Friday, January 28, 2011

Unintended consequences again in the Mideast

Once again the self-serving foreign policy of the U.S. is having unintended consequences.

During the cold war, America would support any anti-communist group or regime, no matter how autocratic or brutal. At the same time, it would deny any support to groups not primarily anti-communist, no matter how populist or democratic.

The results of this were some serious blowbacks. By using the CIA to overthrow Mohammad Mossadeq, and by supporting the Shah in Iran, the U.S. paved the way for the Ayatollah Khomaini and the current repressive and massively anti-American Islamic state. By heavily supporting radical Islamic mujahedeen in Afghanistan against the then Soviet puppet state there, we opened the door to the Taliban and Al-Qaeda -- and eventually, the disasters on 9/11 and beyond.

(I won't go into further details, but the same support for authoritarian "anti-communist" regimes in Cuba and South/Central America made enemies of a population that once viewed us, albeit naively, as a protector of the downtrodden.)

In the Mideast, our ties to corrupt regimes -- Egypt, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia and Yemen e.g. -- and consequent opposition to local reform movements has led to the failure of these movements and the rise of Islamic fundamentalism as the only outlet for popular resentments. We see it once again in today's headlines.

Ours is a stupid, short-sighted foreign policy that springs from unexamined political attitudes and slogans and corporate pressure. It has cost us potential friends and exposed us to another generation of religious hatred and likely attacks. The best anti-terrorist policy would be to free us from the tyranny of corporate desires for foreign profit, as well as from the outdated shibboleths of anti-communism, American "exceptionalism" and religious -- mostly pop-Christian -- platitudes.

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