Responding to failure: Reorganizing U.S. policies in the Middle East

In a recent speech, Chas W. Freeman said: I want to speak with you today about the Middle East. This is the region where Africa, Asia, and Europe come together. It is also the part of the world where we have been most compellingly reminded that some struggles cannot be won, but there are no struggles that cannot be lost.

It is often said that human beings learn little useful from success but can learn a great deal from defeat. If so, the Middle East now offers a remarkably rich menu of foreign-policy failures for Americans to study.

• Our four-decade-long diplomatic effort to bring peace to the Holy Land sputtered to an ignominious conclusion a year ago.

• Our unconditional political, economic, and military backing of Israel has earned us the enmity of Israel’s enemies even as it has enabled egregiously contemptuous expressions of ingratitude and disrespect for us from Israel itself.

• Our attempts to contain the Iranian revolution have instead empowered it.

• Our military campaigns to pacify the region have destabilized it, dismantled its states, and ignited ferocious wars of religion among its peoples.

• Our efforts to democratize Arab societies have helped to produce anarchy, terrorism, dictatorship, or an indecisive juxtaposition of all three.

• In Iraq, Libya, and Syria we have shown that war does not decide who’s right so much as determine who’s left.

• Our campaign against terrorism with global reach has multiplied our enemies and continuously expanded their areas of operation.

• Our opposition to nuclear proliferation did not prevent Israel from clandestinely developing nuclear weapons and related delivery systems and may not preclude Iran and others from following suit.

• At the global level, our policies in the Middle East have damaged our prestige, weakened our alliances, and gained us a reputation for militaristic fecklessness in the conduct of our foreign affairs. They have also distracted us from challenges elsewhere of equal or greater importance to our national interests.

That’s quite a record.

One can only measure success or failure by reference to what one is trying achieve. So, in practice, what have U.S. objectives been? Are these objectives still valid? If we’ve failed to advance them, what went wrong? What must we do now to have a better chance of success? [Continue reading…]

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2 thoughts on “Responding to failure: Reorganizing U.S. policies in the Middle East

  1. Charles zeller

    our best approach is to let the warring parties sort out everything that we have helped turn upside down

  2. Ian Clark

    Chad Freeman’s speech is as accurate as it is unremitting. US policy and action in the Middle East needs to change if our agreed upon strategy is to succeed.

    A small quibble about Saudi “hypocrisy” comes to mind in explaining their inaction in dealing with Daesh. Although the Saudi state is opposed to this disruptive movement, the Salafist philosophy which Dash espouses, also pervades Saudi Arabia in the form of Wahabbism. Further, the Saudis have, and continue to export their 7th cent. form of politics to Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Europe. Salafism also provided the Saudi troops for the 9/11 venture.

    The Saudis indulge in jihad by providing madrissas, ulema, and mosques. And that is why we cannot expect any military response against Daesh from them. They lack the guts (remember the battle for Khafji?) and their underlying Salafist philosophy, akin to the Moslem Brotherhood that pervades central Syria and Egypt, renders them unable to act — essentially against themselves.

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