Open Letter to Barack Obama from Middle East/Foreign Policy Academics

An Open Letter to President Barack Obama | Accuracy.Org

Dear President Obama:

As political scientists, historians, and researchers in related fields who have studied the Middle East and U.S. foreign policy, we the undersigned believe you have a chance to move beyond rhetoric to support the democratic movement sweeping over Egypt. As citizens, we expect our president to uphold those values.

For thirty years, our government has spent billions of dollars to help build and sustain the system the Egyptian people are now trying to dismantle.  Tens if not hundreds of thousands of demonstrators in Egypt and around the world have spoken. We believe their message is bold and clear: Mubarak should resign from office and allow Egyptians to establish a new government free of his and his family’s influence. It is also clear to us that if you seek, as you said Friday “political, social, and economic reforms that meet the aspirations of the Egyptian people,” your administration should publicly acknowledge those reforms will not be advanced by Mubarak or any of his adjutants.

There is another lesson from this crisis, a lesson not for the Egyptian government but for our own. In order for the United States to stand with the Egyptian people it must approach Egypt through a framework of shared values and hopes, not the prism of geostrategy. On Friday you rightly said that “suppressing ideas never succeeds in making them go away.” For that reason we urge your administration to seize this chance, turn away from the policies that brought us here, and embark on a new course toward peace, democracy and prosperity for the people of the Middle East. And we call on you to undertake a comprehensive review of US foreign policy on the major grievances voiced by the democratic opposition in Egypt and all other societies of the region.



22 comments on “Open Letter to Barack Obama from Middle East/Foreign Policy Academics

Commenting at CK MacLeod's

We are determined to encourage thoughtful discussion, so please be respectful to others. We also provide a set of Commenting Options - comment/commenter highlighting and ignoring, and commenter archives that you can access by clicking the commenter options button (). Go to our Commenting Guidelines page for more details, including how to report offensive and spam commenting.

  1. Well no. 1, grievances, is they can’t feed themselves, in part due to the price spikes in basic food staples, two, business in Egypt, an illustration is in the Yacoubian Building, with Hagg Azzam, the millionaire
    aspiring to office in the ruling party, must deal with a corrupt clique. Now having seen what Hamas has done in the last five years, I’m
    not terribly sanguine that the IM can do better,

  2. In order for the United States to stand with the Egyptian people it must approach Egypt through a framework of shared values and hopes, not the prism of geostrategy.

    sure hope that this letter serves to remind the Egyptian people that they should share our value and our hopes, rather than nurse their grievances or place interests that they do not share with the US ahead of the view from the prism of our commonalities.

  3. @ CK MacLeod:

    yes. that is presumption. and why shouldn’t it be sent to both addresses? must the United States stand with the PoE based on shared values more than the PoE stand with the US and demonstrate their commitment to what it is that we’re sharing?

    because I’m guessing that many Americans, perhaps too numerous to mention, have demonstrated a desire to have the PoE embrace more of our values and the more that we receive evidence that they will, the more we’ll be pleased to provide tokens of our esteem as we welcome them into standing with the democratic nations of the world.

  4. fuster wrote:

    must the United States stand with the PoE based on shared values more than the PoE stand with the US and demonstrate their commitment to what it is that we’re sharing?

    I would differ from the academics in one respect: Standing with people regardless of whether they “share your values and hopes” is also an independent moral good – that is, there is a moral good in standing with our fellow human beings on the basis of inalienable rights and dignity, whether they are aware of or articulate the same rights and beliefs or not. A child has a right to life whether or not the child knows or can say that it has a right to life, for example. An accused person has a right to a fair trial. Human beings deserve freedom of expression and belief, including the right to express non-belief in the freedom of expression and belief, and so on.

    We should approach the PoE on the basis of “shared values and hopes” in a reciprocal manner, but determining the exact extent of “sharing” is obviously not a scientific operation. To some extent following the first moral premise, it is up to us to approach them and anyone else on the basis of our own values and hopes and seek reciprocation, if we believe they are and should be recognized as universal values and hopes.

    So it’s a question of whether the “framework” implies “already shared” or “to be shared.” In practical terms, there may not be a significant difference. If there is, then, as the richer, stronger parties who are implicated in the frustration of their values and hopes, then it’s all the more incumbent upon us to take whatever risk in supporting their apparent striving.

  5. @ CK MacLeod:

    that was good.

    except maybe for the “whatever” in the conclusion.

    at the risk of continuing my boorishness, does ‘whatever’ approximate “at all costs” or are their limits to what we may risk?

  6. @ fuster:
    That’s an interesting question, actually, for a wanna-be moral theorist. I originally meant “whatever” in the sense of accepting uncertainty and assuming that, since we’re the stronger party, it most likely couldn’t be “at all costs.”

    But since the subject is now “universal values and hopes” – or supreme moral good – then it would be the area where “at all costs” does apply, but with a prudent awareness that sacrificing too much for some random particular determination of the moral good may defeat other moral goods. I can’t give all of my vast holdings to the first beggar I run into on the street without impoverishing the empire, and I might ruin the beggar by overwhelming him. So the gift or sacrifice must take a range of needs into account, but not as an excuse to avoid responsibility or merely to protect oneself from discomfort.

    I’m struggling with Cohen’s ideas on suffering and the good. They don’t permit one to put one’s own interests – or the interests of family, tribe, nation – above the universal interest. They instead force you to search for the identity of those interests, and accept that a higher understanding of them will almost certainly involve greater suffering than you might otherwise prefer.

  7. One of the things that ex-moral philosophers consider is whether we must be more cautious in our risk-taking when the cost of failure is more likely to be borne by parties other than ourselves.

    ( do not see Walt, S for more on this)

  8. @ fuster:
    Since I think you’re referring to Israel, that re-introduces the other question about what support of Israel means or may come to mean. It certainly wouldn’t be a positive statement about Israel that supporting the country required the suppression of the fundamental rights and dignity of another people.

    A little bit of discomfort for the Egyptians against certain death for the Israelis wouldn’t be a difficult choice, assuming we were able to make such a choice, but that’s not what we’re weighing.

    You’ve suggested that Israel’s position vis-a-vis Hamas and Iran will be weakened by the loss of Mubarak as ally, but we don’t really know how significant that weakening will be. It could be that Israel will be forced to deal with Hamas/Gaza on a different basis, but Israeli policy on Hamas/Gaza up to today has not been one of its prouder chapters. Nor is it clear to me anyway how much Mubarak really has helped in regard to Iran.

  9. Well this crisis has closed off economic liberalization, for the time being, assuming that either Enan or Shafik really take charge, what
    are they likely to do, the military over the last 60 years, has become
    a power factor in the economy, Does one really think the Ilkwan will stand pat, in the near future. No, they will indoctrinate, agitate, and
    if need be go for ‘direct action. That’s the pattern of Hamas, the GIA
    Gemaa Islamiya, the Taliban, then they will try again, should they get the big prize, we have witchhunts against officials of the former government. that’s the pattern.

  10. @ CK MacLeod:

    and what you’ve started discussing is what Walt was leaving out.

    Egypt is/was a good deal of help against Iran’s weapon smuggling and has been quite helpful in it’s seemingly endless effort to try to get Hamas to agree to reform into a single Palestinian government with the PA.

    Now it may be that Israel is going to be dealing with Hamas in Gaza in a different way if Egypt is no longer keeping Iran from introducing more potent rockets into Gaza.
    Hamas has not been one of history’s prouder examples of either how to fight or how to make peace or how to govern.

    If Egypt no longer serves as a moderating force on the Iranian client Hamas, will withdrawal from that function mean that the PoE will be implicated, along with us, in allowing an increase in state-sponsored terrorism leading to a war to curtail the sponsorship?

  11. @ fuster:
    Could be, I guess, but Mubarak is 82. Maybe he would have run again in September, maybe not. Either way, he was inherently a wasting asset, his effectiveness as more than an enabler and temporizer is disputable, and any difficulties Israel faces as a result of his departure, Israel would have faced sooner rather than later anyway. Stability was obviously an illusion, and, quite aside from the moral questions around supporting a torture state because it cooperated on interdicting arms shipments and abided by a peace treaty, a policy that hinged on on aging autocrat’s good offices was clearly a policy overdue for revision.

  12. @ miguel cervantes:
    Nonsense. The MB is not the Taliban, is not the GAI, is not Hamas, nor, pace Dyer, is it Hezbollah, just as Egypt is not Afghanistan, Gaza, or Lebanon. Egypt is Egypt, which makes the MB-Egypt even less the GAI. However, if the kind of people you get your information and outlook from gain control of US and Israeli policy, they just might manage to repeat past tragedies as even worse tragedies.

  13. CK MacLeod wrote:

    quite aside from the moral questions around supporting a torture state

    but living in a state that indulged itself in torture was one of the things that we lately had come to share with the Egyptians.

  14. @ fuster:
    You know as well as I do that the instances of torture “indulged” in by the USA against a handful of enemies were minimal compared to the everyday use of torture as a tool of repression by the Egyptian state. That said, the erosion of our values begins with the willingness to compromise them at or just beyond the limits of our common awareness. Accustomed as we apparently were to call in the Egyptian contractors, it’s not surprising that we eventually experimented with some DIY.

  15. Right you’re going to deny that all those factions, stem from the local branch of the IM, ‘denial is more than a river there’ if maybe that the influx of german emigres of ‘a certain type and age’ along with subsequent Soviet advisors, recall that both Mubarak and Suleiman,
    are in part proud graduates of Frunze, probably had their impression.
    had their impact on the Mukharabat’s practices,

  16. miguel cervantes wrote:

    Right you’re going to deny that all those factions, stem from the local branch of the IM,

    Right, just like the KKK “stemmed” from the local branches of the Baptist church. Ergo: We must stamp out evangelicals and deny them access to the political process. Also, since most revolutionary communists start out as leftists, we should bar the Democratic Party from participation in US politics. Actually, that’s how a lot of your friends talk. Let’s not even get started on all of the other things that have “stemmed” over the years from American and allied military and other operations.

    Sooner or later, everyone is responsible for everything. That’s where we all begin.

    I realize that this would be destructive to your sole basis for political discussion and activity, but people are responsible for what they actually do and actually advocate. You can associate the MB’s ideas with more radical groups, and therefore oppose the MB, or simply oppose the MB because you disagree with those ideas, but equating them with the Taliban is counter-productive, not to mention simple-minded. In addition, since we’ve been struggling to cut a deal with the “moderate Taliban” and are more than likely to leave Afghanistan essentially in their hands, such comparisons are also pointless.

  17. Yes, they are Highlander, and when CAIR’s Awad comes from Hamas, when members of the board of said organization, have been convicted
    for terrorist offenses, when it has designated ‘as an unindicted co-
    conspirator’ in the HLF case, that matters. Now give me a counter example where the IM has been a force for good.

  18. @ miguel cervantes:
    “Yes they are” what? The MB is a transnational organization with millions of members, most of them engaged in social work. So there’s your “good,” as if you cared about the poor. In your world, the only guilt by association that matters is the guilt by association you attach to the enemies designated by the opinion leaders on your side. When you start using the same standards to judge your own allies that you use to judge your enemies, then there might be something to talk about.

  19. @ miguel cervantes:
    More of the same intellectually dishonest garbage that avoids the actual issues. Maybe if you close your eyes and plug up your ears just a little tighter everyone in the world who disagrees with your basic premises will just go away.

  20. Right Colin, ‘denial’ seems to be a river in S. California, too, I see, Fine, let the MB takeover let them lose a fifth war to the Israelis

Commenter Ignore Button by CK's Plug-Ins

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *