Dwight David Obama: President Is Likened To Eisenhower
This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.
NEW YORK — The latest prediction from the Arab World is that President Obama shall transmogrify into a new Eisenhower, an American president who will ‘’force’’ Israel to withdraw from the West Bank as Eisenhower ‘’forced’’ the Britain, France, and Israel to retreat from Egypt in 1956.
The hope is spreading, coupled with a push for Mr. Obama to enforce his own version of a Pax Americana for the Middle.
‘‘The circumstances are ripe,’’ writes a prominent Egyptian political commentator, Abdelmoneim Saeed, a member of Egypt’s ruling parnd a senior columnist. “A new Eisenhower in the White House for Middle East issues is not something that will recur. We must pounce on this opportunity (with Obama) now,’’ Mr. Saeed asserted today in his syndicated column of the Saudi daily Asharq Alawsat.
This was a reference to what happened in 1956, when Eisenhower did a strategic favor to the president of Egypt at the time, Gamal Abdel Nasser, whose country, while flirting with the Soviet Union, was largely a non-aligned nation.
Nasser’s major dispute was with Britain and France, the two colonial powers of the Middle East. He nationalized the Suez Canal, the waterway between the Mediterranean and Red. While inside Egypt, the canal itself belonged to an Anglo-French consortium.
The nationalization was greeted by a tripartite force of French, English, and Israeli armies, which, without consulting America, invaded Egypt. Eisenhower opposed the invasion, seeing an opportunity to replace both Britain and France as the power in the Middle East .
So the Eisenhower administration demanded a full withdrawal of all three armies. A cease-fire was arranged in November 1956, and all forces withdrew by March 1957.
While Nasser was grateful for being saved, he moved to expand his relations with the Soviet bloc. American-Egyptian relations took a dive, eventually pushing Eisenhower to oppose Nasser. America tried to provoke Nasser’s overthrow, but the Soviets swung behind the Egyptian, ensuring his survival.
Most of today’s middle-aged Arabs were not even born in 1956, when Eisenhower was around. Yet the myth of Obama has developed traction, especially since he seemed to have wrapped up the long health care battle in America. And within the Middle East, references often allude to Israel as Mr. Obama’s next big move.
Such suggestions are flourished all the more following the much-publicized disagreements with the Prime Minister Netanyahu and his right-of-center government and suggestions from liberal Jews, including some of the presidents top advisors like Rahm Emanuel and David Axelrod, that a a tougher tack toward Israel is in order.
Whether these predictions will be pursued to their logical conclusion of an American-Israeli rupture is another matter, but to get from a rupture in relations to another 1956 episode, where America tells Israel to jump, is a stretch.
Mr. Saeed points out that American military bases are at various posts in the Arab world, such as Kuwait, Qatar, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, not inside Israel. But that does not eclipse the fact that in terms of day in day out strategic, military, intelligence and logistical cooperation not a single Arab country comes close to the relationship the USA has forged with Israel. American drones and airplanes are using Israeli developed electronics, and the flow of knowledge is so vast, there is no comparison to it in the Muslim or Arab world.
While talk of Israel fills Arab press, the real fear for all Arabs now is Iran. It fills the Arab press, too. Arab rulers have been unable to take initiatives, even on, say, the Golan Heights or, say, Iran. So they are all too happy to place their luggage at Uncle Sam’s door.
Mr. Obama, however, is doing nothing to discourage the evolving myth he shall take care of their issue by confronting Israel the way Eisenhower did. But he is playing a dangerous game, because short of persuading all Israelis to pack their bags and leave, the only thing all Arabs can agree on, Mr. Obama has no Pax Americana to offer.
Arabs and American liberals may be suggesting a unilateral declaration from the White House, a so-called Obama “take it or leave it proposition.” But if it took him several months to extract Obama Care by a margin of a view votes in a divided Congress, how is he going to pull off the kind of radical reversal in Middle East policy the Arab press is predicting. The Middle East problem is more than a century-long. Presidents Carter and Clinton pulled off two peace treaties between Israel and two Arab countries that wanted to wrap things up, Egypt in 1978 and Jordan in the mid-1980s. No one else out there wants that today.
America is engaged in two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which we have yet to conclude. Mr. Obama encourages dangerous illusions taking on more missions. The Mideast is one peace too far.
Mr. Ibrahim is a contributing editor of The New York Sun.