At least since 2001, a prime goal of the U.S. national interest has been reducing the influence and power of “terrorist” groups which have shown themselves willing and capable of attacking U.S. territory and nationals. Among these groups are al-Qaeda and its derivatives, al-Nusra, and ISIS (the so-called Islamic State). How to properly achieve this goal is open to debate (for instance, the use of drones to kill their leaders almost certainly makes the U.S. more enemies than it eliminates), but one sure way of not addressing this national interest is adopting policies that benefit the very groups that are your sworn foes, or turning a blind eye to alleged “allies” who aid them.
This might sound like common sense, however in practice U.S. government’s policies in the region have for decades been counterproductive and plagued by special interest intervention. In other words, U.S. politicians and bureaucrats have pushed policies that have actually aided America’s foes.
Before 2001 the U.S. had long pursued policies that supported a range of unpopular Middle East dictatorships.The spectrum ran from the Saudi Monarchy with its fanatical fundamentalist worldview to more secular dictatorships such as the one in Egypt. This practice identified us in the popular mind with bad people and bad governments and made us the enemy of those seeking liberty and democracy. In addition, we supported the Israeli oppression of the Palestinians and that made us unpopular with, among others, almost every Muslim on the planet. None of this was in the America’s genuine national interest but it certainly was in the interest of special interests such as Zionists, oil companies and arms manufacturers.
That there was (and remains) a difference between special interests and national interests should have been crystal clear when the pursuit of lobby-driven policies earned the U.S. the 9/11 attacks. One can make a disgusted face and assert that this assessment “blames the victim,” but that is just burying one’s head in the sand. The outrages of 9/11 were not in response to Islamic teachings, they were in response to Washington’s awful policy choices.
Then, instead of responding to those attacks with a policy review, U.S. leaders quickly compounded the problem by adopting a policy of regime change which resulted in the invasion of Iraq – a country that had nothing to do with bringing down the World Trade Center towers, but was on the Israeli and neoconservative hit list. Washington’s attack on Iraq created a gigantic power vacuum in the heartland of the Middle East, which, in turn, allowed the growth of such present-day threats as ISIS and al-Nusra. These groups are extremist in character and are inspired by the conquests of the 18th-century religious fanatic Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab, founder of the religious sect adhered to by the Saudis. That is why ISIS and others like it are going after anyone who is not a practitioner of the Wahhabi brand of Sunni Islam – including the Syrians and their government, the Iraqi Shiites and their government, the Kurds, and a good number of the Lebanese.
There is just one added piece of information that readers should know. The activities of these very bloody religious dogmatists are now being aided by an alliance of Saudi Arabia and Israel.
The Saudis are giving these fanatics lots of money because they are religiously kindred and can be used as vehicles for spreading Wahhabi dogma throughout the the Middle East while weakening (usually by mass slaughter) non-Sunni populations. Israel (the nation that, according to Prime Minister Netanyahu, is leading the fight against al-Qaeda in the Middle East) is aiding these same groups because it sees them as preferable to the Assad government in Syria, Hezbollah in southern Lebanon and the Shiite governments of Iraq and Iran. This is a big mistake on the part of the Israelis, who are essentially inviting Wahhabi radicals to be their northern neighbor, but no one has ever accused the Zionists of clear-sighted, long-range planning.
As a consequence of this situation, there has been a major shift of alliances that has stunned and paralyzed the Obama administration. The enemy has certainly remained the same: the fanatics whose lineage can be traced back to Osama bin Laden and the 9/11 attacks of 2001. However, who is now allied with these “bad guys” and who is allied against them has radically altered. For anyone with the ability to look at the situation objectively, that change should have profound implications for U.S. foreign policy.
If the enemy is real and persistent, then those opposing it should warrant U.S. assistance. Who are these enemies of America’s enemies? They are now the Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, whose government is under attack by al-Nusra and other al-Qaeda-like forces; Hezbollah, which has come to the aid of al-Assad; the Shiite government of Iraq, which, along with the Kurds, is under attack by ISIS; and the Shiite government of Iran, which has come to the aid of Iraq. It is doubtful that many Americans know of this line-up of forces because they have often been misled by their own media. For instance, a recent CNN program entitled “Who ls Doing What in the Coalition Battle Against ISIS” lists such countries as Australia, Canada and even Belgium and Iceland but never mentions Syria, Iraq (except for the Kurds) or Iran. Either the folks at CNN are being disingenuous or they are living on another planet.
Likewise, those now aiding America’s enemies should not warrant the kind of relationship that has bound Washington to them in the past. Who are these countries who are now friends of America’s enemies? They are Saudi Arabia, Israel, and most of the Gulf Arabs. But how would Americans know this to be the case? Saudi Arabia, whose citizens are major funders of ISIS, is listed by CNN as fighting against the Islamic State. How about Israel’s tawdry role in this affair? Except for a few isolated stories in a limited number of newspapers you won’t find any attention being paid to the growing connection between the Zionist state and these enemies of the U.S.
Are there people in the U.S. government who understand this new turn of events? Of course there are. However, my guess is that most of them reside in the middle echelons of the State Department, where they have little or no impact on policy. How about those in the upper echelons of the foreign policy bureaucracy or the various foreign policy committees of the Congress? No enlightenment there. Traditionally these people can’t think their way out of the paper bag put over their heads by special interests.
What this means that the chance that U.S. foreign policy will adjust to this new and important situation in the Middle East is low. Those in Congress who are financially or ideologically tied to the Zionists, as well as neoconservative dogmatists, are too set in their ways to understand that the landscape has changed. President Obama and some in his administration may well be aware of the situation but are, apparently, immobilized by the political risks of actually acting on their knowledge what is really in the national interest.
Ideally, the U.S. government should alter policy to fit reality. So, what would a new, more realistic policy look like? Well, we have to keep in mind that no one except the Zionists, the neocons, and some of the really unintelligent Republican candidates for president wants to send in more American troops to fight in the Middle East. Given that fact, the best policy is to materially support those who are fighting al-Qaeda and its derivatives, and diplomatically pressure those aiding the “bad guys” to stop doing so.
That means supporting the secular regime of Bashar al-Assad in Damascus. But it is a dictatorship! Well, that should be no problem for Washington, which already supports dictatorships much worse than the one in Syria. But the al-Assad government is hostile to Israel! So what. By aiding groups like al-Nusra, the Israelis have forfeited any claim on American sympathy (unless, of course, your a U.S. politician who has been captured by the Zionist lobby). That said, I suggest the U.S. begin the process of support by giving Damascus surface-to-air missiles so they can shoot down the Israeli warplanes that are now giving air support to al-Qaeda forces in Syria.
Washington should also support the military effort of Iran, Hezbollah, and the Kurds to fight al-Nusra and ISIS. After all we are already aiding the Iraqi government in the exact same endeavor. It makes no strategic sense to restrict assistance to just Baghdad.
In Washington, however, the folks in Congress and the political parties with input to foreign policy, as well as the political appointees at the head of the foreign policy bureaucracy, are out of the reality-loop. The only thing those people know of the Middle East is what they read in APAC-provided briefing books.
One of the lessons of history is that both people and nations who fail to adapt to new circumstances are doomed to eventually decline. So, America, if the shoe fits…..
Lawrence Davidson teaches history at West Chester University.