It is difficult to ponder how the United States of America could have screwed up more and more often than it has in the Middle East. And we continue to do so.
A century or more ago the U.S. sided with the European colonialists who treated the people of the Middle East as slave laborers or work animals. The natural resources of the region were stolen to fill the coffers of Colonial Europe. Hatred for the West, simmering since the Crusades, continued to ferment. And the U.S. was seen in the same light as European colonialists. Our "brand" of capitalism defined Western stealing.
Through the early 20th century we continued to stumble and make stupid and ill-devised decisions as it related to the region. None other than George W. Bush's grandfather was involved in a cabal to smuggle oil from Saudi Arabia into Nazi Germany. Prescott Bush developed the riches of that family, fostered two U.S. presidents, and to this day that family is cozy with the Saudis, no matter how ruthless they are.
In the 1950s the CIA played a major role in overthrowing the government in Iran, placing the hated Shah on the throne there, and solidified a lifelong hatred of America.
The U.S. watched as the Europeans started to pull out of the Middle East, or were forced out, and stood by as new nations, with strange borders began to evolve. The groupings of the people of these nations often had little or nothing to do with the ethnic heritages of the area. Iraq is a good example of Sunnis, Shiites, and Kurds forced into ill-conceived geographic boundaries.
We supported horrific governments in Egypt, made some horrible decisions regarding Israel and the Palestinians, goofed up in Lebanon, illegally invaded Iraq, ad infinitum.
Now we are currently in grave error in our dealings in Syria. Our decisions are not based on actual facts, but on some mangled information that reflects the ignorance in the U.S. State Department and elsewhere.
We have used a simplicity to blame Assad for all that is happening in Syria. Assad is a terrible man, but he is not in control of the government power in Demascus. The turmoil in Syria is not a fight between Assad and people wanting democracy. Though that is what is being told to the American public.
What is playing out in Syria is an ongoing fight between a sect of Islmaic Shia [Alawites], Sunnis, and off-shoots of both. The Shia are from the mountains of northwestern Syria, and represent perhaps 20% of the population but they control the Assad government. They are used as a militia to "clean up" what the Syrian army cannot do, or to carry out their own form of torture and murder on the general public.
What is happening in Syria today is less like Libya's revolution, and more like the mess in Bosnia was. It is more a civil war than a fight for democracy. And the sooner we realize that the better chance we have of solving the Syrian puzzle. We have egg on our face, and our ignorance is showing. Until we get this right, our leadership role is questionable.
We cannot continue showing such ignorance of the Middle East. Does anybody in the State Department have any scholarly background in the history and evolution of the current region? Wake up, America!