How should America behave as the Arab world erupts in apparent chaos? Al Qaeda, a.k.a. Islamic fundamentalism, is our enemy, and countering it and its ideas is the challenge we face.
Anson Burlingame, my fellow Joplin blogger, in a recent post mentioned America’s strategy of “containment” during the Cold War as though it was “the best idea” for that time, but I must point out that the Domino theory was a major part of that and it was deeply flawed. What is happening now may well be related to that unstable time when America thought that Communism might “take over the world”.
The Vietnam war was a terrible mistake, as we have blogged
before, and IMO the crucial elements of that mistake were failing to satisfy the 8 Powell Doctrine questions before we began it. And central to our ignominious defeat in that war was American hubris, the kind of excessive pride that our culture is better than anyone else’s and that we not only could but should re-make our enemy into a nation that looks like us. There was a novel written some decades ago that epitomized that attitude – it was called “The Ugly American”, a fitting title in my opinion.
America has often backed regimes repugnant to us when our presidents thought it in our national interest. That happened in Vietnam, Iran, Iraq and Central and South America over the years. What was the long-term effect of such policies? I think they had many more bad effects than good, on balance. If you believe it useful to try to
understand how “the other side thinks”, please consider this perspective from the mind of a nationalistic Iranian. It includes what are IMO intelligent insights about the underpinnings of the rise of militant Islamic fundamentalism in Iran and elsewhere. It is titled, “History of BP . . .”:
I submit that “History of BP . . .”, is germane to how America should handle today’s crises in the Arab world. If that is so, then the proper course for America at this crucial time should be to tread carefully and avoid being seen as imposing our will on nations in turmoil, lest they see us as an enemy that must be destroyed with religious fervor that can last for generations. If America stands for toleration of differences among our people, then we should also tolerate differences in other nations’ creeds, religions and cultures. (Having said that, I reject Shari’ah Law, which I abhor as much as Anson and which I consider characteristic of our enemy, as defined previously.)
I suggest that our foreign policy must be more complicated than merely needing to be bellicose toward any nation which decides to embrace Islamic fundamentalism and Al Qaeda. I suggest that we strive for comity with as many Islamic nations as possible, with a view of peaceful co-existence and cooperation in preventing the rise of another nuclear-armed Iran.
Anson and many others on the Right are now being extremely critical of president Obama for going slow and being careful not to offend the Arab world (some say, apologetic in nature). Anson admires the attitude of George W. Bush, the president who started both the wars in which we are still mired and who announced “the War on Terror” and advocates a policy which might be paraphrased as, “If you’re not with US, you’re against US”.
Given the lessons of history, I suggest that it is past time we got rid of the Ugly American attitude. The wisdom of no less than George Washington supported the same idea when he warned in his farewell address that America should avoid foreign entanglements. George’s world didn’t have nukes, but I think his wisdom relative to other national cultures is still wise, and I think president Obama is getting it right. At least, so far, IMHO.
[Parts of this post were offered as comments on a post by Anson Burlingame, but are offered here as a separate commentary on America’s foreign policy relative to the historical developments that are now taking place in Egypt and other Arab nations.]