It was reserved for Augustus to relinquish the ambitious design of subduing the whole earth, and to introduce a spirit of moderation into the public councils. -Edward Gibbon, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire...
The vicissitudes of history are “dross” – to borrow from Ezra Pound’s Pisan Canto #81 – unless a concomitant willingness to learn from history exists. Based on an historical review since the Second World War, the United States seems incapable of learning from foreign policy mistakes, and this inability is only becoming more pronounced. There is one other possibility: the United States understands precisely what it is doing and does it anyway, spending trillions of dollars to protect corporate access around the world while vastly increasing the specter of terrorism and misery in the rest of the world.
The chaos in the Middle East affords an opportunity to consider whether the United States’ foreign policy around the world is hurting the country rather than helping it, to consider whether U.S. policies are increasing enmity against the United States and increasing the likelihood of terror attacks against the West. As the drumbeat for military intervention in Syria and Iran increases, the question is whether additional U.S. military intervention in the Middle East is even rational when political destabilization has resulted virtually everywhere the U.S. has left its footprint.
The war in Syria has become a religious civil war that is marked by internecine fighting among forces opposing Assad, including al Qaeda. Libya grows more chaotic by the day. The corrupt and effete governments of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait are incapable of influencing events in the Middle East n and tremble at the prospect of civil uprisings and religious strife in their own kingdoms. Saudi Arabia recently turned down a coveted position on the United Nations Security Council, blaming the U.S. The reason for turning down a Security Council seat: The U.S. refuses to attack Saudi Arabia’s political and religious enemies, Syria and Iran. Equally unpardonable is the fact that the U.S. is engaging in diplomacy with both countries. Finally, there is no mystery that Israel desperately seeks U.S. conflict with both Syria and Iran for its own strategic reasons.
Secretary of State, Kerry’s hortatory decree before the Senate Committee that circumstances in Syria constituted a “Munich moment” is risible. It is simply not possible to say with a straight face that U.S. presence in the Middle East has created more stability at the end of 2013 than existed in 2000 or in 2001 after 9/11. It also is not possible to say that the threat of terror attacks against the U.S. has diminished. While proof of the foregoing may be more intuitive than quantifiable, the always-specious blather about democracy spreading through the Middle East was never anything other than pabulum for an all-too-credulous American public.
Nearly $3 trillion later, Iraq is a complete disaster. More than 7,000 Iraqi citizens have been killed this year alone - The Washington Post, November 1, 2013. Trillions of dollars later, Afghanistan, too, is a disaster and an unstable abysm of corruption. Some of the potential, Islamic warlords who are waiting in the wings to replace President Hamid Karzai, who will soon depart the country with hundreds of millions, if not a billion, of stolen U.S. aid dollars, are likely to make the Taliban look like the Salvation Army.
Saudi Arabia is the center of the Sunni religion in the Arab world. Syria’s and Iran’s religious affiliations are Shiite (or Shia), which accounts for Iran’s decades-long support for Syria. Not overlooked in the region is the fact that Saudi Arabia funded the Iraq/Iran war (1980-1988) that resulted in more than one million dead. The U.S. also supported Iraq in that war, although it played both sides, selling arms to Iran (more on that later).
Photo credit: The Public Record