I have always loved the “Far Side” cartoon that serves as the theme for today’s short essay. I have been thinking about this ever since the fall of Ben Ali in Tunisia and comments from a couple of my regular readers regarding yesterday’s post about Bahrain brought the cartoon to mind.
In the Middle East the United States as well as most of the Western World is caught in the horns of a dilemma of our own making. Ever since the Iranian revolution we have chosen to ally ourselves with despots and dictators because they promoted stability in the region. To some extent this is good, stability and having allies that have an interest in ensuring that no more radical religious regimes such as Iran’s is in our interest. However this stability has come at a cost. We have betrayed the ideals that we have promoted in our Declaration of Independence, Constitution and even what we have partnered with other Nations in the U.N. Declaration of Human Rights.
We have backed rulers of countries that while they to some degree support our foreign policy aims have in many cases repressed the legitimate political, economic and social desires of their people. Finally after many decades we are seeing the end of regimes that we have supported and face the uncertainty of what comes next.
In a sense we face a conundrum. If we continue to wholeheartedly support the leaders and governments that have been for the most part reliable allies in the region we will be seen by the majority of the people in the region as siding with oppressors. On the other hand if we elect to abandon them we will be seen as an untrustworthy ally by others that we have depended on in our attempt to contain the influence of Iran, contain the spread of militant revolutionary Islam, keep the fragile “Cold Peace” that Israel has enjoyed with Egypt and Jordan intact and in our war against Islamic Terrorism spearheaded by Al Qaeda.
On one hand we have our ideals on the other we have legitimate foreign policy, economic and security concerns. If we fall too far to either side we run significant risks. If we try to maintain a balance between these interests and ideals we run the risk of appearing to stand for nothing and be despised by those that we have allied ourselves for decades and those who desire the same freedoms that we have enshrined for ourselves and which we have held out as a beacon to the world.
There is also the reality that not all of the protestors are actually protesting for freedom and democracy but simply to overthrow regimes that they disagree with in order to establish radical anti-western and anti-Israeli regimes which support the overthrow of the West and the establishment of a new Caliphate.
While this is going on we are divided at home and have little in the way of a national consensus in our foreign policy and in fact are doing all that we can to destroy each other in the name of our own political and social agendas. Meanwhile American and NATO troops are engaged in a bitter struggle against the Taliban in Afghanistan which is not going well.
I think that we are damned if we do and damned if we don’t. It is a classic “lose-lose” situation. I only hope that we are able to ensure that no matter what happens that our losses are kept to a minimum.