Six ways for US to reset relations in the Middle East

The United States has an image problem in the Middle East. Years of supporting regional dictators and occupying Iraq, in the name of US strategic interests, have undermined influence. It is actually a US strategic interest to stand up for democracy. Initiating military action in Libya makes a transparent vision for engagement in the region even more imperative. Foreign policy expert Adam Hinds lists the five decisive steps President Obama must take reset regional relations and ensure US security.

6. Increase US security by supporting democracy, human rights

Some will contend that this focus on human rights at the expense of defense will make the US less secure. But this is a false premise. Security comes from creating environments where threats from susceptible populations are held at bay because residents have access to respectable jobs and income, a life with dignity, or political outlets to address grievances and frustrated aspirations. Long-term security has not and will never come at the expense of poor governance and human rights. For this reason, dictators have never been ideal partners for fighting extremists.

Moreover, democratic movements have started, and going back now would be dangerous. Weak support would seem duplicitous, undermine our standing, and give space to violent actors looking to exploit disappointment following heightened expectations.

Influence in the region must come through new means, and actions matter. It is time for the US to create allies amongst citizens who increasingly pressure governments, and enhance authority by being the global power that consistently supports the rights of local citizens. Being on the wrong side of values that our country was built upon is not only hypocritical policy, but makes us less secure.

Adam Hinds has worked for an international organization in the Middle East since 2005 and was on the foreign policy team of Sen. John Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign.

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