Monday, September 17, 2012

The Middle East - A Region in Ruin?

The Middle East has had ups and downs over the course of, arguably, the past several decades. As uprisings and wars destabilized the region, the United States was forced to continuously adapt and evolve its foreign policy in the region in order to assure the best possible outcome for Americans both at home and overseas. Between the vast natural resources tantamount to continued American economic prosperity and the seemingly transparent but ever-present threat of terrorism and Islamic extremism, there is no doubt that America has important interests in the region. The Arab Awakening that uprooted long-time authoritarian governments throughout the Middle East was seen by some in the United States as a blessing, as the much-needed catalyst for the fostering of democracy in the region and, hopefully, more stability and amicability towards the U.S. I was one of these Americans, optimistic for improved relations, greater accountability for terrorist cells, and gradually improving quality of living for the states in the Middle East. The United States seemed in line with this optimism, and much of President Obama's foreign policy over the last several years was rooted in the support, both militarily and diplomatically, of the opposition coalitions in Libya as well as the rest of the Middle East.

Perhaps we were wrong. There is a changing of the tide in the Middle East, as the rioting and protests prevalent in the region over the last week indicate. While the unrest may not be indicative of the newly-formed governments or even of the overall sentiment of the countries, it is certainly indicative of underlying pressures and difficulties that never disappeared with the old authoritarian regimes in the region. We mourned as a country last week when four of our diplomatic officers were killed in protests in Benghazi, Libya. In a display of tragic irony, the city where U.S.-supported NATO troops helped topple the Gaddafi regime last year became the scene of a symbolic spurning of American presence.

Now it is evident that this was not an isolated incident. Protests have been popping up in Indonesia, Bangladesh, Egypt, as well as Libya and countless other countries. While the mocking of a prophet in a video tied to the United States may have got this unrest in motion, it was merely a vehicle justifying the anti-American violence that appears to have been there the whole time.

The United States needs to quickly re-evaluate its foreign policy in the Middle East, before the situation escalates. Do we want to continue supporting democracy if the outcome may not be what we are expecting? Vicky wrote last week that we should not use these isolated outbursts of extremism as a reason to condemn the nascent government of Libya. But what if, by supporting and encouraging governments created under popular support, we are empowering those very same individuals and groups that are now storming American embassies and wishing harm upon our diplomatic officers in them? The United States may turn around in a decade or two and realize they are unable to stop the monster they created - a Frankenstein of foreign policy. Conversely, fostering democracy in such an otherwise despondent region of the world may improve the quality of life for those living there. Improvements in education, infrastructure, food security and, eventually, affluence, could create an environment in which terrorism and radicalism are no longer able to survive. Forging better economic and diplomatic ties with these countries may establish powerful alliances that the U.S. may rely on in the future.

Regardless of what path is taken, a new decision must be made. The protests may seem bad currently, but things can rapidly and easily worsen. The United States must play the hand it was dealt, and work closely with the governments of these countries to eliminate the threats being posed to Americans abroad, and while doing so, continue to think about a more long-term strategy for reducing the anti-American sentiments obviously widespread in the region today. And it better do all of this fast - the last thing we would want is the Arab Awakening to turn its wrath towards us.

1 comment:

  1. We shouldn't be worried about the Arab Awakening turning its wrath towards us... we should be worried at Sargent Brody turning his wrath to us. We must stop him in his efforts to infiltrate our government during his run for VP. STOP BRODY VOTE FOR ROMNEY.