Sneering At Amreeka

The conventional wisdom, expressed in a deluge of articles, is that the US is losing influence fast in the region commonly known as the “Middle East”. Every once in a while conventional wisdom is right, but usually no more so than mere chance warrants. Surprisingly none of these articles examine the more relevant point, which is whether the countries in which the US is losing influence have themselves lost influence in Washington. This is the more important question, since the US will survive long past the anger of the region, while many of the countries in it will need the US for a variety of tasks, both mundane and profound. Mooning a major power always carries the risk of exposing an ugly side, or worse.

One can not come to the rescue of the US policy makers easily. They have often jumped to the dance floor with two left feet. On the other hand, what wisdom exists on this earth to make policy for a region suffering from a severe historical and cultural bi-polar disorder. The leaders of the region often seem to be auditioning for a Hollywood broad farce remake. Israel will cry bloody murder at the mere thought that someone might demand a modicum of civility in its policy. Turkey is led by tough men with thin skin and tender feelings.  Saudi Arabia refused a Security Council seat and took to the fainting couch instead. Iran’s haggling holy men can hardly be called trustworthy. Syria’s name is now spoken with pain and a lowered gaze for the brutality its various factions have adopted in lieu of politics. Then there is Egypt, oh Egypt!

Most countries of the region have long ceased to make foreign policy for the benefits of their citizens and instead base their decisions on projections of fear, anger, hurt and spite. Asking the US to twist and turn at every gyration of these labile partners makes little sense. There is reality outside this ward, and it is that the US remains the eminent economic and military power, and much more importantly,  the vital intellectual center of the world. It can wait out various psychotic episodes if it holds fast onto its guiding principles. Like Milton’s comfort in his dying light, the US policy will “also serve who only stand and wait”.


— Maged Atiya

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