America’s next step in the Middle East should be anything EXCEPT trying to shape the future of the region. However, not all people feel the same way about this issue. As I read uncomfortably through The Daily Beast article titled, Our Next Step in the Middle East, by Jeremi Suri, I couldn’t stop wonder: why does the US need to play a key role in the Middle East? As power paradigm is shifting in the region, it would be best for the US to step back and let change take it course before trying to influence the process. Following are some of the suggestions Suri made with emphasis and comments added by me:
“Without American support, it is very hard for well-intentioned reformers to challenge ruthless figures who control the guns, the roads, and the oil.”
Well-intentioned reforms can only come from guidance and support by the American government? If the people are that powerless, how have they managed to at least set into motion a process of change. Moreover, it was the United States that that supported the tyrant rulers enabling them to continue to oppressed the people.
“First, Washington should move quickly to increase the density of personal contacts between prominent citizens in the Middle East and their counterparts in the United States.”
Who are the prominent citizens of Middle East? What do they look like? Are they the ruling elite or the Westernized Arabs who Americans can easily identify with or can other Arabs be accepted as important and rational human beings while still being culturally different from the Americans?
“The United States must invest immediately in becoming more deeply connected to the Arab street.”
It is quite hard for the United States to connect with the Arab street as the Arab street is not filled with homogenous people waiting to connect with America, especially when the US doesn’t have a history of attempting to connect with the Arab people on their terms. Since the Arab street is not filled with people of a singular Arab identity, without understanding the complex ancient traditions, cultures, religion and particular histories of the various Arab people, the United States cannot assume to form any positive relationships in the region.
“Observers have long argued that Islamic extremism has grown because madrassas and other forms of hateful indoctrination have filled the vacuum in available resources for impoverished families.”
After all these years of wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and a semi-war-but-not-war in Pakistan, I assumed that people understood that while many madaris are linked to militant Islamic ideology, not all of them are the equivalent of “hateful indoctrination”. And what about the thousands of years worth of knowledge and contributions to the fields of literature, philosophy, science and arts by the Arab people?
“The costs will be modest and the rewards will be transformative.”
The people are already trying to transform the power balance in the region, Suri’s comment seems to suggest that the transformation will come because of America’s actions in the region.
“The Arab Spring places severe limits on American influence. History also cautions against many traditional American forms of intervention. The promise of more participatory politics in the Middle East, however, demands serious and sustained American actions—far beyond what we have seen so far. ”
One of the major complaints of the Arab people for rising against their ruling regimes has been the fact that the United States has supported these very dictators in the past.
While the Egyptian military is openly critiqued for appropriating the revolution, if the United States follows a neo-colonialist course similar to what Suri is prescribing, it too will be guilty of attempting to make the Arab revolution its own.