Posted by on November 10, 2011 in Blog

Several months ago, we praised Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels for remaining principled and not pandering to anti-Muslim sentiment. At the time, unapologetic Islamophobia seemed like an accepted element of the mainstream Republican platform. We called Governor Daniels the “adult in the room” for his leadership. Today, similar praise is due for a candidate who has taken a principled stance on another issue of importance to the Arab American community. In stark contrast to his Republican compatriots (with exception of Ron Paul who hasn’t significantly weighed in on the subject), Jon Huntsman’s comments on U.S.-Arab relations given the realities of the Arab Spring are honest and insightful. His statement reads:

The Egyptians, Libyans, and Tunisians are to be commended for throwing off the yoke of authoritarian rule they have endured for decades. America now watches with great expectation as their Syrian brethren challenge Bashar Al-Assad’s brutal regime.

Yet, we should be cautious in our optimism about the future of such societies. History teaches that revolution does not, of its own force, ensure the emergence of functional democracy, and, for societies with little history of grassroots self-organization, the path to democratic governance will not be easy and will require the continued resolve of these populaces as well as the support of their interim governments.

How does Huntsman’s comments compare with the rest of the field? They may not be incredible, but juxtaposed with his opponents, there’s really no comparison. Two weeks ago, we wrote about Mitt Romney’s comments on the Arab Spring, in which the former Massachusetts governor asserted the movement was “out of control” because the president hadn’t advocated democracy enough in the Middle East. Bashing the Arab Spring as a referendum on president Obama’s Middle East foreign policy isn’t unique to Mitt Romney. Rick Santorum, Michelle Bachmann and Rick Perry have also expressed disdain for the pro-democracy movements in an effort to attack the president. Given the fact that we’re currently in campaign season, one expects a degree of partisanship on almost every issue both foreign and domestic. However, from the economy to the Arab Spring, Americans need a leader who has very real solutions to very real issues, not just brinkmanship. The comments that have been made by the likes of Bachmann, Perry, Santorum, Cain, and Gingrich are not only unproductive; in most cases they are downright crazy.

Here’s the quick breakdown:  

Mitt Romney claimed the Arab spring was “out of control” because the president hadn’t advocated democracy enough in the Middle East. Rick Perry says it was indicative “wavering and aimless foreign policy” and that “apologizing for America’s exceptionalism” caused the Arab Spring. Just after she inaccurately recounted events surrounding the Iranian Revolution, Michele Bachmann asserted that the Arab Spring happened because the President was “demonstrating weakness,”, especially with regard to the Israeli-Palestinian 1967 border dispute. Rick Santorum said it was because Obama hasn’t supported its allies (Israel) and lamented how Hosni Mubarak was thrown “under the bus.” Newt Gingrich took a medieval stance on things, alleging “I think we may in fact be having an anti-Christian spring.” Herman Cain, whose foreign policy platform can be summed up as U beki-beki-beki-beki stan-stan, tweeted: “I will not let the Arab Spring turn into the Fall of #Israel...” 

The U.S. is confronted with new realities in the Middle East and North Africa, and now more than ever we need to develop new, responsible policies that are conducive to both our strategic interests and which take into account the political aspirations of Arabs across the region. The bulk of the GOP field seems content with playing politics rather than convincing Americans that they possess the capacity to lead given the uncertainty of the U.S.’ role in the Middle East going forward.