In Cairo Egypt, President Obama gave a major speech on U.S. Muslim relations. Mr. Obama’s positions were mixed in their appeal, but his words lacked backbone. The upside of Mr. Obama’s grade-A pasteurized speech was stellar teleprompter use, his hints of peaceful engagement with Iran, and his words regarding Israel and Palestine. On Friday, Pat Buchanan outlined what exactly those words meant in terms of U.S., Israel, and Palestinian relations. Pat is right that the position taken by President Obama, including a two-state solution and the end of new Israeli settlement building in the West Bank, will lead to a collision between our President and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Al Jazeera interviews showed that Muslims overall were happy with Mr. Obama’s words, but thought he didn’t go far enough.
What President Obama left out entirely was any mention of the massive role oil plays in U.S. Middle East Policy. The policies that make the people of the Middle East hate Americans are not our hamburgers, internet, and baseball; rather it is the continued American support for totalitarian regimes in the region, particularly that of Saudi Arabia, that stand in antithesis to our rhetoric of freedom of religion, women’s rights, and democracy. Fifteen of the nineteen hijackers on September 11 were Saudis. The other hijackers were from Egypt, Lebanon, and the United Arab Emirates. Egypt and the UAE are also ruled by dubious regimes blessed by the U.S. Yet currently our forces are changing regimes in Iraq and Afghanistan and threatening Iran’s leadership. While President Obama did not set this course, he is continuing to walk down the path laid for him by the Neo-Con led Bush administration. Going forward, his insistence on escalation of the war effort in Afghanistan is misguided and will not serve the best interests of the United States. There is little likelihood that the Coalition will be able to teach the disparate tribes of Afghanistan to give a damn about the central government in Kabul.
The United States ought to withdraw its combat troops (ex. Special Forces) from Afghanistan. They are not police or infrastructure experts or public policy administrators. Our ground forces are soldiers and marines, airmen and sailors trained to guard the United States, not eradicate poppies. The budget of our special forces (SOCOM) has been cut, when instead it should be boosted and SOCOM’s role in Afghanistan and Pakistan increased. To achieve the safety of the American public, large U.S. ground forces in these countries are not warranted or necessary. Surgical strikes on the leadership of Al Qaeda and the Taliban are essential in safeguarding America from these groups. SOCOM, with help from the CIA (unhindered by constant Congressional meddling), would do a much better job of ending the terrorist threat than a multi-national, large-footprint, foot-soldier force attacking resistance groups made up of farmers and goat herders who are angry that their country has been invaded. These people, like most Americans, simply want their liberty and freedom.
There is a way out of the Middle East quagmire. As I have written in Intelligence Report, the U.S. must end its reliance on Middle Eastern oil and diversify its transportation fuel supply. Non-American and Canadian supplied gasoline and diesel must be replaced by natural gas, battery power, and fuel cells. Investor T. Boone Pickens has a plan for natural gas and wind power, and it has merit. Cars could also be powered by battery packs from companies like A123 Systems. Larger vehicles like buses and trucks could be powered by fuel cells like those built by United Technologies. The U.S. must also make better cars. Lighter cars, made from carbon fiber are possible, this technology must be adopted. Amory Lovins and the Rocky Mountain Institute have detailed how to design and build lighter, more fuel efficient vehicles using carbon fiber.
The U.S. should also work with Canada to increase the supply of oil from tar sands in an environmentally acceptable way. Canada has a massive amount of oil reserves and is already the number one exporter of oil to the United States. Once the U.S. is free of the influence of Middle Eastern oil, a sensible policy based on right and wrong can be developed in the region to take the place of the current corrupt system.
Until this change in policy has been made, the United States should continue to attack terrorists wherever they may be, using the Predator and Reaper drones. The CIA should be allowed to interrogate, using every available technique, the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. These terrorists are not uniformed soldiers, nor are they American citizens. The Constitution was not written for men like these. The Founding Fathers punished men in the Continental army for smaller infractions with much harsher methods than those being used on the terrorists in Gitmo. Forty lashes was not just a figure of speech in those days, and a faked drowning with a doctor nearby is small potatoes for these hardened criminals. President Obama’s continued demonization of Gitmo makes the U.S. look weak around the world, and inflames the hatred of every anti-American soul.
The U.S. must end its reliance on Saudi oil and reduce its role in the region. Regardless of U.S. negotiating, ultimately it will be up to the Israelis and the Palestinians to stop the fighting between each other. Iraq will eventually have to take care of itself, as will Afghanistan. And, as President Obama said in his speech protesting the Iraq war in 2003, the Saudi’s and Egyptians must “stop oppressing their own people, and suppressing dissent, and tolerating corruption and inequality, and mismanaging their economies so that their youth grow up without education, without prospects, without hope, the ready recruits of terrorist cells.” In that same speech, then Senator Obama also said, “Let’s fight to wean ourselves off Middle East oil through an energy policy that doesn’t simply serve the interests of Exxon and Mobil.” It would have been nice if the President’s recent speech had sounded more like his anti-Iraq war speech in 2003 and less like a reaffirmation of the Bush administration’s policy toward the totalitarian governments of the Middle East.