Uprisings Throughout the Middle East Mark End of U.S. Credibility

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Popular uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, and Jordan have been the featured topic of news media as of late and while the democratic yearnings of the general populace should, in theory, be fully supported by the United States, a change in the status quo is the last thing our government wants.

Since the days of Eisenhower, our government has purportedly striven to make democracy our number one export, in the perhaps mistaken belief that any democratic country would be our ally.

Israel was the first country in the Middle East to get the official American stamp of approval and, since its inception, this tiny state the size of New Jersey has received over $100 billion, $53 billion of which was military aid. This is a symbol of America's "special relationship" with Israel.

But what about our special relationships with the dictatorships of Tunisia and Libya and the monarchies of Morocco, Jordan and Saudi Arabia? Have we been "supporting" them to the tune of billions of dollars annually in the innocent hopes that they will voluntarily enact democracy in their countries?

Since 1987 (the year Tunisia's Ben-Ali took power), the U.S. has authorized $349 million in military sales agreements to Tunisia. We gave Jordan $666 million worth of military aid between 2006 and 2007 alone, spending $80 million on an anti-terrorism training center.

All these countries are seen as having either rigged elections or no elections at all and still we have propped up their governments with billions of dollars worth of military aid for decades.

In fact, during the Iran-Iraq war, we provided weapons not only to Iraq, but to Iran as well, which resulted in a little scandal called Iran-Contra. And now we lambaste Iran for providing funding and weapons to the Lebanese resistance, Hezbollah. We call Hezbollah Iran's proxy and say "no fair," meanwhile we have dozens of our own proxies that we fund and equip on a fantastically larger scale.

And now that government press censorship in various countries all over the Middle East and North Africa has largely failed in the wake of several revolutions, the citizens of these countries are free to call us hypocrites and, because they were not free to do so before, we assumed that everybody liked us and appreciated our "crusade" for worldwide democracy.

And we have the gall to build anti-terrorism training centers that are supposed to shield us from the results of our own actions.

Once upon a time, the U.S. had a chance to become truly relevant in the Middle East by brokering a lasting peace agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians. We said that we wanted peace, we sent our ambassadors and negotiators jaunting back and forth between Israel, Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, Egypt and elsewhere. But, more than ever, it seems like that was merely a display of play acting, what many political analysts refer to as "stagecraft" rather than statecraft.

And now, with the Palestinian Authority seeking recognition from UN member countries directly, without America's support, it is clearer than ever that we are no longer needed nor are we wanted.

Even Israelis know it. In a Feb. 21, 2011 article, Yaron London wrote, "We are relying on a sinking superpower that is abandoning its pretenses to lead the world, educate it in line with its values, punish the rogue elements and pamper those that toe the line." The article describes the U.S. as a sinking ship, and it is certainly not the only one.

According to a May 2010 article by Amjad Atallah, "The Israeli-Arab conflict (is) still the defining lens through which most in the region saw the United States."

The Palestinian cause is the poster child of injustice in the region. Everybody from Morocco to Qatar believes that the Palestinians are increasingly subjugated and abused in myriad ways by the U.S., who, in the 2011 fiscal year, funded the Israeli military machine at the rate that averages to about $8 million per day while expecting the citizens of our ally countries to believe that we are doing so because Israel is under threat.

If Israel were to be attacked, the chances are staggering that it would be bombed with our missiles, dropped from our planes, by soldiers whose salaries are paid by our tax dollars.

It seems as though we are financing war because it is more profitable than peace, and the Middle East, at least, is tired of the status quo. It remains to be seen whether the popular uprisings in the region and the changes in governance will affect how much military aid we provide or how it is used.

We, the United States, have lost our chance to be relevant. If we want a chance to survive at all, with any of our moral dignity left intact, we need a drastic change of plans.


Tomi Laine Clark is a student at UC Berkeley. Reply to [email protected]

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