Saturday, February 12, 2011

Calling All Mideast Democrats (AP)

Feb 12, 12:11 PM EST

Associated Press
AP Photo
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Wanted: Moderate, Western-leaning Mideast leaders willing to be friends with Israel and cooperate in the fight against Islamic extremism while protecting human rights. Commitment to democracy and support from military essential. English, executive management experience and knowledge of social media a plus.
Oh, and could you make sure you stick around? The U.S. needs somebody to count on if it's going to spend a few billions on you.
That's the impossible wish list from the Obama administration after popular uprisings Egypt and Tunisia ousted two long-serving and close but deeply flawed U.S. allies in stunning rebellions that many believe will spread.
This dream resume doesn't exist and isn't likely to appear soon. Part of the reason is that American administrations for the past four decades sacrificed the lofty human rights ideals they espoused for the sake of stability, continuity and oil in one of the world's most volatile regions.
U.S. programs to encourage Arab governments to cooperate with civic leaders, students and activists to modernize their economies and ease strict laws limiting political participation were met with disdain as autocrats and potentates ignored them. Washington acquiesced even as underground extremist movements gained steam.
Now as Egyptians and Tunisians revel in dictators' departures and President Barack Obama's White House salutes the triumph of freedom over repression, his administration is looking for a few good friends in the Middle East.
From Morocco and Algeria to Saudi Arabia and Yemen, there are no clear candidates to usher in the kind of transformation that people, particularly the educated young, are demanding in those countries.
"Egypt will never be the same," Obama said as he welcomed the departure of Hosni Mubarak on Friday.
Maybe not.

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