Thursday, April 28, 2011

'Arab spring' update

Many critics of U.S. foreign policy have long decried the close ties between the U.S. and the House of Saud. It's no secret that the Saudis have been uneasy about the U.S. role in helping nudge its long-time ally Mubarak offstage, and as David Ignatius mentioned in his Wash. Post column of April 27, Pres. Obama's national security adviser met with Saudi King Abdullah this month and gave the king a reassuring letter from Obama. 

It has been plausibly suggested that the Saudis supported the initial proposal for a no-fly zone in Libya because they thought it would distract attention from what has been happening in Bahrain and elsewhere in the region. If that was their motivation, it doesn't seem to have worked. The Libyan intervention turned into a broader effort to protect civilians (and, in effect, indirectly aid the rebels), but it has not distracted attention from the ongoing violent crackdowns on protesters in Yemen, Syria, and Bahrain. The simultaneous repressive actions by different governments, and the variation in international response, underscores something that should have been clear all along: humanitarian interventions are always a product of more than one motive and 'consistency' is not necessarily the main criterion by which they should be judged. That said, one hopes that real pressure is being brought to bear on the Yemeni and Bahraini regimes, with both of which the U.S. and Europeans have leverage, to modify what they are doing now.

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