Ever since America achieved superpower status, it has been following its own unique political and military doctrine, which ultimately the rest of the world has had to cope with. From the peculiarities of Eisenhower's military policy to Brzezinski and Kissinger's overt or covert foreign policy strategies, the large and small countries of the 20th century have had to adapt very carefully to the tempers of the Atlantic giant – for their own good.
Aggressive military, economic and political intervention has always been part of America's arsenal. But only at the turn of this century, with the adoption of the Bush Doctrine, did foreign intervention become openly “preemptive”. No longer in need of justifying their interventions with foreign aggression, the threats of American politicians achieved a new level of gravity during the presidency of George W. Bush. Obama’s administration has not strayed from this line and even expanded its dictionary by a new weapon: “kinetic military action”.
The words of American diplomats have to be followed very closely, because they now carry more weight than ever. Speaking from the Lithuanian capital Vilnius, on a diplomatic visit to Eastern Europe, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made some interesting statements about the Arab protests that caught my attention.
Among the questionable aspects of Clinton's speech was her inaccurate comparison between the Arab protests and the changes in Eastern Europe after 1989. It's wrong to draw a parallel between events that progressed in such different ways, that took place in different epochs and under very different political circumstances.
While the Cold War was largely fought between the United States and the USSR, today's Arab protests arise in a multipolar world. It's important to note that the Middle East remained isolated from the political changes in Eastern Europe, although it had a part in the broader game of the Cold War. The Cold War’s endgame did not bring much change to the Arab world.
While the US emerged from the Cold War with more influence in Eastern Europe (mainly because the latter had previously been ruled by governments hostile to the United States), the crumbling regimes in the Arab Middle East and Northern Africa regularly receive aid from Washington. Suffice it to say that, until 2010, Mubarak's Egypt received $1.3 billion in military aid annually (plus 250 million in economic aid), which is second only to the amount given to Israel. Predictably, most of this aid returned to the US economy via the purchase of American weapons, some of which were used against the protesters on Tahrir Square, like the teargas canisters labeled “Made in USA”.
Hillary Clinton undoubtedly realizes that the United States is losing influence as a result of the Arab revolutions. Her statements about democracy, the right to protest, the right to a better life, are obviously meant to hide the inconvenient truth about the US’ support for dictatorships, and to convince the protesters that America is there to protect them. But how are the people in Tahrir Square supposed to trust the powers that sent military aid and equipment to the very people they're trying to get rid of?
Certainly, Washington's task is a tough one. The double standards of US foreign policy are made clear as day through America's support for the Tunisian, Egyptian, Moroccan and Saudi Arabian regimes, especially to the protesters. Those are precisely the issues Obama needs to address if he wants to gain the trust of the Arab peoples striving for change.
Certainly, more double standards won't do the trick. Nor will such statements by US diplomats and politicians that underestimate the capabilities of the Arab peoples and their revolutions.
Ruslan Khaled Tradis a Syrian-Bulgarian political analyst, activist and blogger about the Middle East. He lives in Bulgaria and is president of the Forum for Arab Culture Now and an author for Foreign Policy Bulgaria and Global Voices.