The world is a complicated place. One only has to look at that part of the world known as the Middle East and the reactions to events there.
It is almost impossible to avoid consideration of the potential for conflagration in the Middle East. It seems equally as difficult to avoid oversimplification of the issues emanating from there and America’s role in bringing about their resolution.
When considering recent events in the Middle East juxtaposed against the most heated American Presidential campaign in recent memory the process of sorting out the appropriate stance for America becomes complicated beyond reason. Those of us who sit in our easy chairs thousands of miles away and view the acts of violence and civil disobedience unfolding in more than a dozen Middle Eastern countries would be grossly remiss if we believed that these were merely a series of “us vs. them” tussles. We would be equally incorrect if we believed that these events could be solved by simply cutting off foreign aid, locking and loading our weapons and aiming a few cruise missiles.
Thirty years ago I had the good fortune of being admitted to a doctoral program that, among other things, focused on rural development. At that time rural development was important in the United States, but it was an even larger issue as it related to Third World and developing countries. From the perspective of someone from rural Mississippi the first meeting of the doctoral students in this program seemed to me to be a gathering of a sub-committee of the United Nations. While I could do no justice whatever to the spellings of the names of my new academic colleagues, I distinctly remember many of the countries that produced them. They were from Tanzania, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, The Sudan, Libya, Ghana, Japan, Iran, and a number of others. I learned a great deal from them. Not only were they genuinely good people and had lively senses of humor, they were quite studious and they had tremendous respect for the United States of America. During our three or four years together there were outbreaks in some of their home countries. One that I recall involved the Libya of Mohamar Khadafy attacking The Sudan. As fate would have it, the student from The Sudan and his fellow student from Libya shared the same office space. It goes without saying that the debates that took place there were quite interesting.
This was my first introduction to the fact that things in that part of the world are never as they seem to be. Furthermore, we err badly when we view negative activity in these countries as merely affronts to the Untied States.
While the simple blame for the current outbreak of civil unrest is being placed on an ill-advised and poorly made video that negatively depicts the Islamic Prophet Mohammed, the reality is apparently far different from that. In fact, as we “peel back” the onion-like layers of issues in the countries of the Middle East we find that issues of unemployment and downturns in the various economies, mixed with religious zeal and power vacuums resulting from the “Arab Spring,” make conditions that are too murky to see through. That results in some cases of making palatial embassies of America and European countries (Germany for example) tempting targets for competing groups to vent their anger.
The American Presidential campaign entered the fray via Republican candidate Mitt Romney’s harsh criticism of the Obama administration for an early press release from the American embassy in Egypt that was intended to quell growing unrest there. Add to that, the specter of Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu’s heightened warnings over Iranian nuclear developments, and blood pressure increased all around.
With Romney comes the reprisal of the neo-conservative impetus to take action, military and otherwise, anywhere in the world to enforce respect for American ideals. This can be compared to those who understand and accept the complicated nature of events and the necessity of working with those who are willing to cooperate in every country to hold the line on violence.
In the latter case, there is a greater dependence on the notion that there are those in every country who respect the United States and who at some point will aid in the restoration of equilibrium. Many of us have seen the hand-written signs of support in Libya. Also, it is well known that among the general population of Iran there are large numbers of admirers of the United States.
By all accounts, the changes taking place across the Middle East will take the better part of a generation to accomplish. Relatively few experts accept the notion that the flexing of American military might across the entirety of the Islamic world will bring about the peace and tranquility its proponents claim that it will.
Even in the early days of the “Arab Spring” we have seen fledgling democratic processes produce governments of which American proponents of democracy hardly approve. One such example can be seen in the Egyptian election of the Muslim Brotherhood candidate, President Mohammed Morsi to replace the thirty plus year dictator and American ally, Hosni Mubarak.
Yes, the world is a complicated place indeed.