John Kerry And The Shift In Sensitivity

John Kerry And The Shift In Sensitivity

Hazem Saghieh |

The U.S. Secretary of State, whoever occupies the post, is not a likeable person in the Arab world. Indeed, it is this person who implements a despicable policy and represents despicable interests over which we have become accustomed to agree, albeit in varying degrees, in expressing our hostility to them as well and vice versa.

 

Among the U.S. secretaries of state, there are many famous names that shine like bright stars in the skies of our hatred. There is, for example, John Foster Dulles, the secretary of state under Dwight D. Eisenhower in the fifties, whose name has been associated among us to the conflict with Nasser and the establishment of alliances which we claimed were created to besiege us and subjugate us, under the pretext of combatting communism and the Soviet Union.

 

There is also Henry Kissinger, the secretary of state under Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford in the seventies, whose name among us is equivalent to an obscene curse. Indeed, Kissinger was Anwar Sadat’s “dear friend,” who withdrew Egypt to Camp David, and fooled Syria and its astute and intelligent President Hafez al-Assad! Some even add his Jewish faith to his long track record, to further claim that the man did nothing in his life but render services to Israel.

 

Today, there is newfound hatred for the current U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. However, the reason for the current hatred differs from previous reasons. Now, Kerry is not being censured for being “against us” and “with Israel,” but because he is accused of being “with our regimes” and working “against our peoples.”

 

To corroborate these accusations, their proponents cite everything from what they see as favoritism toward Bashar al-Assad to favoritism toward the mullah’s regime in Tehran. Another proof they advance is the U.S. reluctance to conduct a military strike against the Syrian regime, in addition to U.S. talks with Iran over its nuclear weapons, and preparations for the Geneva 2 conference on Syria without matching them with pressure on the regime.

 

But regardless of whether these accusations against U.S. foreign policy and its implementers are valid or not, it remains that we are seeing a notable shift in the popular sensitivity of broad segments of Arabs. Without this new sensitivity being necessarily built on clear theories or being entrenched, it has placed the local tyranny in the category of enemies occupied previously by foreign enemies, and it also condemns and opposes, or sympathizes and befriends, based on this criterion.

 

In truth, this is reminiscent of the features of a different political culture: It is something that resembles this, for example, when criticism of the policy known as “appeasement” spread in Europe, specifically involving then-British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain. As is known, this criticism took place in response to the signing of the Munich treaty, between the leaders of democratic nations in Western Europe and Germany, on the eve of the Second World War. Thus, in the name of the desire to avoid war, Hitler was allowed to seize parts of the former Czechoslovakia, and annex them to the Reich.

 

John Kerry’s critics today remind us of the Western critics of “appeasement” more than they remind us of the Arab critics of Foster Dulles and Kissinger. They know that compromise, in the event it happens, does not avoid the worst except inasmuch as the treaty of Munich helped avoid the Second World War, and they also know that the Syrian regime does not accept compromise except when threatened credibly by force: This happened in 1998 with Turkey when Damascus forsook Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan, in 2005 with Western powers, when Syria pulled out its troops from Lebanon, and again a few weeks ago when Syria surrendered its chemical weapons.

 

But if the critics of John Kerry are right, then it is the United States itself that is the most prominent reason behind squandering this new sensitivity.