The New US President: Implications for the Middle East and North Africa

The New US President: Implications for the Middle East and North Africa

Publication date:
10/2016
Author:
MENARA Papers. Robert Springborg, Kuwait Foundation Visiting Scholar, Belfer Center, Harvard University
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MENARA Future Notes, nº. 2

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump agree on very little, but they do seem to share the belief that President Barack Obama’s overall strategy and many tactics for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) have not worked well. While Trump has been vocal, if imprecise, in his condemnations, Clinton, seeking to capitalize electorally on the Obama legacy and on her putative expertise as his secretary of state, has necessarily been more discreet. Other than evincing her usual strong support for Israel, she personally has said little about the region.

But those known to be in her policy kitchen, such as Michèle Flournoy, Kurt Campbell and Madeleine Albright, have been visibly cooking up new recipes for the region. Their common theme is a plea for the restoration of “liberal interventionism” as the guiding principle for US policy towards the world in general and the Middle East in particular. Reinforcing speculation that a new President Clinton would indeed pursue a more muscular, interventionist policy towards the Middle East than her predecessor has, she has received endorsements from various neoconservatives previously associated with President George W. Bush and his invasion of Iraq. Candidate Trump’s strong, unconditional endorsement of Egypt’s President Sisi in their 19 September meeting in New York, as contrasted to Clinton’s reference to “respect for human rights and the rule of law” in her encounter with him, is suggestive that Trump would embrace a yet tougher approach to the region in general, abandoning any pretence of support for democratic principles.