http://www.sina.com.cn 2008年01月22日 10:10
During half a century of American engagement with the Arab world, American presidents have tended to get nicer to the Arabs towards the end of their term, when they have less to lose at home by doing so. With his Middle East tour, George Bush has stuck to that rule. The difference is that, with America's failure to sort out Iraq or make peace between Israelis and Palestinians or to persuade Muslims that the war on terror is not unfairly directed at themselves, no other president has had to control quite so much damage.
A speech in Abu Dhabi, capital of the United Arab Emirates, was touted as the keynote of his seven-country tour. In it, he touched on familiar themes, such as the wickedness of Iran's rulers and his belief that only democracy can free people from oppression and insecurity. “You cannot stand up a modern and confident nation when you do not allow people to voice their legitimate criticisms,” he said.
While officials from the host country quietly distanced themselves from America's Iran policy, Arab commentators questioned whether the head of an administration responsible for the miseries of Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo could preach human rights or whether Mr Bush's lavish praise for some Gulf monarchs' gestures towards democracy, such as holding highly restricted elections, meant that he cared more about securing cheap oil than promoting real political reform.
It was, in fact, America that was supplying the real weapons, with an announcement, coinciding with the presidential tour, that it would sell Saudi Arabia 900 guided-bomb kits worth $123m as part of a longer-term pledge to transfer some $20 billion in arms to its Arab Gulf allies. Yet the sale's hoped-for favourable impact dissipated when an Israeli military source asserted that Israel, which is getting 10,000 American precision-guided bombs free, would get a smarter version. This comment was meant to reassure America's pro-Israeli Congress about the Saudi sale, but certainly managed to annoy the Saudis. “The region needs smart initiatives, not smart bombs,” growled an editorial in Kuwait's daily al-Rai al-Am.