Ex-admiral calls for US fleet to quit Bahrain

A retired US admiral has joined those calling for the Fifth Fleet to pull out of Bahrain.

Dennis Blair, a former chief of the US Pacific Command who also served as Director of National Intelligence in the first Obama administration, complains that American support for democracy and human dignity is often selective, and is over-ridden by short term military or economic interests.

In an article on The Hill website, Blair argues that the US should be taking a longer view, especially in the light of changes in the Middle East:

"The growth of democracy and rule of law-based political systems that respect and protect the rights of citizens are in the fundamental long-term US national interest; shorter term military and economic cooperative arrangements should be secondary and supportive ...

"We should on balance be true to our fundamental values rather than denying them to others in favour of short term military and business concerns."

Regarding Bahrain, he says:

"The Fifth Fleet headquarters should be moved back on board a flagship, as it was until 1993. This is an expensive proposition at a time when the defense budget is being reduced, but it is necessary. Permanent basing in a repressive Bahrain undermines our support for reform and is vulnerable if instability continues."

He also suggests the US should seek Saudi support for gradual democratic reforms in Bahrain – though he recognises the Saudi government will probably not be enthusiastic about that idea:

"This is heavy lifting, given the role of the Kingdom in repressing Bahrain’s uprising. However success would remove a threat to Saudi Arabia’s own stability."

Posted by Brian Whitaker, 13 February 2013.