئ طلما أنها ستقوم بواجب الضيافة بتوفير اللحم الحلال مثلا. استغربْت لكون أن هناك سمعة للسعوديين هناك في الأساس فضغط عليها كي تخبرني عن تلك السمعة.
قالت لي أن العديد من الجنوب أفريقيين يعملون في السعودية ولكنهم – في العموم – يعودون إلى بلدهم محملين بقصص سلبية عن السعودية وأهلها. “مثل ماذا؟" كان سؤالي لها. في الحقيقة لم يعجبني ما سمعت ولن أغوص في تفاصيله هنا ولكن من الواجب علي أن أشارك أبناء جلدتي تلك "الملاحظات" إن جاز التعبير، فلا يمكن للسعودية أن تتقدم دون أن "تواجه شياطينها" كما يقول المثل الأمريكي "face your demons”.
أذكر هنا أن خطيبتي عاشت في الأردن والعراق والكويت بالإضافة إلى زيارات لفترات متفاوتة لدول شرق أوسطية أخرى لكنها لم تزور السعودية قط وأن كل ما تعرفه عن المملكة كان من باب القيل والقال ومن خلال الأخبار والمقالات الصحفية ومؤخرا من خلال معرفتها بي وبعائلتي. على العموم؛ قالت أن السمعة هي أن الرجال السعوديين متسلطين وظالمين لنسائهم وأنهم متطرفين دينيا وغير منفتحين ذهنيا. ثم بدأت بالمزاح بقولها أن أهلها لا يعلومون ما إذا كانت ستعود إليهم بحجاب أو أنها ستعتنق الإسلام. ثم ذكرتني بأن سمعة التسلط هي السمعة السائدة "لا تنسى أن الناس يظنون بأنكم تستقدمون الخادمات وتستغلونهم كعبيد كأنهم ملك أيمانكم".
قلت كاسرا لحدة الجدّية "ولا تنسي بئر البترول في الحديقة الخلفية" ثم عاد النقاش إلى الجد لتقول "لا يمكنك أن تلومهم فهم لا يعرفون ولو شخص سعودي واحد وأنهم ليسوا من المهتمين بالمملكة". ذلك صحيح فكون السعودية بلد منغلق على نفسه يجعل من الصعب على أي باحث عن الحقيقة أن يرى جوانب الدولة الإيجابية. كما أن العديد من السياح السعوديين هم أسوأ سفراء للبلد بإسرافهم واستحقارهم لأهالي الدول التي يزورونها. العديد منهم يختلط عليه كرم الضيافة والتواضع فيعتقد أنه يشتري الناس بماله في بلدهم. هؤلاء هم الذين لا يستثمرون الوقت ولا العناء في فهم قوانين البلدان التي يزوروها فيقعون في الخطيئة ويتسببون في الإساءة إلى بقية الشعب السعودي لسذاجتهم وجهلهم أو لعنجهيتهم واستكبارهم.
هذا ليس كل شيئ فأنا كسعودي لدي العديد من الإنتقادات التي تغوص في أعماق هذا المجتمع وليس فقط في القصص العابرة التي تهدف إلى "شيْطنة" الشعب السعودي. أنا على علم بأن هناك من سيتهمني بعرض "غسيلنا" على الملأ إلا أنني لن أجاهر بالنصيحة هنا، لعلي أقوم بذلك في المستقبل القريب؛ ولكن ليس اليوم.
اليوم؛ سأقول أن لو المشاكل هي فقط تلك التي تدور في فلك السمعة والقصص المشاعة لكانت "محلولة" إلا أن المشاكل تتعدى ذلك إلى عدم وجود دستور (أو ملكية دستورية)، وسوء توزيع ثروة البلاد التي تؤدي إلى تفرقة إجتماعية بناءً على الدخل بين الأغنياء والمغلوبين على أمرهم، وإنعدام النظام القانوني المستقل العادل إلاّ المبني على أهواء القضاة وليس كلهم من أصحاب الحكمة والعقل. بالطبع القائمة تطول ولكن يجب حل المشاكل الهيكلية أولا لأن ذلك سيؤدي إلى إنهاء المشاكل الثانوية واليومية. هل قيادة المرأة للسيارة إحداها؟ بالتأكيد ولكنها مشكلة ثانوية أساسها يكمن في عدم إعطائها الإستقلالية ولا الأهلية.
سؤالي الأخير لخطبيتي "ما رأيك في السعوديين الآن بعد أن تعرفتي علي؟" صمتت للحظة ثم قالت "أنتم شعب ثري بألوانه وأطيافه هناك الكثير من الخير ومجال كبير لإحراز الإنتصارات". نعم ذلك صحيح فمن الصعب أن لا تحرز السعودية تقدما وهي في قاع العديد من القوائم العالمية مثل حقوق الإنسان وحرية التعبير والحرية الدينية إلخ. في النهاية سألتني ضاحكة "إذن أنتم تأكلون غير لحم الخراف؟" قلت لها "أنا آكل بالإضافة إلى لحم الخروف ما يألكه غيري من البشر فسعوديتي ليست إقصاءُ بل إثراءً"