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US Involvement in the Middle East Is a Double-Edged Sword—Here's Why

It's really not that hard to understand why, but the results can be either positive or negative. Not both.

Even though the reasoning is simple, it's really all too complicated.

When Americans think of the Middle East in the present day, we immediately think of bloodshed and violence. The Fertile Crescent was home to various empires that spanned several nations, with Babylonia, Assyria, Persia, Canaan and Phoenicia later becoming autonomous countries that would remain enemies millennia later; the nations that are now Iraq, Syria, Iran, Israel and Lebanon will possibly remain both political, cultural, and religious rivals for centuries more. As complex as the history of the Cradle of Civilization may sound from the average point of view, it is actually quite simple to explain: one area wants the other dead or suffering. For example, countries aligned with Israel and Saudi Arabia want nations aligned with Palestine and Syria to be either nonexistent or poverty-stricken. United States involvement can have both positive and negative outcomes. Backing the deposition of a dictator can result in either prosperity and peace or rampant poverty and brutal dictatorships. Although the region has been rife with conflict for thousands of years, Western involvement is truly a double-edged sword. As stated in a recent PragerU video made by Dennis Prager, “It’s simple. One side wants the other dead.” All of the benefits have their disadvantages.

Historically, United States involvement in nations of conflict has had positive outcomes. One prime example is World War II. If the United States never intervened, the Nazis and the Axis powers would have easily been successful in their many attempts to conquer the world and exterminate multiple races. To add to the atrocities that would have occurred, the Nazis would have eventually succeeded in developing nuclear weapons, instead of succumbing to their own terrorism-centric ideologies. Another result of lack of American intervention in World War II, besides rampant bigotry and Fascist imperialism, would be even more devastating. Israel, one of our key allies in the Middle East, wouldn’t be recognized as either an autonomous nation or a designated Jewish homeland. Other than Israel, we wouldn’t have another key ally: Saudi Arabia. According to Council on Foreign Relations, The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has been our ally, in both the economy and military campaigns within the Fertile Crescent, since 1933. Saudi Arabia aided the Allied Forces in both the defeat of the Axis Powers and the establishment of Israel as both a Jewish homeland and an independent country in 1948. (Source: Council on Foreign Relations, "U.S.-Saudi Relations," Last updated May 12, 2017, Another example of why American intervention in the Middle East may be more recent, but it’s just as critical: the fall and assassination of Saddam Hussein. Had the Bush administration ignored the terroristic political state in Iraq, a regime based on torture and imperialism would be alive and well forty years later. After taking power in 1978, Saddam Hussein controlled the Iraqi people with persecution, colonialism, and bigotry. (Source: The New York Times, Iraq Army Invades Kuwait In Fierce Fighting, Michael B. Jordan, August 2, 1990) Without then-president George H.W. Bush’s decision to invade Iraq, the atrocities committed by the Hussein regime would still be all too commonplace. The overthrow of Saddam Hussein was a necessary decision. (Source: The Telegraph UK, "What Would Have Happened If We Never Invaded Iraq?," Julie Lenarz, July 6, 2016, Although intervention may be necessary, there are times when it can make things worse instead of better.

United States involvement in the Cradle of Civilization can lean more towards negative results rather than positive. After World War II, American intervention in foreign countries has historically had more cynical outcomes rather than reliable. One of the most infamous examples is American involvement in the breakup of Yugoslavia during the 1990s. According to the 2012 Vice News article, titled The Vice Guide to The Balkans, disapproving views towards Americans are quite commonplace. Six years after the article’s release, attitudes towards Americans remain unchanged, especially within South Florida’s Balkan population.  

“Attitudes towards Americans are just negative overall. Where I’m from, we view Americans as greedy and corrupt. Even though America helped Montenegro gain independence, the way that it was done was wrong. Plain and simple,” states Carla, a college student, originally from Montenegro. 

Carla isn’t alone; I was also able to speak to another student from the same region who had a strikingly similar viewpoint. 

“We really have an unspoken hatred towards Americans. We don’t talk about it or say it out loud, but it’s definitely there.” states Victor, another college student, hailing from the Republic of Serbia. 

Although Victor and Carla are just two people originally hailing from a region roughly half the size of Brazil, what they had to say spoke volumes. (Source: I was able to set up interviews with classmates; their names have been changed to respect their privacy.) This unspoken hatred towards Americans isn’t without reasonable justification; in fact, social disapproval towards Americans in the former Yugoslavia stretches back to the mid-to-late-1970s. When civil war broke out in Nicaragua in 1975, communism was becoming widely popular with the poor and middle class. This was seen as a threat by then-president Jimmy Carter. The thought of having a communist dictatorship just south of Mexico and west of Honduras was deemed “a major threat to national security.” In an effort to overthrow dictator Anastasio Somoza de Sauza, the United States appointed drug kingpin Slobodan Milosevic as intelligence on the Communist party, along with businessman Pablo Escobar. Along with Ratko Mladic, Milosevic formed the Scorpion cartel and the Medellin-Managua cartel would be formed by Escobar. Together, the Scorpion and Medellin-Managua cartels funneled over $420 billion dollars worth of cocaine a week into the United States via Nicaragua and Yugoslavia. Both cartels were run like formal businesses and able to be considered such. (Source: Business Insider, Pablo Escobar and Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman: How 2 Of The World’s Most Powerful And Dangerous Drug Lords Compare, Samantha Lee and Christopher Woody, July 8, 2017) 

For four years, Milosevic was able to live comfortably in the United States, despite being considered a transnational threat as a result of involvement in the drug trade. It wasn’t until 1979 that he and Ratko Mladic were deported back to Yugoslavia, when the Iran-Contra scandal broke. Many might ask, “What does this have to do with the negative views towards Americans?” It’s fairly simple. After the death of Josip Broz Tito in 1980, Slobodan Milosevic was appointed the puppet dictator of Yugoslavia, aided by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). 

Fast forward to the mid-1990s. In 1992, the United States enters the civil war in Yugoslavia, despite international criticism. Fourteen years later, the CIA would aid in the assassination of Slobodan Milosevic. The negative results of American involvement overshadowed the positive. Even though Montenegro had gained full independence and Kosovo became semiautonomous, nothing could compensate for the negative sociopolitical attitudes towards Americans. (Source: Huffington Post, Huffington Post: The Blog, "The US War On Yugoslavia: Ten Years Later," Stephen Zunes, July 6, 2009, According to the 2012 Vice News documentary Around The Balkans In 20+ Days, genuine disdain for Americans is still very much alive and well in the region, with both the younger and older generations. (Source: VICE News, The VICE Guide To Travel, "The VICE Guide To The Balkans," January 15, 2012, The mindset of “Them-Versus-Us” has remained in the region since the 1970s, and will likely stay there. While the reason for war in the Fertile Crescent may be easy to explain, the reality is much more confusing.

Although the reason for conflict in the Middle East is quite simple, the reality of Western involvement is more complex. The situation is filled with more “what-if’s” than straight answers. While American involvement may be viewed as beneficial, what is going to happen after groups such as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and Hezbollah finally collapse? Similar to the results of the assassination of Serbian dictator Slobodan Milosevic in 2006, there will inevitably be a massive power vacuum. Power vacuums can either result in stability or violent coups. There’s no in-between. Foreign fighters on both sides are going to want to either possibly return to their native countries or head to foreign nations. 

After the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan that spanned from the late 1970s to the early 1980s, many foreigners chose to return to their native countries after taking up arms against the Soviet Union, while some went to other nations. (Source: VOX, "What Happens After ISIS Falls?," Sam Ellis, August 14, 2017, Many of these individuals ended up fighting in other proxy wars, such as the Bosnian Revolution and the still-ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict. ISIS and Hezbollah will go from physical terrorist organizations to ideologies. Similar to the defeat of Germany in 1945, the cult-like mindset of the Nazi party became an ideology. Like many foreign fighters involved in past proxy wars in the Fertile Crescent, members of the Nazi party either returned to Germany or permanently fled to Latin American countries such as Mexico, El Salvador, Peru, Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, and Brazil. In Latin America, their beliefs went from a tangible system to an ideology. (Source: BBC, "BBC Bitesize: Why The Nazis Were Able To Stay In Power So Long," 2016, At the end of the day, the reason for conflict in the Cradle of Civilization may be simple, but American involvement can be both negative and positive.

US involvement in The Middle East is a double-edged sword—here’s why conclusion, American involvement in the Fertile Crescent is a double-edged sword. The reasoning behind war in the Middle East is fairly simple to explain: one side wants the other dead. Although the explanation is much more simple, the reality is much more complex. Although one threat may be annihilated, another will emerge in a power vacuum. The results can either be rewarding or disastrous in the long run. There will be never be any certainty, but the decision regarding American involvement will be both positive and negative.

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US Involvement in the Middle East Is a Double-Edged Sword—Here's Why
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