What's next for US in Arab world?

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 13, 2012

The anniversary of 9/11 was greeted in Egypt and Libya by crowds allegedly protesting an anti-Islam film. The protests in Libya took a deadly turn when Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other U.S. diplomatic personnel were killed – perhaps in a deliberate act by terrorists using the protests as cover.
Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney criticized President Barack Obama’s handling of the matter, while Obama vowed to track down the killers.
What does the incident say about American policy in the Arab world? What does it tell us about the presidential candidates? RedBlue America columnists Joel Mathis and Ben Boychuk debate the matter.
MATHIS: Stevens’ death is doubly tragic – not simply because he died in service, but also because he was killed in a city, Benghazi, that he had previously worked with Libyan rebels to liberate.
Libya now could become one more country where the United States regularly drops missiles on suspected terrorists, part of a never-ending Whac-a-mole game that may not be in our best interests.
There is precedent: In 2009, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab tried blowing up a U.S.-bound aircraft by igniting his underwear: He’d reportedly been radicalized in Yemen and Great Britain. At the time, I wrote that “there are – quite rightly – no suggestions the U.S. invade Yemen or the United Kingdom.”
We didn’t invade Yemen, but the United States has surely gone to war there – as of June, according to the New America Foundation, the Obama administration had carried out 28 drone strikes and 13 air strikes in that country, killing more than 700 Yemenis.
The result? Growing anti-American radicalization among Yemenis. Our attempts to kill every potential terrorist in the world could, ironically, lead to more terrorist acts against us.
Romney called for more “American leadership,” but didn’t detail how he would have handled the protests. In truth, his foreign policies would be similar to Obama’s, only with more chest beating.
BOYCHUK: The Arab “Spring” is a farce, and the democracy project in the Middle East is a failure.
Who were the rebels who deposed the autocrats and dictators in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen? They weren’t a bunch of Arab Thomas Jeffersons, that’s for sure.
By helping rid part of the Arab world of one set of tyrants – “leading from behind,” to use the Obama administration’s typically feckless phrase – the United States assured the rise of a different, more religiously zealous set of tyrants.
And let’s not overlook Egypt, where “demonstrators” trampled American soil and raised the black flag of al-Qaida. Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood president, Mohammed Morsi, did not exactly apologize. Rather, he lamented that a California filmmaker couldn’t be punished for blasphemy.
How should the U.S. respond? Bombs and bullets send a direct and unmistakable message. But so does money.
Egypt is a desperately poor, backward country that has enjoyed hundreds of billions in U.S. taxpayer subsidies since the late 1970s.
Libya, too, has received nearly $60 million in U.S. aid since rebels ousted and killed Col. Moammar Gadhafi.
We shower the Egyptians and Libyans with aid. They show us little but contempt. So let’s end the aid, and may their devout faith in God preserve them.