(1) The existence of the House of Saud. Without U.S. guarantees and military cooperation, it would probably have fallen to some kind of revolution by this point in time, and perhaps several.
(2) The hostility of Iran toward the West seems to be a direct result of U.S. policy toward Iran starting from the early 1950’s.
(3) The current problems with the Islamic State seem to be a direct result of the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and specifically the style of (mis)management of the aftermath, especially as regards (a) Sunni Arabs who lost influence with the fall of Sadaam Hussein and the Baath party, and (b) the disbanding of the Iraqi Army.
I doubt anyone asserts that the US has nothing to do with the US support of Saudi, the Shah/Iranian revolution, or the Iraq invasion. One one level, yes, the US has things to do with the state of affairs in the middle east.
On another level…the line of reasoning/argumentation seems to be from you that all these issues are direct results of US policy, used to deny any role of Salafism in Saudi, Islamish in Iran, sectarian tension in Iraq. It seems more accurate to credit regions for some level of agency. Otherwise you end up with a construct of:
If they act in the US’s interests, the US is responsible.
If they act against the US’s interests, the US is responsible.
As a painting from which one can cherry pick to blame a pre-judged target (the US). Swap out “the west” or “capitalism” or whatever…its all an ahistorical and bigotted agenda-driven attempt to control perception of events, rather than simply tell the whole truth.
Who knows what the whole truth is? But likely its not that the region would be particularly trouble free if the US had eschewed involvement. All the sects and tensions would still be there, after all, just with one fewer player to “blame”.
If you disagree…then erase the US from involvement. How would the Iran story differ? It’s likely either the Shah stays in power without US backing, somehow, thus causing a different but still bad scenario. Or, the shah is overthrown, roughly as he really was, causing a similar but still bad scenario. Those are the options. There is no scenario where the Pahlavi dynasty is trouble free with or without the US…particularly when it rubs up against Islamism, period.
Just that’s not the way the game is played. Its a rigged game, designed to support self-serving agendas like “if only the people in the US voted or acted way I would have them, THEN Iran and Iraq and Saudi would be utopic!”
That all said, I actually agree that US entanglement tends to crap it all up.
Just…its quite possibly all crapped up, period. Because its a region full of sects and theocracies and valuable resources. Its a stew of conflicts and quagmires. If the US had lost the US revolution and never come to pass, whatever. We could blame “England”. Or if Ghenghis Khan had never been repelled we could blame Mongolia for mishandling the region. Doesn’t matter. Its a region full of conflicting idealogies, so its full of problems.
I am neither stupid nor ignorant enough to believe that there are solitary causes to historical events. Each of them is contingent on multiple factors, and we can only attempt to identify their factors and weigh the importance of the factors identified. History is an imprecise area of study.
At the same time, saying that “American foreign policy has little if anything to do with the current state of affairs in the Arab world” is an abuse of the word “little”, and the use of the idiomatic phrase “little if anything” is rhetorically dismissive. If the U.S. had never had anything to do with Arab affairs, or done anything that had an effect on Arab affairs, the situation would not be exactly the same. There might not be a significant terrorist threat, for instance. U.S. involvement in the resistance to the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan was instrumental in the creation of Al Qaeda. If the U.S. had put in the money, it might not have become as powerful an organization. The decision by Al Qaeda to explicitly target U.S. interests was, according to documentary evidence, triggered by the presence of foreign troops on the territory of Saudi Arabia during the Gulf War of 1991-1992. It is hard to argue that this had no plausible effect on the recruitment of terrorists or the raising of money to support them. The U.S. was involved in the replacement of the Iranian Mossadegh government by coup d’etat in 1953 that eventually led to the Iranian Revolution of 1979, and part of the residual distrust of the U.S. in Iran is centered on that event and on the increasing autocracy of the Shah’s government, which was at the very least implicitly condoned by the U.S. The Iranian Revolution of 1979 provided the opportunity for Saadam Hussein in Iraq to attack Iran, and the U.S. “leaned to” Iraq in the subsequent war.
Back to the Gulf War, the U.S.-led response weakened the power of Iraq. The U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 removed the existing government, but in doing so it also removed the constraints of that government on the activities of terrorists. As I said previously, there is no way that the 2003 invasion had only a minor role in bringing about the Islamic State. Had a Baathist government still been in place in Iraq, it is entirely possible, more likely probable, that Iraq would have actively cooperated with Baathist Syria to suppress any Islamist initiatives in their combined territories. Such initiatives may not even have occurred, because the leader of I.S. is an Iraqi Sunni who selected his current route after becoming unwillingly disengaged from normal political activities in Iraq (such as they were).
At the same time, I did not and do not mean to suggest that there would be no conflict between Arab states, or between Arab states and adjacent states, without U.S. involvement in the region in pursuit of its own interests. The precise shape of what those conflicts would have been is difficult to state in any detail, but it is very likely that they would have formed along the lines of historical rivalries in the region: Sunni versus Shia, Iranian versus Arabian versus Turkish versus Kurdish, Levantine versus Egyptian, and so forth. Not all of the rivalries are along ideological lines, but some of them are. From time to time, on a historical scale, ideologies align with other geographical factors, providing opportunities for major cluster-fucks to develop. Like now.
If the U.S. had never had anything to do with Arab affairs, or done anything that had an effect on Arab affairs, the situation would not be exactly the same.
Yes, but everyone beyond preschool knows this as a truism. If anything has some effect on anything else, then it has had an effect.
Which you’ve now repeated as a tautology.
So what I’m saying is that, problematic phrasing be damned, the point of interest is (likely) an assertion worth discussing such as “If the US never had anything to do with Arab affairs, he situation would not be much better.” That may or may not be true, but at least it is dubious and potentially worth discussing.
Unlike your tautology above, which seems to be manufactured by a strict quote miney reading of some less-than-ideal text. Yes, involvement means you are involved. Being involved differs from being uninvolved. All true. Yawn. All cherry pickable from the original quote in question, to “argue.” Just, distracting tangent. We’ve lost the point.
Basically, if Sam (or anyone) says “Black people are apes. White people are apes. We’re all apes. Racism does not make sense.” Let us please discuss whether racism makes sense, or perhaps even whether human beings qualify as part of which species, biologically.
Let’s NOT discuss whether there is confusion over whether we can distinguish black people from bonobos. The phrasing of the text appears to put that into question, but the point of the text is (likely) different. And it seems like a pedantic game of syntax scruntiny instead of idea engagement.
How much better or worse the arab region is today and why is of merit as a question. It only appears, syntactically, that whether US involvement has ANY impact is in question. Smarty pants that focus on the latter are distracting, I think.
And often (though not necessarily here) said smarty pants are not even doing so intellectually honestly; rather they are intentionally capitalizing on phrasing to promote their campaign/agenda (which, as I said, is likely to be a Chomskian “blame the west never the middle east” or apologists’ “blame history never religion” or an SJWs “blame whomever has lighter skin never brown people” but it could be a tactic used similarly by a Fox Newsian “blame the democrats never the republicans”). In all cases, it always seems antithetical to SH’s approach which, like it or not, is more akin to “blame religion because <here is reasoning>” to me.
Its a way to shift the focus of discussion due to semantic technicality and eschew relevant <here is reasoning>.
That all said I don’t mean to actually hijack away from what you want to say about US involvement. Tangents are good too. Just that’s why I see such stuff as tangential, and not exactly ideally relevant. (IFF my reading of the question is accurate, of course.)