The U.S. mustn’t discard its ties with the Arab Gulf states in favor of unpredictable alliances.
BY Omar Al Busaidy
“O Captain! My Captain!” is an extended metaphor poem written in 1865 by Walt Whitman about the death of American President Abraham Lincoln.
This poem was written after the U.S. Civil war in the 19th century and describes the grimness of the state of the country after tens of thousands had lost their lives.
In today’s global scenario, one can feel the grimness is back in the air, especially in the Middle East region.
Since the wave of popular uprisings in the Arab region six years ago, better known as the Arab Spring, things have gotten from bad to worse.
To the world, the U.S. is a superpower and with that title, there are a lot of expectations on how the U.S. administration uses its soft and hard power to stabilize a situation, and in the Middle East’s case, it is the chaos and armed conflicts in several states including Syria, Iraq and Libya.
But to do so, action is needed from the upcoming U.S. administration, as opposed to the inaction that we have witnessed from the outgoing President Barack Obama’s administration, especially in Syria.
Having said that, a special quote by Scott Hamilton comes to mind: “The only disability in life is a bad attitude.”
Following the 2016 U.S. presidential elections, we in the Middle East are unsure whether to label the American electoral system bad, or the administration itself or the candidates themselves.
But one thing we do know for sure, and that is that the U.S. has been an ally of the Arab Gulf states for decades, and the two have cooperated in many different ways, spanning from military to humanitarian collaboration.
And in my open letter to the new U.S. president, and the new administration, aside from sending them congratulations, I thought its best that I go deeper into defining this relationship because for some reason I do feel, like many of my Arab Gulf peers, that you (the U.S.) are not aware what this alliance has come to.
We have reached a level of distrust in your intentions towards our region based on your inability to address important matters relating to our security and to the stability of the Arab countries in general.
It worries us the most when you act confused, indecisive and decide to run off with another partner. The partner that you know has betrayed you before in more ways than one. If at any point you have failed to understand what I am talking about, let me remind you that when the U.S. gives Iran a leeway to get away with its nuclear program, which is just across the narrow body of water separating us from Tehran, while fully knowing the kind of conflicts the Arab Gulf states and their Persian counterpart have, we feel that we were not only stabbed in the back, but we were sold for short.
It is the same Iran which has supported—militarily and financially—an armed insurgency in Yemen, right at our borders, and in Bahrain, the beating heart of the Gulf. The Iranian intervention not only destabilizes our region, but also threatens the security of the U.S. base in the Arab world.
What has Iran offered throughout the past years to the U.S., versus what have the Arab and Arab Gulf states offered it? That is the question which the new U.S. administration must ask itself while it measures the kind of alliances it envisages in our region.
Another matter that needs to be addressed is that of Syria, and other countries facing armed conflicts.
Obama’s administration, which refused to act to stop the war when it was nascent, has further fueled Syria’s situation, and as a result, millions of Syrians found themselves homeless, seeking refuge in foreign countries whilst hundreds of thousands of others are either dead or missing.
We were assured by the Obama administration since day one that the Syria issue will not take more than weeks or even a few months. We went along with the idea, thinking we are allies in the situation.
But the days and months have turned into years, and the conflict in Syria has entered its sixth year without any change in the country’s political leadership.
And with the recent U.S. cozying-up to Iran, an ally of the Syrian regime, we now wonder what the outcome will be.
All we are asking of you is that we sit down, have an open discussion, perhaps over a cup of tea, exchange greetings and start from scratch.
We have so many memories together, mutual interests, mutual friends, mutual enemies that we need to deal with our issues together, for better or for worse till no one separates us.
Someone once said: “The best is yet to come,” and we are optimists by nature.
That is why we continue to grow, build skyscrapers, new roads, new attractions, invest in clean technology, and are working on launching missions to Mars, because we know that the only way to maintain peace is to continue to learn and to grow.
We want you to be by our side, through thick and thin, through good times and especially the bad ones, because just like the aviation industry put us on the map, it helped create thousands of jobs in your country as well.
There are tens of thousands of American citizens also working in lucrative jobs in the Arab Gulf region. So you see, disengagement between our regions can also harm tens of thousands of families, which neither you nor we wish to see.
Building on that, allow me to remind you of the things that bind us, and let me break it down for you like this: America! We love your movies, even though many times, Arabs and Muslims are depicted as the “bad guy.”
We eat your food—from Arby’s, Wendy’s, McDonalds, till we TGIF: Thank God its Friday. We listen to your music through iPods and have grown up watching MTV, grooving to the likes of Sinatra, Tupac, Michael Jackson, Britney Spears, Backstreet Boys and others.
We wear your clothes, buying from American Eagle, Levi’s, Diesel. We use your technology like iPads and your cars (just because nothing sounds as unique as a Mustang).
We study at your schools, work at your companies, travel to your cities—mostly because you have places like New York or South Beach, and who wouldn’t want to go?
We are grateful to the internet; we buy your bonds, buy your weapons, buy your loans, buy your beef, buy your wheat, buy your visa, bail out your banks, and most likely fund your campaigns. We build your hospitals and use them to treat our elders.
We grew up playing basketball, accepted the word “soccer,” never understood the brawls in NHL and needed to do extra babysitting thanks to WWE.
At times, we put on your accents, laugh at your jokes, grieve at your losses and celebrate your occasions (4th of July, Thanksgiving and others), we idolize your athletes, we are obsessed with Friends, love Modern Family and silently watch South Park when no one is around. We learnt to do the twist, to breakdance, to do the nae-nae and now the juju.
Once upon a time, The Apprentice was a great show, but that’s all I can say for now until after the elections. You have got our mothers attracted to the Cake Boss, The Bold and the Beautiful and George Clooney.
Our kids love Tom & Jerry, want to go to Disney, pretend to be Marvel superheroes and dress up at every comic convention. Our teens do the dab, love The Hunger Games and are always curious about “spring break” (I wonder why).
Our fathers could relate to The God Father and sometimes to the Two and a Half Men and on a good day, How I Met Your Mother.
I think that pretty much sums up the alliance. What I’m saying is, it’s not the alliance signed on paper on a table with expensive pens.
It is the mental alliance that exists between our people and that is a bond so strong that the last thing we need is a few politicians with hidden agendas to ruin everything that has been built over decades. All that the people need is a clear, open, fair and honest U.S. foreign policy towards the Arabian Gulf.
We will treat you well, buy you all the nice fancy things, take you on nice long holidays as we have proposed a long time ago because we really do want to have that long-distance relationship and we believe it will work.
To the new administration, we say: “Yes We Can” be “Stronger Together” and we can make the world and America “Great Again.”
Omar Al Busaidy is an Emirati entrepreneur and writer. He is the author of the book: Just Read It.