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Global Viewpoint

US can blame itself for anger in the Middle East, and start making peace

America's policy in the Middle East – blind interventionist support for regimes on behalf of myopic 'American interests' – fueled the unrest now boiling over across the region. Washington must now learn to work with the moderate opposition groups arising, including Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood.

By Graham E. Fuller / February 4, 2011


It had to come. Where, when, and how exactly one of many smoldering sparks in this agonized region might actually burst forth into the present conflagration was unknowable, but tension and anger was palpably rising over a long period.

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Where all these uprisings across the region will go is still unknowable, but one thing is clear – the imperative to break the long and ugly pattern of harsh, incompetent, and corrupt rule that sucks optimism, hope, and creativity out of these societies and made them breeding grounds for radicalism.

What the people of the region demand is to be able to take control of their own lives and destinies. But that in turn depends on an end to the constant external intervention of the United States in the region.

Exclusive Monitor Photos of Egypt Protests

In the near term, the prescription is stark – Washington must back off and leave these societies alone, ending the long political infantilization of Middle Eastern populations. We must end our incessant and obsessive efforts to intervene and micromanage the political life of foreign states based on a myopic vision of “American interests.”

Cauldron of anti-American expression

Today the Middle East is the last redoubt in the world of regimes bought, maintained, and guided by Washington. Is it any wonder that this region is now the cauldron of numerous rebellions and anti-American expression?

And just why are we maintaining this damaging, hated quasi-imperial role in the Middle East? Is it for the oil? Yet what tin-pot dictator has ever refused us oil? Furthermore, we don’t even rely that much on Middle East oil – Saudi Arabia ranks only number three among our top five providers: Canada, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, and Nigeria.

Or is it perhaps all about Israel? Yet why should that state constitute the seeming touchstone of everything that we do in the region? After all, Israel is overwhelmingly the most powerful military state in the Middle East, acts at will in the Middle East under the protection of American veto, manipulates our own domestic politics in its favor, and is now run by the most inflexible and ultra-right-wing government in Israeli history, while soaking up more American foreign aid per capita than any other state. The US still backs Israel against the Palestinians in an Israeli occupation now into its fifth decade.

Washington still doesn't get it

So given the new outburst of frustration, anger, and violence, we still do not seem to acknowledge the need to change the narrative. Washington does not yet grasp the phenomenon of popular Middle Eastern will that now seemingly defies us everywhere. Our default instincts from cold-war days are still to grasp for a phantom “stability” at any price and prop up anyone who will be “pro-Western.” Egypt is a “vital American ally,” we hear – but what does this mean? The ruler may have been bought, but the Egyptian people are not allies – indeed they are predictably hostile to the status quo and to the powers that have propped it up.


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