Sunday, February 18, 2007

A Saudi view: America's choice is catastrophe or a return to its ideals

Here's today's editorial in the Saudi mass-circulation newspaper Al-Okaz. It is short, with a catchy heading: "Rice, again--Why?"
The repeated visits of US secretary of State Rice to the Middle East are an expression of the US administration's sense of the crisis the region is growing through, a crisis that now threatens world peace, and also threatens the Bush administration, and this intensifies with the intensification of the US presidential election campaign.

These repeated visits are also an expression of the American feeling of latent responibility for the crisis where the region has ended up, first of all because the region's problems have resulted from American policies engendered by decisions that weren't based on any real knowledge of the nature of the region, or of its centers of power and the cultures that animate them, which [policies, I think he means] inevitably brought America fo find itself enmeshed in a quagmire no less serious that of Vietnam at an earlier time.

Finally, these visits show that Washington understands it has a responsibility to the world and to humanity to arrive at a solution to the regional crisis, based on its role as a great power trying to confirm to the world its sponsorship of peace and and that it stands against terrorism and the stripping of peoples of their rights, [enabling them to live] in stability and a secure and honorable life.

But in spite of all of that, these repeated visits are testimony to something else too, namely that America is still uncertain how it can use its mediation to end the Mideast problem, without setting down in its history another decision like that which its history records with respect to Vietnam at an earlier time.

And if in fact Washington is in search of a solution, then it should start by re-examining its policies and their implementation with reference not only to the will of the people of the region, but also with reference to the moral principles on which the their founders tried to establish [America]: justice, equality, and the right of a people to decide its destiny for itself. And as long as America fails to do that, the repeated visits of Rice will do nothing to bring about the peace and stability that we hope for.
The Bush administration, the editorialist says, has behaved in an ignorant and arrogant way, and this has inevitably led to a crisis that threatens not only the Mideast but America as well. But it is to be hoped that a sense of responsibility will come to their rescue. That and a return by America to the principles of its own founding, which in this case translate into fighting not only terrorism, but also self-determination and fighting the stripping of a people of its rights, referring to the Palestinians. That, he says, is their, and our, only way out of this situation unless they are to record another Vietnam in their history. If he writes, if a solution is in fact what they are looking for.

Saudi editorialists certainly don't criticize the Saudi regime, and generally they don't offer advice either, but it seems the implicit message here could be: We should help bring America to its senses and make it support the Mecca agreement and lifting of the blockade and so on, if only on the basis of that right of self-determination that America is supposed to represent. Or is it just belles lettres?


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