Every time a crisis happens in the region a great deal of criticism is launched upon Jordan’s stance. Mostly due to the nature of our street and its demographics as Jordanians, be they from Palestinian origins or Jordanian origins, have a strong affinity with their neighbours, especially in Palestine.
A lot has been said about the role Jordan plays; most of its people would rather see it take a more aggressive stance towards such conflicts, possibly even military intervention for the sake of Arab unity. Jordan however, and specifically the government by way of HM King Abdullah, has tended to stay away from playing such roles. Traditionally the country under HM King Hussein would consistently take a more aggressive position to the point of war. I suppose the lesson history revealed is that such a position is futile and when it comes to Jordan it’s like putting a band aid over a gun shot wound just to say you helped. This can be seen in almost every Arab-Israeli conflict that boiled to a war and even the pro-Iraq position taken during the first Gulf war which resulted in the snubbing of Jordan by the U.S., Israel and every Arab state you can think of.
King Hussein’s strategy was understandable considering the strong mood of the Arab people during the 60’s and 70’s towards Arab unity. But the flames of nationalism have died down and other factors have now crept on to the scene since then. Jordanian foreign policy has been damned if you do and damned if you donÃ¢??t and so the paradigm shift that has occurred lately is based on the lesser of two evils: damned if you don’t. The policy has been to remain semi-neutral while quietly supporting the player whose interests are in the long term interests of Jordan. This is not a selfish position if you think about it. Recently we’ve seen an abandoning of the Jordan First slogan and a realization that We Are All Jordan, in the sense that while every country has a right and indeed a duty to think of its own interests first, when it comes to Jordan and the volatility of our region a broader conceptualizing must be employed. This is a region that is personified by the domino effect; what hurts one country will inevitably hurt another.
The latest conflict happening with Israel and Lebanon is an example of this policy. Jordan has criticised Israel’s disproportionate attacks, criticised Hizballah’s adventurism at the cost of Lebanese lives, and has pledged support to Palestinians and Lebanon. It can do very little other than that. At the same time it may be praying quietly that Hizballah does in fact become broken, if nothing more than the disconcerting extent of its relationship with Iran. This however is purely opinion and speculative at best.
What is disconcerting for me personally is how Jordan goes about showing its support. In the latest conflict it has used what little leverage it has to allow its planes to fly into Lebanon to set up field hospitals, deliver humanitarian supplies and ship out the wounded and its own citizens.
In response many in Lebanon are turning a cold shoulder to Jordan’s show of support, mostly because of the form that it came in. (update) Although we should also take into account the media slant these days, as a recent commenter points to another article regarding Jordan’s humanitarian effort.
If the domestic policy being established is meant to look after Jordanian interests there needs to be a greater emphasis on establishing a foreign policy that respects the interests of the entire region. We are building fences on the home front that are so high we tend to forget what the outside world looks like. HM King Abdullah has consistently issued warnings, especially in the past month, about what the escalating violence in one part of the Middle East means for the rest of the region including his own Kingdom. This is a sign of a broader vision of the region that I wish could be reflected in the actual policy itself, but sadly is not.
We cannot establish ourselves as the Red Cross/Crescent of the region in the sense that we criticise, wait for the bloodbath and then come in with band aids to the rescue. I am not suggesting any extreme policies on our part, be they economic or military, mostly because they have not worked in the past and have only caused us greater damage than we inflict. However greater (if not actual) efforts must be exerted to negotiate cease fires and truces especially since this is the role that Jordan has established itself as playing in the region: the broker. It must therefore play it well, if nothing more than for its own good.
What worries me most is the sluggish responsiveness to these situations, there is a tendency to wait until the dust settles instead of getting dirty. In other words: when itÃ¢??s usually too late. If the waiting game is a deliberate play on JordanÃ¢??s part then the inevitable return on this investment will accrue nothing less than massive long term damage; economically, politically and more importantly socially.
Simply waiting it out and pretending not to hear the screams next door is likely to cause the minds and hearts of our people to become hardened and their ideologies shifting to the extremes; the very extremism we are trying to fight on the home front. This is a development that we should be paying attention to instead of wondering how it came about, especially when in the last year we have faced our own terrorist attacks, saw the mood of the people change rapidly to varying extremes, and a government that has done little or found it difficult to push ahead with promised reforms.
Without a measured appropriate foreign policy that situates itself within the realms of political safe ground and social complacency, the domestic policy will be impossible to implement. Any hope or vision for reform will instantaneously be crushed in the very dust that we are waiting for to settle.
Finally you’re posting!!! and an excellent one as usual 😉
I’m sleep-deprived and attempting to get through a horrendous to-do list, so a more meaningful comment will have to wait 🙂
thanks lina, looking forward to your insights and get some sleep!
“Traditionally the country under HM King Hussein would consistently take a more aggressive position to the point of war.”
Coming from an apparently informed person like you, this statement has to be a joke. Intelligence books (especially from the enemy side) are full of stories of Jordanian collaboration against the Arab cause and at the highest level. And if you want I will send you a copy of the documentary (50 years on the struggle, and you can see a clear shot of Golda Maier. And by the way Jordan has the blood of Shiekh A7mad Yassine on its hand, (remember the Khled mash3al deal), and the Sharon farm visit….
Which brings me to the next point
Ã¢??the policy has been to remain semi-neutral while quietly supporting the player whose interests are in the long term interests of JordanÃ¢?Â . In Arabic we call this (lo3obb 3al 7ablainn: playing on two ropes) or (ana ma3 il wageff:i am with who is left standing), in English its two timing, and in politics I guess its called diplomacy. But seriously is semi-neutral even a position (I thought you can be either with this side, that side or neutral?!!!)!!!. Unless you think it is okay to say something and act completely in the other direction, (excuse my words but this is called Nifaqq, deception and treason) and try to fool us by sending two bags of rice and a field hospital. ( I still think the deprived people all over Jordan and in its south are much more deserving of these aids, and believe me, there was much more essential things Jordan could have done for the Lebanese, starting by NOT giving the Arab cover to the Israeli massacre).
Ã¢??the domino effect; what hurts one country will inevitably hurt another.Ã¢?Â
Unless of course, you are Jordan, which will ride the (semi-neutral) policy to thrive on other peopleÃ¢??s disasters.
Now, donÃ¢??t get me wrong, I am not piling up on Jordan in particular, after all we cannot do much more in the times when we, as Arabs, collectively reached an all time low. But it does not mean we start giving excuses, and limit our concern with the tiny entities acting like countries.
Excuse my long reply, but your post warranted it. Thanks.
it’s ironic how we tend to call them “the enemy” yet still be willing to believe anything they have to dish out. misinformation is a great asset in a war.
first, semi-nuetral as I described it can be considered a strong criticism of the players while being involved on some level.
second, jordan hasn’t said one thing and acted completely differently. It has condemned Israel and voiced its support for Lebanon and Palestine since this all started and has been sending aid. if they had sent soldiers to fight the lebanese and praised Israel’s efforts, then yeah we could consider it as acting in a different manner than its speech.
third, to belittle the humanitarian efforts and reduce them to two bags of rice is quite frankly a weak attempt to find fault in the actual undertaking. when conflicts such as this happen in the region its not only the jordanian government, but also the jordanian people who flock to help by raising funds for instance. a great deal of the funding comes by way of people who do live in the south, and a great deal of those people are also those who choose to go to these places to help out under the army for example. i doubt they’re so desperate to haggle over the price of a bag of rice when those next door dont have any; if anything the arguement should be that the people are more inclined to be involved to help their brethern than their governments are.
fourth, jordan hasn’t offered any political cover to the Israeli massacre. to offer political cover is to say that it is right for Israel to attack lebanon and gaza. It has done neither of those things and has condemned Israel’s actions.
thriving on other people’s disasters? every single conflict up until now in which Jordan got involved even on a policy level has sent the country back a decade. the only disaster we benefited from is the recent war on Iraq and thats only because Iraqis chose to come to Jordan instead of other arab nations…no one forced them. and even the benefits of that conflict are limited and debatable considering our economic situation.
how will Jordan “thrive” on the disaster in Lebanon? how can it possibly benefit from a situation where the whole neighbourhood is on fire? a few full hotels? any economic benefit yielded from this crisis will be offset by the measures taken by the government such as the need to beef up security and reallocate the distribution of vital resources such as water and broader governmental services. the profit margin of this disaster is invisible if not absent.
I’m not offering excuses. I am attempting to understand my country’s foreign policy as well as criticising it for its flaws. I am suggesting we need to change it, to strengthen it, if nothing more than for our own good.
One of the problems in the Arab world is the perception that you are either fully with us or completely against us, even when someone such as myself writes a post like this. We offer very little in the way of constructive criticism, we would rather see complete destruction than put any effort towards building or even mending.
Lastly, this is not a post about other Arab countries, everyone has a role to play in our region and each role is subject to the elements that make up that country, be it military, economic or political power. I am attempting to decipher Jordan’s role, a country which has none of those elements at its disposal.
Onzlo, thanks for the article
i often read this blog, but never comment. Though, this time looks like i can`t withhold an urge, though it took some time to enunciate my opinion.
I agree with many points given in initial post, although i have very little understanding of situation in a region and my agreement is one of an “everyman”.
I don`t remember who exactly said it (probably, Churchil), that politicians and sovereigns have no friends, only interests. In fact there is nothing really bad about this, every country has to serve to the interests of its own nation(s).
Every ruler has to think first about well being of his own country and find compromise solutions. There is also another saying that business is only then successful when both sides benefit.
Problems appear when interests of others are entirely deprived. Modern world (especially the part which considers itself most progressive, educated and civilized) often forgets that the border line of my personal place (or country border if you wish) is a boundary at which someone else`s freedom should stop if it doesn`t want to be considered invading.
That`s absolutely true that domestic policies and foreign policies should serve one goal otherwise composed chimera is doomed to death. And it is very complicated task, especially for a country which is not powerfull chess-figure on world arena.
Well, one can call it “tiny entities acting like countries”, but before something appears on a global scale it starts growing from a small seed. At the time when rather strong ME countries prefer to stay aside indulgently acknowledging their own impotence, when UN once again proves that it is ucapable at serving to its initial goals, when world community is hypocritically silent (once again also), maybe, it is time when small country can start something what other can`t.
I wouldn`t mind if it will be Jordan, not at all =)
DR, I agree with you in theory, the problem is in practice when Jordan has attempted to make the bold moves in the name of the region they were slapped down hard by the bigger players.