It has recently been argued by (Julie Taylor)[http://edition.cnn.com/2011/OPINION/05/18/taylor.obama.mideast/index.html] that there is a case to be made for American funding restructuring in the Middle East - especially the Arab Spring states. (The Arab Spring being the term for the civil uprisings in many Muslim states this year). The arguments in favour are obvious: it will engender good feelings towards America, who has, thus far, been painted as everything pernicious from “The Great Satan” all the way through to “The Crusader”. The argument against, of course, is the Budget Deficit. America has already spent a huge fortune on the Middle East - most notably on wrecking it and depositing large armies in its terrain. The USA, the argument goes, should focus now on spending its tax dollars at home: helping the poor, for example, or on health care (God of the Republicans, forbid!).
Here’s my two cents’ worth. Why is America in a huge deficit over a Middle-Eastern war anyway? Is it not because, in the first instance, America needs to defend herself against an enemy which she ostensibly created in the first place? Up until the World War I, America’s official policy was non-interventionism - the Monroe Doctrine. In practice, America deviated from this, intervening in the Philippines and Panama - but these were not the rule. The non-interventionist or isolationist sentiments persisted even beyond the 19th Century. After helping in World War I, America refused to join the League of Nations or get involved in the Treaty of Versailles. She kept her distance again until Hitler arrived. In part, the US response to Hitler may have been due to the Stock Market crash. As we see now, with the “look to your own house first” sentiments from the American Left, the same applied in 1940 - people were concerned that the US Government was wasting time and money on foreign adventures. But as it turned out, America discovered that war was a profitable business. War was useful for fixing a collapsed economy, when there was nothing else to export but military equipment. This Roosevelt promoted in 1941, when he sold arms to the Allies. Effectively, this tied America’s economy to Allied Victory, and hence, it bound the US to assist her economic allies. The official excuse, of course, was that America stood for liberty, and Hitler and his allies for Fascism, and that America could not tolerate that. As we know, Pearl Harbour provided the required pretext. How is this different to today? Not at all; just swap out the names of the enemy countries involved. And so entered the new era of _America - World Police_.
Skim forward about six decades, to some falling skyscrapers, and we see the results of American interventionism. It is my belief that if America hadn’t meddled so much in Muslim politics - siding first with Saddam and then against him, for example, or not establishing military bases all around the Middle East - those skyscrapers may still have been standing. But could America have pursued a policy of non-intervention in the Middle East? It’s not clear. The threat of nuclear proliferation, or the Muslim nations possibly allying with Soviet Russia (and hence again, subsequent nuclear proliferation), made this impossible. The need for assured access to a primary supply of oil, in addition to the nuclear threat, made it unavoidable. America needed to have forces within striking distance of the Soviets. Interventionism had to happen. 9/11, in a manner of speaking, was an inevitable outcome of the Cold War and geography. Witness, as proof, how America helped the Taliban against the Soviets, but promptly exterminated the Taliban after 9/11.
Soviet Russia has, in the interim, collapsed. Forty-five years of paranoia about a great enemy, threatening the American way of life, is gone. What has happened since? Chaos has ensued. All the strategies developed by the US on the basis of the assumption of a single mega-enemy are no longer relevant. Our modern world is more complex. The biggest threat is no longer an ICBM to be met with a laser-armed satellite; it is now a single anonymous man with a dirty bomb in his backpack. The approach, of a military presence situated in specific strategic points, is not really relevant anymore - it just makes you look like an occupying army. A change in strategy is called for.
Let’s think about some of America’s putative successes: South Korea, Japan and Germany. If America had washed its hands of these nations after dealing with the conflict, what would have happened? Would they be the prosperous first-world democracies that they are today? Look at what happened to East Germany under Soviet rule. When the Berlin Wall fell, it was discovered that East Germany, socially, economically and technologically, was far behind the West. This could only be a result of the two different governmental strategies. I must conclude that the best thing that could happen to the states that have been involved in the Arab Spring, is that they could ask America for restructuring support - and get it.
Poverty breeds ignorance and anger. All the states with the highest rates of infant mortality, low life expectancy, poor governance, corruption, civil strife and violence, are those which have low GDPs and high levels of illiteracy. The worst terrorists come from theocracies - states run by priests with a vested interest in keeping people ignorant. The most human rights violations, per capita, occur in poverty-stricken states such as those in Central Africa. It is therefore imperative, that if America really wants to stem the tide of resentment and anger against her “Bad Cop” foreign policy thus far, that she puts her money where her mouth is - and helps rebuild a geopolitical area which she has in part contributed towards breaking down. It’s analogous to the socialist policies in South Africa. The more poor, starving people there are, the more crime there will be. Increase the social support for the poor, and you’ll reduce the crime levels.
Obviously, there are some key differences in the Arab Spring cases. Firstly, none of the Arab Spring states were under attack by the US, or even threatened. Secondly, the movement to demand democracy was, to use business-speak, a grassroots initiative. It was not imposed by the US. Third, none of the Arab Spring states posed an immediate threat to the West. But there is nonetheless a strong argument to be made in offering help: creating a perception that the US is not an imperialist aggressor. It will give credibility to the claim that the primary concern of the US is the “spread of democracy”. It will give the US a chance to play “Good Cop”.
Remember: the only reason America has to spend so much money on a military presence in the Middle East is _because_ these states are unstable, and in many cases, impoverished theocracies or dictatorships. If they, too, could be helped to flourish, like Germany, Japan and South Korea were, perhaps America would then be able to realistically think about a much-ballyhooed “exit strategy”. But not until then. Until then, these states pose a risk of terror cells, threats to the oil supply, and human rights abuses. Of course, remaining in occupation will bring resentment with it; but if the occupancy was sweetened with restructuring benefits, that resentment might be lessened. West Germany was, in 1945, a military enemy of the US, and was occupied by a US military presence. By 1989, West Germany was a friendly US ally. The same could happen in the Middle East. Can you imagine a future in which you can tour the Middle East without fear of terrorists? It’s possible. America just has to finish the job they started.