As U.S. President Barack Obama prepares to give a seminal speech on the Middle East on Thursday, Foreign Policy asked key dissidents and activists across the region what they’d like to see from the administration.
What did you learn about the United States’ foreign policy in its response to the protests in Morocco?
The early U.S. diplomatic reactions to the Arab uprisings have confirmed a constant in U.S. foreign policy — an enduring double standard that deals with countries on a case-by-case basis, in an approach guided in fact by a narrow interpretation of the odd notion of U.S. national interest.
While the U.S. foreign policy’s double standard is blatant in its dealings with governments like Bahrain or Yemen, it takes a much more pervasive and subtle form in semi-authoritarian countries like Morocco.
But the U.S. official policy puts it at odds with a young, freedom-aspiring generation of Moroccans, hundreds of thousands of whom are still taking to the streets, rejecting a reform process they deem inconsistent with the popular will, while facing an increasingly repressive security apparatus.
The Arab spring is changing the rules of the game. U.S. foreign policy is still based on a doctrine that reserves different sets of rules for different sets of countries. This double standard is insulting to the intelligence of the people of the region who can no longer tolerate that their freedoms be confiscated in the name of a superpower’s perceived interest.
In an ideal world, what would you like Obama to say on Thursday when addressing events in your country or the region?
In an ideal world, Mr. Obama would pledge that the United States will never interfere with the people’s aspirations for freedom and democracy, whether in the Arab region or any other part of the world. Mr. Obama would also be vowing to respect the sovereignty of free and democratic countries, whether political or economic. He would finally be declaring that the United States is withdrawing its support from every state that doesn’t respect human rights, and that would necessarily include Israel and all Arab states, minus Tunisia and Egypt.