Flawed US policy led to envoy's death
Updated: 2012-09-15 08:03
By Wang Hui (China Daily)
Even after the tragic death of US Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens on Tuesday, violent anti-American protests have continued in the Middle East, further complicating the muddle in the region and raising doubts over the United States' strategy.
Stevens and three other Americans were killed in Benghazi, Libya, amid attacks on US diplomatic missions in Egypt and other Middle East cities. The 52-year-old diplomat became the first American ambassador to be killed in the course of duty in 24 years.
That the killing coincided with the anniversary of the Sept 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the US has prompted many to ask whether America and the rest of world are safer 11 years on. Delivering a speech on Sept 8 to commemorate the victims of the 9/11 attacks, US President Barack Obama sounded confident when he said: "Our country is stronger, safer and more respected in the world."
But the ongoing anti-American protests and violence in Middle East countries such as Libya, Egypt and Yemen suggest otherwise. The resurgence of al-Qaida amid the wave of unrest sweeping the Arab world, too, indicates there is still a long way to go before terrorism can be eliminated.
By any measure, the death of Stevens is an incident with far-reaching consequences. The issues of immediate concern are: Will Washington see its relations with Tripoli differently? In what way will the attacks influence US stance on the wave of unrest across the Arab world? What impact will the ongoing violence in the region have on the closely contested US presidential race?
As the situations in countries such as Libya, Egypt and Yemen develop they will make the answers clearer. However, to prevent similar tragedies, it is important that the Obama administration does some soul-searching. That Stevens was killed in Benghazi, the cradle of US-backed uprising against Muammar Gadhafi last year, is a cruel reminder to Washington that its strategy in the Middle East is flawed and it is time it fixed it.
On the surface, the anti-American attacks have been triggered by a 14-minute online trailer of a supposed US film that "defames Prophet Muhammad". But the root of the violence runs deeper as the amateurish video reflects the deep divide between the West and the Muslim world.
On Thursday, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton tried to distance the US government from the anti-Islamic film. Calling it "disgusting and reprehensible", Clinton emphasized that the US government has nothing to do with it. But there is no denying that the video was made in the US, and it is more than symbolic of how much the West discriminates against and even hates Muslims.
Libya and Egypt both experienced political upheavals last year, in which the US played a crucial role. But many Egyptians and Libyans don't seem grateful to the US, and the deadly attacks appear to reveal their deep resentment toward Americans. The US can only blame its strategy for that.
The US is using the war against terrorism and the uprisings in the Middle East to pursue its own agenda in the region, covertly and overtly. Washington and its allies have been pushing for change of regimes in the name of democratization in the region. But despite all its high-sounding rhetoric, the world's only superpower has failed, and failed miserably, to deliver on its promise of peace, stability and prosperity in the region.
The US' pro-Israel policy has turned many Arabs against Washington, shaking the very foundation of the US strategy in the region.
As such, Washington's flawed post-9/11 strategy in the Middle East has failed to establish a favorable image of the US, let alone draw peoples from two civilizations closer. The only way the US can avoid hitting a dead end in the Middle East is by rethinking its policies for the region and beyond.
The author is a senior writer with China Daily. E-mail: email@example.com
(China Daily 09/15/2012 page5)