Pelosi: Made a big hit with Arab tyrants.
April 6, 2007 -- 'THE other face of America": So Arab media and political circles describe House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as she winds up her tour of the Middle East amid criticism from the Bush administration. And there is little doubt that much of the Arab elite likes that face better than the one presented by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in her trips to the region.
"She is the friendly face of America," says a senior Syrian official. "Where Condi frowns, Nancy smiles."
Pelosi calls her tour a fact-finding exercise. But, judging by the substantial negotiations she engaged in, hers was a full-fledged diplomatic mission. At least, this is how most Arabs see it.
Pelosi was specially feted in Damascus, capital of Syria - the oldest member of the club of "nations sponsoring international terrorism," according to the State Department. "Her visit was a godsend to an isolated and beleaguered regime," says a Lebanese minister. "The Syrian regime, which had been thinking of bowing to international pressure, is now reassured: All it has to do is to wait until Pelosi's party takes over the White House in 2009."
The Pelosi mission confirms the analysis made by Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that the United States is incapable of developing and implementing a long-term strategy. In this analysis, America might wake up one morning and decide to do the exact opposite of what it has been doing for years.
The region's most radical elements liked Pelosi best if only because she endorsed their campaign of vilification against the Bush administration. In effect, her motto was: Surrender before you have to, and claim credit for it. She represented a superpower that, because no one can take away anything from it, is prepared to give away everything.
The Pelosi Doctrine, as demonstrated during the tour, is the opposite of the Bush Doctrine spelled out in 2002.
The Bush Doctrine links America's national security to democratization in the Middle East. It asserts that undemocratic states serve as breeding grounds for terrorism the way that marshes breed mosquitoes. The United States should therefore throw its weight behind those forces and governments that promote reform in the region.
In practical terms, this means a number of things, such as 1) using force to remove regimes that lack internal mechanisms for change, as was the case with the Taliban in Afghanistan and the Saddamites in Iraq; and 2) persuading friendly regimes to broaden their popular base, liberalize their economies and open up the social and political space, as is the case in Egypt and Jordan, among others.
Elsewhere, the Bush Doctrine envisages robust opposition to the ambitions of such opportunist powers as Syria (in its quest to dominate Lebanon) and the Islamic Republic in Iran (in its pursuit of regional hegemony).
In the Bush Doctrine, the Israel-Palestine conflict is regarded as an almost peripheral problem, best tackled when the region is democratized, liberalized and woven into the global system.
Implicity, the Bush Doctrine presumes that America represents a political system that is morally superior to that of its adversaries in the Middle East. The doctrine is idea-driven, not to say idealistic.
The Pelosi Doctrine, by contrast, is based on cynical realpolitik. It rejects the idea that the U.S. political system, or the culture in which it is rooted, is in any way better, let alone superior, to systems developed by others across the globe, including the Middle East.
Pelosi applies the tenets of multiculturalism to international affairs: All systems are comparable; all systems are of equal value. Other cultures might not be as good as hers - but hers sure can be as bad as theirs.
The Pelosi Doctrine opposes the use of force, even against aggressive anti-American regimes. Throughout her tour, the speaker made it clear that she was determined to hasten the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq, with hints that the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan would also be "reviewed." Pelosi's America would fight back only in self-defense and rejects preemptive war. Under the Pelosi Doctrine, the United States must work with regimes in place, including those perceived as threats.
Pelosi also restores the status of the Israel-Palestine conflict as the ur-issue of the region, if not of international life as a whole, and seeks to resume Washington's role as mediator. She rejects what some Arabs see as President Bush's partiality toward Israel and urges a return to the evenhandedness that America demonstrated in the last years of the Clinton presidency.
What would the Middle East look like if the Pelosi Doctrine becomes the matrix of U.S. foreign policy?
America would withdraw from Iraq before the new Iraqi regime is capable of defending itself against its internal and external foes. Iraq's fate would be in the hands of rival regional powers - led by Iran's Islamic Republic - along with their clients in Iraq.
Afghanistan's new democratic regime would also come under possibly fatal pressure. The country's fate would then be in the hands of rival powers - notably Iran, Pakistan and Russia - in conjunction with their Afghan clients.
In the absence of pressure from Washington, the region's current trend toward reform and liberalization would largely come to a halt. Concerned about the rise of radical forces and greater hostility from revolutionary actors, such as the Islamic Republic in Tehran and the revived al Qaeda, Arab regimes would postpone democratization and revert to repressive methods.
Lebanon's "Cedar Revolution" would fade into memory, as Syrian troops return to Beirut to resume occupation.
The Pelosization of U.S. foreign policy would also encourage the "one-state" camp with regard to the Israel-Palestine conflict. Most regional powers support a two-state solution in the context of the Saudi Peace Proposals - but the two-state option is based on the assumption that America remains an active element in its support, rather than a mediator hedging its bets.
Pelosization could plunge the Middle East into endless civil and regional wars, facilitate the return of terrorist organizations now facing defeat and ultimate destruction, and, in time, threaten U.S. national security on a grander scale. That, in turn, could force the United States into wars bigger and costlier than the ones in Afghanistan and Iraq that Pelosi regards as mistakes.
Iranian-born journalist Amir Taheri is based in Europe.