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middle eastSixteen months after the United States abandoned its loyal satrap of 30 years, President Hosni Mubarak, to champion democracy in Egypt, the returns are in.

Mohammed Morsi, candidate of the Muslim Brotherhood, is president of Egypt, while the military has dissolved the elected parliament that was dominated by the Brotherhood, and curbed his powers.

The military and the mullahs will fight for the future of a country that is home to one in four Arabs. The soldiers who have dominated Egypt since the ouster of King Farouk in 1952 show no willingness to surrender what they have long controlled of the state and economy.

Yet in the long run, the Brotherhood–whose claim to guide the nation’s destiny is rooted in a faith 1,400 years old–is likely to prevail.

In Syria, the uprising against Bashar Assad appears headed for civil war, with atrocities on both sides. Some 10,000 are estimated to have died, a far bloodier affair than Egypt. And here, too, the day of the Brotherhood, massacred in the thousands by Bashar’s father in Hama, seems not far off.

Witnessing what is happening in these critical Arab countries and across the region, one is tempted to ask: What are the fruits of three decades of compulsive U.S. intervention in the Islamic world?

Ronald Reagan put Marines in Lebanon to support an embattled Beirut regime and saw 241 of them massacred in their barracks.

In 1986, he ordered air strikes on Libya in retaliation for the bombing of a Berlin nightclub frequented by GIs. Reagan was paid back in his final days in office when Moammar Gadhafi’s killers blew up Pan Am 103, scattering the bodies of U.S. school kids over the Lockerbie landscape.

George H.W. Bush launched Desert Storm to rescue Kuwait from Saddam Hussein and restore the emir. After five weeks of air war and 100 hours of ground combat, Bush triumphed. He then imposed an embargo-blockade on Iraq and transferred thousands of U.S. troops onto Saudi soil that is home to Mecca and Medina.

Two of the causes of his attack on 9/11, said Osama bin Laden, were the U.S. strangulation of Iraq and the defiling of Islam’s sacred soil by infidel U.S. troops.

George W. Bush answered 9/11 by invading Afghanistan, driving out the Taliban and al-Qaida, and staying on to build a more secular, democratic and pluralistic nation. He then invaded Iraq to overthrow Saddam and convert that country into a model Arab democracy and strategic base camp for the United States in the Middle East.

What did those wars cost? What did they accomplish?

Some 6,500 U.S. dead, 40,000 wounded, $1 to $2 trillion sunk. Tens of thousands of Afghan and 100,000 Iraqi dead, with widows and orphans numbering over 500,000. Half the Christians of Iraq have fled their homes, and half of these have fled the country in which their ancestors had lived almost since the time of Christ.

Neither Afghanistan nor Iraq can be regarded as a loyal ally or defender of U.S. interests. Pakistan, a country of 170 million with atomic weapons and an ally through 40 years of Cold War, has been converted into an embittered and even hostile nation.

The U.S.-NATO intervention in Libya brought about the dethroning and death of Gadhafi. It also resulted in the expulsion of Tuareg tribesmen who had served Gadhafi as mercenaries. Back in Mali, they have joined rebels to effect the secession of a slice of Mali the size of France, which is now becoming a haven for al-Qaida.

When one considers the investment America has made in the Middle East–the dead and wounded from our wars, the trillions lost in fighting and foreign aid, the endless time and attention of our leaders, scholars, journalists–what do we have to show for it?

From the Maghreb to the Middle East to Afghanistan, Christians are as isolated and imperiled as they have been in centuries.

The Israelis now have as neighbors: Hezbollah to the north, an embittered, segregated Palestinian population of 2 million to the east, Hamas to the south and to the west an Egypt of 80 million that has just passed into the custody of the Muslim Brotherhood.

And among those seeking to bring down Assad are not only Americans, Turks, Saudis and Qatari, but al-Qaida, the principal suspect in the terror bombings of Aleppo and Damascus, and the Muslim Brotherhood, which owes the Assad family a blood debt.

If Assad falls and Sunnis seize power and pursue their slogan–“Christians to Beirut and Alawites to the tomb”–a prediction: A return of the Golan Heights taken by Israel in the 1967 Six Day War will top the agenda of the new Damascus regime.

And now John McCain is calling for air strikes on Damascus and Bibi Netanyahu and his neocon allies have Tehran in their gun sights.

What exactly have we gained from 30 years of intervention in the Middle East–that China lost out on by staying out?

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This article ppears here by the gracious permission of the author. Copyright 2012,

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2 replies to this post
  1. I would have to say that our political system is not amenable to long term strategic thinking. It is clear that the last Iraq war should have provided us with a secure foothold in the region. However, the ideal of "democracy" must be matched with the cultural realities of the nation we have invaded, and those realities in Iraq were less in favor of a self determining democracy than in favor of a proxy government held by the US with verifiable measures of force duly applied.

    It is not a very popular opinion, but I would say the Roman model during the Pax Romana is a better model for settling power disputes in unfriendly regions. The modern version of the Roman method was Egypt, where a powerful leader of the country receives military and financial assistance from us to subjugate his own people, and to develop his country in a favorable economic and political alliance with us, so there are mutual benefits. Mubarak did the dirty work, we rewarded him, and in this case, we received economic benefits as well. Of course, in that scenario, the Egyptian people do not have freedom, and both the right and the left in the US have moral issues with that arrangement, because of the erroneous notion that the average Egyptian is just like the average American. There is an idea that surrogate powers are not moral, especially surrogate dictators. Unfortunately, without a surrogate power, the region will be unpredictable, except for one certainty: The 1400 year muslim culture will eventually prevail, as you have said. In the end, using American Principles to guide foreign policy in a land with centuries of principles ingrained in a population that are contradictory to our values is like trying to grab a giant jellyfish, death by a thousand stings and no traction. Easier to let the local strongman manage his people and pay him well. Until we resolve that moral issue, the region will always be in turmoil. I have heard that Qadaffi was once our surrogate; perhaps then we should figure out how to get a new one, either in Egypt or Libya, hopefully a more reliable one? Or should we assume that Libya or Egypt are going to skip 1000 years of history and become like a Canton of Switzerland?

  2. In 1982 in Cairo, where I attended a neighbourhood picnic, the Ichwan ul Mussalmeen (Muslim Brotherhood) provided the only public services while the predatory state, headed by a younger Hosni Mubarrak, simply were corrupt, US-funded parasites. American taxpayers funded his oppression for 30 years at $3 billion per, which suppressed the democratic longings of his middle-classes, while the Islamist volunteers ferried granny to the hospital and organised local park clean-ups. Since America paid to ensure that no moderate democratic parties evolved, guess who won the recent election?

    America as an imperial power? It couldn't run a drinks party in a brewery or sell hookers on a troop-train.

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