It’s one of George W. Bush’s most famous garbled quotes, but lately I’ve begun wondering if it was actually intended as a straightforward description of America’s long-term ambitions in the Middle East. By now, it’s clear to everyone that the U.S. failed to achieve even a single stated goal in either Afghanistan or Iraq. And surely anyone with any intellectual integrity has to be asking very serious questions about whether any of those goals — building a stable democratic republic, rooting out all terrorists ever, etc. — were ever even possible. Yet things seem to be more or less on automatic pilot over there, with Obama pondering leaving troops in Afghanistan for all eternity.
This is one of those points where one needs to apply the “what if it’s a feature, not a bug” test. What if the positive goal is to create chaos and turmoil? If we stipulate that the U.S. can’t positively shape events in the Middle East — or, what amounts to the same thing, that it’s not willing to commit the resources necessary — then the next-best result is to prevent anyone else from controlling the situation.
From this perspective, we can see the true horror of America’s Middle East policy: a seething cauldron of violence that threatens to explode into World War III is preferable to allowing anything like genuine self-determination by the people of the Middle East. And it becomes even worse when you realize that the whole thing is engineered to maintain control over a fuel source that may literally render the earth uninhabitable in the long run.
As a Palestinian preacher once said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.”