Gore’s $20 Billion Educational Deal with Gulf States Has Some Twists July 29, 2007Posted by chuckwh in 9-11, Al Gore, arms control, gulf states, Middle East, News and politics, President Gore, Wahabbism.
One of the sticking points of the Gore Administration’s original foray into Middle Eastern politics that happened shortly after 9/11 was the educational package Gore pushed through Congress. That effort, packaged as The Bill of Hope, was a $90 billion aid package designed to improve civil infrastructure and education throughout the Middle East, particularly those countries that seemed susceptible to rising Islamic fundamentalism. The theory, since proven, was that the impetus behind the growth of Islamic radicalism wasn’t its ideology but poverty and (less talked about) repressive governments aligned with a superpower that always seemed to be on the side of the Middle East’s pariah, Israel. The education part of the aid package made many uneasy because it routed most of the funds through Islamic-based organizations.
However, the vetting process for determining how to manage the financial aid package was well thought out, although one foreign aid expert was quoted at the time as saying, “It’s really not too challenging to find out who the bad guys are when it comes to who is okay to work with. There are lots of groups doing good work in the Middle East. Some of them are bad guys within the framework of our definitions, and those are usually pretty well known, and you just avoid them.”
It may seem incongruous to suggest that bad guys can do good work, but in fact that was part of the strategy of the early Islamic radicals. Hamas, for example, has pretty much made a living off it and actually managed to sprout a new nation from its good works. The Islamic Republic of Hamazistan hasn’t received much official diplomatic recognition yet (that’s expected to change after it changes its name), but it got there by touching the hearts and minds of the populace. Hamas, in between mortar shots fired at Israel, developed a broad-based educational program. They built schools and small, but important, infrastructure projects in Gaza.
So as the new nation of Palestine was struggling to get on its feet, Hamas managed to establish a name for its self in its stronghold in the Gaza, which resulted in a near civil war with the Palestinian government based in the West Bank.
Eventually pundits began to look for a scape goat and they found it in The Bill of Hope. Republicans claimed that money was leeching out of the “trusted” members of the Palestinian government into Hamas, even though no money was given to the Palestinian government. Still, there’s little doubt that Hamas did indeed manage to get some of their hands on that money, and that brings us to today’s news item.
The newest round of education aid is being funneled this time through gulf states such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman. In return for the aid, and the diplomatic prestige they’ll gain for distributing the money to key regions in the Middle East that haven’t been touched yet by the economic boom, each Gulf nation will help fund the new worldwide Kyoto Alternative Fuels Initiative by matching the $20 billion U.S. educational initiative dollar for dollar over a twenty year period.
There will be plenty of complaints about this latest initiative because it will give complete discretion to the Gulf states on where to focus their attention. Many critics are already pointing out that 9/11 would not have happened if not for the growth of Wahabbism-based educational efforts stemming originally from Saudi Arabia. Whether or not this is true is of course open to debate, but there it is. Keep in mind, though, that the monies provided under the new initiative will be spent via a group called the Gulf States Economic Group. Since each state in the group has only one vote, it actually turns out that the gulf states will have more influence on where the money goes than Saudi Arabia or Qatar, the countries where Wahabbism has the greatest influence.
No matter how we look at it, though, we can be thankful that we’re no longer discussing things like $20 billion dollar military sales to Middle Eastern countries, which was the hallmark of American foreign policy for so many prior administrations.
Today, our discussions revolve around the tactics of how school books should be distributed to Middle Eastern countries, not air-to-air missiles. These are debates that should make all of us happy.