The Middle East. Root causes?

My first post here.
I’ve been trying to get some historical background on the whole Middle-East situation. Here’s a link I’ve been looking at. East History Database/later_mandate_period_and_world_w.htm East History Database/arabisraeliwars.htm

Seems to me that the Western countries are hugely responsible for a lot of the mess that we see today. Its a revelation to find that politics and economic interests of the western countries have stomped all over the democratic rights of the local populace to determine their own method of governance. And to add insult to injury, these are the same countries that claim the moral high ground when it comes to virtues of freedom and choice.

How can u explain this reality? Isn’t there a lesson here that western intervention is a misguided course of action?
Is it not time that the general populace of the western world to try and limit the powers of their leaders to authorize military interventions ?



Heck, I thought your links were going to go farther back then the last century.


Compared to most mid-east countries I’d argue that most countries in western europe do have the moral high ground when it comes to freedom.


I don’t see any lessons that say western intervention is a misguided course of action. Depending on what the intervention is I suppose. Was it wrong for western powers to kick Iraq out of Kuwait?

Authorized by who? I’m pretty sure that every military action taken by the western powers was authorized by somebody.


Well, they didn’t do it out of the kindness of their heart.

Don’t be too quick to take that moral high-ground there Marc

If Kuwait wasn’t full of oil, I think some superpowers wouldn’t have given a rats ass what Iraq did with it.

I don’t get it. The U.S. isn’t allowed to protect its own interests? After all, the war was less about freeing Kuwait and more about protecting Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States. If they had fallen to Iraq, then it may have caused a world-wide energy crisis, with Iraq in a dangerously powerful position.

Besides, Kuwait was - for better or for worse - a U.S. ally. Letting some country step all over your allies sets a bad precident.


So what? We didn’t defeat Japan out of the kindness of our hearts either.

Again, so what? When it comes to freedom I still maintain that the US has more freedom then most middle east countries.


Of course it is the US’s right to come to the aid of one of its allies.

What I’m appalled at, is that you claim moral superiority over the Middle East! :rolleyes:

I just hope I’m misinterpreting you.


Economic factors have only served to exacerbate the situation.

And since we’re talking about Western interference in Middle Eastern affairs, I would like to remind you of the other side of the coin.

Where do you think the Muslim countries got the weapons to attack Israel? That’s right, the Soviet Union. Hardly a Western country, y’know?

I’m not saying that we haven’t interfered. It’s just much more complicated than you’re making it out to be.

Someone better versed in this will come along shortly, I’m sure. If you really want to get some information, stick around and debate. Don’t just start casting aspersions at people, 'cause they won’t take you seriously.

That’s my advice to you, take it for what it’s worth.

Which part of the middle east are you specifically addressing? Because there are varying reasons why western powers, and the US specifically, offer aid to certain parties and not others.

*Originally posted by puk *
What I’m appalled at, is that you claim moral superiority over the Middle East!
Well, the West (including US) has certainly much to be ashamed of in it’s fairly recent history. That does not preclude it from distinguishing right from wrong today. I see no reason why the west cannot position itself as a model for peace and tollerance when looking at certain parts of the middle east.

The problems of the middle east have existed for many centuries but essentially the old religious rivalries and land claims have been the result of repeated western intervention.

It is almost impossible to believe that a city like Jerusalem prior to the crusades was essentially a tolerant city, in which Jews, Muslims and Christians coexisted. Jerusalem had the distinct honour of being a holy city for all three religions, this of course lead to religious friction due to the European Crusades

It was the crusades which really began the distrust many Arab and Muslim had of the West. In those days the Europeans were unwashed backward savages invading a highly organised, intellectual and civilised group of nations. ( I wonder if this might be why Westerners are sometimes perceived as Devils)
But it was the twentieth century which political meddling and manoeuvring which has exasperated problems. First you have France an Britain using the Arabs to over throw the Turks in the area so that they can take the land for themselves. Then you have the huge mess with the White paper and Balfour declaration in which Britain commits to the idea of a state of Israel and a territory of Palestine at the same time.

After World war 2 two new situations came into play. 1st the bolstering and Aid of Israel into becoming a Nation state by the US and the USSR beginning to spread it’s influence and arms into certain Arab states (Syria, Egypt)

Essentially many of the Arab states decided that the supposed “imposition” of Israel was intolerable and so we had several wars in which both sides were brokered by the two major powers (USA USSR) trying to expand their influence in the area especially when Oil and Weapon sales were involved. With Israel’s military victories, and the annexation of new lands to ensure its defence, matters became worse for the Palestinians who found themselves refugees in what they considered their own land.

The final stage involved the revolution in Iran. The Shaw, a loyal ally to the United states was overthrown and suddenly the US was it’s enemy. Enter Saddam Husien and his 8 year war with Iran backed by the US both technologically and militarily and you create this new power in that area of the middle East.

what does all this mean??? Religion, plus Oil, plus old tribal divides and nationality, fuelled by Outside countries attempting to protect their own interests = one hell of a Mess.

I’m sorry to have to repeat the earlier sentiments but, So What?

Despite the fact that much of what you outlined is historically true, it does not have any bearing on the question the OP poses. And that is - Does western society (the US bearing the standard these days) have the legitimate right to claim moral superiority over what is going on in the middle east today. The answer is unmistakably - Yes.

Look, the middle east has no more right to expect to be left alone and unspoiled by human history and social changes than any other part of this planet. If nothing else, they’ve had more than their share of upheaval. You’d think that would make them more (as opposed to less) tollerant. They have, for what appear to be fundamentalist reasons, resisted change and persisted with traditional thought and social structure. In doing so, they have become oppressive, militant and tyrannical regimes - of course not in all cases and to varying levels. I think the west has little to appologise for and much to feel superior about when it comes to personal freedom and right to self detemination of citizens.

Sure the West can claim moral superiority if they only look at their policies at home, but lets face it, it would be hypocritical to claim the moral high ground in their foreign policies when they actively supported many of those oppressive regimes while pretending to extoll the principals of individual freedom and democracy

Look a Kuwait, the West went in and freed the nation so that they could restore the dictatorship that existed there prior to the Gulf war. And what about the fiasco with the Kurds in Northern Iraq where the US pushed for them to rebel but refused to aid them allowing for Saddam’s forces to slaughter many innocent people.
If there was a moral superiority in that situation I don’t see it.

And Iraq marched into Kuwait to do what? Free the Kuwaities from their oppressive dictatorial regime or to grab some oil wells and other significant assets?

The West restored Kuwait to it’s original rulers because that was the desire of the citizens. If the citizens of Kuwait want to change their leadership then that is their decision to make and implement.

I believe the no fly zones offer the Kurds some much needed protection. It’s not the role of US to invade other countries and topple their gov’t. The people of a given nation ought to practice implementing their own right to self determination. The US should not be expected to fight everybody else’s war for them. Also, the West, powerful they may be, ought to be wise enough to choose their battles for obvious reasons.

The thing that bothers me with this argument is that military action was taken at the expense of the Iraqi people upholding economic interests of a US populace half a world away.
Even nearly a decade after military action was taken, the Iraqi people are still sufferring. The measure of successful intervention seems to be that the US has ensured its steady supply of oil and not the freedom of the Iraqi people.

Thanks for the advice. I may have got carried away in the op. But I do want a serious debate.
The argument u make here reminds me of the old divide and rule policy carried out by the British except that Britains role has been substitued by the US and the USSR.
These superpowers have been playing their own games while exploiting local conflicts making money out of arms sales and competing for influence in local matters. Historically There’s enough evidence that such conflicts have never been resolved peacefully. They conflicts grow on themselves going on and on , venting killing fields for the local population. The only thing it does provide is a steady market for arms sales.
Given this thread of thinking , Would it not be more ethical to keep a hands off policy on the whole issue?
Also, in this context, It can be argued that the US is playing the opposite role that it played in Iraq. The occupying country, i.e Israel has US support.

I cannot agree with u on this. The conflict with this argument is ‘How can u claim moral high ground about a war that the western world helped to create in the first place and still interferes with to suit their own economic interests?’.
If the reaction of the western world is along the lines of ‘So What?’ Doesn’t it seems like there’s something wrong here?
Another point is that, the US has been known to support these same fundamentalist forces when it suits them .
here’s a cite.
All this leads to believe that democratic values dont seem to count in western interventions. In that scenario shouldn’t the western world seek to limit such interventions?

Here’s another cite.
The details in this cite seem to be exxagerated and some of the details are dubious but it does give u a chronological list of US interventions. There seems to be a high failure rate on that list.

Why do people always trot out that “we” supported Iraq? No, Iraq was usually a Soviet ally. We were allied with Iran through the Shah, while Saddam and his Baath party were allied with the Soviets. Well, the situation changed when the Shah was overthrown and the new regime was obviously violently anti-American (as well as anti-Soviet). During the Iran-Iraq war we supported neither side, but we also didn’t want to see Iraq lose the war and be occupied by Iran.

But we gave very limited assistance to Iraq, since he was a Soviet client. Remember back in the Gulf War when we were bombing all his tanks and airplanes? What kind of tanks and airplanes were they? Most of his military equipment came from the Soviet Union.

TruthFinder, of course the Gulf War was an intervention at the expense of the Iraqi people, since they were the ones who invaded Kuwait. No invasion, no intervention. Yes, we probably wouldn’t have gotten involved if Kuwait and Saudi Arabia didn’t have oil. But that in and of itself doesn’t make our intervention moral or immoral.

We were helping an allied country that had been brutally invaded by its neighbor, and at the same time ensuring that the global oil supply continued. Neither action was immoral.

Arguing that we only got involved because of the oil is not an argument against intervention, it is an argument FOR intervention in other situations where there is no national interest, like Rwanda. Doing the right thing because it also benefits us is not an argument against doing the right thing.

Hi Lemur866,
I understand your reasoning there. But I’d like your opinion on the following line of thought.

 The US-USSR were 'assisting / supplying arms' to local conflicts 'Iran-Iraq' to extend their own sphere's of influence. My position is that this scenario shouldn't have arisen in the first place. Neither of the superpowers should have interfered.

 Instead of an 'I supply one side - U supply the other', There should have been an 'I wont interfere/supply arms - U dont interfere/ supply arms' policy between the 2 superpowers. For that to happen today, shouldn't the western world limit interference?

 At some point , both the superpowers did provide assitance to Iraq. Given the kind of rule the Iraqi people have, was this justifiable as the right thing to do. Coz providing any kind of support is basically condoning Saddam's dictatorship.

 And finally , It was at the expense of the Iraqis that the war was fought coz they were the agressors. Hence , they are being made to suffer for nearly a decade now. And Saddam still rules. Would u call such an intervention a success?


Lemur866 -

What you say here is correct, but I do not think it is the issue – That problem is the U.S. claims only to be working out of sheer altroism, deceiting the masses to believe the U.S is the most superior country when it comes to morals.

There is nothing ‘illegal’ about this approach, just like it is perfectly legitimate with encouraging the Kurds in Iraq to rebel, even if you have no intention of giving them assistance (and even if you ‘let them understand’ that you will). However, like in sports, there is fair play and dirty play - and the U.S has demonstrated some dirty play.

Can it be blamed for that? I doubt it. All countries must use unclean methods of action form time to time, simply because they would otherwise be in a disadvantage compared to others.

I speak this as an Israeli, who had a first-hand impression on the U.S’s dichotomic approach to matters - while they were and are helping Israel, they have prevented, for example, the sale of a reconaissance aircraft to China (only to land one of their own there, I guess…)

Once again and as many have mentioned self-interest in and of itself is not immoral. Every nation and individual therein does things out of self-interest. It’s a human social trait.

The reaction of the western world is not ‘So What?’. The reaction (in some cases) is lets do something about it if we can. That something is not always the right thing. Plenty of mistakes have been made and will be made. I’d like to think (and there is little evidence to suggest otherwise) that the intentions are generally good… And yes, yes, we all know about the road to hell …etc…etc…etc…

The reaction of some posters (myself specifically) was not meant to belittle the problems in middle east but simply to illustrate that self interest is not necessarily an evil act like your OP suggests.

On the contrary, I believe western intervention is generally approved by fairly democtratic process. I don’t think inviting the enemy to the table to ask them if they’d mind being opposed would be a very fruitful strategy. What do you think Hitler would say if the Allies rang him up and asked him if he’d mind if they invaded Normandy? “Sure, Come on down! The more the marrier!!”

Let us say for the moment that all western interventions are bad. Let us say for the moment that the only interest the west has in the middle east is the oil (probably not far from right). If they are so interested in the oil would it not behoove them to ensur as much peace and stability in the region as possible? So when they see a new, unfriendly, tyrranical regime starting to threaten oil supply, what do you think they should do about it? I mean, wars cost money. A lot of money. Not sure of the figure but that little trip to Kuwait and Iraq cost the US plenty. Do you really think they want to spend these incredible sums of money defending and policing Iraq? Don’t you think that kind of military commitment tends to drive up the cost of a barrel of oil? Don’t you think it would be better for all parties concerned if the region was stable and productive? I don’t think the west is as eager to get their hands dirty in the middle east (or anywhere else for that matter) as you’d like to believe. Sometimes they have no choice in the matter.

I believe the only lesson to be learned from this is that foreign politics and relations with unfriendly nations/governments is a very complicated and rarely succesful business.

I don’t think the US takes this stance any more than any other country. I don’t believe that I’ve heard any intelligent political figure in the US say that they only interfered in Kuwait because of altruistic reasons. Assuring uninterrupted supply of oil to the west was always a primary goal and they very clearly stated this.

Well, US sees China as a threat. As such, it is in the US interest to prevent China from getting the upper hand as far as military and intelligence advantages. I see not reason why the US should not object and use it’s considerable influence over Israel to prevent the sale of equipment that may compromise their advantage over China. Just because Israel and US have a good, long standing and friendly relationship is no reason for the US to allow Israel to compromise US security.

We could also easily turn around the question thus: Why did Israel choose to agree to sell spy planes to China knowing that they may be used to compromise the security of Israel’s closest allie. Isn’t that a bit like biting the hand that feeds you?

Of course I am not sure I understand what kind of threat China presents to US interests so I cannot be sure if US actions were justified or not in this case. That is probably a discussion for another thread. But I am relatively certain that if the sale of those planes to China would have outweighed any advantages of continued good Israel-US realations, then Israel would have gone forward with the sale. Clearly, risking loss of US support was not worth the sale of the spy planes to China.

Just as an aside, given Truth Finder’s take on how western powers destabalize other regions, wouldn’t the sale of spy planes to China by Israel be construed as an act contributing to destabilization of Chinese-American relations?

How can u explain this reality? Isn’t there a lesson here that western intervention is a misguided course of action?
Is it not time that the general populace of the western world to try and limit the powers of their leaders to authorize military interventions ? [/quote}

It’s the classic Tiger by the tail. We(speaking as a memeber of the general populace of the western world) know that we are one of the big causes of the problem, and I believe that we have some responsibility to help sort it out. The world in general didn’t fare all that well the last time America went isolationist, so I’m pretty sure that’s not the right answer. And saying “We will not get involved militarily, no matter what” is pretty much the same thing.

I believe, imho, that the whole problem in the Mid-East is as simple as this: 1) The Jews believe, balls to bone, that God gave them this land; 2) They have been displaced several times throughout their history; 3) They finally got their land back after thousands of years of foreign occupation and after having six-million of their brothers and sisters killed in WW2; 4) The people the Jews had to displace to get back Canaan never really liked the Jews anyways; 5) The Jews, for the first time in their history, are capable of defending themselves completely (nuclear power, US and UN support, etc.).

I think points 3 and 5 are the key here. Because of the horror of the Holocaust, the US and the UK and their allies felt compelled to help the Jews live with security so they gave them their land back, their own government, and provide the weapons technology they would need to defend themselves forever. The Jews, also because of the Holocaust, are now determined to “never again” be under foreign captivity.

Considering that during WWI there were only about 25,000 Jews in Palestine, there are now nearly 5,000,000, and that the Arabs who were occupying this area hate the Jews (I am from the Mid-East and can attest that there is definitely a dislike and a distrust of the Jews prevalent there) it is hardly surprising that a war-like atmosphere would foment.

A side note: I visited the Mid-East this previous winter and I noticed that the Arab population seemed very upset by the recent violence and they blamed Israel and America for “always” supporting Israel. They believe that the most powerful nation on earth has a bias for Israel and against Arabs. Also, for a long time, Muslims/Arabs have called Ariel Sharon “The Butcher” because of his military reputation. This was the ONE guy they did not want to see in power. Huh.