American Foreign policy in the Middle East is drowning in an ocean of rising Islamism. The Arab Spring has been a boon for the extremist factions (of which there are many) largely because their long term planning is now coming to fruition. The chickens have come home to roost with a vengeance in Syria. It is an unpleasant reality for US NeoCons and the GOP right wing loons, who are largely deluded by the notion that if we parrot “Democracy” and “Freedom” enough times on the Sunday Shows it will work like some Jedi mind trick, winning the hearts and minds of Middle Eastern peoples. Anyone with any common sense could have predicted the dire consequences of (multiple) decades of propping up brutal and repressive regimes under the auspices of American Hegemony simply because they would be quietly sympathetic to US policies and influence. Dubya and his cadre labored under the delusion that once Saddam Hussein’s regime was toppled the Iraqis would swoon in the streets at the sight of American soldiers, welcome us as liberators and heroes.
Funny. That’s not how it played out. For some reason, America projecting its ideas and values is seen as an intolerable continuation of what they just rid themselves of. Now, there are no good solutions to be had. Supporting various rebel factions, by arming them and/or giving them material support is in fact, tacit support for the next theocratic government. Egypt would be a good recent example. Once they have consolidated power, the US can rely on them to be hostile to the US, our allies, (Israel) and our stated goals. We are hampered by two things; “Freedom of religion” and “the war on terror”. Put simply, trying to meld those two incompatible concepts is like trying to put out a fire by throwing gasoline on it. It only makes the problem larger, and eventually beyond control. It WILL burn ALL our houses down.
There needs to be a major re-framing of thought and policy in order to restore a semblance of normalcy to how we interact with our global neighbors. We are a secular state that accommodates a plurality of beliefs, all of which should have equal footing in the marketplace of ideas. The role of government is to provide an environment where religion can thrive without becoming a burden on its citizens and practitioners. Unfortunately, the US is a quasi theocracy. We’ve allowed ourselves to let Christianity have an undue influence in the legislation and everyday affairs of American life. It has driven policy both foreign and domestic almost since the beginning. Majority rule is often unkind to the minorities. Because an idea is held by a majority, doesn’t make it a virtue. We struggled as a “godly and self-righteous” nation over the horrors of slavery, up to and including modern day issues like abortion and homosexuality.
Can the need for separation of church and state be any clearer? Religious beliefs and values create and demand an environment of us and them (non-equality). Its stated goals are to get “them” to conform to “us” and “our” way of doing things. That is not how the framers of the Constitution saw it. “All men are created equal” as an ideology suffers where religions create an inability or unwillingness to connect with people unlike themselves. It diminishes your empathetic capacity. It flies in the face of democratic values and civilized society. It does not serve the plurality of the American people.
In reality, the war on terror IS a religious war. Muslims routinely use violence and terrorist actions as a preferred method of promoting their religious beliefs. Their values and practices run counter to 21st century living. They are a barbaric bronze age holdover and burden on the folks susceptible to their brand of ideology. You will note I didn’t say Muslim extremists. So called moderate Muslims ignore the inconvenient parts of controversial tenets and remain largely silent and suffer from fear and intimidation by the vociferous minority. If they are indeed the MAJORITY, then they are a LARGE PART OF THE PROBLEM. Someone needs to sack up and speak truth to their complicity until there is some corrective action taken by the Islamic movement. US politicians mealy mouth around the truth of it publicly, but if you ask them in the privacy of their living room, they are quick to point out Islam.
**Update I thought this video is an excellent addendum to the topic.
We have no problem drawing distinctions between benevolent and repressive governments as a matter of course, yet we can’t seem to find the resolve to confront ignorance, cruelty, and intolerance when it is faith based. All privilege and exceptions for religion must end immediately. That has to be the first fundamental change.
Second, we need to stop our global counter-jihad of ratcheting collateral damage and evangelizing democracy. It makes us no better than the thugs we supposedly are fighting. We are a nation of laws and we should start acting like one. It is not necessary to intervene in every civil war unilaterally. Global issues should be carefully undertaken by the world community. The first resort in diplomacy is never preemptive military action. That said, hold the governments responsible for the criminal actions of their citizens. Let them understand that violations of US sovereignty will result in an immediate and predictable consequence. Those like the Boston bombers can and should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. It’s why we have a justice system.
Let’s get back to leading by example. We could start by closing Guantanamo Bay.