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A Difficult but Important Lesson - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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The danger of the Russia-Georgia war lies in the fact that it is a war between a powerful state and a small US-allied state. The war is taking place in Europe, not the Middle East. The most important lesson to be learnt from this war is that American and European diplomacy is in crisis and is powerless.

US President George W. Bush, after whom the Georgians named the main airport road in the capital of Tbilisi, has not been able to protect his Georgian ally from Russia. In fact it was the American president who said of [former president and current Prime Minister of Russia] Vladimir Putin, “I looked the man in the eye. I found him to be very straightforward and trustworthy.” Today Bush’s opponents poke fun at his political wisdom in contrast to ex-British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s insight who in reference to former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, once said, “I like Mr. Gorbachev, we can do business together,” and he was the man responsible for the collapse of the Soviet Union.

That’s not all; when asked whether he trusted Vladimir Putin, the US Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, answered with a hint of sarcasm, “I have never believed that one should make national security policy on the basis of trust…you make national security policy based on interests and on realities.”

Europe’s situation is no better; it is also ineffective diplomatically. Even French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s initiative to bring about a ceasefire showed that it justified the continuation of military operations in Georgia for the Russians through one of its articles. This was a premature agreement; there is no difference between this agreement and the initiative for rapprochement with Syria.

There is no doubt that Georgia acted recklessly and turned a blind eye to the balances of power and political circumstances under the pretense that it is a democratic state and Washington’s ally forgetting that democracy itself is provocation to the Russian bear. Moreover, democracy, which Bush has promoted in a superficial manner, has become the most prominent victim of weak American and European diplomacy.

Let us take a look at the various situations: a coup in Gaza for which Hamas has not paid the price, a fragile agreement was reached in Lebanon, a coup in Mauritania, a crisis in Mozambique, regression in Pakistan on a number of levels, the diminishment of reformists in Iran, failure in Afghanistan, the inability to actualize national reconciliation in Iraq, and the setback in taking real measures as part of the democratic process in the Arab world. And last but not least; the Russian attack on Georgia.

The democratic diminution and the destabilizing of many countries, especially in our region, which we are witnessing today as Bush’s departure draws closer, is a reflection of the degree of powerless American and European diplomacy. This weakness is likely to continue especially with the imminent transitional period of the US administration regardless of who is elected as the new president. It is a similar case for European diplomacy, which will also continue to be toothless.

The danger of all of this is that our region, with its inflamed political nature and record of repeating mistakes, is vulnerable to bigger crises despite this waiting period in which Iran and its supporters are engaged in order to buy time.

Therefore, moderate Arab states must crystallize an effective political position that takes into consideration the importance of achievements on the ground since those who have benefited the most from the diminution of American and European diplomacy are the countries that seek to destabilize the region.

Arab countries must realize that only they can truly guarantee stability for themselves and should not anticipate an American or European role, which will suffer from inactivity during a period that will be dangerous for our region especially that Iran and its supporters are buying time. Nobody can solve a problem better than those whom it afflicts directly.

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed is the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat. Mr. Alhomyed has been a guest analyst and commentator on numerous news and current affair programs, and during his distinguished career has held numerous positions at Asharq Al-Awsat, amongst other newspapers. Notably, he was the first journalist to interview Osama Bin Ladin's mother. Mr. Alhomayed holds a bachelor's degree in media studies from King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah. He is based in London.

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