Concessions, compromises essential to solve complex Middle East issues

Letters to the Editor (The Guardian)
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By John Keaveny (guest opinion)

I write with a different perspective from Haroon Siddiqui’s, as expressed in his recent commentary “Barack Obama insulted all across the Middle East.”

Firstly, does it or should it really matter if President Obama is thought to have been ‘insulted’ by one or more leaders in the Middle East, or if Mr. Obama is being “ignored’ by Mr. Netanyahu, or by Egypt and the UAE, as was suggested. Should anyone care if King Abdullah is ‘angry’ with Obama for abandoning ‘Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak’?

This stuff is red meat for the anti-Obama crowd, but it does not offer much nutritional value to the rest of us.

I would prefer that Mr. Siddiqui focus on the actual problems at hand in the Middle East, and explain what a solution to the region’s problems might look like.

What is perfectly clear to most observers, is that much of the Middle East is a sectarian mess that has now come fully apart at the seams. The folks who are making the insults, or who are doing the ignoring, or who are expressing their anger ... have an almost zero chance of effecting true positive change there, in the absence of the active support of other nations well beyond the region, and without the eventual introduction and embrace of external cultural influences.

Mr. Siddiqui seems to want to take us off on a tangent, by suggesting that there must be something wrong with Mr. Obama or within the U.S. at this moment, in relation to the Middle East, that actually justifies the insults, the ignoring conduct, or the anger that he speaks of. He appears to explain away America’s role as being linked to a low appetite for war ... but paints Obama as a sort of ‘helpless’ figure in all of this.

Let me assure your readers that Mr. Obama is not the problem here. He is well capable of playing a constructive role in a solution, and fully recognizes the need for contributions from both the elected leaders, as well as the people, of many other nations. We should all be reassured and relieved that Mr. Obama is an intelligent, thoughtful and temperate man, and is someone who does not have to immediately resort to the military, in order to prove himself as either strong or decisive.

Obama’s strength is his caution and his level of inquiry and examination of issues ... especially in matters of war and peace.

As your readers well know, the problems of the Middle East are ancient and complex. They are well beyond my depth of knowledge. The problems there often tend to be vexatious to one’s spirit, since they almost seem immune to reason as they persist and stubbornly refuse to go away, despite long passages of time. On a certain level, most of the world (who actually listen and observe) has eventually become fed up with these people and their differences ... yet Earth is a very, very small place and conflicts and hatreds in one location can easily visit other areas more broadly, and with horrific results.

I am inclined to agree with Mr. Obama on the “Don’t do stupid s---” approach. This is something that most of the world can readily understand and relate to, especially after we have all witnessed quite a lot of war-related stupid stuff from our governments over time.

In my view, the role of a commentator is both to educate and to engage readers, and to bring them together in a common purpose. In the instant context, Mr. Siddiqui has distracted us away from the issues of the Middle East. Instead, he has focused us on some local players there, who have decided upon individual strategies of insults, ignoring conduct, or expressing their anger, mostly for local consumption and having very little to do with final solutions. While it is valid to report this conduct, let’s not give it too much attention.

It would be more useful to read about the various concessions and compromises that must eventually be agreed upon by the various parties/ factions/sects, and about the possible or identifiable national/regional leaders of the future who will take the Middle East to a better place ... and to explain how they will accomplish the mission of reform in the Middle East into the long term ... since they will very likely need our continuing help, encouragement, and support.

Instead of focusing on Obama and the role of the U.S., let’s spend some time looking at the performances of the leaders and would-be leaders in the region where the problems actually exist, and on the role of the Middle East itself, in its own reform.

I prefer a discussion, analysis, or break down of the issues, as opposed to a listing/reporting of who has insulted or ignored a specific player in the drama itself, or who is angry with someone else at a given time ... that’s for Facebook, or Twitter, or for a blog, or somewhere else on social media ... but not really for the Opinion page of a newspaper.


John Keaveny is a Charlottetown lawyer with a special interest in Middle East current affairs

Geographic location: Middle East, Egypt, U.S. Charlottetown

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