America first should not mean America by itself

I was about 9 years old when the military coup (1952) changed Egypt from a monarchy to a republic, and Nasser became the president. For all the years I lived in Egypt until 1969 when I left, the American/Egyptian relationship had slowly shifted from extremely positive to candidly hostile.

The reasons for that are so many, and it is not my intention to focus on them all, however, one of those reasons was when secretary of state, John Foster Dulles, blocked a loan to Egypt to build the Awan damn. The project was not exactly Nasser’s idea, it was actually seriously discussed back in the late 1800’s, but he desperately needed it to assert his leadership not only of Egypt, but the entire Arab world, most especially after the defeat of the Egyptian army during the Suez Canal Crisis late 1956. Once America reneged on its original support of the dam project, Nasser welcomed the Soviets’ offer to finance it.

Beginning in his campaign, it became very painfully clear to so many of us that candidate Trump’s rhetoric reflects his core beliefs. The rhetoric certainly reflects a moral principle that guides his policy, a principle obvious to all but that some continue refusing to articulate even as it creates fissures between us and, basically, the rest of the world. His antithetical approach may have pleased and riled up “his base.” Words like “America first” and “Make America great again,” while ringing hollow except for some, his methodology in reaching these goals is downright dangerous. The danger is not only his vulgarity, such as describing Africa, which contains about 25 percent of the world countries as a “s— hole.”

America first should never mean America alone, most especially at times when Putin’s Russia is bound and determined to replace us wherever we abandon not only our allies, but our values.

The global blunders of the president are too-many-to-count. Yes, some are far more shattering than others, and if we focus only on the Middle East, the devastating potential consequences, we still can count many.

Colum Lynch had an article in Foreign Policy in early January with the title “Dancing to Russia’s Tune in Syria.” His leading sentence basically summarizes the essence of his brilliant essay “As the United States stands back, the Saudis and even the U.N. special envoy are now open to a greater Russian diplomatic role in shaping the future of Syria.” Russia’s interest and tight relationship with Syria are well-known Middle East fact. When Russia began its over the top military support for Bashar’s regime she was not exactly interested in targeting ISIS.

Worse, is that Bashar’s savage barbarity against his own people escalated exponentially with their help as his forces began to reclaim territories they had lost to the rebels.

Lynch argues that the reversal for Syria’s beleaguered anti-Assad forces, who already lost the covert military backing of the United States was destined to open a wide gate for Russia to further assert its role in Syria’s present and future.

Perhaps most important is that the Saudis (ostensibly our new and improved buddies) have unequivocally signaled their eagerness to join in the success of Russia’s diplomatic push to shape the future of postwar Syria.

This union can quickly become the rival to the official U.N.-led process that has sputtered along for five years in Geneva.

What is even more alarming is Iran’s eagerness to mend fences with the Saudis, which is in and by itself a very positive movement in the region, but a Russian/Iranian/Saudi combo replacing the U.S. in the Middle East cauldron carries consequences that can send shivers down the spine.

Last but certainly not least, is the future of a peaceful Israeli/Palestinian settlement. The president’s decision to move our embassy in Israel to Jerusalem is not necessarily crazy, but the timing of the announcement certainly is.

Here is why. It should have been predictable that the Palestinians will become totally resistant to any negotiations if the U.S. is included, let alone taking the leadership role. But it should also be predicted that Israel will not enter negotiations that excludes the U.S. As if we needed another hurdle.

It should also have been predicted that Russia will enter to play a far more prominent role than ever before which will profoundly enhance her current position in the region.

The notion that history rhymes, and even repeats itself, is a well-accepted thesis. Let’s remember that.

Editor’s note: Mohey Mowafy is a retired Northern Michigan University professor.


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