A Leader is Needed

The 21st century has been characterized by increasing chaos, which is only becoming more extreme every day. In this complex environment, a single voice is needed, who will speak in a sane voice, a voice which will have a receptive audience across the world. This can only be a leader who is backed by real power, both moral power and physical power. Only President Obama can provide this voice.

Long before the onset of the “Arab Spring” began, President Obama was the only leader who indicated that the world, and particularly the Middle East, of the 20th century was losing its way. Therefore, he began his presidency with a visit to Egypt, which at the time appeared calm and stable, and issued a warning that change was needed, that democratic reforms were needed, and that a stagnant economy needed modernization, through a respect for tradition.

Next, President Obama met with the man who views himself as the next leader of the Muslim world, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, hinting to him that his place as regional leader would only be possible through respecting the will of the people.

President Obama’s warnings proved highly relevant. The Arab and Muslim world which was, over the last number of years, based on a divide between Neo-Nasserism and religious fundamentalism, either the Khomeini-inspired Shi’a variety or the Muslim Brotherhood Sunni variety, is undergoing nothing short of an earthquake. None of these movements provided the people with a real future, as societies were devastated by hunger, unemployment, and a lack of basic rights and social mobility. When protesters asked for democratic reforms, an end to corruption, and more economic possibilities, they received none of these. Even the small piece of bread they had was taken from them.

The dire economic situation in Syria is partly the fault of Turkey, as Turkey dammed the Euphrates River, exploiting Syria’s water sources for its own good, causing major drought in Syria and causing great harm to its agriculture. For this and other reasons, the masses in Syria rose up, leading to bloody civil war.

Muhammad Morsi rose to the presidency of Egypt on the wings of the Tahrir square protesters who fought against Mubarak’s oppression. However, the end of the Mubarak regime and the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood-based government hurt the economy, destroyed the tourist industry, and did little to usher in reform.

Libya is currently embroiled in tribal wars and Tunisia is not exactly a success story. The new nightmare to which the people across the Middle East have awoken is no better than their previous bad dream.

The world worriedly observes, hoping that this region can be given hope for a new reality.

Therefore, President Obama must bring a new message of hope to the region, a message that will encourage more pragmatism and cooperation, a message of economic development, a message that will re-open the Middle East to the entire world through investments and tourism, a message that disavows violence as a means for reaching goals.

No other leader in our region or beyond can give the people of our region this message of hope. Only the commander-in-chief of the United States can speak in a voice which could usher in a new era, which could not only give hope for new beginnings, but also save lives.

About the Author
Dr David Altman is senior vice-president at the Netanya Academic College and vice-chair of the college's Strategic Dialogue Center