“How fortunate for governments that the people they administer don’t think.” – Adolf Hitler
For the United States, the Middle East has become a hotbed of misconstrued politics and regional power struggles that have created an undesired status quo in contemporary foreign affairs. The quagmire that we (the United States) have gotten ourselves into is not new, nor does it require a new theory on foreign policy to solve. What neoconservatives and many think tanks such as the Project for a New American Century have established was the continuation of an old, failed policy of interventionism and spreading “democracy.” But American foreign policy must find its way out of entangling alliances and back to an era of peace and prosperity.
“We make war that we may live in peace.” – Aristotle
Basic international relations theories dictate that the objective of war is to find peace and the objective of peace is to maintain that peace by preparing for war. Governments will always act to preserve what they perceive as their best interests, regardless of popular opinion domestically. What I am arguing, however, is that the course of action that the United States has been taking in regards to Middle East policy is not in the national interest and has actually devalued American power globally as a result.
What policymakers in Washington need to first come to realize is that meddling in internal state affairs, or nation building, always results in a large deficit and aggressive nature that an international arena views as a threat. It was the threat of empires expanding that helped toss Europe into war in World War I. French colonies in North Africa, German colonies in South Africa, British colonies in India and Egypt, as well as the threat of a rising American power through Cuba and the Philippines brought an aggressive mood over Europe in 1914.
The mistakes of the past, however, have been forgotten.
American nation building in the Philippines led to a drastic loss of American troops due in part to guerrilla style warfare after occupation. The propped-up Weimar government by the victors of World War I brought high levels of inflation and radical civil society in Germany, one of which went by the acronym “NSDAP.” The sovereignty of colonized territories in the Middle East was not sovereign at all, but was instead propped up by European crafted mandates during the 1920’s. In other words, natives to the land did not style their own governments or boundaries, but rather, bureaucrats from Europe did instead.
The times of the early 1900s are no different from the times we live in today. Just as the turn of the 20th century shifted a unipolar world (England being the sole power) to a multipolar world (Germany, the US, and France as emerging powers), the turn of the 21st century did the same. We have shifted from the unipolar era of American world policing to Fareed Zakaria’s “Rise of the Rest.”
In regards to congressional hearings dealing with civil societies in “failing” states such as Yemen, the US or Western solution to the problem hasn’t changed. Assistant Secretary Feltman’s solution to Yemen emerging from its economic instability was for the United States to “throw money” into developing the emergence of civil societies in Yemen.
The common misconception of civil societies equating to successful democracies has never been clarified to the State Department. The NSDAP, or Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei, was in fact, at one point, a “civil society” that gained electoral votes in Weimar parliament, essentially dismantling its political infrastructure from within. This was the birth of the Nazi Party; a civil society, grassroots movement. Simply verifying whether Yemen has civil societies emerging is not enough, but rather, the types of civil societies should be of most importance. Then again, is this truly the business of the United States, especially if the State Department will be funding the growth of said civil societies?
Barbara Tuchman, author of The Guns of August, argued that the entirety of World War I could have been avoided if Kaiser Wilhelm had reversed Moltke’s decision to mobilize troops into Belgium. The same can be said about an aggressive United States. American politicians need to realize that continuously placing sanctions on an angered Iran can lead to disaster. The Iranian government’s actions have all been responses to flawed American foreign policy. With thirty years of silence from the US Department of State and an influx of sanctions on behalf of the US, in addition to the placement of an American war fleet in the Persian Gulf overlooking Iran’s Abadan oil field, it is no wonder why Iran has been acting defensively against the United States. Iran, with both Eastern and Western borders threatened by US military presence, is only acting in its own best interest and the American people need to accept that.
Regarding the Green Revolution, Congressmen on the Foreign Affairs Committee came to the conclusion that it was imperative for American funds be sent to aid the Green Movement. Academics such as Dr. Geneive Abdo from the Century Foundation testified that keeping the Green Movement alive meant sending financial aid to ensuring that anti-government websites stay up as well as maintaining Twitter and YouTube accessibility on behalf of the protesters. Although this ‘solution’ may provide for temporary fixes, the sheer thought of intervening in the domestic affairs of Iran is flawed within itself.
Looking at history we can conclude that every moment America arbitrated the domestic affairs of another country, anything but progress was the result. The United States choosing human rights issues in Cuba as an excuse to go to war with Spain in 1898 resulted in the creation of protectorates in Cuba and the Philippines. Today, Cuba remains communist and we have ceased any trade with the little island country. The presence of US occupation troops in the Philippines caused the Philippine-American War and continuous guerilla warfare for almost 13 years after the war had ‘ended’. Today, the southern Philippines contains several anti-West, Muslim radical groups.
Our vehement desire to assure Immanuel Kant’s theory of “Perpetual Peace” only led to our meddling in Korean affairs in the 1950’s. However, the conflict has deeper roots leading back to 1945 when the Allies split Korea in half (North & South) without the consent of the Korean people. In doing this, the Soviet Union and the United States both had influence over the Korean territories thus leading to the Korean War and an escalation in the Cold War conflict. Today, North Korea is a US enemy and has continuously threatened the United States with its nuclear capabilities.
The same can be said about Vietnam, the removal of the Shah in Iran, the divide of Germany (in both World Wars), nation-building in Iraq, and now the third attempt at changing the Iranian government.
The clear solution to this problem is to end the meddling of internal state affairs in other countries.
When will our leaders learn?Published in