US Foreign Policy: Lessons in Hypocritical Pragmatism
by Dan Ehrlich

What’s happening in Egypt and America’s response to it, are examples of the muddled, short sighted and even hypocritical stance the US exhibits in its less than laudable foreign policy since the end of World War 2.

On the other hand, America’s lack of support for Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has other Middle East leaders questioning the reliability of President Obama if similar uprisings occur in their countries. Realistically, however, America’s main concern lies with the major oil producing nations such as Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.

But, what the growing domino effect among the region’s repressive autocracies has highlighted, or low lighted, is the continuous self-delusion and/or hypocrisy in which America has immersed itself for generations. It trumpets freedom and democracy around the world while propping up undemocratic repressive dictators who will protect US interests. This is as true in the Middle East as it has been in Central and South America.

In the long run this is a shortsighted game plan, because as we see in Egypt, the people have little love for the main nation that has kept their oppressor in power. This is what happened in Iran after our client the Shah was overthrown.

But, as long as the oil keeps flowing and Israel isn’t fighting a war with the Arabs America is happy. Part of this shortsighted thinking is based on US political term limits. Politicians don’t concern themselves with issues lasting longer than four or eight years into the future.

Back in 1948 when the UN, pushed by the US, to approve the re establishment of a Jewish homeland in Palestine, they had no concern or idea that wars would rage between Israel and the Arabs into the 21st Century. In fact, the UN approval was rather cynical. Most member nations did so feeling nothing would come of it since the massing Arabs armies would crush the Jews is short order.

But the Jews then, as the Egyptians now, didn’t follow the international game plan and won war after war, infuriating the Arabs and setting in motion a Cold War tug-of-war between the US and Soviets for positioning and power in the Middle East.

It was this positioning that largely set in motion the US alliance with the dictators we support today, even though the Soviet Union and Russian influence are no more.

There is a widespread perception American interest in the Middle East is centered on its concern for Israel’s security. This is a smokescreen for domestic consumption and a rationale for anti American sentiments among the Arabs. The main reason we are there, now and always, has been oil and free passage through the Suez Canal.

Israel, while a valuable ally, has served to complicate and endanger Western oil and commerce by simply being a persistent thorn in the Arab’s paw. Yet, America originally had hope Israel’s progressive democracy would serve as an example to the feudal Arab states. This, however, hasn’t stopped the US from backing extremely repressive nations such as Saudi Arabia. Oil counts for more than human rights and democracy.

“We have an addiction to dictators," said Brian Katulis, a Middle East expert at the Center for American Progress. "We know that it's bad for us, but because this is the way we've done business for so long, we don't know any other way."

Oddly enough, the so-called liberal Obama Administration, prior to the Egyptian uprising, had been less strident about human rights and democracy in the region than the conservative Bush Administration.

On the other hand, decades of Israel’s presence and economic strides may have finally seeped into the Arab psyche along with the unbridled wealth of the Gulf Emirates. The uprisings taking place aren’t about religious fundamentalism. They’re about people wanting material wealth and security in this world, not in the next.

It will be interesting to see how the US will handle a possible toppling of successive client dictators. Will we try to cushion their fall with golden parachutes or will we attempt to keep them in power? And what contingency have we planned in case unfriendly elements stop the flow of oil and shipping through the canal?

Then there’s Iran, with its atomic program and designs on being the Middle East superpower. The main thing that dulls this quest is the enmity between the Shiite Iran and the largely Sunni Arab world. And it is the fear of Iran that is a main reason America may retain its influence in the region regardless of our hypocritical foreign policy.

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