Many of the over 1.5 billion Arabs and Moslems of the world hate us and wish us harm. Why? Is this a response to something we have done, or is this just part of their nature?
Historically, the Arabs and Moslems were our best friends. Until 1979 Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Pakistan together joined the United States and the United Kingdom in a military alliance (CENTO) against the Soviet Union. What happened to destroy this spirit of cooperation? Does the present state of antagonism serve our interests? Is this the way it will always be in the future? Is there anyway back?
A brief History of the Middle East:
First, let's briefly review the recent major events that shaped the relationships between the Arab/Moslem countries and the West in general and the United States in particular.
In the aftermath of the Second World War, the West (mainly the United Kingdom and France) managed to divide the Arabs/Moslems lands they inherited from the Ottoman Empire into small kingdoms and Sheikdoms. They created nonsensical artificial borders separating the people from each other and appointed kings and undemocratic leaders, of their -- not the people ' s -- choosing to secure access to the vast oil resources in the region. Their main policy was " Divide and Conquer ' . Naturally, the West became very friendly with the kings and sheikhs that ruled the oil-rich kingdoms there. They never paid much attention to what the people in the region wanted.
When the British could not maintain their control over their colonies in the region, the United States replaced them as the foremost imperial power in the Middle East and beyond. We continued to maintain our hegemony in the region by cementing alliances with kings, strong dictators and other despotic leaders to maintain stability and secure the oil resources. We supported Mubarak in Egypt, King Faisal in Iraq, the various Emirs in the Gulf kingdoms, Ben Ali in Libya, king Abdullah in Jordan " etc. We are still supporting kings in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Bahrain and Morocco " etc. as we speak.
Next came our fear of the spread of communism. This fear induced us to support anti-communist forces in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Turkey and other countries surrounding the Soviet Union. After the Soviets were forced to retreat, the forces that we originally supported in Afghanistan against the Soviets turned their arms against us. They used the equipment and training their acquired from us to fight us and the governments we supported. That is the origin of our lengthy war in Afghanistan.
In the 1950 ' s, when Iran installed a democratically elected government that planned to nationalize the Iranian oil industry, the United States was quick to plot against it. The US government concocted a military coup and installed a despotic king of our choosing: the Shah of Iran to run the country. Although the majority of the Iranian people reviled him, he served US interests well until he was later deposed in an Islamic revolution. That Islamic leadership still rules Iran today, and the friendly relations with the US were terminated. It never recovered. Many Americans will remember the American hostage crisis and the failed attempts by President Carter to rescue our hostages?
None of the leaders we supported in any of the " countries ' we created or supported was beloved or even selected by his own people. As the poor and uneducated populations in these countries grew more aware of what was going on in the rest of the World through borderless communications and the use of social media, they began to revolt against their West-supported despots. They began to demand their dignity and political rights in what was described in the West as the " Arab Spring ' . In the process, the Arabs/Moslems realized that the West, and particularly the United States, were the real forces behind those dictators, whether they were kings or army officers. Hatred for the United States and the West began to grow and got established in their minds.
The policies of the West towards the region as a whole did not help. The United States managed to aggravate the situation at every turn. It initially opposed revolts against Kaddafi in Libya, Mubarak in Egypt, Saleh in Yemen and Ben Ali in Tunisia. But the will of the people overcame what the West preferred. The West was forced to support, sometimes equivocally, the national forces aligned against the kings and dictators.
Clearly, no discussion, no matter how cursory, would be complete without mention of the creation of the state of Israel, its policies toward the Palestinians, its occupation of the third-holiest shrine of Islam. This occupies a special place in determining the relationship between the Arab/Moslems on the one hand and the West/the US on the other. Our unrelenting support of Israel, right or wrong, ensured the enmity not only of the 340 million Arabs living in the Middle East but also of the over 1.5 billion Moslems all around the world. This problem defies solution and consistently reminds the Arabs and Moslems that the West is their enemy.
Today, it is getting even worse. In the minds of the mostly uneducated Arabs/Moslems, hatred of the West/America is now being translated into hate of Christians and of Christianity as a whole. This manifests in attacks on Christians in Pakistan, Syria, Egypt and elsewhere in the Muslim world. Christians have lived among Moslems in peace, harmony and safety for more than a thousand year. Only recently have Christians become the subjects of relentless terrorist attacks in Moslem lands. They are subject to violence and discrimination and, as a result, the Christians are leaving the region in droves. Many observers rightly believe that the future of Christians in the Middle East is doubtful at best.
Of course, this discussion has not been an exhaustive history of the Middle East. Yet, it clearly reveals that the enmity of the Arab/Moslem world did not just happen; it is the result of years of short-sighted self-serving Western policies, driven by our then voracious appetite for Mid-Eastern oil, fear of communism and our support of the State of Israel. These attitudes persist to this day and are not going away anytime soon.
In the meantime, the Arab/Moslem people are changing. They are becoming more educated and more aware. They cannot be as easily fooled as before. The West, and the US in particular, need to take the lead and start instituting policies that not only reduce the enmity of these people towards us but also to reverse the decades of pent-up hostility into more productive working relationships. After all, the Arabs/Moslems represent one fourth of all humanity. We know we can get along with them; we did so successfully for many years before the events of relatively recent history. Today, many Arabs/Moslems admire the freedoms and human dignity so prevalent in the West. In fact, most Arabs/Moslems want peaceful and constructive relations with the West and the United States. Only a very small minority can be characterized as religious fanatics and terrorists.
A Conflict of Interest