Obama Should Beware of Benevolent Ethnocentrism

March 6, 2013 1:19 am 0 comments

Mahmoud Abbas and Barack Obama meet in the Oval Office. Photo: White House.

On the eve of President Barack Obama’s visit to the Middle East, he should examine the damage to vital U.S. economic and national security interests caused by benevolent ethnocentrism.

Ethnocentrism — judging other cultures by one’s own standards — is morally wrong, especially when motivated by superiority complex or racism.

Benevolent ethnocentrism — the assumption that other cultures are ready to embrace one’s own standards and worldview — is morally flawed and strategically self-destructive. This reflects a superficial view of global complexity and undermines one’s posture of deterrence in a world of intensifying disorder, and increasing hostility toward Western values, in spite of President Obama’s outreach campaign since 2009.

The tectonic history of international relations, from time immemorial attests that Free World leaders — who represent a global minority — should avoid the delusion that most non-democratic societies would depart from their centuries-old values, preferring engagement to confrontation, peace over war, tolerance over fanaticism and freedom over oppression, if offered adequate diplomatic and economic incentives.

Free World leaders should not assume that cardinal democratic values such as life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, peaceful coexistence, and the belief that all men are created equal, could be adopted by most non-democratic cultures. Most non-democracies consider these values a lethal threat. One should not ignore the drastic and endemic historical, ideological, religious, cultural and educational differences, as well as conflicting interests and visions, which separate the global democratic minority from the tyrannical majority. They should avoid oversimplification and over-globalization in a highly diversified, conflict-ridden world, which has been afflicted for millennia by insoluble conflicts, unpredictability, instability, shifty policies and violent intolerance.

For example, in 1967, British Prime Minister Harold Wilson was determined to introduce self-determination into Aden (South Yemen). His decision was impacted, in part, by a U.S. policy to push Britain out of Arabia and the Gulf and by South Yemen anti-British upheaval. However, rather than advancing self determination, the British/U.S. policy transformed South, and North, Yemen into a major platform of Islamic and international terrorism, further destabilizing the Arabian Peninsula, undermining democracy and vital British and American interests.

In 1978, President Jimmy Carter pressured the Shah of Iran to accelerate the expansion of civil liberties and tolerate the activities of Ayatollah Khomeini and other anti-Shah elements. Carter informed Iran’s military of his disregard for the Shah — who was America’s leading and most loyal “policeman” of the Persian Gulf — triggering a pro-Khomeini shift among Iran’s generals, thus transforming Iran into America’s most determined enemy in the world.

In 1989/90, the disintegration of the USSR was misinterpreted by President George H.W. Bush and Secretary of State James Baker as a New World Order, vying for democracy and producing Peace Dividends. Instead, the New World Disorder that evolved culminated with Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, Iran’s pursuit of nuclear capabilities and the proliferation/explosion of Islamic terrorism throughout the world, including on the U.S. mainland.

In 1993, President Bill Clinton followed Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, embracing Yasser Arafat as a messenger of peace, recommending him as a Nobel Peace Laureate and considering the Oslo Process a venue to a more peaceful, prosperous, free and stable Middle East. Instead, Oslo produced unprecedented Palestinian hate education, terrorism and non-compliance, consistent with 1,400 years of no intra-Arab peace, no intra-Arab compliance with agreements and no Arab democracy.

In 2003, the democratization of Iraq was a top priority for President George W. Bush, who assumed that elections in a violent society could be “free,” leading to democracy. Instead, unprecedented terrorism has engulfed Iraq, accelerating the disintegration of the country, transforming Baghdad into an Iranian satellite, and serving as the principal conduit of military shipments to the Assad regime.

In 2011, the tumultuous Arab Street was perceived by the Free World as an Arab Spring featuring the March of Democracy, Facebook and Youth Revolutions, and the reincarnation of MLK and Mahatma Gandhi. In 2013, it is evident that the seismic Arab Street is experiencing a stormy Arab Winter, top heavy with rogue entities, which are less familiar, less predictable, more treacherous, more violent and threatening to the U.S. and the Free World.

In 2013, the Free World prefers diplomatic and economic engagement — rather than confrontation — with Iran. The delusion that the Ayatollahs are vulnerable to inherently ineffective economic sanctions, and responsive to the democratic values of negotiation, compliance with agreements, peaceful-coexistence and enhancement of civil liberties, defies reality as is evidenced by the case of North Korea. This has provided Iran with more time to develop/acquire nuclear capabilities, which could devastate critical American economic and national security interests.

The exercise of benevolent ethnocentrism — projecting one’s democratic values upon non-democratic societies — consistently is interpreted by non-democratic societies as weakness. It erodes the Western posture of deterrence, aggravating, rather than solving, regional conflicts, while undermining Western national security and economic interests.

This article was originally published by Israel Hayom.

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Book Reviews Jewish Identity When Torah Teaches Life and Life Teaches Torah (REVIEW)

    When Torah Teaches Life and Life Teaches Torah (REVIEW)

    JNS.org – Rabbi Gordon Tucker spent the first 20 years of his career teaching at the Conservative movement’s Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS) and the next 20 years as the rabbi of Temple Israel Center in White Plains, N.Y. I confess that when I heard about the order of those events, I thought that Tucker’s move from academia to the pulpit was strange. Firstly, I could not imagine anyone filling the place of my friend, Arnold Turetsky, who was such a talented [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Oscars 2015: Reflecting on Love at First Sight

    Oscars 2015: Reflecting on Love at First Sight

    JNS.org – I’m in love, and have been for a long time. It’s a relationship filled with laughter, tears, intrigue, and surprise. It was love at first sight, back when I was a little girl—with an extra-terrestrial that longed to go home. From then on, that love has never wavered, and isn’t reserved for one, but for oh so many—Ferris Bueller, Annie Hall, Tootsie, Harry and Sally, Marty McFly, Atticus Finch, Danny Zuko, Yentl, that little dog Toto, Mrs. Doubtfire, [...]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Book Reviews Examining America’s First Foray into the Middle East (REVIEW)

    Examining America’s First Foray into the Middle East (REVIEW)

    At the turn of the 21st century through today, American involvement in Middle Eastern politics runs through the Central Intelligence Agency. In America’s Great Game: The CIA’s Secret Arabists and the Shaping of the Modern Middle East, historian Hugh Wilford shows this has always been the case. Wilford methodically traces the lives and work of the agency’s three most prominent officers in the Middle East: Kermit “Kim” Roosevelt was the grandson of president Theodore Roosevelt, and the first head of [...]

    Read more →
  • Relationships US & Canada Seniors at Los Angeles Jewish Home Give Witty Dating Advice Ahead of Valentine’s Day (VIDEO)

    Seniors at Los Angeles Jewish Home Give Witty Dating Advice Ahead of Valentine’s Day (VIDEO)

    Residents of the Los Angeles Jewish Home give dating advice to a young Jewish man in a comedic video posted Monday on YouTube just in time for Valentine’s Day. Jonathan, an associate at the Jewish home, quizzes the senior citizens on an array of topics including having sex on the first date, kissing a girl, who should pay for dinner and whether online dating is a good idea. When the 28-year-old asks a male resident named Lee about his experiences [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Jewish History Kutsher’s Documentary an Amazing, and Tragic, Look at the Past (REVIEW)

    Kutsher’s Documentary an Amazing, and Tragic, Look at the Past (REVIEW)

    Anyone who spent time in the Jewish Catskills hotels – especially those like me, who returned for decades – must see the new documentary,”Welcome to Kutsher’s: The Last Catskills Resort.” Not only will the film transport you back to the glory days of your youth and thousands of memories, but it will also make you long for a world that is now lost forever. I returned to Kutsher’s one last time in the summer of 2009, but by then, the [...]

    Read more →
  • Education Jewish Identity Lifestyle Riding the Wave of Change in Part-Time Jewish Education

    Riding the Wave of Change in Part-Time Jewish Education

    JNS.org – Amid the numerous studies and analyses regarding Jewish American life, a simple fact remains: part-time Jewish education is the most popular vehicle for Jewish education in North America. Whenever and wherever parents choose Jewish education for their children, we have a communal responsibility to devote the necessary time and resources to deliver dynamic, effective learning experiences. The only way we can do this is by creating space for conversations and knowledge-sharing around innovative new education models. That also [...]

    Read more →
  • Commentary Featured Features Jewish 100 The Top 100 People Positively Influencing Jewish Life, 2014

    The Top 100 People Positively Influencing Jewish Life, 2014

    The Top 100 People Positively Influencing Jewish Life, 2014 ACADEMIA Alain Finkielkraut Moshe Halbertal Deborah Lipstadt Jacob Metzer Steven Pinker Tammi Rossman-Benjamin ARTS AND CULTURE Yaacov Agam David Blatt Leonard Cohen Gal Gadot Scarlett Johansson Ryan Kavanaugh Steven Spielberg Harry Styles INNOVATION AND ACTIVISM Meira Aboulafia Adina Bar-Shalom Nitsana Darshan-Leitner Daniel Gold Anett Haskia Ephrat Levy-Lahad Gabriel Nadaf Dumisani Washington GOVERNMENT Tony Abbott José María Aznar Ron Dermer Yuli Edelstein Abdul Fatah el-Sisi Stephen Harper Goodluck Jonathan Mitch McConnell Narendra Modi [...]

    Read more →
  • Features Jewish 100 Jewish 100, 2014: Bassam Eid – Voices

    Jewish 100, 2014: Bassam Eid – Voices

    Bassam Eid Palestinian human rights activist While Palestinians who demonize Israel as the sole reason for their woes receive no shortage of media invitations, those among them who spotlight their own leaders’ iniquities are far less in demand. Even so, the profile of Bassam Eid, the Director of the Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group, is thankfully continuing to grow. Eid’s latest campaign is for the overhaul of UNRWA, the UN refugee agency dedicated solely to the Palestinians, which he says [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.