Background to the US War on Terror

Response to Frans, “With a half-Muslim in the White House, what did you expect?” 

Were it but that easy, Frans. A case could be made on the basis of Mr. Obama’s genealogy, and appears in this case compelling. New president, new policy. But seen from a slightly different perspective the United States under this administration continues along a well established line recently most evident during the administration of President Carter and replacing the Shah with Islamic Republic in Iran. Eisenhower’s intervening in Suez against its allies Britain and France, then forcing Israel out of Sinai is a bit more subtle, but fits the model. But the actual origin of this American policy was first enunciated by President Wilson during the First World War.

The problematic impact of US policy on the Middle East was and is its impact on regional stability. The decision to Invade Iraq was, whatever its real motive, offered by Bush as to introduce Democracy to the Arab world. The fallout of that decision was to entirely redraw the map of the region to the advantage of Iran’s challenge to the Arabs from its new satellite, Shiite Iraq! The Arab Spring threat to Arab autocracies strongly supported by Obama in Libya, Egypt, and even Saudi Arabia only continue the Bush policy line. The rise of militant Islam in Syria, Gaza and now an Iraqi “democracy” approaching its new status as Failed State, the immediate trail begins in Iraq, 2003. Under the American formula of democratizing the Maghreb, the tyranny of Qaddafi is today’s Failed State of Libya. 

Not only does a dogmatic approach to politics, at home and abroad, result in chaos on the ground, it also creates a fiction in place of reality. As applies to America in the Middle East, for example: decades of US belief that if only Israel and the Palestinians could be made to make peace milk and honey would flow through Arabia (even Afghanistan according to General McChrystal!) and all the challenges to US regional policy would magically vanish! 

But there is a far more consequential mistake facing the US and the West resulting from viewing what is occurring in the Middle East, and particularly radical Islamism from 9-11 forward through the dogma of western “democracy.” 

The Arab Awakening is not the result of Jewish Israel in Islam’s holy midst. Certainly Israel’s blazing leap into the twentieth century, the economic miracle, etc, was/is an irritant and embarrassment to a proud people. But the roots of radical Islam go much deeper: not just that Imperialist Europe dominated and exploited the region for a half-century following the defeat of the Muslim caliphate under Turkey in WWI. 

The Arab-Western war is actually a Muslim-Christian war dating back one-thousand years to the Christian Crusades. 

But since the West views the conflict with radical Islam as “local” and “immediate,” that is through its preferred dogmatic lenses it will never understand, be always amazed at the hatred of the enemy at its gates.

This, Frans, I offer as more suggestive and perhaps helpful as description of the place of Obama against the fabric of history of American regional (and global) policy.

About the Author
David made aliya in 1960 and has been active in Jewish issues since. He was a regional director for JNF in New York, created JUDAC, Jews United to Defend the Auschwitz Cemetery during that controversy; at the request of Jonathan Pollard created and led Justice for the Pollards in 1989.