Recalibrating Our Foreign Policy Vision for a New Middle East
Thanks to the relatively peaceful democratic uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, the Middle East has entered a new era. The world will soon learn the nature of this reality, but it is certain members of the International Community must thoroughly review their policies toward this region. Today, world leaders focus on the Middle East primarily for its oil reserves and the threat of Islamic extremism; however, developments in the coming weeks to years will create many more points of interest. Given the relevance of the Middle East and past policy improprieties, the US and other global power brokers must urgently recalibrate their foreign policies for a Middle East in transition.
Relationships between democracies temporarily change with shifts in domestic power in regular and irregular cycles, but long-term, more structural changes might be foreseen. In the Middle East, which has many underdeveloped areas characterized by vast cultural differences accentuated by lagging civil development, instability will be the rule for some time, but democracy is on its way. Unfortunately, the cost of propping up non-democratic governments is a lack of trust and weak development among the populations of this region. While it is one thing to cooperate with whatever ruling body governs a territory, it is quite another for us to forget our values and get in bed with oppressive, abusive leaders as we did in the Middle East.
Moving forward, the International Community has to be far more honest when engaging Middle Eastern nations and this means the West must stop trying to shape the destiny of the region for our convenience. Democracy, economic development, and social values cannot be forced upon the Peoples of the Middle East. Outsiders may pressure the Peoples of these lands to consider different perspectives of other individuals, but social evolution cannot be substituted with sermons from the West. Of course, this does not preclude world leaders from openly criticizing the behavior of regional leaders, who ignore the interests of their populations, or reinforcing our principles, especially when global interests are endangered.
Hindered by critical debt burdens among Western governments and uncertain shifts in power, the role of foreign powers in the Middle East must transform into one where coequal economic partnerships arise and the major assistance from the outside comes in the form of political development. After all, the entirety of the International Community does not have enough resources to adequately prop up Middle Eastern economies nor can the Middle East fulfill the needs of its populations if it is so dependent on outside interests. Meanwhile, lending our expertise to help the development of the political institutes required to self-govern, as well as offering leaders advice on how to cope with the cultural and social changes needed for the Peoples of emerging democracies to define the role of government and participate in governance, is also necessary.
Furthermore, our addiction to crude might be eased in the distant future and the need for intervention will not always outweigh the high cost of war, but disengaging from the Middle East will never be a viable option. As the region moves into a phase of transition, which might last for quite some time and be characterized by periods of failed, as well as successful, attempts at democracy, dealing with governments we might, or might not, find favorable to achieve what common goals we can muster is essential to global stability. A failure to successfully engage all nations of the region on some front will translate into a total lack of influence as well as a far greater disadvantage in global affairs as other global powers, such as China, will engage these leaders. We must, however, shift away from high cost policies that create dangerous long-term liabilities.