Richard Fernandez At PJ Media: ‘The New Middle East’

Full piece here.

The same old Middle East, but a little different:

‘Washington has finally convinced itself that the Syrian regime is doomed and that its plan to shape the post-Assad outcome through the UN is, and perhaps always was, a fantasy. However, the administration is still trying to limit its involvement to diplomacy, including efforts to close airspace to reinforcements bound for Damascus and working with a wide spectrum of Syrians through NGOs’

Assad has retreated to the coast, where he has barricaded himself, and where his fellow Alawite minority has been moving.   There are some chemical weapons in play, and Fernandez suggests that it’s looking more like Lebanon every day; a country dividing along tribal and sectarian lines with simmering levels of violence and tension, potentially erupting.  There aren’t many good outcomes at the moment.

Addition:  Juan Cole is on top of it.

Fernandez is raising another point as well:  It seems when you tie U.S. interests to liberal internationalist doctrine, there are serious downsides:

Here’s a quote from Anne-Marie Slaughter:

‘The central liberal internationalist premise is the value of a rules-based international order that restrains powerful states and thereby reassures their enemies and allies alike and allows weaker states to have sufficient voice in the system that they will not choose to exit’

An important question here is:  Who determines the value of that rules- based international order?  Also:  What are the underlying ideals that guide that order?

Likely, not all parties find these ideals to be universal nor the rules that flow from these ideals binding.  If the U.N. as it’s functioning today is an example, then clearly there’s a design problem.  It’s ineffective and cumbersome, stagnant, comically bureaucratic and increasingly guided by interests that have run the reasonable self-interest of stronger partners out of it.

One of her solutions:

‘We must also overhaul the global financial institutions so that they address the problems of a 21st-century economy rather than those of one from the 1930s. That, in a nutshell, means finding ways to make globalization work for everyone.’

This line of thinking reminds me of the E.U, but on a broader scale:  great on paper and good work for the bureaucrats, but likely heading for failure.

It’s arguable that very little could be done in Syria, as Assad’s regime was becoming ever more brutal and paranoid, working against demographic trends and many of his people.  It’s also arguable that we’ve lost important leverage waiting for entities like the U.N. to declare…something.  Clearly, our eggs should not all be in this basket.


On the liberal internationalist view, Libya was a triumph:  a desirable outcome with minimalized and shared risk with Europe (France and Britain especially) and an appeal to other partners to secure our interests.  The U.S. committed itself and funded a large portion of the “kinetic military action” which allowed a long troublesome, brutal and deluded dictator funding terrorists to be disposed of as strategically as could be hoped for (it remains to be seen how Libya will play out).

Iraq, on the other hand, was generally a failure because the long troublesome, repressive dictator was disposed of by an aggressive use of military force, higher loss of American and Iraqi life, and a flaunting of rules that would have bound other interests and which resulted in a potential morally weakened for America abroad.  This has emboldened our enemies and undermined our credibility.

I assume this is still up for debate.


Democracy, as most interests in the West envision it, really doesn’t seem to be forthcoming throughout the Middle East (except for Israel, of course).

More broadly, there is still a pan-Arab movement of Islamic extremism that has declared holy war upon the West, is trying to drive the infidel out of Arabia, and is targeting us here at home.  Many Muslims don’t find it terribly compelling, but a few obviously do.  It thrives in lawless enclaves across the Muslim world and in a few cells in the West, funds itself through often illegal activities (and the sympathy and common cause of  other true believers and many Muslim states, like Iran in the case of Hizbollah), and finds converts among some teenaged and young Muslim men in Europe and America.  I’m glad America is pursuing Al Qaeda with our military, security and intelligence agencies and I don’t find the liberal internationalist order sufficient to do so.

Additionally, the Muslim Brotherhood is increasingly one of the most organized groups in the Levant, gaining greater political power for itself in the same old (but now new and different) landscape in the Middle East.  Most of its aims are not necessarily alligned with those of Western interests nor democracy.

Related On This Site:  Democracy as we envision it requires people to constrain themselves within laws and institutions that maintain democracy…through Mill’s utilitarianism?: Thursday Quotation: Jeane Kirkpatrick – J.S. Mill

Do we try and invest in global institutions as flawed as they are…upon a Kantian raft of perpetual peace?:  Daniel Deudney On YouTube Responding to Robert Kagan: Liberal Democracy Vs. Autocracy

A British Muslim tells his story, suggesting that classical liberalism wouldn’t be a bad idea (for the Muslim immigrants in Britain especially): From ‘Introduction: How Salman Rushdie Changed My Life’

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