Lebanon News

Arab ex-Knesset member highlights diminishing US role in world affairs

BEIRUT: The world's changing power dynamics during the Bush administration era were the focus of a lecture by former Arab-Israeli MP Azmi Bishara before a full audience at Hamra's Al-Madina Theater on Monday evening. In his lecture - entitled "What's the role for America after Bush?" -  Bishara noted that the United States remains the world's sole superpower but has seen its role diminish since 2005 with the emergence of Russia and China among other countries as rising world powers willing to guard their interests.

Bishara said this change in the world's power dynamics began in the late 1990s before it was brought to a halt following the September 11, 2001, attacks.

According to Bishara, US military spending, which constitutes 45 percent of total global expenditure on armament and only 4 percent of the country's gross domestic product, enforces its status as a super power.

Bishara highlighted the Russia-Georgia crisis as an indication of Moscow's determination to firmly defend its interests.

"The process of regaining that sense of national pride and greatness started in 1999 when [Prime Minister] Vladimir Putin harshly crushed all opposition in Chechnya, making it clear Russia wouldn't tolerate any independence movement," he said, adding that China also guarded its interests in Sudan recently by opposing US foreign policy.

Bishara noted that China's disregard for human rights by enforcing child labor and its harm to the environment resembles Europe's history during the rise of colonialism.

He stressed that unlike the Cold War period, today's confrontations between the United States and other rising powers indicate conflicting interests, not ideologies.

"Today no one claims that he's trying to spread an ideology aiming to better humanity, fight evil and preserve the welfare of people, it's only a matter of interests," said Bishara.

Furthermore, he added that before 2005 the American neoconservatives had embraced the communist view of spreading change around the world and claimed "nation building" as a pretext to change foreign regimes by force.

Bishara also emphasized that the globalization process had bad consequences on developing countries.

"Economic help brought by capitalist states to Third World countries on condition of imposing reforms such as privatization and tax-barrier abolition was of disastrous results," he said.

Given the dreadful position of Arab countries on the political and economic map, Bishara blamed the lack of strategic planning by the Arab world's leaders and urged them to care for their nation's interests as the sole means to bring positive change and growth.

Bishara pointed to Turkey's recent efforts to reconcile with Armenia and Azerbaijan in order to build a new oil pipeline reaching the Mediterranean Sea without the need to pass though Russia's territory.

"Turkey presents an example that Arab states should follow," he said.

Following his visit to Syria in 2006 Bishara was charged by Israeli prosecutors with treason and espionage.

He fled Israel in April 2007 amid allegations that he had advised Hizbullah and met with foreign agents during the summer 2006 war in Lebanon.

Bishara denied spying for Hizbullah and recalled his criticism of the  group's shelling of Arab villages in Israel.

Bishara, who headed the small National Democratic Assembly (Balad) party, was Israel's first Arab citizen to run for the post of premier in 1999.

Concerning the upcoming US presidential elections, Bishara said he believed that an Obama victory would not lead to any significant changes regarding American policy toward the Arab world and the Palestinians.

Bishara's lecture was the first in a series of gatherings that Al-Madina Theater is organizing this month to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the  Nakba. The events will include a movie screening and a poetry night.





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