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July 26, 2006



Marc, excellent and right-on post. I think it's clear, however, that Condi's remarks were not a gaffe but reflect policy. She's not the only one talking about a New Middle East. Here's C. David Welch, assistant secretary of state for Near East affairs, speaking yesterday: "The new Middle East is not going to be built every single day with a big victory in one place or another...It's got to be done with a steady effort. This is an opportunity now in the midst of this crisis to see freedom strengthened in Lebanon." And Condi said in Jerusalem, "It is time for a new Middle East." And W has said more or less the same thing. They see this moment as an "opportunity" to build a Middle East in our image, with no Hezbollahs or Hamases or Asads around. To make the omelette, they figure, you gotta crack some eggs.


Ted - of course, you know the famous response (was it Arendt?): you can break an awful lot of eggs without producing an omelette.


Hi from Eschaton comments, where a couple of folks have linked to you.

Since I saw no ref to this on an admittedly quick read-through of your post, I'm wondering, have you seen the digby post regarding how her use of the 'birth pangs' phrase may betray an insidious tie to the rapture fundies? As if all this weren't scary enough already.


John I

You're analysis only makes sense if you assume the Bush administration has a genuine interest in a peaceful, stable and just Middle East. They don't.

For them and their military-industrial cronies it's all about the birth pangs. Birth pangs take weapons, and the increased need for war machinery causes mountains of US tax dollars to be shovelled into the coffers of well-connected defense contractors.

Eternal war, with an ever-refreshing supply of brown people who hate us, is THE growth sector of the Bush economy. Whether it's Israel dropping our million dollar laser-guided bunker busters on Lebanese civilians (and "oops" UN observers) or our own troops and mercenaries chewing through stockpiles of pricy hi-tech death gizmos in Iraq doesn't really matter if you're a shareholder. Bring 'em on, it just makes Dick's portfolio shine baby.

Am I cynical?


Those are the top three reasons why Rice's "new Middle East" remark was so disastrous with regard to Arab public opinion.

Has the US ever really cared about Arab public opinion? My bet is that the calculation is Arab public opinion was even madder about Iraq, Jenin et al - but ultimately nothing changed.



WIlliams grad here...wish I had a class with you when I was there...just wanted to drop a note about Karen Hughes and her miserable failings. The New York Times carried a brief bit on her drinking wine at the public bar in Shannon, Ireland on the stopover to Beirut. Apparently no work to be done for the Undersecretary in charge of US image in the Muslim world, and no good sense to not do the work that did not have to be done on the private plane as it refueled. She was apparently spotted by recent American evacuees from Lebanon who had been in the Shannon airport for 24 hours and dragged over the coals.

Nothing productive is happening certainly because the is no positive policy, but also because very little work is done by this administration. VERY little.


Since I have not heard the remark and since there is no explanation of exactly what she meant--and I do not admire the Bush gang--I imagine she is noting the aggressive moves now taken by Iran to assert itself as leader of the fertile crescent, hoping to impose Sharia law and turn secular states in the region into religious states. Now, if this is what she meant, there is some truth that something new is in the air. But if this is not what she had in mind, then please let us know what it is that so upset you.


Chris, I believe you. I have often wondered just what Bush, Rice, Hughes, et al., actually do all day.


Yes, alot of people in this part of the world did not take Condi's words very well. On BahrainOnline.org, Bahrain's most visited internet forum, someone today posted humorously (in Arabic):
"BREAKING NEWS: Condoleezza Rice is pregnant; United States blames Iran and Syria"



Oops, sorry I hit send without completing.

Anyways, someone replied to the post saying:
"The baby's name: The new Middle East"


An American hand lay behind the Israeli war?

I never realized that Nasrallah was American.

Dave Berman

Orwell: Birth=Death

Perhaps a comment about birth is unfathomable to people surrounded by death.

Clear Skies
Healthy Forests
Up is down

Nothing new here.

Abu Sinan

Becky, you honestly think this conflict begins and ends with Nasrallah? Hate to break this to you, but Hizb'Allah was born out of Israel's previous adventures into Lebanon, trying to "fix" things before.

If the previous adventure gave us Hizb'Allah, what is this one going to do? When will the Israelis learn to stop shooting themselves in the foot? They help to set up and fund the early Hamas, look where that got them?


What a shame Marc Lynch left off his list of Bush administration missteps American support for a UN peacekeeping force for Darfur.

Just imagine the outrage on the Arab street if an Arab government's calculated extermination of a non-Arab element of its population were interrupted by infidels! Certainly every Arab government has opposed any effectual step to impede the genocidal war against civilians being waged by Sudan's government and now well into its fourth year. Feeble as the administration's diplomacy toward the Darfur situation has been in recent months, is it not frightening to think how close it has brought us to losing still more points with Arab public opinion, all for the sake of some black Africans?

I have no doubt that Marc has this near-disaster firmly in mind. Perhaps he simply means to write a separate post about it.

I'm all for improving American public diplomacy, but let's not forget that the things that outrage foreign audiences aren't always the things that ought to outrage us.

Tom Scudder

So do birth pangs last as long as last throes?


saw the syrian ambassador to the UK on BBC - he loved it! Said wasn't it interesting that the 200 yr old US and the 50 yr old Israel were going to give rebirth to the 6000 yr old middle east...

mark safranski

Ok - I have to ask for sake of argument: "What could any U.S. official say that would really satisfy Arab public opinion ?"

No sarcasm intended here. There's an underlying, fundamental, conflict of interests regarding Israel between the U.S. and the Arab states. Yes, U.S. officials can make noises in the direction of " evenhandedness" and that damps down irritation ( a good thing in my view) but I mean, what can actually be said that will *satisfy* Arab public opinion?

Mark Bernadiner

The UN humanitarian chief accused Hizbullah of "cowardly blending" among Lebanese civilians and causing the deaths of hundreds during two weeks of cross-border violence with Israel.
Jan Egeland spoke with reporters at the Larnaca airport in Cyprus late Monday after a visit to Lebanon on his mission to coordinate an international aid effort. On Sunday he had toured the rubble of Beirut's southern suburbs, a once-teeming Shi'ite district where Hizbullah had its headquarters.
"Consistently, from the Hizbullah heartland, my message was that Hizbullah must stop this cowardly blending ... among women and children," he said. "I heard they were proud because they lost very few fighters and that it was the civilians bearing the brunt of this. I don't think anyone should be proud of having many more children and women dead than armed men."

So, do not blame Israel blame islamofascism organization Hisbullah, which must be exterminated to the last member.

the aardvark

Talk among yourselves, folks, but in my comment section I won't tolerate any form of calls for "extermination" of any side in this conflict. Please don't make me have to police the comment section.


Along that line, in my comment upthread I really didn't mean to suggest that the Sudanese government was presiding over the calculated extermination of a non-Arab part of its citizenry. What I meant to say was that Khartoum was practicing an unusually robust policy of population control.

No Preference

Ok - I have to ask for sake of argument: "What could any U.S. official say that would really satisfy Arab public opinion ?"

Join the rest of the world and require that Israel observe the many UN resolutions of which it is in violation. Particularly the ones calling on Israel to dismantle settlements.


This book should be required reading for the SD, O Father of Aardvarks.
economist book review.

By contrast, a slim volume by one of Britain's leading diplomatic Arabists, Mark Allen, is an amiable and in many ways more useful guide. Knighted for—among other things—his apparently key part in persuading Libya's Muammar Qaddafi to give up his programme to build nuclear weapons, Sir Mark, a long-serving member of MI6, Britain's external intelligence service, offers a thoughtful potpourri of observations on the Arab psyche and identity. Acknowledging that “a systematic technique for dealing with contradictions and dissent” is woefully lacking in the Arab world, he also stresses that the old-fashioned bonds of blood, tribe, religion and pan-Arab identity tend to govern behaviour and can, if subtly addressed, be woven to good effect. Politics is still necessarily personal and clan-based; antipathy to fitnah (social discord and strife) makes it hard to envisage a peaceful institutionalisation of adversarial politics. These and other caveats, born of nearly four decades in the Middle East, offer more useful hints than the laments of a disappointed Arab-American neo-con.

That and your blog. ;)


The objects of Ms. Hughes public diplomacy reside not in the Middle east, but in the Middle West. And the South. Hear any complaints about US policy from Texas, Missouri, or Mississippi? No? then she's doing her job very well.

There is no foreign policy, only domestic policy staged from offshore locations.

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