Friday, November 10, 2006

Spinning the election: The Arab world agrees with Bush

There's quite a bit of jubilant celebration about Republican defeats and Rumsfeld's resignation in exactly the places some people most feared - the jihadi forums and some of the more radical Arab newspapers. Al-Quds al-Arabi has an editorial bluntly stating that the electoral outcome was a great victory for the Iraqi resistance... Of course those groups are going to claim victory: the election campaign featured administration officials from Bush on down announcing that a Democratic win would be a defeat for America - so why shouldn't they take Bush at his word? But we shouldn't accept their spin at face value or let them frame the interpretation of the election. The US should have had an aggressive public diplomacy campaign stressing the virtues of democracy and how the campaign and the election would only produce a stronger, more effective American policy in Iraq. But electoral considerations took priority over foreign policy interests, so here we are. Now, among the Arab mainstream, who we really should care about, there's a lot of uncertainty about how this will affect American Iraq policy. This would really be a good time to listen to and engage with those Arab voices over how to change course - a real opportunity that shouldn't be missed.

That's Mark Lynch talking, not me.

He's right, you know. Electoral considerations took priority over foreign policy interests.

I'll go one step further: unless and until we stop killing people and start persuading them, getting pro-active instead of reactive, our foreign policy problems will continue to multiply. Anyone who thinks that America's image abroad is not tied to the success or failure of forces recruiting young people to become terrorists is living in a fool's paradise.

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