Friday, March 21, 2008

Power, Faith and Fantasy

After 600 pages of detailed discussion of the history of U.S. Middle-East relations from 1776 to the present, Michael Oren, the author of the outstanding book, Power, Faith and Fantasy provides this assessment:
“The history of U.S.-Middle East relations…was not one of unqualified kindness and altruism. American oil companies pumped billions of barrels of Arabian oil not for the betterment of the indigenous populations but for their own enrichment [This hardly seems fair. The oil companies not only made themselves rich, they made these countries wealthy beyond their wildest dreams]. Successive administrations had backed the oppressive regimes that advanced America’s interests and conspired to overthrow popular leaders. Yet for all its demerits, the record of American interaction with the Middle East is rife with acts of decency and graced with good intentions. The United States was unrivaled in introducing modern education and health care to the area, in extending emergency relief, and building infrastructure, in obtaining the freedom of colonized nations and in attempting to achieve security and peace. On balance, Americans historically brought far more beneficence than avarice to the Middle East and cause significantly less harm than good (Oren, Michael B. Power, Faith and Fantasy; America in the Middle East; 1776 to the Present. New York : Norton, 2007, 603. The words in brackets above are mine).
The assessment that overall, America’s policies brought much more good than bad to the Middle East flies in the face of many on the Left who argue that it is America’s Middle East policies that have brought on the wrath of Islamic extremists. The fact is that we did not deserve to have 6 killed and over 1,000 wounded in the 1993 attack on the World Trade Centers, or to have 19 killed and 372 wounded in the attack on the Khobar Towers in 1996, or to have 244 killed and over 4,000 wounded in the attack on the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, or to have 17 killed and 34 wounded in the attack on the USS Cole, or to have 3,000 dead in the attack on the twin towers in 2001.

Those like the Reverend Jeremiah Wright and many others on the Left, who blame America for these atrocities, place themselves on the side of the very terrorists who seek to kill us.

1 comment:

Brent said...

Nobody is saying we deserved to be attacked on any of those occasions. (Well, maybe a couple of nutjobs, including people like Fred Phelps.) But we also can't ignore that our presence in the Middle East, no matter how well-intentioned or productive, has enraged the people who have attacked us. No, that doesn't make them justified in the slightest. "Exiled Saudi Osama bin Laden has cited the presence of U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia as a core grievance in his self-proclaimed holy war against the United States." (

Recognizing facts like these doesn't mean that one hates America or thinks we deserved to be attacked. But understanding the facts does help understand the enemy better. The Bush administration must have thought so, even withdrawing troops from Suadi Arabia in 2003. Sadly, just because we did good (or think we did) doesn't mean that our enemies and the people they influence will see things the same way.