American policy toward the Middle East

American policy toward the Middle East


American policy toward the Middle East

Americanpolicy toward the Middle East

Americanpolicy toward the Middle East


TheUnited States foreign policy on Middle East has been verycontroversial in the recent past. American engagement in the MiddleEast became more evident in the post war era, especially during thecold war. Some of the earlier policies include American support tothe newly established Jews nation, Israel and attempts to containcommunism influence in the region during the cold war era. In thelate 20thcentury, the United States has been viewed as the new security patronof the Middle East region, replacing the United Kingdom. The mostimportant motivation of American interest in Middle East was economicreasons, mainly due to the rich oil deposits in the region. However,after the September 11 attack, the focus has shifted to counterterrorism (Jones, 2012, Fain, 2008).


Thispaper argued that there are enough reasons why the United Statesshould be engaged in the Middle East.


Thecontroversies surrounding the United States policy towards MiddleEast can be best understood in the context of the engagement vs.isolationism debate. Some commentators and historical figures such asGeorge Washington have warned the American political systems againstadopting policies that permanently entangle them in global alliancesthrough foreign policies. Although this was a good advice to a newnation in the 18thcentury, so much has changed in the 20thand 21stcentury (Hemmer, 2012). American disengagement in the Middle East andother parts of the world is largely impractical and inappropriate inthe modern world. Although the America society is fairly split overgovernment policies in Middle East, there are valid reasons whypolicies on Middle East are valid.

Thereare important lessons the United States have learned in history,through its isolationism and engagement policies. In the First WorldWar, the United States was hesitant to be engaged in the Europeanconflicts that resulted into the war. However, when the Americangovernment changed its policy, the itinerary of the war changed.Similarly, the United States hesitated to engage in the European andAsian conflicts in the 1930s that resulted into the Second World War.In the 1930s, very few Americans, including policy makers wereinclined towards inserting the country into the conflicts. In theirview, the dark clouds in Europe and Asia was not United States’business. Surprisingly, while European and Asian powers wereexpanding their military powers in anticipation of war, the Americantroops remained dangerously low. However, the experiences of thePearl Harbor and the world wars in general were important lessons tothe United States (Hemmer, 2012). These lessons should be put intoconsideration in the American policy on Middle East debate. Theselessons informed the American policies on the spread of communism inthe world in the cold war era and the increased threat of religiousextremism and terrorism in the modern world. More importantly, thelessons have been the cornerstone of the national security policy aswell as foreign policy in the United States. At the end of the SecondWorld War, the role of the United States as a military power and itsinfluence on global security was emphasized. Secondly, the need forregional and international alliances to enhance global security andavoid large scale armed conflicts became a necessary policy. Thirdly,to prevent events such as the Pearl Harbor attack, the United Statesneeded to prepare and confront enemies outside its boundaries, inaddition to monitoring the activities of potential enemies.Unfortunately, although the United States was hit again during theSeptember 11 attack. Although the United States was aware of thethreats of emerging religious extremist groups in Middle East, thecommon perception was that Americans are secure within their borders(Hemmer, 2012).

Basedon these lessons, the current foreign policies on Middle East arejustified. Since the Second World War, the United States has beenengaged in several armed conflicts in different parts of the world,mainly Middle East and central Europe. It is important to note thatsome of the sentiments against American policies in Middle East havebeen based on the experiences in Iraq and Vietnam. However, in thetwo cases, the judgment of the Americans have been clouded byexaggeration and misunderstanding of the political and historicalcontexts. This is due to costs of these wars, in terms of the numberof lives lost and the amount of tax payers’ money spent, somepeople have argued against the current foreign policy towards MiddleEast. However, other interventions by the United States ininternational affairs justify the Middle East policy. With the helpof important allies and NATO, the United States was successful inKorea, Bosnia, Gulf War and Kosovo. The American engagement was ableto stop invading forces or ethnic cleansing. On the other hand, ithas been a different story when the United States had failed tointervene on issues and crisis that threaten global security (Hemmer,2012). For example, the United States turned its back when Iraqdictator Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, the Khmer Rouge genocide inCambodia and the Rwandan genocide. The United States and it alliesremains the only nation that is able to mobilize massive resources todeal with global crisis and conflicts. This is the most importantreason why the current policy on Middle East is justified. Despitethe criticisms, if the United States ignores the crisis in MiddleEast, the whole world will ignore them which will eventuallyculminate into a global crisis (Fain, 2008).

However,there are some reasons that have been put forward against the UnitedStates engagement in the Middle East. Some of the concerns raised bythose opposed to the foreign policy on Middle East include themotives behind the American engagement in Middle East. Somecommentators have argued that the United States policy on Middle Eastis motivated by oil interests while ignoring the human and economiccosts of the war. It has been argued that the amount of tax payersmoney spends by the United States government on the war in MiddleEast can not be justified. These sentiments have been supported bylimited success the United States has been able to achieve in theregion. These criticisms have focused on the failures of the UnitedStates in Vietnam, Somalia and Iraq and the fact that the UnitedStates has been unable to significantly contain extreme religiousgroups in the region. Another source of criticism to the UnitedStates engagement in Middle East has been based on the approach.Critics have argued that the United States has played a significantrole in the militarization of the Middle East crisis (Petersen,2015).

However,some of these critics are based on incorrect analysis of thesituation in the Middle East and the American foreign policies.Political and emotional interpretation of the American engagement inMiddle East has created the wrong perception about the foreign policyon Middle East. For example, the United States took militaryintervention on Middle East because the crisis was alreadymilitarized. Autocratic oil regimes in the region have over the yearsused oil resources to acquire military power to protect theirinterests. On the other hand, the cost of the crisis in the MiddleEast without the intervention of the United States would be morecompared to the cost of intervention. This is evident from thelessons learnt from the past where the United States has turned itsback on global conflicts. It is also important to note that theAmerican policy in Middle East is supported by several allies in thewest as well as Arab nations. Although it is a burden to the UnitedStates, the unified force is indispensable (Little, 2008). Thecriticism of the foreign policy in Middle East should also take intoconsideration the risk associated with emerging extremist groups suchas Islamic State and al Qaeda.


Theengagement of the United States in the Middle East is a verycontroversial issue. However, based on the lessons that United Stateshas learnt from the past, especially in the Second World War and theSeptember 11 attack, the crisis in Middle East can not be ignored.Additionally, crisis in which the United States has turned its backon have resulted into genocide and ethnic cleansing whileinterventions have been in the best interest of humanity. Therefore,being the world ready, the United States and its allies has theresponsibility of restoring peace and stability in the Middle East.It is the view of this article that American engagement in the MiddleEast is good for Americans and humanity.


Fain,W. T. (2008). AmericanAscendance and British Retreat in the Persian Gulf Region.ISBN 978-0-230-60151-2.Palgrave Macmillan.

Hemmer,C. (2012). Whichlessons matter?: American foreign policy decision making in theMiddle East,1979-1987, ISBN 0791492222,SUNY Press.

Jones,T. (2012). “America, Oil, and War in the Middle East”, Journalof American History99 (1), p 208-218.

Little,D. (2008). Americanorientalism: the United States and the Middle East since 1945,Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.

Petersen,T. (2015). Anglo-AmericanPolicy toward the Persian Gulf, 1978–1985: Power, Influence andRestraint,Sussex Academic Press.