Disraeli statue 521.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
“We make our fortunes and then we call them fate.” – Benjamin Disraeli
Disraeli’s sardonic wisdom remains valid despite all of history’s convolutions
and revolutions since his day. Nothing is propelled by blind destiny, because
it’s foretold, inscribed on some astrological chart and preordaining
consequences that cannot be averted.Inevitably human hands pull the
lever that sets cataclysmic geopolitical events in motion. The human hands that
unsettled Egypt, and with it the entire Mideast, are primarily those of the
American electorate which elevated Barack Obama to the presidency.
that pivotal point it should have been clear that the end is near for whatever
remnants of delicate equilibrium still endure in this region. Obama
ushered in chaos even if he chose Cairo as his venue for the 2009 speech in
which he sucked up to Islam. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak significantly
absented himself from that milestone sham. He could sense the illwinds
This is eerily reminiscent of the series of mindblowing blunders
toward Iran during the term of Jimmy Carter, the past president most like Obama,
though hardly as radical. In his memoirs, Ayatollah Khomeini’s first foreign
minister Ebrahim Yazdi writes that “the shah was doomed the minute Carter
entered the White House.”
The novice president indiscreetly sent all the
wrong signals, beginning with an exceedingly public cold shoulder to the shah.
The mullahs were heartened and exuded confidence. Increasingly shaken, Muhammad
Reza Pahlavi sought to ingratiate himself with Carter by relaxing restrictions
on opposition agitators. That further emboldened the religious fanatics and
spawned unrest. Carter admonished the shah against quelling the disturbances by
Willy-nilly, Carter’s bungling was instrumental in installing a
reactionary, repressive theocracy in Teheran. Under the banner of freedom, he
boosted the forces of medieval darkness. The shah was a goner and the ayatollahs
repaid Carter by holding 52 American embassy staffers hostage for 444 days until
he was replaced by Ronald Reagan.
CARTER’S INDISPUTABLE legacy was the
bloodshed of the Iran-Iraq War, the carnage at the Buenos Aires Jewish Community
Center and Israeli embassy, the burgeoning of Hizbullah and Hamas, the co-option
of Syria/Lebanon and Gaza into Iran’s evil dominion, massive worldwide
terror-mongering and lately nuclear ambitions and rhetoric about wiping Israel
off the map.
Yet at the time, American opinion-molders (to say nothing of
their hypocrite Western European counterparts) eagerly fell for the clichés and
painted the shah as a quintessentially reprehensible ogre, much as – having
learned nothing – they now portray Mubarak.
It’s not that either the shah
or Mubarak were saints, but street demonstrations (or for that matter elections,
like the ones which catapulted Hamas to power in Gaza) aren’t synonymous with
democracy, certainly not in the Islamic sphere, which is utterly devoid of
democratic traditions and infrastructure.
Democracy above all mandates a
preexisting mind-set. It rests on transparency, literacy, tolerance, the rule of
law, a context of equity, prevailing rights-oriented legalisms, an autonomous
judiciary and nonviolent transfers of power. This isn’t something which certain
White House residents, State Department headliners, popular talking heads and
syndicated scribblers are likely to admit. Complex reality is less marketable
than simplistic slogans.
In the real world, it’s prudent to look out for
long-term interests which include reliance, where expedient, on the lesser of
given evils in the absence of ideal alternatives. Both the shah and Mubarak were
never the worst options. Moreover, betraying them doesn’t only impact on
their own personal lots. The rest of this dangerous region watches attentively
and the intelligence of its Muslim denizens mustn’t be
They may be trapped in their own circuitous reasoning,
but their acute perception discerns that precisely those in their midst – like
the shah and Mubarak – who dared depart from nationalist fanatic extremism or
insular Islam are those whom their Western allies betray.
reaction to another bout of Mideastern protests. In 2009, following Iran’s
rigged election, thousands took to the streets in defiance of the theocracy that
Carter piteously enabled. As pro-democracy demonstrators were killed in Teheran
and as its ayatollahs furthered their designs to arm themselves with nukes, the
current leader of the free world spared no effort to stress the need to downplay
the Iranian fuss.
Obama indeed gave his own people a lesson in moral
relativism: “It’s important to understand that, although there is amazing
ferment taking place in Iran, the difference between [Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad and
[Mir-Hossein] Mousavi in terms of their actual policies may not be as great as
Not unexpectedly, Obama informed the unenlightened masses
that he wouldn’t take sides: “I take a wait-and-see approach... It’s not
productive, given the history of US-Iranian relations, to be seen as meddling in
Given this, and given the irrefutable reality that
colossal differences exist between Mubarak and the Muslim Brotherhood, one must
wonder why Obama’s administration couldn’t wait before it took sides – this time
against the ruling government.
It’s hard to escape the conclusion that –
with brash nonintervention in one instance and impetuous intervention in another
– no principle or pattern is involved here. It’s hard to avoid concluding that
Obama wasn’t interested in destabilizing the anti-Western ayatollahs but didn’t
mind destabilizing the pro-western Mubarak.
In other words, painful as
the bottom line is, Obama showed no loyalty to the West’s allies – either on the
streets of Teheran or in Cairo’s presidential palace. If anything, his
proclivities were anti-Western.
There’s no chance that any Mideastern
players would overlook this, as much as Obama and his supporters may deny his
apparent inclinations. All moralizing mantras about human liberty ring
hollow as Obama is seen keeping his hands off the most rogue of Mideast regimes
while selling out his professed teammates.
If anything can conceivably
discourage vulnerable local potentates (like King Abdullah of Jordan) from
staking their futures on American promises, it’s the evidence of their own
eyes. Right now, all American allies – Israelis among them – look like
suckers liable to be left high and dry.
The ayatollahs, who were helped
by Carter and not hindered by Obama, must be rubbing their hands in glee.
Carter’s latest unsolicited kibitzing (“Mubarak will have to leave”) surely
instigated much mocking mirth among Teheran’s honchos.
The circle is
closed for us too. Carter was the one who twisted Menachem Begin’s arms to cede
the Sinai and contract the frigid peace with Egypt. Its durability was anyhow
limited because Mubarak is old and ill. We struck a risky bargain with a
here-today-gone-sometimes-tomorrow regime. All Egyptian undertakings might
disintegrate into the desert sands, leaving us on the precipice of a strategic
The word to the wise is to cut our losses and – no matter how
hard Obama twists our arms – refrain from gullibly duplicating the same
inordinate naiveté on our long tortuous eastern flank, where Mahmoud Abbas is
more of a hollow- reed staff than any of our Egyptian interlocutors ever
To paraphrase Disraeli: It’s not fate, but we who forge our
fortunes. We have no one to trust but ourselves.www.sarahhonig.com
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