You can’t tune-in to
an Arabic channel nowadays without coming across
analysts, former politicians and ex-generals
moaning and groaning about America and the West.
Their views almost always paint the Middle East as
a terminal victim of neo-imperialism, corporate
greed and raw aggression.
In the world of the professional pundit we are
always the innocent bystanders. The conflicts
besetting this region are not of our making, they
say. Everything is America’s fault. Few ever come
up with viable solutions.
To be fair the US government deserves much of the
anger directed towards it for its ill-thought out
A recent BBC poll that sought the opinions of
26,000 people in 25 countries indicates 49 per
cent feel the US plays a mainly negative role in
today’s world. Surprisingly attitudes in Germany,
France and Indonesia were least favorable.
But here’s an interesting snippet. Some 57 per
cent of Americans disapprove of the way their
government handled the Iraq war.
Okay. So we know that Washington has blundered
over Iraq but this shouldn’t mean that everything
America and its allies propose is automatically
perceived as negative.
This trend has become so bad there is now a
situation of them and us, which has led some Arab
nations to cool relations with the West and cast
around for new friends.
A January 25 Reuter’s report was headlined “Gulf
states seen shifting away from US assets”. The
fact is we must be careful what we wish for
because it just might happen.
Let’s ask ourselves these questions. Do we really
want to sever or water down our alliances with the
world’s superpower? And if we were to do something
that foolish what might be the economic, political
and strategic consequences?
With regards to the GCC states it would be nice if
we could emulate stand-alone, neutral Switzerland.
The problem is we can’t. Our countries are blessed
– some might say cursed – with the world’s most
coveted resource oil. Everyone wants a stake in it
and we need to protect it. In truth, we cannot do
So, like it or not, we need to cooperate with a
friendly foreign power at least until such time as
we are set-up militarily and technologically to
stand on our own feet.
Imperfect as it is, the US is the only superpower
in town. There are pretenders, countries that aim
to muscle out the West and which are currently out
to woo us. But their challenges are fragile and,
in any case, their world view, ideologies and
agendas are not ours.
To be painfully frank, if America and the West
were to dump us we would soon be saying ‘Come
back, all is forgiven’.
If we no longer had the benefit of US satellites,
for instance, our communications would be cut. If
the West stopped supplying spare parts, our planes
would be grounded; our hospital equipment left to
Moreover if we work towards harming the US
economy, in the end we will only be harming
ourselves since our own economies are
inter-related and inter-dependent and especially
since our currencies are pegged with the dollar.
I believe the time has come to stop the
anti-Western rhetoric, and work with the West
instead of against it.
With a sincere will, together we can strive
towards a peaceful Iraq, which does not
discriminate on sectarian lines. Together we can
help Lebanon heal its war wounds and divisions.
And together we can concentrate on bringing a
Palestinian state to fruition.
This requires a massive change of heart on our
side. We are hurt, rightly so, and it won’t be
easy but it’s worth remembering this. In January
2009, the White House is due to receive new
tenants. Whether these will be Republican or
Democrat there will be a change in policy.
The US public proved their eagerness for a new
direction in the November 2006 Mid-term elections
and presidential candidates are reflecting this
new mood in their pre-campaign speeches. One after
the other they speak of the need for diplomacy and
a new hearts and minds approach vis-ŕ-vis this
part of the world. In this case, we mustn’t burn
In the meantime it’s worth reflecting on the good
things the US has done in the world and put the
last few years in perspective as an
Realistically speaking we need each other, so
let’s be courageous enough to offer Washington the
hand of friendship. We need to transparently and
professionally convey our concerns and
requirements while emphasizing that any new way of
dealing with each another cannot be a one way
With our region imperiled and the future of our
children at stake the road ahead demands an adult
and sensible approach not one based on revenge and
The nub of the issue is this. How do you envision
the future of your country? Do you want to live in
a free economy that offers you the freedom to
choose your own lifestyle?
If so, then the West is indispensable. And that’s
the bottom line. We’re at a crossroads. There are
hard choices to be made. The responsibility lies
with all of us to choose wisely and well.