Causes and Consequences of Our Foreign Policy in the Middle East: What It Means for Americans
By Karen Kwiatkowski
The following is the text of a speech given at Virginia Tech on February 12, 2008.
02/28/08 — — -I want to thank the Libertarians at Virginia Tech, the Political Science Club and the Institute for Humane Studies for the kind invitation to speak to you tonight.
I want to talk about the “Causes and Consequences of our Foreign Policy in the Middle East and What it Means for Americans.” The original title of this speech was “Causes and Consequences of our Foreign Policy in the Middle East and What it Means for Libertarians.” But I interchanged Americans for Libertarians. To paraphrase John F. Kennedy in Berlin, 1963, in times like these, when the American dream seems overwhelmed by what has become known as the American empire, perhaps we are all libertarians.
Let me start first with the consequences of our foreign policy in the Middle East, circa 2008.
* We are nearly five years past the moment where George W. Bush declared “Mission Accomplished.”
* 400,000 to 1.2 million Iraqis are dead by our decisions and actions. Over two million are internally displaced, and over two million Iraqis have fled the country.
* 5,000 Americans are dead (soldiers and contractors) as a result, 30–50,000 physically injured, and over 100,000 mentally disturbed, receiving or awaiting treatment.
* Army and Marines are morally and physically bankrupt – and burdened by executive pressure for more forces in Afghanistan, Pakistan and trouble in Iran.
* A trillion dollars has been spent, another trillion to be spent before we are finished – and if McCain has his way, we will never be finished, and we will bleed ourselves for the duration of the 21st century.
* Beyond Iraq, we have Secretary of Defense Bob Gates alternately screaming in an empty room and crying in despair because NATO won’t pick up the slack of propping up our preferred government in Kabul.
* The one republic with nuclear weapons and a means to deploy them is led by an unstable dictator, threatened by his own subordinates, at odds with his very powerful and well-funded intelligence arm, and disliked by the majority of his citizens. And in case you were wondering, I am talking about Perez Musharraf.
* Jordan, once reliable and trustworthy, is feeling the heat of over two million unemployed and impoverished Iraqis swelling their refugee camps.
* Syria – who helped us with torture and renditions after 9-11 – has been both accused and attacked by her neighbor, our other nuclear-armed friend in the region.
* Lebanon suffered a silly war in the summer of 2006 – a war that was considered an embarrassing defeat for Israel, and a war that Washington, D.C. collaborated on and quietly cheered.
* Our steadfast friends, the House of Saud, don’t understand us anymore.
* We publicly threaten Iran for all kinds of reasons, even though Tehran is signatory to and compliant with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and even as we happily work with all kinds of Iranian-backed interests in southern Iraq.
* Four key undersea communication cables get cut in a week, isolating and seriously degrading much of the banking and communication traffic for our friends in the region, including in Dubai, which just bailed out some of our banks and credit card companies. Instead of decrying bad cable construction, and offering to send our own teams to help repair these cables in the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf, our government has said nothing. The entire region thinks we did it, either to send a message, test a military strategy, or to funnel information into a channel our vast intelligence bureaucracy can monitor.
* The price of oil, adjusted for inflation, is not yet at the level of the 1979 oil crisis. But it is within 10% of that. Given the drastic increase in global demand for oil today, relative to that in 1979, our foreign policy in the Middle East might be said to be harmful, but not disastrous. But you must consider two things – the amount of oil the United States imports from the Middle East is around 10–15% of all the oil we import – but interfering with the free market in this region costs the American taxpayer billions and billions every year in maintaining a large overseas military presence, military and economic aid to major and minor allies in the region, the costs of periodic off-the-book interventions, like Iraq, and the costs involved with protecting your countrymen from people who hate you enough to want to kill you and topple your tall buildings.
Such is the state of the Middle East, and such indeed are the consequences of our foreign policy.
It would be easy to blame the current situation in the Middle East on George W. Bush, or easier yet, Dick Cheney. But to do that would be to ignore our foreign policy over the past 80 years in that region.
It would also be easy to suggest that the situation in the Middle East is not the result of our intentions, but rather our poor judgment, our misunderstanding of Arab or Persian culture, our lack of sophistication, or even our own democratic system here at home where we shift diplomatic course with each shifting president, and elect Congresses that reflect the changing priorities of the American people, year by year.
It would be easy to say that most of these policies were pursued under the auspices of the Cold War, where we were forced to take sides around the world in order to stop a communist world revolution, to avoid world socialism.
It would be easy to say all of this. But none of that would be true.
Read the rest of this excellent analysis here.