Unjustified U.S. presence in the Middle East continues
Published: Wednesday, April 25, 2012
Updated: Friday, April 27, 2012 02:04
Contrary to the compelling assertion Hass Bin Talal of the Jordan royal family made in a Los Angeles Times editorial against the Pentagon’s strategic review, the Pentagon makes a sound case for the need to “pivot” away from the Middle East and toward Asia-Pacific.
While the United States should indeed clean up the mess it left behind in Middle East, it is doubtful that a strong, long-term U.S. presence in the Middle East will benefit anyone in the region except for the governments of Israel, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. Indeed, these governments are U.S. allies and the United States has a responsibility to protect and support them. However, support for these governments must be carried out in a responsible manner that benefits the people of the supported countries as well as U.S. strategic considerations.
Take Jordan, for example. The United States supports Jordan militarily and economically, and Jordan has indeed been peaceful in the past 30 years. A key issue with the Jordanian regime, though, concerns its human rights violations. Jordan consistently ranks low in reports on freedom of the press. For example, in a 2011 Freedom of the Press report, Jordan is ranked 141 out of 196 countries. This report assesses the degree of broadcast, print and Internet freedom of different countries around the world. According to the same report, Jordanian civil liberties and political rights scored a 5 and a 6, where 1 is most free and 7 is least free. This earned Jordan a “Not Free” status. Reporters Without Borders’ 2010 Press Freedom Index ranks Jordan 120 out of 178 countries. Aside from questions of the freedom of press, honor killings and the freedom of citizens to choose their governments peacefully are also two core issues of Jordanian human rights violations. The Jordanian government is not only refusing to liberate its people, but is continuing to repress them. The United States, with all its freedom-trumpeting rhetoric and as one of the key countries that could influence Jordanian behavior, must pressure the Jordanian government to change.
To take the argument against future U.S. involvement in the Middle East a step further, consider Israel and the support it receives from the United States. Until recently, Israel has been persistent in its efforts to expand Jewish settlements, effectively further invading Palestinian territories. Human rights abuses, such as detentions without charges or trial of Palestinians by the Israeli government, have come under international attention. Recently, Israel’s belligerent rhetoric on the Iranian nuclear proliferation issue has become a serious cause of alarm for international security. Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s statement in January that Iran has decided to become a nuclear state and that “action” is needed before it is too late is only one of his repeated demonstrations of belligerence. Another is Netanyahu’s declaration that Israel does not need U.S. “blessings” to attack Iran. Whether Israel truly meant its rhetoric or not, such rhetoric could further aggravate regional hostility at a time that is already fraught with tension. True, the United States has a historical responsibility to support Israel and it should not stop doing so. But U.S. support for Israel should not be carried out blindly, especially when Israel takes reckless actions without considering their consequences. If Israel presumes that it has the backing of the United States in every matter, there is a higher chance that it will peremptorily attack Iran, possibly with nuclear weapons. Such a situation would put the United States in an extremely costly conflict that could have been avoided if its closest ally in the Middle East had been a little less bellicose. Decreased U.S. presence in the Middle East can serve as a reminder for Israel that the United States might not be there to clean up the mess and bail it out every time it gets into trouble.
To argue that the United States should withdraw from the Middle East is not to say that the country should forget about and abandon its regional allies. Indeed, it also serves U.S. interest to maintain a limited presence in the Middle East in order to, for example, prevent nuclear fissile material from falling into the hands of terrorist groups and to deter an Iran that could potentially go nuclear.
From a broader perspective, however, strong U.S. presence in the region would seriously damage the abilities of U.S.-occupied Middle Eastern countries to achieve self-determination. While the possibility exists that continued U.S. entanglement in the Middle East might be able to foster economic development and political stability, the United States’ decade-long involvement has left the region more turbulent, more chaotic and less peaceful.
As the death toll rises and Koran-burning tragedies unfold in Afghanistan, it is not surprising that many Afghans want the United States gone. Continued U.S. presence in countries such as Afghanistan and Iraq may undermine the legitimacy of the civilian leaders in these countries, fuel dissent among ethnic and religious groups and thus provoke more discord and conflict.
It is highly contentious that the United States will be able to affect much change in the Middle East within a time-frame acceptable to the U.S. people and supportable by the still weak U.S. economy. It is a waste of resources for the United States to maintain a strong presence in a region where intervention is becoming increasingly counterproductive and unwelcomed, while most of its own citizens just want their men and women back home.