|The debacle misconstrued as victory.|
Responding to failure: Reorganize U.S. Mideast Policy
by Charles Freeman (Former U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia and Assistant Secretary of Defense)
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?
Our objectives in the Middle East have not changed much over the course of the past half century or more. We have sought to
1. Gain acceptance and security for a Jewish homeland from the other states and peoples of the region;
2. Ensure the uninterrupted availability of the region’s energy supplies to sustain global and U.S. security and prosperity;
3. Preserve our ability to transit the region so as to be able to project power around the world;
4. Prevent the rise of a regional hegemon or the deployment of weapons of mass destruction that might threaten any or all of these first three objectives;
5. Maximize profitable commerce; and
6. Promote stability while enhancing respect for human rights and progress toward constitutional democracy.
Let’s briefly review what’s happened with respect to each of these objectives. I will not mince words.....