Tag Archives: Muslim

Not just the Middle East: Obama foreign policy record is appalling

The organizing principle of the administration’s foreign policy is one of weakness and passivity, coupled with a conspicuous rhetorical abdication of American leadership, write David Rivkin and Lee Casey.

by David B. Rivkin, Jr. Lee A. Casey | September 21, 2012 4:45 AM EDT

A few days ago on The Daily Beast, Leslie Gelb praised President Obama’s handling of the unfolding crisis in the Middle East last week and evidently discerns no connection between the ensuing wave of anti-American violence and the broader parameters of American foreign policy. He is wrong on both counts. The administration’s crisis management has been mediocre. Even more fundamentally, the current assault on America’s position in the Middle East is attributable not to the trailer for an obscure anti-Muslim movie, but to Obama’s own foreign-policy failures.

The administration’s crisis-management strategy continues to emphasize its regret about that film, Innocence of Muslims. This was manifest not only in the original (and subsequently retracted) statement from our embassy in Cairo, but in all statements by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the president. But deploring efforts to denigrate Muslim religious beliefs is only the first half of the sentence. The administration should have also robustly propounded its commitment to the virtues and values of free expression in a free society, and why this must necessarily encompass offensive speech. Whenever the White House mentions the First Amendment these days, it is done mostly in a defensive mode, by way of explaining (almost in sorrow) to the Muslim world why the U.S. government cannot legally suppress anti-Muslim films rather than a compelling explanation of why such films should not be suppressed. As Clinton stated on Sept. 14, “I know it is hard for some people to understand why the United States cannot or does not just prevent these kinds of reprehensible videos from ever seeing the light of day.” But simply saying that free speech is enshrined in our Constitution “is not enough” the administration must explain why that is a good thing to which they too should aspire.

The administration also has failed to tell the Muslim world that Western critics of religion, far from singling out Islam, regularly unleash a torrent of offensive speech directed at Christianity and Judaism. In addition, no senior administration official has seen fit to elucidate any historical perspective on America’s relationship with the Islamic world, including our unparalleled record of support for Muslim causes. Brief references to U.S. support for the Libyan revolution is not sufficient” this must be at the center of our message to the Muslim world. America and its NATO allies have spent their own blood and treasure to protect Muslims facing slaughter and oppression in places ranging from Afghanistan to Bosnia to Kosovo to Iraq.

Equally lacking has been any public manifestation of the administration’s anger about the anti-American demonstrations that have taken place over the last week. Simply condemning violence is not enough. The administration must make clear that there can be no justification for any protests against America as a country simply because some private Americans have exercised their First Amendment rights in an offensive manner. And Washington’s failure to do so is viewed as the ultimate manifestation of American guilt, thus enflaming, rather than calming, the situation.

The administration has also conspicuously failed to criticize publicly President Mohammed Morsi and other Arab leaders, whose responses to the anti-American demonstrations have been slow, equivocal, and relatively ineffective. Indeed, to this day Morsi has condemned violence but endorsed the anti-American protests from which it ensues. The fact that the Egyptian prosecutor-general has found time to indict several American citizens, allegedly associated with the production of an anti-Islamic film, is both a violation of international law and a sign of disrespect for the United States.

The ultimate irony for an administration oft-praised for superior rhetoric is that in today’s tightly knit global environment, words have palpable consequences.

Morsi’s behavior is particularly deplorable because the U.S. was instrumental in bringing him to power, first by easing out President Hosni Mubarak and later by playing the leading role in restraining the Egyptian military during the post-Mubarak transition. The fact that Morsi has unimpeachable Islamic credentials, and is therefore in an excellent position to both speak out forcibly and act robustly against anti-Americanism, makes the administration’s failure to call him to account all the more glaring.

But all of this flawed crisis management pales in comparison with the administration’s strategic failures. The organizing principle of the administration’s foreign policy is one of weakness and passivity “whether in dealing with Russia, China, or Venezuela” coupled with a conspicuous rhetorical abdication of American leadership, evident in speeches by the president, secretary of state, and other administration officials. The ultimate irony for an administration oft-praised for superior rhetoric is that in today’s tightly knit global environment, words have palpable consequences.

This overarching problem is accentuated by the fact that everybody in the Middle East “our friends, foes, and folks in between” has correctly concluded that the administration has begun America’s disengagement from the region, on a scale unseen since the days of the British withdrawal from “East of Suez”. This has manifested itself in virtually every facet of our Middle East policy, from our failure to maintain any American military presence in Iraq and the consequent loss of diplomatic and economic influence in Baghdad; to Washington’s unwillingness to rally the American public to support our military efforts in Afghanistan and its repeated snubs of our strongest traditional Middle East ally, Israel; to our leading from behind on Libya and the total failure to lead from any direction on Syria; and last but not least, to our timidity in confronting the Iranian nuclear weapons program. As a result, the Middle East elites and the proverbial “Arab street” have concluded that the U.S. is a waning power, Israel’s future is one of a besieged state that someday may disappear from the regional chessboard, and Iran has an excellent chance of becoming a regional hegemon, to be feared and placated.

These are self-inflicted wounds. The American disengagement has not been caused by military defeat or some adverse international developments that we have tried but failed to stop, but by an administration that has profoundly misunderstood the kind of world we live in, the types of threats we confront, and what constitutes vital American interests. The administration has amassed not just a middling or even moderately bad foreign-policy record, but an appalling one. It is this record that is shaping the way the governments in the Middle East are handling the anti-American unrest. Unless the record is decisively reversed, it will lead to many disastrous developments down the road.

Source: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/09/21/not-just-the-middle-east-obama-foreign-policy-record-is-appalling.html

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Judicial Coup in Pakistan

Once a democratic champion, the Chief Justice now undermines the elected government

When U.S. President Barack Obama sharply challenged a recent Supreme Court decision in his State of the Union address, prompting a soto voce rejoinder from Justice Samuel Alito, nobody was concerned that the contretemps would spark a blood feud between the judiciary and the executive. The notion that judges could or would work to undermine a sitting U.S. president is fundamentally alien to America’s constitutional system and political culture. Unfortunately, this is not the case in Pakistan.

Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry, the country’s erstwhile hero, is the leading culprit in an unfolding constitutional drama. It was Mr. Chaudhry’s dismissal by then-President Pervez Musharraf in 2007 that triggered street protests by lawyers and judges under the twin banners of democracy and judicial independence. This effort eventually led to Mr. Musharraf’s resignation in 2008. Yet it is now Mr. Chaudhry himself who is violating those principles, having evidently embarked on a campaign to undermine and perhaps even oust President Asif Ali Zardari.

Iftikhar MOhammed Chaudhry
Associated Press
Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry

Any involvement in politics by a sitting judge, not to mention a chief justice, is utterly inconsistent with an independent judiciary’s proper role. What is even worse, Chief Justice Chaudhry has been using the court to advance his anti-Zardari campaign. Two recent court actions are emblematic of this effort.

The first is a decision by the Supreme Court, announced and effective last December, to overturn the “National Reconciliation Ordinance.” The NRO, which was decreed in October 2007, granted amnesty to more than 8,000 members from all political parties who had been accused of corruption in the media and some of whom had pending indictments.

While some of these people are probably corrupt, many are not and, in any case, politically inspired prosecutions have long been a bane of Pakistan’s democracy. The decree is similar to actions taken by many other fledgling democracies, such as post-apartheid South Africa, to promote national reconciliation. It was negotiated with the assistance of the United States and was a key element in Pakistan’s transition from a military dictatorship to democracy.

Chief Justice Chaudhry’s decision to overturn the NRO, opening the door to prosecute President Zardari and all members of his cabinet, was bad enough. But the way he did it was even worse. Much to the dismay of many of the brave lawyers who took to the streets to defend the court’s integrity last year, Mr. Chaudhry’s anti-NRO opinion also blessed a highly troubling article of Pakistan’s Constitution—Article 62. This Article, written in 1985, declared that members of parliament are disqualified from serving if they are not of “good character,” if they violate “Islamic injunctions,” do not practice “teachings and practices, obligatory duties prescribed by Islam,” and if they are not “sagacious, righteous and non-profligate.” For non-Muslims, the Article requires that they have “a good moral reputation.”

Putting aside the fact that Article 62 was promulgated by Pakistan’s then ruling military dictator, General Zia ul-Haq, relying on religion-based standards as “Islamic injunctions” or inherently subjective criteria as “good moral reputation” thrusts the Pakistani Supreme Court into an essentially religious domain, not unlike Iranian Sharia-based courts. This behavior is profoundly ill-suited for any secular court. While Article 62 was not formally repealed, it was discredited and in effect, a dead letter. The fact that the petitioner in the NRO case sought only to challenge the decree based on the nondiscrimination clause of the Pakistani Constitution and did not mention Article 62 makes the court’s invocation of it even more repugnant. Meanwhile, the decision’s lengthy recitations of religious literature and poetry, rather than reliance on legal precedent, further pulls the judiciary from its proper constitutional moorings.

The second anti-Zardari effort occurred just a few days ago, when the court blocked a slate of the president’s judicial appointments. The court’s three-Justice panel justified the move by alleging the president failed to “consult” with Mr. Chaudhry. This constitutional excuse has never been used before.

It is well-known in Islamabad that Mr. Zardari’s real sin was political, as he dared to appoint people unacceptable to the chief justice. Since consultation is not approval, Mr. Chaudhry’s position appears to be legally untenable. Yet Mr. Zardari, faced with demonstrations and media attacks, let Mr. Chaudhry choose a Supreme Court justice.

There is no doubt that the chief justice is more popular these days than the president, who has been weakened by the split in the political coalition which brought down Mr. Musharraf. Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is now a leading opponent of the regime. There is a strong sense among the Pakistani elites that Justice Chaudhry has become Mr. Sharif’s key ally.

The fact that Mr. Chaudhry was a victim of an improper effort by former President Musharraf to replace him with a more pliant judge makes his current posture all the more deplorable. His conduct has led some of his erstwhile allies to criticize him and speak of the danger to democracy posted by judicial meddling in politics. The stakes are stark indeed. If Mr. Chaudhry succeeds in ousting Mr. Zardari, Pakistan’s fledgling democracy would be undermined and the judiciary’s own legitimacy would be irrevocably damaged. Rule by unaccountable judges is no better than rule by the generals.

Messrs. Rivkin and Casey, Washington, D.C.-based attorneys, served in the Department of Justice during the Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations.