In order to understand the United States’ position in the Middle East, you have to understand the history and the events that led to the current situation. During the Cold War, the U.S. played a prominent role in the Middle East in an attempt to counter Soviet power, but after the collapse of the Soviet Union, U.S. power in the Middle East became extremely prominent. Many events since World War 2 have taken place involving the United States that has brought us to where we are today in the Middle East.
In this article, I will try to dispel some myths about the true intentions of the United States in the Middle East. Politicians always try to use the humanitarian aspect to justify their actions while hiding their true intentions.
1) “The U.S. wants to spread democracy in the Middle East.” Clearly the United States intentions are not to spread democracy; it’s about ensuring the governments in power are friendly to the United States. This is evident from the recent democratic elections that took place in Palestine, where the Hamas was democratically elected to power by the people. Shortly after these democratic elections, the US and other Western countries cut off aid to the Palestinian government and have resulted in hundreds of thousands of Palestinians becoming impoverished. A UN report states that the number of people living in “deep poverty”, (defined as the inability to meet basic human consumption needs) in Palestine has increased by 64% during the first half of 2006. It is also evident by the history of the United States toppling democratically elected governments and installing pro-US dictators such as the U.S. placement of Reza Shah Pahlavi in Iran.
2) We are fighting in Iraq to protect ourselves. It is simply not true that Iraq was a threat to the people within the United States. This is evident by the fact that the number of resources allocated to the only group who has successfully attacked the United States on its own soil is vastly smaller than the number of resources sent to Iraq. If the United States was truly there to protect itself, it would have focused on finding Bin Laden instead of using outright lies to justify military action in Iraq.
3) A nuclear Iran is a threat to Israel or the United States. A nuclear Iran is not a threat to the United States or Israel other than for causing instability in the region. If Iran were to develop a nuclear weapon, it surely wouldn’t be stupid enough to use it. The nuclear weapon is clearly a bargaining tool in today’s world. This is partly a result of a few countries including the United States who refused to comply with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and fully disarm from Nuclear weapons. If Iran actually used a nuclear weapon, it knows the consequence of this and Iran would probably cease to exist after such an action. Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad loves to shoot off his mouth for political reasons; the problem is it allows Western media to scare its people into thinking that Ahmadinejad would be crazy enough to use a nuclear weapon against Israel.
4) We’re not fighting because of oil. Above all else, oil is the number one factor that defines the United States policy in the Middle East. The United States economy relies so heavily on Middle East oil that its economy would collapse if Middle East exports were jeopardized. This is evident from the 1973 oil crisis, where a group of Arab oil exporting countries boycotted the exporting of oil to the United States and other allies who supported Israel in the Yom Kippur war. This threw the United States economy into disarray and it become evident to the American leadership that control in the Middle East is vital to the survival of the “American” way of life.
I have to start writing an essay tonight for my Middle East History class, so since my mind was on the United States and oil tonight, I think I’ll write on this topic. One of the topics in the list is “How was the isolationist United states able to achieve oil concessions for American companies in the inter war period?”
Since World War Two, the actions of the United States have put the country in a negative light in the world’s view. Before the Bush Administration, the United States already had the difficult task of re-gaining respect around the world and dispelling the “arrogant” view that many people had about the States. The Bush Administration has worsened the situation for the United States and the next Administration to take power will have a very difficult task ahead of them. In my mind, the solution to United States’ issue is a) Reducing the dependence in the United States on foreign oil, b) Being more objective in Middle East matters instead of automatically and unequivocally supporting Israel on every issue and c) The rise of China as a global superpower to counter the weight of the United States and limit its ability to carry out actions around the world that serve only its own interests.
i completely agree with your analysis, jimbo. in fact, i was sitting on my balcony, this very evening, and i overheard the discussions of some neighbours on a different floor of my building arguing over this very question- the intentions of the united states with respect to the middle east.
it struck me as odd that anyone could suspect the US of altruistic motives with regard to iraq, considering (a) the US invaded iraq in the first gulf war in a blatant attempt to protect US (not even “intersts” at the time, but “options”) interests in the middle east (and not to avenge the plight of the kurdish people, as they would have you believe – since there have been many other oppressed lovers of democracy in whose interest the US have NOT seen fit to intercede such as the Tamils or the people of the Darfour), and (2) their current engagement of rectification (and supposed retribution for 9/11) is certainly no altruistic effort to remedy their initial involvement or to hunt down the agents of the attack on their homeland, so much as to install a pro-US regime to finally enable their long-term vision from 15 years ago.
it sickens me to think of the lives that have been destroyed and wasted on this fool’s errand and how i, on a daily basis, contribute through my acquiescence to the evil that is perpetrated on a now-regular-basis to the support of this initiative.
maybe you and i and many many others need to think of a way that the world can extricate itself from this situation (especially given the terrifying events in north korea), rather than seeking to discover the “truth” of this simple matter (which is apparent to anyone who bothers to look at it).
i’m sure you will get a great grade in this course – it is obviously something about which you think and feel deeply.
I sort of agree with you on most of your points.
However as I think you will conceed, things aren’t that black and white. I think someone could argue that so called democracy is an overall aim of American foreign policy, it just so happens that its democracy as defined by Americans.
However why is it that we get upset with America for being altruistic. I would like to say that if I was miraculously granted wonderful powers that I would act benevolently, but more realistically I would probably act selfishly and in my own interest.
Also I honestly don’t think that the US is in Iraq for only oil interests. My understanding is that a majority of North America gets its oil from Venezuella and Russia or Russian sattelite countries. The major importers of Middle Eastern Oil is now Asia.
The point about Iraq is, that the American’s rather foolishly decided to invade, and now they got to stay. I think we all forget that the starting of any new country is marked by blood shed and up heaval, the length of which is uncertain. What is happening in the mid east is not without precedent. The point is they can’t leave now, and not for a long long time.
Based on personal experience I think the Middle East is long over due for a major over haul. The things we take for granted like elections, strikes, being able to critise the government are non existent. I think in the long run (Very long run) the US action in Iraq will have trickle down effects in the rest of the region. Sorry I’ve written an essay.
Good Post. CP
Someone might argue that democracy is an overall aim of American foreign policy. But I think the U.S. Government has proven that they aren’t supporters of democracy when the democratically elected governments aren’t friends with the U.S. Government. There is a long list of cases over the last 50 years to back up this point.
I agree that oil is not the only reason, there are many factors that affect U.S. foreign policy, but the American oil companies are the most powerful and profitable in the world, and America’s dependency on oil is a major cause of concern for the American government.
Also, most oil fields will eventually dry up, but the unexplored areas in the Middle East will continue well beyond most other oil fields in the world. It’s a gold mine one might say.
When Bush says he’s protecting the “American way of life”, he does have a good point there. Americans would have much less freedoms if oil supplies dried up. People wouldn’t be able to drive around huge SUV’s anymore and the economy would suffer. US agencies have issued stern warnings about the future demand of oil from the United States and Bush is well aware that this is going to be a major problem for the United States if things don’t change.
Here is a good article on oil in Iraq: http://www.globalpolicy.org/security/oil/2003/2003companiesiniraq.htm
Also, it is true that Iraq isn’t a major supplier of US oil at the moment, but control of Iraq oil fields is a strategic and important goal of the United States. In 2004 Iraq was ranked in 6th place of suppliers of crude oil to the U.S. Canada was first with 1,616 barrels/day (Iraq imported 655/day).
Let’s also not forget that British and U.S. oil companies don’t just make money from importing oil to the United States. If they achieve concessions to explore and produce oil in the Middle East, there are huge profits to be made because of the cheap cost of producing oil in Iraq. American oil companies owned 1/3 of the rights to Iraq oil production until nationalization in 1972. With a friendly U.S. government in Iraq, oil concessions can bring American oil companies back into the game again. With the civil war in Iraq, this isn’t very likely anytime soon. But as indicated in the link above, the oil companies are in no hurry.