US has lost all credibility, as well as the opportunity to be relevant, in the region.Popular uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, and Jordan have been the main topic of news media of late, and while the democratic yearnings of the populace should, in theory, be supported by the U.S., a change in the status quo is the last thing our government wants.
Since the days of Eisenhower, our government has striven to make democracy our #1 export, in the perhaps mistaken belief that any democratic country would be our ally. Israel was the first country in the Middle East to get the American stamp of approval and, since its inception, this tiny state the size of New Jersey has received a total of $140 billion of aid (source), $53 billion of which was military aid (source). This is a symbol of America’s “special relationship” with Israel.
But what about our special relationships with the dictatorships of Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt, and the monarchies of Morocco, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia? Are we “supporting” them to the tune of billions of dollars annually in the innocent hopes that they will voluntarily enact democracy in their countries? Since 1987 (the year Tunisia’s Ben-Ali took power), the U.S. has sold $349 million worth of weaponry to Tunisia (source). US military aid to Egypt totals over $1.3 billion annually (source). We gave Jordan $666 million worth of military aid in 2007 alone, spending $80 million of that on an anti-terrorism training center (source). All these countries either have rigged elections or no elections at all and we have propped up their governments with billions of dollars worth of military aid for decades. We even provided the gas with which Saddam Hussein committed an act of genocide against his own citizens (source), an act we apparently didn’t consider reprehensible until 20 years later.
In fact, during the Iran-Iraq war, we provided weapons not only to Iraq, but Iran as well, and even sent the proceeds of that arrangement to the Nicaraguan Resistance, which resulted in a little scandal called Iran-Contra. And now we lambaste Iran for providing funding and weapons to the Lebanese resistance, Hezbollah. We call Hezbollah Iran’s proxy and say “no fair”, and meanwhile we have dozens of our own proxies that we fund and equip on a fantastically larger scale.
And now the citizens of all these countries call us hypocrites (like here), and we have the gall to build anti-terrorism training centers that are supposed to shield us from the results of our own actions.
Once upon a time, the U.S. had a chance to be truly relevant in the Middle East by brokering a lasting peace agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians. We said we wanted peace, we sent our ambassadors and negotiators jaunting back and forth between Israel, Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, Egypt, and elsewhere. But, more than ever, it seems like that was play acting, what many political analysts refer to as “stagecraft” rather than statecraft. And now, with the Palestinian Authority seeking recognition from UN countries directly, without America’s support, it is even clearer that we are no longer needed.
The Palestinian cause is the poster child of injustice in the region. Everybody from Morocco to Qatar knows that the Palestinians are increasingly subjugated and abused in myriad ways by the U.S., who continues to fund the Israeli military machine at the rate of $8 million a day while expecting the citizens of our ally countries to believe that we are doing so because Israel is under threat (source). If Israel were to be attacked, the chances are staggering that it would be bombed with our missiles, dropped from our planes, by soldiers whose salaries are paid by our tax dollars.
We are financing war because it is more profitable than peace, and the Middle East, at least, is tired of the status quo.
We have lost our chance to be relevant. If we want a chance to survive at all, with any moral dignity, we need a drastic change of plans.