Mahmoud Sabit at PostGlobal

Mahmoud Sabit

Cairo, Egypt

Mahmoud Sabit is a historian and an authority on Egypt’s 19th century political reforms. Sabit also works as a writer and producer of historical documentaries. Close.

Mahmoud Sabit

Cairo, Egypt

Mahmoud Sabit is a historian and an authority on Egypt’s 19th century political reforms. more »

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Tone Down the Belligerence

Cairo, Egypt - The real questions are: If the Democrats take control of Congress, will they be able to solve the problems created by the Bush administration? Will their influence through the U.S. Congress change existing policy?

In early 1990 I saw, quite by chance while channel-surfing, Gore Vidal delivering a televised, parallel state of the union address at the University of California at Berkeley. He argued the United States was no longer a nation governed by the people for the people, but rather had become a nation governed by special interests on behalf of corporate America. The U.S. had become a nation ruled by a corporate oligarchy, which requires conflict and wars to feed its propensity to expand its economic diktat on lesser breeds, Vidal claimed.

Republican and Democrat alike must consider constantly how to hold their offices, and re-election to Congress or the White House is an expensive undertaking, one in need of corporate sponsorship, the argument went. Wars, according to Vidal, are a wonderful way to spend money, and, in his opinion, the "War on Drugs" (remember, this was in 1990) was just not expensive enough. A proper war was needed to satisfy the corporate oligarchy. Vidal predicted that given the growing negative media attention on Saddam Hussein, Iraq could be the new flash point of conflict.

Gore Vidal said he would not be surprised if Iraq became a new expensive project that could serve the entrenched plutocracy. His speech came months before Hussein's ill-advised invasion of Kuwait, and Vidal's words, and what later came to pass, are things I always remember when the question of U.S. policy is discussed in reference to the Middle East.

Yet I believe the story is different today. The present situation has not only become dangerous, but unpredictable. So many policy initiatives without modern precedent have been launched that is difficult to predict their outcome -- especially when one factors in the law of unintended consequence. This time, I would dispense with some of Mr. Vidals' wisdom on the subject and be a little more hopeful, and rely more on the common sense of a Democratic Congress.

Given the President Bush's bellicosity, it would perhaps not be not be too much to hope for a Democratic Congress to soften the U.S. government's tone and influence the administration to develop a foreign policy that a great country such as the United States deserves. Certainly if the Democrats could do that, the world would be a better place.

One has the impression that a Democratic victory in Congress would result from a failure by the GOP to maintain support for its policies rather than any brilliant campaigning on the former's part. What would the Democrats do about the war on terrorism, the occupation of Iraq and the animosity with which much of the world views the U.S.? Would they do a better job at enlisting international support for the war on terror? Would they encourage a policy that addresses the root causes of terrorism, rather than one that leads to overreaction and the creation of more resentment and thus more terrorism? Which policies would they advise on the conduct of the occupation in Iraq, what magic bullet could they provide to stop the slaughter in Iraq?

Democrats have said they would prefer an over-the-horizon U.S. military presence in Iraq, one that would support an Iraqi government, but that would be less overt than it is today. This would be a good, logical move.

Suggesting a more even-handed approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is probably too much to ask, given the Democratic party's historic prejudice on behalf of Israel. On the other hand, any small improvement over the present administration's attitude would be positive.

And what about Afghanistan? Would they re-focus on the problems that really need to be solved in that country and would they step up the support that the Karzai government needs at this time, or would they avoid any further escalation in their commitments?

The Republicans have been accused of eroding the checks and balances on the president's actions in fighting terrorism, specifically with regard to the treatment of Guantanamo detainees, the use of torture, rendition of detainees and secret searches of private records of U.S. citizens. Will the Democrats address these issues of civil liberties? In general, the impression one has is that a Democratic Congress would help in ensuring that a more balanced approach be taken in addressing the prevailing issues, and that, at the very least is good news for the rest of the world.

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