Former Ambassador: Foreign Policy Community Believes Arabs Are Secretly Liberal Democrats


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Jonah Bennett Contributor
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Former U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Chas Freeman Jr. said at a conference there are two delusional assumptions behind America’s wanton policy of regime change in the Middle East.

Speaking at the Charles Koch Institute’s Advancing American Security conference, Freeman said the assumptions are rooted in current international relations theory, which he called “essentially useless as a guide to anything in the real world.”

The first mistaken assumption of regime change, Freeman said, is that “inside every Arab, there’s some sort of liberal democrat struggling to come out.”

“There’s also a belief that if you kick the natives hard enough, they’ll turn into the moral equivalent of Canadians,” Freeman added as the second assumption.

“Neither proposition is true,” he said.

And because both assumptions are—at least according to Freeman—demonstrably false, it’s incumbent on foreign policy experts to rethink regime change as a tool in the playbook altogether, regardless of whether the U.S. accomplishes this objective through invasion, occupation or non-governmental organization agitation in sovereign countries.

Instead, Freeman recommended the U.S. deeply examine Russian President Vladimir Putin’s intervention in Syria as a successful case study.

“We should study Putin actions in Syria with a view to using a limited amount of force to achieving major political objectives,” Freeman said. “His investment in the use of force in Syria is very small and he succeeded in doing several things.”

First, Putin simplified the equation in Syria to one of radical Islamic factions vs. a secular autocratic government, which forced the U.S. into a peace process. Second, he inspired the Syrian Army and resupplied the troops. He also commandeered the effort against rebels and beat them back into the ground, taking Bashar al-Assad’s regime from the brink of destruction to the forefront.

And that’s just on the domestic level. Internationally, Putin has placed himself as a major power player in the Middle East and also “put his hands on the spigot for the refugees that are swamping Europe and reminded Europe that his cooperation is required for stability.”

“Not bad for a few aircraft and some special forces on the ground,” Freeman said.

For Freeman, the lesson the U.S. could take from Putin is to prioritize political objectives, instead of just deploying a metric ton of force and expecting vague, unspecified political goals to come into alignment on their own.

Some critics, however, have noted that the Russian withdrawal out of Syria hasn’t been as drastic as first thought, given that Russia is right in the middle of building a new forward operating base in Palmyra.

“They continue to have air power there, they continue to have ground forces, they continue to have artillery,” Army Col. Steve Warren said Wednesday, according to The Washington Post. “They still have Spetsnaz providing advice and assistance to the Syrian regime.”

In March, Dmitry Gorenburg and Michael Kofman wrote an op-ed for War on the Rocks, in which they argued that while Russia is withdrawing Su-25 and Su-34 aircraft, other pieces of military equipment remain active on the ground to consolidate gains.

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