Over the past several years, it’s been the common narrative to refer to aggression towards the United States as an “attack on freedom” or “hate for our culture”. It’s been engraved into the public’s conscience that while the U.S polices the world, we remain immune to repercussions. Whether it be selling weapons to foreign countries or conducting covert operations, we are told the U.S is righteous, regardless of the situation. Unfortunately, it is seen as anti-American and unpatriotic to simply point out the flaws in our current foreign policy and attempt to understand why certain countries and terrorist cells partake in acts of terror and hold such resentment towards the United States. This article will be focusing mostly on the Middle East region due to its massive impact on the geo-political structure and its current instability. This article is also in no way stating that the U.S deserves violent consequences regarding its foreign policy, nor is this article in anyway legitimizing acts of terror and violence carried out against the U.S . It instead serves to shed some light on the history and effects of U.S foreign policy and how we, as a country, can ensure a safer America and hopefully one day achieve global peace.
In order to begin this examination, we need to make a crucial distinction. The distinction between an isolationist and a noninterventionist foreign policy. To be more specific, the Founding Fathers promoted a noninterventionist foreign policy, which essentially meant “peace, commerce, and honest friendship, with all nations, entangling alliances with none”. This statement was expressed during Thomas Jefferson’s first inaugural address. The prime idea behind a noninterventionist foreign policy is to keep the U.S neutral in global affairs and solve problems through diplomacy and not warfare. To avoid all wars not directly related to self-defense and to be free of the moral impulse to assist or hinder other nations which proceed to delve into an endless cycle of warfare. However, a noninterventionist foreign policy does not endorse standing idly by.
A noninterventionist foreign policy urges trade and commerce even during times of war unless an entity of that country is in danger. These policies strongly oppose more aggressive policies such as sanctions and embargoes which in the course of history have killed millions of people and stirred hatred towards the enforcer(s). All the while pushing for diplomacy and assisting in the mending of, for example, relations between two countries at war. An isolationist on the other hand, decides to sit idly by and does not engage in diplomacy, trade, or commerce. The most prominent example of an isolationist country in the 21st century is North Korea. The public is purposely misinformed, general internet access is nearly nonexistent, trade is done at the margin of necessity, and diplomacy according to reports, is slowly growing but is mostly restricted between trading partners. Even though there are scenarios which may call for a little more or less intervention, noninterventionism as stated above should be the default approach to how nations engage amongst one another. Foreign policy is not exclusively black or white, war or isolation. In fact, there are many shades of gray which must be explored in order to one day obtain stability.
Towards the beginning of the 20th century, the U.S had very limited involvement in the Middle East in contrast to Britain and France which had managed to colonize almost all of the Middle East after the fall of the Ottoman Empire in 1918. The United States was popular and highly respected throughout the Middle East. By the end of the Second World War, the United States had come to consider the Middle East region as “the most strategically important area of the world”, and “one of the greatest material prizes in world history”. For that reason, it was not until around the period after World War II that America became directly involved in the Middle East region.
In 1948, the U.S and the Truman administration pushed for a solution between the Arab-Israeli conflict. The United States was the first country to recognize Israel as a state, then several western nations followed. However, no Arab state recognized the state of Israel. The UN then assigned Israel a portion of Palestine and over the years the Arab-Israeli conflict has grown to be one of the most controversial and geopolitically significant issues today.
In 1951, Mohammad Mosaddeq became the prime minister of Iran. After he was elected, he wanted to drastically change European influence in Iran, especially economically. Mossadeq thus cut diplomatic ties with Britain and nationalized the Iranian oil industry to receive the major profits the British owned Anglo-Iranian Oil company was receiving. In 1952 the British government asked the U.S administration for assistance in helping them remove the democratically elected prime minster Mosaddeq. The CIA then covertly helped the MI6 take Mosaddeq out of power and funneled money to General Fazlollah Zahedi’s regime. Afterwords, the U.S and Britain put a pro-west leader which they called the Shah into power which over the course of his regime, ruled brutally and implemented pro-western policies that caused disdain for his leadership. Then in 1979 the Iranian people were fed up with the Shah and violently revolted against him in what is know as the Iranian Revolution. After the revolution, the Iranian people replaced the Shah with an Islamic Republic under the Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. Soon afterwords, the U.S helped prop up Saddam Hussein and sold chemical weapons to him in order to fight Iran and their new Islamic Republic. This all escalated to what is now known as the Gulf War and the Iraq War.
The last example, is refereed to as Operation Cyclone. During the Cold War the Soviet Union was trying to expand its control into Afghanistan. In order to prevent expansion, the CIA supplied and trained Islamic militant groups to fight the Soviet Union upon expansion. The most prominent group was called the Mujahideen. Operation Cyclone was one of the longest and most expensive CIA operations ever undertaken. Contemporary jihadism ultimately has its roots in the late 19th and early 20th century ideological developments of Islamic revivalism, developed into Qutbism and related ideologies during the mid 20th century. Its rise was re-enforced by the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. So in other words, funding and propping up of these radical Islamist groups served U.S interest at the time but eventually turned into the same Al-Qaeda, Al-Nusra, and ISIS we are fighting so hard now to destroy.
What I hope this article has brought to my readers’ attention is that there are more reasons behind violence than religious zeal or jealousy for our freedom and culture. The University of Chicago’s Robert Pape, for his book Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism collected a database of all 462 suicide terrorist attacks between 1980 and 2004. One thing he found was that religious beliefs were not as big of a factor as we thought. The world’s leading suicide terrorist group are actually the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka, a Marxist secular group. The larger Islamic fundamentalist countries at the time had very few attacks until the invasion of Iraq in 2003. According to Pape, the reason that terrorist attacks were rare before 2003 was because “the Osama Bin Ladens of the world can no longer inspire potential suicide terrorist regardless of religious belief.” The main cause for terrorist recruitment is not religion. Michael Scheuer, who was chief to the CIA’s Osama Bin Laden Unit at the Counterterrorist Center openly speaks about how much easier it is to recruit terrorists into a specific group after for example, their parents being killed in a U.S led drone strike. Scheuer expresses that while religious radicalism is present, the Arabs and Muslims are being influenced and convinced to fight due to the actions of their common enemy.
These examples are simplified and summarized in order to get the main point across with minimal rambling. These issues are far more complex and I urge my readers to continue researching and reading about U.S foreign policy and the examples explained above. There are many examples I left out such as the Iraq War, Gulf War, Libya, and I hope my readers can google those topics on their own. These examples all carry profound historical significance when it comes to examining current events such as FSA, ISIS, Iraq, terrorism and at the bottom of the page I will add additional information so my readers can do more research on these topics.
Again I hope my readers don’t take this article in the wrong way. I tried to remain as objective as possible given the circumstances of the article. Everything I’ve stated above is documented and factual. The United States needs a drastic change in their foreign policy. Trade, commerce, and diplomacy are the best ways to ensure peace and safety. As being the leader of the free world, if the United States leads by example, there will be no doubt other countries will follow. The U.S is in a position to prove to the world that humans can evolve beyond war and aggression. WE, the United States, have the ability to finally show and prove to the world that the pen IS mightier than the sword and that an extended hand of friendship will take us further than the pain of a punch.
Books: Revolution, by Ron Paul | A Foreign Policy of Freedom, by Ron Paul | Clash of Fundamentalism, by Tariq Ali
Topics: Iraq and WMD, Arming FSA rebels, CIA regime change in the Middle East, Mujahideen, Israeli v Arab conflict, Iran Coup, Iranian Revolution, Osama Bin Laden message to America, Iran Nuclear program, UN & US sanctions