As you may have seen in the news, there have been some politically motivated revolts in the country of Tunisia in northern Africa. There have been many reasons for these revolts such as anger against a dictating regime and a tiring of joblessness, money, and basic resources such as food. A growing anger against dictatorial governments in Tunisia has raised the eyebrows of the populations of other African and Middle Eastern countries. People in countries like Egypt are now starting to look at the revolts against the corruption of the Tunisian government as a possible solution to dealing with their own dictatorial governments. While a change in government might do well for the countries in question, it could also represent serious consequences for the Middle East, Africa, and the United States.
People in the country of Tunisia have risen up against their government. They have become tired of corrupt autocrats and chronic unemployment leading to an inability to go about their daily lives. The protests came about after a fruit vendor was no longer able to sell his fruit and committed suicide by setting himself on fire in protest. As a result, Tunisia has seen a massive governmental change due to the protests and the dictatorial government no longer exists. Other governments are now watching the situation in Tunisia and are fearful of similar revolts in their countries as their people eye the Tunisian revolts as a success. While it should be encouraged that corruption in those governments be removed, if governments in more and more countries are overthrown and the population descends into anarchy, new governments with terroristic ties might come to power in those countries and the U.S. will no longer have the allies in the governments of the Middle East and northern Africa, and we will find ourselves fighting many more countries.
It’s been true for some time that anti-US sentiment has been growing within the populations of the Middle East. The invasion of Iraq, the torture tactics used during interrogations of suspected terrorists, and supporting Israel when they are in violation of international law by building settlements on Palestinian land are among just a few of the directions that have caused an opinion shift against the U.S. and its foreign policy towards the Middle East and other Muslim countries. The US has allied itself with several countries such as Egypt and a continued support of dictatorial regimes by the US government could be grounds for revolt in Muslim countries like Egypt. We saw recently that the Hezbollah party came to power in Lebanon through a democratic process, which caused protest and a withdrawal of U.S. support for that government. If more revolts are on the way in Islamic countries we could see more anti-U.S. governments coming to power, possibly governments with terrorist ties or terrorist support. We could see an increase in militaristic actions in the region as a result of anti-U.S. sentiments stemming from revolutions and anti-U.S. governments coming to power.
The most likely consequence of governments with terrorist ties coming to power in the Middle East and African Islamic countries is just that, an increase in terrorism. We’ll see more terror cells in those countries, more terrorist funding, more terrorist training camps, the list goes on. More people in those countries will be drawn to the anti-U.S. idealism given out by terrorist leaders and could potentially lead to more terror attacks being carried out on U.S. soil. As a growing hatred of Israel’s activities and a perceived U.S. support of those activities takes hold among those populations with governmental terrorist ties we’ll not see a decrease in terrorism that we’ve tried to achieve in recent years but a potential increase of terrorism around the world as terrorist cells spread to other countries.
Another consequence for the U.S. would be a loss of access to oil in Middle Eastern countries. It can’t be debated that while we are just starting to shift away from our dependence of foreign oil, that very oil remains the backbone of the U.S. economy. A destabilized situation in any given Middle Eastern country could spread to other countries which would destabilize the infrastructure of those countries and could potentially destroy their ability to drill for and export their oil. Likewise, a country with a government unwilling to maintain ties with the U.S. could deny exporting oil to the U.S. OPEC could also become heavily influenced by these governments and a sharp price increase for oil could be a new priority for OPEC. What we would see in the U.S. is a sharp drop in oil supply and a drastic increase in oil prices at a time when we cannot afford to lose our oil imports. While we should continue to move away from foreign oil dependence, a political instability in the Middle East could drive our already dismal economic situation well below the red line.
The biggest consequence that could come from a drastic change in the political atmosphere of the Middle East would be another world war. This would come from a series of events starting in the Middle East. For example, if enough anti-Israel and anti-U.S. governments gain power in the Middle East we could see a more militaristic approach towards Israel in the form of increased terrorism in Israel such as suicide bombings and maybe even an attempt at an invasion of Israel itself. In other words we could see another Arab-Israeli war which would draw in the U.S. and other U.S. allies, which would in turn draw other Middle Eastern countries into the conflict. Country after country would become involved, and while simultaneously engaged in Iraq and Afghanistan the U.S. military would be spread thin, requiring that more U.S. allies become involved and we would be in a full scale world war. The war could become nuclear if countries in the Middle East such as Iran develop and use nuclear weapons against Israel. (Iran is a good example of an extremist regime with anti-Israel/anti-U.S. sentiments. We could soon see other Middle Eastern countries with the same mentality as Iran.) A third world war could be around the corner if we continue to see a cascade of revolt against current Middle Eastern governments and their replacement with more militaristic governments. It is important that we find mutually beneficial solutions to conflicts in the Middle East and North African countries if we are to avoid dire consequences.
One answer to the problem is fairly straight forward, but easier said than done. President Obama to my knowledge on one occasion has publically called on Israel not to continue constructing settlements in the West Bank. It was a bold thing for President Obama to say, since Israel has been an important U.S. ally and presidents who tend to take on Israel like that have a history of not being reelected to another term. If the U.S. is to change the opinion of the many countries in the Middle East, a heavy push through diplomatic pressure will have to be placed on Israel to discontinue its expansionistic policies into Palestinian territories. Israel’s activities are a violation of international law and its putting the U.S. in a bad light because it is making it look like the U.S. is in support of pushing the Palestinian population away from lands that have been given to them under international law, which is causing a big increase in anti-U.S. attitudes among Muslim populations. If the Middle East is ever to stabilize, Israel will have to discontinue expanding into Palestinian territories and this can be accomplished through diplomatic pressure from the U.S. and other countries. It will require a little courage from our government but it can be done and realistically, it HAS to be done if any real peace is to be achieved in the region.
Another answer that would help to avoid growing anti-U.S. opinions among Muslim populations would be to increase foreign aid to those nations. We have seen natural disasters come up in places like Haiti and we saw a relatively quick U.S. response. We can change the way the U.S. is viewed by Muslim countries by assisting in hunger and disease prevention programs and assisting in natural disasters. This will be difficult considering we have some of our own domestic economic problems but any chance to improve our relations with Middle Eastern countries should be explored.
In conclusion, while sovereignty should be respected as countries go through changes like this, the United States and other western countries should do more to promote an ongoing and increased relationship with Islamic countries as they go through these changes in order to avoid an increase in terrorism and possibly a world war. In our current economic situation the United States can ill-afford another sustained series of wars with Islamic countries and an increase in terrorist cells within those countries. The United States must do more to promote peace in the Middle East by pushing Israel to withdraw from Palestinian lands. Doing so will create stability between Muslim countries and Israel and would do a lot to ease anti-Israel and anti-U.S. sentiments. It would allow the U.S. to be cast in a better light and hopefully in the future we are able to offer more aid to developing nations in the Middle East that would foster trust between our respective countries.