Over the past few weeks Arab and Muslim populations around the world have risen up in the thousands to denounce the United States and other Western powers ostensibly over the release of an anti-Muslim hate film produced in the US. The far right parties in the US, egged on by Fox, Beck, Limbaugh and the usual cadre of far right wing parrots immediately seized on the events to portray President Obama as weak in foreign policy matters, chirping that a Romney presidency would somehow avoid such riots. What they fail to state, however, is that such occurrences against the US are a direct result of our foreign policy which has been the same since the end of WWII regardless of the political party in the White House. Romney would probably just inflame matters more with his bellicose leanings and lack of international expertise.
Put succinctly, American foreign policy has been single in focus and unwavering in methodology for most of the history of the United States, but especially since the end of the last, great war and the subsequent crowning of the US as the latest superpower. I will only focus here on the larger Middle East and North African nations (MENA), but the policy is as equally valid throughout the rest of the world. This is rather common knowledge in the world, though most Americans are particularly clueless as to the specific events, the subsequent harm to the host nations and the negative opinion about the US that inevitably results from our interventions.
In short, the anti-Muslim hate film, that Americans are so keen to keep on the internet to prove that hate and the incitement of riots around the world are also protected free speech rights in the US (as long as the subject matter is not American in nature), had very little to do with the subsequent attacks on the US. It was merely the straw that broke the camel's back. As future straws are produced and placed on the camel's back, expect similar results. After all, the US has worked very hard for all those straws already there.
Here then, is a quick synopsis of American foreign policy in MENA since WWII. Remember now, this is common knowledge around the world EXCEPT here in the US.
In 1953 the democratically elected government of Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh had decided that the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (now known as BP) was cheating the Iranian people of much needed revenue and it was time to nationalize the oil industry. The newly formed CIA, along with President Theodore Roosevelt's grandson Kim Roosevelt, and with the complete blessing of President Eisenhower, flooded Iranian media with lies about Mossadegh and fomented anti-government riots across the country.
The prime minister was forced out of power and the Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, took command of the country. The CIA assisted him in developing his own gestapo, the SAVAK, which tortured and killed all political opponents over the next 25 years. He was a very useful American puppet until 1979 when the people had finally had enough of his brutal regime and forced him out. In fact, their anger was so great that a small faction of students took over the US embassy in Tehran and held the Americans inside captive until Reagan's inauguration in 1981. It is believed that Reagan made back door dealings with the Ayatollah Khomeini during the election campaign in order to have their release coincide to the day with his inaugural speech.
More recently, the US and Israel have been beating the war drums over an Iranian nuclear weapons program that all intelligent agencies around the world agree doesn't even exist. The Bush then Obama administrations have imposed heavy economic sanctions on the country which has fomented constant and growing hatred there towards the US. There are, however, at least 12 countries who don't have to worry about sanctions, including Belgium, China, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain, and the United Kingdom, because they would endure hardship due to their trade in oil with Iran. Any other country can be arbitrarily bullied by the US under this same policy.
In the Spring of 1979, the Carter Administration saw the Soviet influence over Afghanistan as a chance to give the Russians their own "Vietnam War." American tax payer money was secretly given to the local mujahideen terrorists to foment unrest and chaos in the country and force the Soviets to protect their interests militarily. Reagan's administration went much further and supplied actually weaponry and the construction of terrorist training camps that we were later obliged to destroy.
By the end of the 80s the Soviets had left and we saw no reason to continue our funding of these terrorist organizations that we had been supporting. From these early organizations Al Qaeda morphed into the group that would later attack the US on September 11. Since there was a political vacuum in the country after the departure of the Russians, tribal groups grew in importance along with a new, more religious association known as the Taliban.
But after 9/11 the US government decided to return and intervene. For Americans, this has been the longest war in history, even though it's undeclared. For the Afghans, this has been over 30 years of living hell as a crushed and destroyed pawn of global power plays. The green-on-blue attacks that are becoming more frequent there can owe their origin to the Carter Administration's 1979 decision to fund terrorists with American tax payer money.
The Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence, ISI, which is their equivalent to our CIA, has been one of the principal go-betweens of most transactions between the US and the terrorists in Afghanistan throughout the 1980s. They became very useful in orienting terrorist operations in Bosnia and elsewhere in the 1990s which include Al Qaeda.
Since October, 2001, however, the US has used other covert means to attack the same terrorist groups it once hired. Started by Bush, but placed on steroids by Obama, the drone attacks have become the weapon du jour because it's relatively cheap and cannot possibly incur any American deaths or injuries. Unfortunately, it has no way of distinguishing between a normal person walking home from the store and a wanted major terrorist figure. As a result, hundreds of innocent people have been killed across Northwestern Pakistan in recent years, prompting extreme Pakistani public outrage and a new decree by Obama which basically states that just about anyone killed by a drone strike will be considered an enemy combatant, regardless of facts. This was a smug decision by the president, but a cruel joke for the Pakistanis.