Motley Moose – Archive

Since 2008 – Progress Through Politics

When It Bahrains, It Pours

Interesting new developments today in Bahrain as Saudi troops have crossed the border into that embroiled nation.

What is most notable about this situation in particular is how it exposes the flaws of US foreign policy in the Middle East. With Iran in one corner warning outside powers not to intervene in the Bahraini protests, and Saudi Arabia in another corner peering anxiously across the sand at disquiet they hope so fervently to keep from their lands, the United States is in a precarious position: continue to implicitly (often unequivocally) support an authoritarian regime (with the old logic, “the devil you know beats the devil you don’t”) or support a grassroots democratic movement in the region.

From a short-sighted perspective, in both cases, the United States loses. Support the Saudis (or take no position on the matter–read: implicit support), and you risk alienating and radicalizing moderate Arabs whom you need to marginalize extremists. Support the movement and recognize that the United States will likely not be any new Bahraini regime’s closest ally or bosom buddy–you risk allowing the theocratic opinings of Iranian leaders to tug at the heart strings of an emotional people during a time of great change.

With the United States Fifth Fleet stationed in Bahrain, these protests hit close to home for defense hawks. However, the question becomes, are we capable of shifting our strategic alliances to maintain a presence in the region? Will we be able to maintain a presence in the Middle East as the nations and peoples disgruntled with US involvement encircle our true “friends?”

What is as evident as ever is that the old way of thinking on Defense is slowly becoming obsolete. The focus of American policymakers and defense proprietors on a “first-strike” capability–with the newest technology and the most ships and guns on every shore–undermines our credibility throughout the world. Sure, we’ll be your friend–but only if you promise we can hit you in the face first.

What these protests–from Bahrain all the way back to Tunisia–underlie are the desires of people to come out from underneath oppressive, inhumane regimes. Force breeds power, power breeds corruption; if the United States even implicitly stands with players in the region who do not truthfully stand for popular sovereignty, then we become an enemy no matter what treaties our diplomats wrangle.

Too many in our country equate strength with military might; yet this is a vain observation of that notion. Strength comes not only from one’s ability to protect, but from a willingness to do so, as well. Might does not, in fact, make right.

In the short term, the American side of this equation is to protect–protect the people, but don’t try to win their battles for them. This notion flies in the face of many military leaders’ training backgrounds, but our desire to use our force as a blunt tool to bludgeon out a “mission accomplished” banner has proven to be a detriment to our cause.

In the interim, we vociferously stand for people throwing off the shackles of corruption and allow them to chart their own path. When the dust settles–and if we truly seek peace and an end to violent extremism on our shores–if we are required to take a step back, we must do so. Arab problems have Arab solutions. There can be no quid pro quo on US involvement in the region–not for oil, not for bases, and not for regime change.

The United States can either welcome the popular sovereignty era of the twenty-first century or be pulled apart by it; the choice is ours.

(Original post is here)


  1. Shaun Appleby

    I don’t know if any of my international followers can do anything, but hell is breaking loose in Bahrain right now!

    1 minute ago

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