Editor's note: This column was co-authored by Bob Morrison
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was speaking for the Obama administration this week when she issued a sharp demand: Syrian dictator Bashar al-Asad should step down and now. The Obama administration is putting its Syria policy in line with its overall goal making the Mideast safe for democracy.
President Obama knows that democracy in the Middle East is not easy to attain. He has blamed the “Arab Spring” for the sharp uptick in oil prices here. That spike in oil prices was, along with the Japanese tsunami, one of the things that led to “a run of bad luck” for the U.S. economy, the president explained. We were coming out of the recession nicely, he said, until we were hit by these events beyond our control, he implied.
Tsunamis, yes, but we can reasonably ask whether our dependence on Mideast oil supplies could be lessened by easing the Obama administration’s bans on drilling offshore and in the Arctic in our own country.
Despite this, the Arab Spring is where this administration sees hope and change. We’d prefer something tangible. So far, we’ve seen nothing in the Mideast but increased turmoil, worse tribal violence, greater influence for the Muslim Brotherhood, and more brutal persecution of religious minorities—especially Christians.
Excepting oil, which they did not discover or develop, the entire Arab world has a GNP less than Denmark. This is clearly a result of tyranny and religious violence. Arabs—both Christian and Muslim—can thrive in Western countries. This proves that when they live in freedom, their natural gifts are equal to any people’s.
An Arab diplomat once put it succinctly: “There are no nations here except Egypt; the rest are only tribes with flags.” He was, of course, leaving out those tribes with one flag: Israel. The Israelis have built a nation, an economy, and a democracy.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was in the air, bound for a White House meeting with the president, when Mr. Obama publicly called for Israel to reopen talks with its rejectionist Arab neighbors—Palestinians and others. And, the president added, those talks should begin on the basis of the 1967 borders of Israel.
He wasn’t talking about Israel’s borders following the Six-Day War. He clearly meant Israel’s borders prior to that war. In that war in June, 1967, Israel simultaneously engaged and militarily defeated Syria, Jordan, and Egypt. In that lightning clash, Israelis’ victory reunited Jerusalem and added the historic Jewish territories of Judea and Samaria. That war also, very problematically, involved Israel in administering lands with large Arab populations.