U.S. interventionism exacerbates global conflict
The reaction to this video has caused several embassies to be breached, flags to be burned and several deaths, including that of the ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens.
Many want to blame the filmmaker for producing a culturally insensitive and offensive video. But, agree with his actions or not, they are protected by free speech and are no worse than the offensive mockery of any other religion.
All of the blame for the current situation cannot honestly be placed on the filmmaker, especially considering reports from affected nations, such as Libya, that suggest that some of the attacks had been pre-planned a few months prior to the video’s emergence on the public scene.
The film was only a catalyst igniting an already existent anger, much of which is in response to U.S. and European involvement in the region since World War II.
In fact, because every action has an equal and opposite reaction, it could easily be suggested that this is what has contributed to the rise of Islamic extremism and anti-American sentiments in the Middle East.
During the war, America, Britain and the Soviet Union had troops stationed in Iran to facilitate the transportation of military supplies, as well as to protect the oil necessary to run the war machine.
Following the end of the war, the U.S., with the help of the U.N., forced the Soviets out of Iran, while opting to maintain a presence themselves to defend interests in the region.
Then, in 1953, under orders from Eisenhower, the CIA helped to overthrow Mohammed Mossadegh, the democratically elected leader of Iran.
Mossadegh was a nationalist opposed to the influence of America and the U.K. in Iran, and feared to be open to Soviet influence. He was replaced with the Shah, a leader loyal to Western interests in the region.
American conflict with the Soviet Union, as well as support for Israel and the intervention in the internal politics of nations in which we had a political interest has defined our involvement in the Middle East since.
Following its foray into Iranian politics, our country intervened in a civil war in Lebanon, involved itself in Israel’s conflicts with their neighbors, responded to Soviet interventions with our own interventions and participated in aiding the enemies of our enemies across that region.
Our intervention in Iran didn’t last, and in 1978 the Iranian Revolution began, culminating with the overthrow of the Shah, the establishment of an Islamic Republic under the Ayatollah, and the taking of American hostages from our embassy.
During the 80s we involved ourselves in more global strife when we aided the Taliban in Afghanistan against the Soviet invasion, aided Saddam Hussein in his war against Iran and supported the expansion of Israel’s borders.
The 90s brought us the conflict in Iraq. Following the end of hostilities, the U.S. imposed sanctions on Iraq which resulted in the deaths of at least 500,000 children due to starvation. In the late 90s the military also engaged in punitive bombing of Iraq.
After several attacks by al Qaeda on U.S. embassies in Africa as a response to our policies, the nation retaliated with bombings in Afghanistan and the Sudan.
All of this eventually culminated in the attacks on September 11, 2001.
In a letter released following the attacks, Osama bin Laden gave his reasons for the violence. These included the sanctions imposed on Iraq, America’s support for Israel, and U.S. presence in Saudi Arabia and across the Middle East.
Those attacks propelled us into two wars, both of which have lasted nearly a decade, cost the nation trillions of dollars and thousands of deaths and perpetuated an increasingly negative view of the American people around the world.
Now, add to this history of violence the surge of forces to Afghanistan in 2009, as well as the recent stepping up of drone attacks around the world.
These attacks have resulted in thousands of suspected civilian deaths, as well as thousands more injured, including women and children, and it’s no wonder the Middle Eastern world is angry at us.
In fact, a 2009 Brookings Institution report indicates that for every militant killed by a drone strike there are 10 civilian deaths. And drone strikes, as inaccurate as they appear, have been steadily on the rise since Obama took over the role of Commander in Chief.
This is not to suggest that our nation should not defend itself when attacked, or to suggest that al Qaeda deserved no punishment and that America deserved the violence perpetrated against it.
These points should not be taken as excuses for the actions of violent extremists, but as reasons for the anger and hatred aimed at America and Europe.
It should also be noted that, although religious extremism does contribute to the violent reactions across the region, extremism in all religions leads to violence and intolerance. And our actions in the Middle East over the last 60 years provide reasons for individuals to join the extremist cause.
The extremists portray Americans as evil, and looking at the actions in the Middle East that are carried out in the name of America and freedom, is that any surprise?
Before we can begin to fix our reputation and make lasting changes we must admit that our nation’s best intentions have gone awry and produced the opposite of what is desired.
America cannot continue to police the world. We cannot continue to overextend ourselves to protect the ever-increasing number of national interests we have worldwide.
This is not to say that we shouldn’t support our allies, but it should be clear that what may be in our allies’ best interests are not always in our nation’s best interest. If our allies take actions that do not directly concern the safety or security of the American people, there is no need to involve national resources.
Also, criticism of our government and its actions is not criticism of the American People. We are not the government. We elect the government to represent us, and when they do a bad job, such as by perpetuating failed interventionist policies, they should be replaced.
However, until we admit that our global actions are not always right — until we take responsibility for the outcomes of our foreign policy — we can’t expect any change in the global perception of American imperialism. And we can surely expect more conflict.