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Middle East Press on Nagorno-Karabakh, Arab Youth and Iranian Militia: New Age Islam's Selection, 17 October 2020

By New Age Islam Edit Bureau

17 October 2020

• Still No Peace in Sight for Nagorno-Karabakh

By Nagehan Alçi

• Arab Youth Survey Is an Eye-Opener

By Osama Al Sharif

• Time for Palestinians to Adapt To the New Reality

By Khaled Abou Zahr

• Ahead Of Presidential Elections, Israelis Cheering For Trump

By Mazal Mualem

• Why Iraq’s PM Should Heed Al-Sistani and Disband Iranian Militias

By Hussain Abdul-Hussain

• 2020: America’s Year from Hell

By Susan E. Rice


Still No Peace in Sight for Nagorno-Karabakh

By Nagehan Alçi

OCT 17, 2020

A cemetery damaged by Armenian shelling in the Tartar province of Azerbaijan, Oct. 15, 2020. (İHA Photo)


Is there finally a light at the end of the tunnel for Nagorno-Karabakh? Will a just and long-lasting peace prevail in the region? Maybe, but for now, the fighting goes on despite a cease-fire.

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev said his country will sit down at the negotiating table with Yerevan as soon as it leaves occupied Azerbaijani territory. Can it happen? It can, if Armenia is convinced to leave Azerbaijan's territories, Aliyev said.

The two sides have been at war for more than two weeks with mounting casualties, especially on the Armenian side.

The renewed fighting is the heaviest since the war of 1992-1994, encompassing the entire line of contact, with artillery, missile and drone strikes.

A cease-fire agreed on by both sides last weekend appears to be unraveling over the disputed enclave of the region.

Armenia continues to hit Azerbaijan, killing civilians mercilessly. The main street of the second-largest city of Azerbaijan, Ganja, was shut down and carpeted in glass following the attacks last Sunday, violating the cease-fire.

There are many civilian losses, most importantly the youth is terrified of the idea of war and is growing up with hatred of the other country. According to international law, Armenia is the occupying force and should hand over Nagorno-Karabakh to Baku and the Azerbaijani community in the region should be able to return to their homes.

Once the original inhabitants have returned to their lands, there should be a just distribution of the government and parliament in Karabakh after it is handed over to Azerbaijan. However, this needs to be done as soon as possible to avoid further fighting, killing and displacement of many.

It may take time for the parties to return to peace talks, but Turkey is struggling to find a way to end the fighting. Ankara is stressing that it wants international law to be implemented, which requires an Armenian retreat from Nagorno-Karabakh.

International actors like the United Nations should take initiative and aim for a durable peace.

But I should admit that a lasting solution is not an easy one to find in this region. Foreign actors matter, but they can not impose a lasting peace. The failure of the Oct. 1 cease-fire shows that Russia's – which is seen as a "protector" for both sides and also has a treaty with Armenia and a long-standing relationship with Azerbaijan – influence over both sides is limited.

Despite this difficult picture the international bodies and countries like Turkey and Russia should focus on a cease-fire and Armenia should be pressured to stop acting against international law.

Once the occupied land is given back to its legal owner Azerbaijan, there should be mechanisms to monitor a peaceful transition of power and resettlement.


Arab Youth Survey Is an Eye-Opener

By Osama Al Sharif

October 16, 2020


Dubai skyline

Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News


The findings of this year’s Arab Youth Survey, conducted annually since 2008 by ASDA’A BCW, a Dubai-based PR agency and published earlier this month, present some disturbing indicators compounded by the negative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The survey covered 17 Arab countries, conducting 4000 interviews of Arab youth, split equally between males and females, in the 18 to 24 age group — it is the only poll of its kind that delivers crucial findings about what half of the Arab population, almost 200 million, think, believe in and hope for in the MENA region.

In presenting this year’s findings, Sunil John, president of ASDA’A BCW, wrote that “several of our surveys did predict future events, including the Arab Spring. The continued discontent on the street among young Arabs — especially their sense of economic, political and social marginalisation..” Aside from the importance of delving into the mindset of an important demographic component of Arab societies, the survey provides ample data that no government can do without while drawing future strategies and correcting current trajectories. It is an understatement to say that Arab youth make up the critical mass that determines the future path, politically, economically and socially, that each Arab country is destined to take.

With almost 30 per cent youth unemployment in the MENA region, one of the highest rates in the world, it is no wonder that a majority of young Arabs feel desperate about the future. One of the most disturbing findings of the survey is that more than four in 10 people aged 18-24 have considered emigrating from their home countries. About 42 per cent of all Arab youth surveyed had considered emigrating to another country, with 15 per cent actively trying to leave. This was evident especially in the Levant region, compared to the GCC countries, where the rate of young people hoping to emigrate jumped to more than 60 per cent.

Even before the pandemic most Arab countries were still recovering from the seismic events that accompanied the 2011 Arab Spring. The issues that triggered the Arab Spring remain the same: poor leadership, rampant corruption and deteriorating economy. The COVID-19 has amplified the state of despair that young Arabs are feeling. The pandemic has had a dire effect on local economies across the region. In most Arab countries, especially in the Levant and North Africa, unemployment rates have spiked and the category that was most affected is youth. With unemployment come poverty, crime and social instability. Lebanon today is a stark example of a perfect storm where a political impasse, deepening an economic free fall amid wide corruption and mismanagement, has driven a majority of young Lebanese to actively seek emigration. According to the survey’s findings economic factors and corruption are the two strongest drivers of emigration among Arab youth.

With general disregard to the suffering of youth it is no wonder that a majority of young Arabs support antigovernment protests as is the case in Lebanon, Iraq, Sudan and Algeria. In war-torn Libya more than 85 per cent of youth surveyed expect antigovernment protests to break out. Drivers for protests include bad governance, corruption, lack of social justice, lack of political reforms, unfair taxation and lack of human rights, among others.

An alarming 77 per cent of all Arab youth report there is government corruption in their country. This is probably the single most dangerous malaise that constitutes a major driver for public despair, anger, extremism and readiness to disengage and leave. Iraq is a clear example of widespread and institutional corruption that has alienated the youth and driven many to embrace extremism.

Aside from corruption, dire economic conditions are seen as a crucial factor for Arab youth discontent. Between 2015 and 2020 those who suffered from the burden of personal debt had risen from 15 per cent to 35 per cent. About 34 per cent of Arab youth in the Levant described their current personal financial situation as pretty bad and poor. One-third of young Arabs say their household debt has increased since the pandemic. The COVID-19 effects on local economies are yet to be determined and its reverberations will be felt for many years to come. A number of vital sectors that usually employ the young, like tourism, aviation and services have been damaged as a result of the pandemic. While some governments, especially in the GCC, have been able to reduce and contain the negative effects of the pandemic, others have not.

A staggering 87 per cent of those surveyed say they are concerned about unemployment while 51 per cent say they are not confident in their national government’s ability to deal with unemployment.

There is a wealth of data to be examined in the findings of the survey. Arab governments will do the right thing by looking into such data in order to reset and adjust policies. Governments that ignore what the most active sector of the population think and believe in will continue to move in the wrong direction. The general picture is not promising and is a cause for concern but understanding the problems and acting accordingly is a small step in the right direction.


Osama Al Sharif is a journalist and political commentator based in Amman.


Time For Palestinians To Adapt To The New Reality

By Khaled Abou Zahr

October 16, 2020


Palestinians leave a mosque after attending Friday prayers in Biet Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip, January 30, 2015. (Reuters)


I remember being in the US in early March 2017, soon after President Donald Trump was elected. At the time, Daesh’s presence in Syria and Iraq was the biggest geopolitical worry. During a meeting with the founder of a private equity firm I had just met — he had no particular interest in the region beyond security implications for his home country — we discussed this topic.

As the discussion went on, I explained the situation in Syria, the regime’s role, and delved into all the main issues in the Middle East and how they correlate, from Iran’s influence to the dangers of youth unemployment. Following about 10 minutes of me speaking, he interrupted and asked a simple question: So, what is the solution? I must admit that it caught me off guard and I was not able to answer for a good minute.

At that moment, I realized that we have been facing so many issues in the Middle East that we stopped thinking of solutions. The Arab world has become, from kindergarten onwards, a land of geopolitical experts, but we are all mostly like Western economists, who can explain a crisis after it happens but not find a solution or predict the next problem.

Discussing the Palestinian issue and the peace process is exactly like this. Many reasons can explain the situation, such as the failed peace initiatives, repeated mistakes by the Palestinians, the divisions in the leadership, etc. All of this and a bigger focus on domestic issues by citizens and leaderships in the Arab world have made the Palestinian situation a topic and less of a regional cause for which you search for a solution.

Therefore, the question I would like to start asking is not what is the solution, but what do the Palestinian leaders want? What do they consider a victory? What is their objective?

Fatah does not want victory for its people, it wants to keep receiving subsidies — this is victory for its leaders. As for Hamas, it seems that its leaders are not looking for victory either. Despite their useless screams of destroying Israel, they know very well that they will never achieve this. What they aim to create is the concept of perpetual martyrs. It is not important for them to achieve for their people, it is important for them to keep the will of sacrifice going, and this means more Palestinians deaths, more misery and more losses. This line of thought resonates well with both the Iranian mullahs and the Ottoman brotherhood.

So, in this perspective, what is the solution for a better life for Palestinians? How do we make sure they can live in peace and security? How do we make sure Palestinian children have access to electricity, water, education, and health care? I cannot say I have the answer, but I can provide a beginning, which starts with accepting a new reality and adapting.

One thing I wish Palestinians would understand is that those who scream oppression, injustice, apartheid and call for the boycott of Israel on their behalf live comfortably and their children are safe and go to nice schools. They will move on and have a nice cappuccino with almond milk as soon as they are done writing their Facebook post in support of the Palestinian struggle. But they will do nothing for them. All they do is make themselves feel better and grant themselves a judgmental status. Once again, this line of thoughts runs through the mullahs in Iran, the Muslim Brotherhood, and the left-wing movements in the West. All three claim to pursue equality and justice, but their leadership is strangely always more equal than others.

Palestinians should instead focus on the new reality that was first presented to them by Jared Kushner. I argued then that the Palestinians should accept the dialogue and seek to enhance, in the best possible way, what was originally offered — and this time take the deal. The deal was not about justice for the land but a better future and better lives: A new starting point with stability and peace.

At the time, I made a comparison between the Palestinian cause and what are known in the business world as zombie companies. A zombie company is one that no longer generates revenues but, instead of being shut down by its stakeholders, is kept alive and financed at a continuous loss. In that sense, the Palestinian cause has become a zombie cause.

However, prior to reaching an agreement with Israel — no matter what form it takes or however unfair or unjust it is — the Palestinians should start by unifying their leadership, agreeing on a road map to peace, and renouncing violence and terrorism. Unfortunately, if they were to choose Hamas’ road map, which refuses peace and whose stated objective is to destroy Israel, then they would end up even more isolated. Not only would they be at odds with the Arab countries, but they would also continue to be the tools of the Iranians one day and the Turks another. Their suffering would not stop and would be traded as commodities by these powers.

At the time of Kushner’s deal, I was criticized by some for putting the obligation on the oppressed instead of the oppressor. My answer was clear: When, since the beginning of history, have we seen the oppressor, or the stronger party, forfeit what they acquired? And why would they? In the current situation, I see no events that could change the balance of power to the advantage of the Palestinians and get them better conditions — not now or in the coming 50 years. All I see is a continuous downward trend that will only keep on accelerating.

After decades of unconditional support, each Arab country is now moving ahead in pursuit of its own national interests and those of its citizens. They have the right to do so and the Palestinians should do the same.

The Palestinians have been dealt awful cards; they have suffered and will continue to suffer if they do not adapt to the new reality. This is undeniable. Yet their leadership is misleading them. A courageous leader is one who speaks the truth to his people, who clearly states what is achievable, and ultimately gives a better life to his citizens and agrees to the best deal possible. It is time for the Palestinians to reset their objectives. The world is different, with wars being fought for data and cyberspace, hence a small land with bright minds and resolve can make Palestine unmissable. The Palestinians have the power and capacity to do so. This should be the goal of their leadership: To create a land of entrepreneurs and free thinkers.

Unfortunately, for now, the main wind being blown at the Palestinians is extremism and socialism. These both present bad solutions and the wrong thoughts, but the misery and oppression in Palestine make it a fertile ground. This should also be understood by the US and the Israelis.

I doubt the current leadership is interested in finding a solution. It seems that Hamas is now focused on making a successful move into the West Bank with the support of Iran and/or Turkey. It is not in a hurry to make the lives of Palestinians better, but it is in a hurry to see the end of Fatah so that it can attempt to take over the West Bank. For Hamas, this is the solution, and it would also be a good one for the Israelis. Maybe Palestinians will change the game and look out for themselves.


Khaled Abou Zahr is CEO of Eurabia, a media and tech company. He is also the editor of Al-Watan Al-Arabi.


Ahead Of Presidential Elections, Israelis Cheering For Trump

By Mazal Mualem

Oct 16, 2020

Almost two-thirds of Israelis believe that Donald Trump will be a better president for Israel than his Democratic rival Joe Biden. This finding, which appeared in a poll that was released this week by I24 TV, reflects the support, and in some cases, admiration, that Israelis feel for Trump before the upcoming election. The results also show that Trump’s popularity is not limited to the right or supporters of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Actually, Trump is one of the most popular American presidents in Israel ever. He is certainly more popular than his predecessor Barack Obama, who was considered cold and aloof. Right-wing circles even considered Obama pro-Palestinian. Polls conducted over the last few years show the clear difference in popularity between Obama and Trump, which trend in favor of Trump. So, for example, a poll by the Haaretz newspaper, on July 4, 2018, to mark US Independence Day, found that almost half of Israelis support Trump, while only 19% had a positive view of Obama.

This romance between Israelis and Trump was hardly love at first sight. During the 2016 election campaign, he was considered to be a loudmouth, known mainly for his vast wealth, the towers bearing his name and the scandals surrounding his personal life. In December 2015, Knesset members from the left even signed a petition calling on Netanyahu to prevent Trump from entering Israel during his election campaign. This came in response to his statement that Muslims should be banned from entering the United States. Knesset members from Meretz even called Trump a dangerous racist.

But Israelis quickly learned to admire the “politically incorrect” president. Why not? He showered gifts on Israel, showed warmth to the country and its leaders, and did the impossible, like moving the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, recognizing Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights and killing Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani, who always managed to evoke Israel’s ire.

Netanyahu’s close personal relationship with Trump after years of crises between him and Obama added to the president’s popularity locally. The climax was, of course, the normalization agreements with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain. Furthermore, Trump’s Jewish son-in-law Jared Kushner, his daughter Ivanka, who converted to Judaism, and their Jewish children won the hearts of Israelis and gained Trump even more support. Plenty of Jewish religious children took to the streets during the Purim festival dressed as Trump.

Israelis really loved US President Bill Clinton. They still look back fondly on what he said at the funeral of assassinated Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995: “Shalom, haver” (“Goodbye, friend"). Who can forget Clinton's tears at the event? There was real chemistry between Clinton and Israelis. He spoke directly to them and succeeded in convincing them of his sincere love of Israel. During Netanyahu’s first term as prime minister, in 1996, the crises in his relationship with Clinton actually hurt him. In fact, Netanyahu always used to check Clinton’s popularity in the polls, and it was always very high. A common joke at the time was that if Clinton really wanted he could easily get elected as Israel’s next prime minister.

And yet, it doesn’t take a poll to realize that Trump is even more popular than Clinton among Israelis. In the last year alone, several major cities explored naming streets after Trump. That never happened during the Clinton era.

Last September, the Rishon Lezion city council discussed naming a street in the city after Trump. Reasons included his contributions to Israel, his decision to relocate the embassy to Jerusalem and his recognition of Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights. Yossi Golan, who heads a neighborhood in the city, and the one who came up with the idea, explained at the time, “Trump won me over as soon as he took two major steps forward on behalf of our country. He moved the embassy to Jerusalem and he recognized Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights. I think this merits recognition. He continues to support Israel and advance the peace process. There has never been another US leader like him, who did as much for the State of Israel.”

There are already two main squares in Israel named after Trump. The first, in Jerusalem, is located at the top of the road leading to the US Embassy; the second is in Petah Tikva, where the main city square was renamed Trump Square. The renaming took place in July 2017, at a ceremony attended by Likud ministers that received extensive media coverage. At the event, Mayor Rami Greenberg explained that he decided to go ahead with this gesture since “Israel has never seen a more understanding and supportive [US] president than Donald Trump.”

Then there is the settlement of Ramat Trump (Trump Heights) in the Golan Heights, which was formally approved by the government in June 2020. This was the most important gesture of appreciation for Trump, who did what his predecessors would not do by recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights. Ramat Trump is only the second settlement in Israel to be named for a serving president. The first was Kfar Truman, which was named after the 33rd US president, Harry Truman, who supported the establishment of a Jewish state in 1947. Then, after Israel declared its independence, Truman became the first world leader to recognize the State of Israel.

What is the secret of this president’s appeal? It seems to be a combination of several distinct elements. First and foremost, of course, is all that he has done for the country, which proved his deep ties to Judaism, Zionism and the State of Israel. Then there is his blunt temperament, informal style and his chutzpah, which are well suited to the Israeli temperament. That is why Israelis are so willing to forgive him for all his scandals and embarrassing behavior, including, most recently, his reckless attitude in regard to the coronavirus pandemic.

The upcoming US elections have been receiving extensive coverage on all of Israel’s news channels, not to mention social media platforms. Given that so many polls predict that Biden will win the election, some commentators are now saying that this will be a devastating blow to Netanyahu. After all, many of Netanyahu’s successes can be attributed to his excellent relationship with Trump. Netanyahu makes sure to use every available platform to talk about Trump’s contributions to Israel. He certainly did that this week, when he brought the agreement with the UAE to the government and Knesset for their approval.

Still, as tempting as it is to see Trump’s defeat as a blow to Netanyahu, and perhaps even an omen of his imminent collapse, this is probably exaggerated. Netanyahu will always be able to present himself to the right as the only person who can stand up to a Democratic president and prevent the implementation of any diplomatic plans that would put the settlers and settlements at risk. After all, he was able to do that during the Obama era.


Why Iraq’s PM Should Heed Al-Sistani And Disband Iranian Militias

By Hussain Abdul-Hussain

October 16, 2020

Iraq’s top cleric, Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani, last month called for the disbanding of all militias. This would involve the state disarming the pro-Iran Popular Mobilization Units (PMU). In turn, this would neuter Tehran’s most reliable partner in Iraq, Kataib Hezbollah, the most dangerous alternative to state power in the country. Such then is the importance of Al-Sistani’s call for the integrity of the Iraqi state. Indeed, the prime minister, now provided cover by the religious leadership in Najaf, should act with haste. Yet all we have witnessed so far is an exhibition of inertia.

Kataib Hezbollah has been busy building a “statelet” within Iraq. If the government does not act quickly, it will soon become stronger than the Iraqi state itself; it will dominate Iraq in the way Hezbollah dominates in Lebanon and will seal Iraq’s slide into failure as a client state of Iran.

For those unfamiliar with Iraq’s recent history of distressing politics, a little elucidation might be helpful.

Modeled after Lebanon’s Hezbollah, Kataib Hezbollah is the spine that holds the PMU up. It controls the PMU’s “internal security” unit, the intelligence operation that keeps tabs on fighters and disciplines rogue ones. Kataib Hezbollah’s chief, Abdul Aziz Al-Muhammadawi, is also the effective leader of the PMU instead of its titular chairman, Falih Al-Fayyadh.

It is not hyperbole to describe Kakaib Hezbollah as a statelet. It controls territory within Iraq’s borders since it managed to force Baghdad to lease it vast amounts of agricultural land in Jurf Al-Sakhr, south of Baghdad, and on the Iraqi border with Syria. It operates these territories as fiefs into which it prohibits access by the legitimate state. At its bases, Kataib Hezbollah trains and garrisons its fighters and stocks caches of arms. Western intelligence reports suggest that, with Iranian assistance, it manufactures precision guided missiles at these sites.

Like Lebanon’s Hezbollah, Kataib Hezbollah’s fighting wing is only one component of the mini-state. It maintains welfare organizations for the families of its fighters, including those who die in battle. These organizations offer medical care, schooling, housing, social and financial support and religious indoctrination.

Now with the religious leadership in Najaf speaking out against the pro-Iranian militias, and anti-Iran sentiment growing in the country, the legitimate state has an opportunity to reassert its sovereignty. The Prime Minister, Mustafa Al-Kadhimi, can count on international assistance in defeating Kataib Hezbollah, which Washington has placed on its list of foreign terrorist organizations. Any US administration, whether Republican or Democratic, would be more than willing to help Baghdad put down Iran’s proxies.

So far, Al-Kadhimi has made no move. It is a puzzle; no one knows why. Maybe there are some as yet unrevealed political calculations. Or perhaps he simply fears for his life. Whatever the reason, Al-Kadhimi surely must realize that time is of the essence. Either he takes the opportunity to neuter Kataib Hezbollah and other Iranian proxies or he gets out of the way and lets someone else do it.

Indeed, he should appreciate that doing nothing only diminishes his own power, as Kataib Hezbollah and the other Iranian proxies it leads carry on constructing an alternative state power to Baghdad. To add insult to injury, Tehran has even managed to force successive Iraqi governments to fund the PMU’s payroll, in effect getting Baghdad to subsidize the expansion of Tehran’s influence and the diminution of Baghdad’s authority. And if Hezbollah in Lebanon is any example, once Kataib Hezbollah is firmly and indubitably entrenched as a shadow state, it will be near impossible to dismantle.

With Iran cash-poor because of renewed US sanctions and weakened by domestic crisis, Al-Kadhimi has his opportunity: He should take advantage of it and remove the cancer of Iran’s militias that is eating away at the sovereignty of his government. Should he not, an eventually resurgent Iran will come after him and any other leader of the legitimately constituted state. If recent history is any guide, the most disposable figure in the Iraqi state is the prime minister.


Hussain Abdul-Hussain is the Washington bureau chief of Kuwaiti daily Al-Rai and a former visiting fellow at Chatham House in London. Copyright: Syndication Bureau


2020: America’s Year from Hell

By Susan E. Rice

October 16, 2020

Finishing up the dinner dishes one evening last week, I was jolted by a song on my teenage daughter’s playlist. In the radio-edited version of “F2020,” Avenue Beat delivers a captivating chorus, followed by: “I am kinda done. Can we just get to 2021?”

Turning to my daughter, I joked, “Shouldn’t that be a sort of anthem for this year?”

“For many in my generation, it already is,” she replied.

It’s only October, and 2020 feels like the longest, most brutal year in memory. There are now almost 217,000 lives lost in the United States, vulnerable children missing months of education and tens of millions of people facing economic devastation. President Trump’s wilful failure to confront Covid-19 has brutalised our country.

If that is not enough, Trump continuously stokes division, fear and hatred in this moment of historic racial reckoning, while running roughshod over the rule of law, and our democratic norms and institutions. Almost every day, it seems something crazier happens than on the day before, further straining our collective credulity.

Still, we are most likely facing even worse in the next few months. The pandemic could crescendo in winter. The Senate is poised to ram through a radical and illegitimate Supreme Court nominee. Political tensions are escalating, as Trump musters white supremacist groups and threatens to thwart the peaceful transfer of power should he lose re-election.

The sense of exhaustion, frustration and foreboding so many of us feel is aptly captured in the Avenue Beat song. But so is what gives me hope — getting to 2021. The prospect of sweeping change, while by no means assured, appears to be in sight.

To dull the pain and bolster my sanity, I allow myself occasionally to take a few deep breaths and just imagine.

I imagine a future with competent, compassionate presidential leadership, which trusts science and adopts policies designed to protect the American people. A future in which we truly bend the Covid-19 curve, a future with a safe and effective vaccine that is free as well as fairly and rationally distributed. I conjure a time when a constructive Congress swiftly enacts economic relief that will ease the suffering of ordinary Americans, support our state schools and other essential state and local government services, and rescue small businesses.

Daring to dream really big, I envision a president who insists on the dignity and worth of every human being, who fervently believes that what unites us as Americans is far more powerful than what divides us. A president committed to equal justice and healing; to ambitious reforms to combat systemic racism and reduce inequality; to humane immigration policies; and to transformational investments in education, housing, health care, the environment, jobs and economic mobility for those who need it most.

Exhaling, I think about sleeping soundly again at night, knowing we have an experienced, empathetic, sober and steady president — one who refrains from tweeting personal attacks on his opponents. One who respects rules and norms, understanding that the law applies equally to him. I long for a leader who aims to serve all Americans, who doesn’t bilk taxpayers to line his own pockets or corrupt the federal government to preserve his own power.

Finally, straining not to let my imagination run too wild, I indulge my national security fantasies. I pine for a commander in chief who knows personally the stomach-turning fear of what could befall a loved one deployed in harm’s way, one who treats our veterans as heroes instead of denigrating them as “suckers” and “losers.”

I imagine allies who allow themselves to trust and respect us again. Adversaries who know they cannot influence an American president with flattery, lucrative deals or election assistance. A White House that upholds our national interests and consistently promotes democracy and human rights — from Xinjiang to Saudi Arabia to Venezuela. The United States would return to the Paris Agreement on climate change and the World Health Organisation, as we seek to reinvigorate international institutions, because we understand that many of the most pressing global challenges can be tackled only through effective collective action.

Then, I check myself. Soothing as it may be to disappear briefly into my own dreams, I’m inevitably smacked by the inescapable realities of this year from hell. Still, I remember that what may seem like elusive hopes are no more than the reasonable expectations of a deserving public.

In his Oval Office, President Barack Obama had a large carpet with a border inscription: “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” Those words, said often by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., serve as an apt reminder that history is not linear. While progress may ultimately prevail, it comes in fits and starts with severe setbacks. Indeed, our dreams may never become our reality.

Yet in my experience, work matters; no one will do the hard bending but you and me. Progress doesn’t happen automatically. Together, we must drive it.

Surely, we can make 2021 a whole lot better — if we all vote.


Susan E. Rice was the 24th US national security adviser



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