Violating their pledge to the Arabs for independence in return for their revolt against the Ottoman Turks, Great Britain and France became overlords of the Arab world in the wake of World War I. The European allies parceled out much of the land to themselves creating artificial states with artificial borders; ignoring ethnic, tribal, and sectarian lines; and anointing particular clans as royal families to rule over others. This left immense bitterness against the Western powers. Uprisings, such as occurred in the newly created Iraq in the 1920s, were ruthlessly suppressed. Formal independence eventually occurred, but always with the British and French maintaining their influence. This interference was further complicated by Britains support for a Jewish homeland in Palestine, where Arabs (and Jews without political aspirations) had lived harmoniously together for many generations. After World War II, Britain tried to continue its administration of Palestine, but increasing violence from the Zionist movement and Palestinians prompted the British to throw the matter to the United Nations, which devised a plan to partition Palestine between Arabs and Jews. Before the partition was to take effect, the Zionist leaders proclaimed the independence of the state of Israel--which was promptly recognized by the U.S. administration of President Harry Truman. By then the United States, the sole power to emerge from World War II intact, had succeeded Great Britain as the dominant outsider in the Middle East.
The obvious reason for the U.S. governments efforts to maintain influence in the region is oil. Policymakers, lacking an understanding of free trade and international markets, have labored under the fallacy that access to Middle East oil requires a heavy U.S. presence in the region. To that end, U.S. presidents have striven to place or keep loyal, client regimes in power. The starkest example came in 1953 when the CIA engineered the toppling of an elected government in Iran and restored the repressive Shah to power. (This set the stage for a radical Islamic reaction that figures in many current difficulties.) The most popular method of cultivating friends has been the funneling of American taxpayer money and military equipment to regional agents, who often brutally repressed internal opponents of their autocratic regimes. This is best illustrated by the U.S. governments helping Saddam Hussein rise to power in Iraq and then assisting him in his 1980 war against Iran. That assistance included providing the means of developing and using chemical and biological weapons. When Hussein struck too independent a course and invaded Kuwait in 1990, the U.S. government declared him an outlaw, stationed military forces around the Persian Gulf, and twice went to war with his regime--first to drive it out of Kuwait and then to destroy Husseins rule altogether. U.S. officials now administer Iraq with the intention of setting up a government, ostensibly democratic in form, that will be loyal to U.S. government interests.
The other motive for U.S. intervention in the Middle East has been support of Israel, which grows out of both domestic political and foreign-policy considerations. Support for Israels occupation of Palestinian land has helped change the United States from an object of admiration to an object of hostility in the region, provoking terrorist acts that have killed and injured thousands of innocent Israelis and Palestinians in the process.
The upshot is that U.S. involvement in the Mideast has for decades involved America in bitter conflicts and created enemies out of people who would otherwise have no interest in harming Americans. For example, support for Israel and the U.S. military presence in Saudi Arabia have led to increased terrorism against U.S. targets at home and abroad. This in turn has produced an endless string of crises, continuing to the present, that have been used to justify further interventions and concomitant infringements both in the Mideast and domestically on Americans liberty, safety, privacy and property rights.
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