Random posts on all sorts of things designed to inform and provoke.
Following the anti-US protests that began after the marketing of the anti-Muhammad clip last week, a number of Americans (in the press, television, and on other social media) have expressed incredulity at the ingratitude of the newly free Muslim nations to their western allies. The narrative of these pundits is that the US and the international community helped ordinary citizens overthrow their dictators and now these same people are repaying our generosity by attacking our embassies, consulates, and personnel. Indeed, there have been calls for stronger actions against these nations to show them that the US is unhappy with their actions and lack of gratitude.
This post does not focus on the actual perpetrators of these heinous actions – that is being left for another time. What I would like to focus on is the problems with the narrative being disseminated about how grateful regular Middle Eastern citizens should feel towards the US. First, this line of thinking and analysis (LoTA) ignores long-term US support for the dictators that these movements overthrew and the resentment that this support fostered. I don’t need to rehash the length of breadth of US support for oppressive governments in the Middle East; indeed, as someone who believes in the realist model of international relations, I believe past and ongoing US support for the Egyptian, Tunisian, Yemeni, Saudi, etc. governments has helped maintain stability in the region and thwarted the actions of many anti-US state and non-state actors.
However, we (i.e. those that supported such actions) should also be realists about the impact of these actions. While US-supported governments were able to effectively achieve their goals, the brutality of their methods engendered anger and resentment among their populace. This attitude continued to foster and grow as these leaders extended their hold on power and refused to leave after 30-plus years in office. In addition, none of these leaders was very good at sharing and their version of trickle down economics was worse than that proposed by members of the US Tea Party.
The US did make the appropriate and intelligent decision to realize the extent of citizen anger against the governments and took the appropriate measures in the face of historic protests in the Middle East – it is significant that the only ruler who has been killed during these revolutions was someone who was not supported by the US. While I am aghast at the actions of the citizens of these countries and believe there is no justification for them, the thinking that these people should be grateful to the US stretches incredulity as only a fool would ignore the impact of our historical involvement and impact on the region and its populace.