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Middle East Double Standards & The Wrong Side of History

Updated on December 8, 2011
US Envoy to the United Nations, Susan Rice
US Envoy to the United Nations, Susan Rice

The US Shows an Inconsistent Hand in the UN

(This is an editorial. Feel free to disagree or agree but please consider the view expressed. Feedback from various viewpoints – Jewish, Arab, Syrian, Russian, GOP, Democrat, etc. – is welcomed.)

* * * * * *

Earlier this week, the US ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, waxed indignant after China and Russia vetoed a Security Council proposal to support the Syrian uprising against despotic President Bashar al-Assad.

The Russian envoy to the UN explained that he feared that the Syrian resolution would serve as a springboard to a NATO invasion of the country, as it did in Libya earlier this year. China opposed the resolution as “interference in internal affairs.”

In an animated response, Rice proclaimed that opposition to the resolution was a “cheap ruse by those who rather sell arms to the Syrian regime than stand with the Syrian people.”

These rousing words ring hollow, however, when contrasted with the U.S. position opposing Palestinian statehood less than two weeks earlier. At that time, President Obama made it clear that the US would veto that measure and demanded that Palestine negotiate instead directly with Israel, a view that is seen as essentially futile in the rest of the world. Such “direct negotiations” have, after all, failed to bring about a ‘two-state solution’ for more than six decades now.

For the Record:

The vote among the 15-member UN Security Council on the Syrian proposal went as follows:

For: (9) the US, Britain, France, Bosnia, Portugal, Nigeria, Germany, Colombia, and Gabon.

Against: (2) China and Russia

Abstaining: (4) South Africa, Brazil, India, and Lebanon.

Explanation: The five permanent members of the Security Council – France, the UK, the US, Russia, and China – hold ‘veto’ power where a no vote automatically kills a proposal. The other ten member states serve for two years, hold no veto power, and then are rotated out and replaced by ten new countries. A vote to abstain can be interpreted as a stand in between a yes or no vote and the four countries in question did so for disparate reasons. See the following article for further analysis.

Syria & Palestine: A selective statistical contrast:

Syria: 2,700 protestors killed this year by the Assad regime.

Palestine: 7,800 Palestinians killed by Israeli forces since 2000/ an estimated 1,200 Israelis killed by Palestinian actions during same time period

Syrian per capita GDP in US dollars: $2,410

Palestinian per capita GDP in US dollars: $1,230

(Israeli per capita GDP in US dollars: $25,740

US arms sales to Israel: $7.2 billion over the past decade

Chinese arm sales to Syria: strongest Middle East military ‘partner,’ sales of M-9 ballistic missiles since late 1980s

Russian arms sales to Syria: strongest Russian ally in Middle East: $1 billion in sales in 2010; announced an attempt to “make up” some of the $4 billion lost in military sales to Libya’s Gaddafi regime in the wake of UN sanctions against that country.

Security Council votes in favor of Palestinian statehood: 14

Security Council votes in favor of Syrian condemnation of Assad regime: 9

The Iraqi invasion by the US in 2003 left it with very little credibility in the Arab world. While your average Lebanese, Jordanian, or Bahrainian citizen likely viewed Saddam Hussein as a despotic douchebag, they viewed the American invasion as an act of illegitimate military aggression, a thinly-veiled misguided revenge for the 9/11 attacks against a country which had nothing to do with those attacks.

Factor in current squabbles with Pakistan over its reliability as a partner in the war on terrorism, and the US is being openly challenged as a potentially capable arbiter in any current Middle East peace equation. The threatened veto over Palestinian statehood served to not only further that notion in the Arab world, but among staunch US allies in Europe as well.

Secretary Rice obviously has a valid point in her concern over Chinese and Russian arms sales to a repugnant regime. It seems entirely plausible that the Chinese and Russian vetoes were spurred by a fear of economic sanctions against a paying arms customer.

However, Rice, Obama, and the US State Department can’t have it both ways. Either the US supports “self-determination” and security among the people of the Middle East or it doesn’t. It cannot be a selectively applied value, open to certain deserving groups but not to others. Syria is a traditional US enemy; Israel is a staunch US ally. While it’s easy to support a revolt against a pariah, Obama appears to have bowed predictably to the strong Jewish lobby within American politics, but he does so at the price of American foreign policy credibility, and possibly even American foreign policy relevance.


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    • keithmitchell5 profile image

      keithmitchell5 6 years ago from Indianapolis

      Absolutely, Hobbsie. I'd like to meet Justin, hear his views, experiences. Say when. Brains should get together and meeting new people spice of life - will be one less person on Earth I don't yet know!

    • profile image

      Hobbsie 6 years ago

      Good article. Nice to see some of the oppression of the Palestinians brought to light. Would love to sit down and have a long conversation with you some day. Justin spent his adolescence in Saudi. You and he really helped shape my filter on world affairs. Our brains should get together. Cheers!


    • keithmitchell5 profile image

      keithmitchell5 6 years ago from Indianapolis

      Thanks, The Dude. Appreciate it and loved your work, as I've told you repeatedly, with John Goodman in "The Big Lebowski." Pls. keep reading.

    • profile image

      thedude 6 years ago

      I really dig the Syria/Palestine comparison - the hipocrisy never ends, as one of my faves, Chomsky, has been pointing out for decades. But, that is the nature of American exceptionalism...

      I don't know the exact number, but the total number of UN Assembly resolutions that have been passed condemning Israel over the last sixty years is about 100 - and I believe the U.S. has never voted with the vast majority to support these resolutions.

    • keithmitchell5 profile image

      keithmitchell5 6 years ago from Indianapolis

      Zubair, Siddh, & Russkie Bear: thank you for reading and sharing your analysis. Hopefully, in the US we're getting past the point where any time someone supports the creation of a Palestinian state or defneds Palestine in any way, they are perceived by Jewish-Americans as 'Anti-Semitic.' A compromised solution is the only way forward and instead of being afraid of a UN role, a true 'arbiter' would embrace it.

    • profile image

      Russian bear 6 years ago

      My first reaction when I just started reading this piece is that US does not have much political leverage/credibility in the region to wag an indignant finger (neither is Russia, really, but comparatively speaking, Russian diplomatic record in the region is arguably stronger). I have always been wondering why US presidents would not have better foreign policy advisors on the Middle East. For example, Michael McFaul, who advises Obama on all things Russian, is competent, non-ideological and, generally speaking, effective. Why there is no comparable equivalent for the Middle East? Lack of domestic expertise and talent?

    • profile image

      Siddh3896 6 years ago

      Hey I really enjoyed reading your hub. Come look at my blog at and tell me what you think

    • profile image

      Siddh3896 6 years ago

      Hey I really enjoyed reading your hub. Come look at my blog at and tell me what you think

    • Zubair Ahmed profile image

      Zubair Ahmed 6 years ago

      Good hub, enjoyed reading your perspective on this. Shame really that the Western policy towards non Western countries especially the Middle Eastern (non US and UK sponsored despotic regimes) are always treated in this way.

      The moment some country disagrees with the Western idea then they are branded as regimes that need to be replaced. As long as they agree with the West then we are okay with them.

      This double standard will some day come clear to the Westerners then they will realise that how bad their politicians have been acting in their names.

      Thank you for sharing its a nice feeling to see so many Americans are waking up to the reality with all these demos going on in the US.


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