Appeasement returns: The failed Bush-Obama pursuit of political Islam
by LAWRENCE SELLIN, PHD
October 21, 2015
If George W. Bush naively flirted with the concept of acceptable "moderate" Islamist regimes, Barack Obama passionately consummated the relationship.
In the wake of 9/11, the Bush Administration, sought a long-term political solution to international terrorism, which they believed emanated from the lack of democratic participation, where resentful individuals, having been excluded from the political process in their own countries, directed their hatred and violence against the West. Bush chose Iraq as a starting point for the democratization of the Middle East, from where he had expected democracy to spread and, consequently, would both assimilate and contain potential terrorists.
When democracy failed to take hold in Iraq or anywhere else for that matter, Bush initiated an alternative approach, the idea to integrate unspecified "moderate" Islamists into their own countries' governments. The concept quickly gained popularity, particularly in Qatar, a long-time supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood, who sponsored seminars, conferences and meetings, all promoted by the Al-Jazeera Channel to speed up a process that they hoped would reshape the entire region to reflect Muslim Brotherhood beliefs and practices.
That shift in US policy away from supporting authoritarian, but stable Arab governments to accepting "moderate" Islamist regimes was expressed, albeit cryptically by then Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in Cairo, Egypt on June 20, 2005:
"For 60 years, my country, the United States, pursued stability at the expense of democracy in this region here in the Middle East -- and we achieved neither. Now, we are taking a different course. We are supporting the democratic aspirations of all people."
Even seven years later, Bush had not lost his enthusiasm for the strategy, unashamedly comparing the sentiments of the Arab Spring to that of American ideals, a movement that would unfortunately produce a Muslim Brotherhood Egypt and terrorist-infested Libya.
If the Bush method had been largely passive and reactive, the Obama Administration policy became preemptive; whereby the US would actively encourage, if not support, the overthrow of what it considered reactionary Arab regimes, all of which would lead to disastrous results in Egypt, Libya and Syria - regime change on steroids.
In August 2010, Barack Obama, ordered his advisors to produce a secret report, which subsequently determined that without sweeping political changes countries across the Arab world were ripe for popular revolt.
In what arguably could be called "Bush's fault," the still classified document, Presidential Study Directive-11 (PSD-11), concluded that the United States should shift from its longstanding policy of supporting stable but authoritarian regimes in the Middle East and North Africa to one backing, what Obama Administration officials considered as, "moderate" Islamist political groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood and the Turkish AK Party, now led by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
The Tunisian revolution in December 2010 and the rise of the Islamist Ennahda Movement in that country was quickly followed by the Cairo protests that began on January 25, 2011 under the direction of Egypt's largest opposition group, the Muslim Brotherhood. The protests and associated violence led to the resignation on February 11, 2011 of long-time US ally, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. There are now a number of reports indicating the US cooperated with and attempted to sustain the influence of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, including an alleged Brotherhood agent inside the US Embassy in Cairo.
Implementation of the preemptive regime change component of PSD-11 began in earnest on February 15, 2011, when a rebellion broke out in Benghazi, Libya against the authoritarian regime of Muammar Qaddafi. Toppling Qaddafi had long been a goal of Islamic militant groups, including al-Qaeda and the local Libyan al-Qaeda affiliate, the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), a key player in the anti-Qaddafi rebellion.
Within a few weeks of the outbreak of fighting in eastern Libya, Obama has signed a secret order authorizing a covert CIA operation to support Islamist rebel forces seeking to oust Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi.
From March 5 to March 15, 2011, Libyan government forces recaptured all but one of the major rebel-held cities, and in none did they kill civilians in revenge, let alone commit a bloodbath. Indeed, as his forces approached Benghazi, Qaddafi issued public reassurances that they would harm neither civilians nor rebels who disarmed.
Both inside and outside the Obama administration, then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was among the most vocal early proponents of using U.S. military force to unseat Qaddafi, who, according to Mrs. Clinton, was about to engage in a genocide against civilians in Benghazi. But US defense intelligence officials could not corroborate those concerns, nor did Human Rights Watch see an imminent humanitarian crisis in Libya. Sarah Leah Whitson, executive director of the Middle East and North Africa division for Human Rights Watch said:
"I think the dynamic for the U.S. government was: Things are changing fast, Tunisia has fallen, Egypt has fallen, and we'd better be on the front of this, supporting a new government and not being seen as supporting the old government.
Nevertheless, on March 17, 2011, the Obama Administration spearheaded UN Security Council Resolution 1973 authorizing military intervention in Libya. The goal, Obama explained, was to save the lives of peaceful, pro-democracy protesters and protect the momentum of the nascent Arab Spring, which had recently swept away authoritarian regimes in Tunisia and Egypt.
On the day the U.N. resolution was passed, Mrs. Clinton ordered a general within the Pentagon to refuse to take a call with Qaddafi's son Seif and other high-level members within the regime, to help negotiate a resolution. A day later, on March 18, 2011, Qaddafi called for a cease-fire, another action the administration dismissed.
Seven months and thousands of more unnecessary deaths later, in October 2011, after an extended military campaign with sustained Western support, Islamist rebel forces conquered the country and shot Qaddafi dead.
Many will recall Hillary Clinton, on October 20, 2011, cackling to a TV news reporter over the death of Qaddafi: "We came, we saw, he died."
According to recently-released emails, Hillary, at that time, considered the violent 2011 "regime change" in Libya such a triumph that her aides discussed labeling it the start of a "Clinton Doctrine" and a prelude to her Presidential campaign in 2016.
Since then, Libya has been in a constant state of chaos, with factional infighting, no uniting leader and providing a haven for ISIS and other Islamic terrorists; culminating in the September 11, 2012 attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi and the death of four Americans.
While Bush massively misjudged the utility of political or "moderate" Islam as a foreign policy focal point, Obama, driven by a narcissistic messiah complex and an ideology based on Marxist, anti-colonial and pro-Islamic predilections; dove in, empty head first.
Hillary Clinton, in contrast, simply contributed a toxic cocktail of ambition and stupidity.