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U.S. should butt out of the Middle East [Commentary]

The Middle East and Africa are a complex matrix of religious cultural, racial, ethnic, clan and tribal dynamics that have developed over 1,000 years of conflict. Scott Anderson wrote in his new book, "Lawrence in Arabia," that the first inept U.S. government agent in the region, William Yates, established a tradition of misinterpreting the situation that his successors have rigorously maintained for 100 years.

The rise of the group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and the return of Sunni control to large sections of Syria and Iraq are not unexpected. What is astounding is that after decades of careening from one debacle to another, the Beltway crowd is still totally clueless about the region and eager to intervene.

From President George W. Bush's military and political missteps to President Barack Obama's leading from behind, in 10 years we have created a vacuum that has allowed Islamic fundamentalists to become potent forces of transformation in Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, Egypt, Syria, Gaza, Lebanon, Yemen and Bahrain.

There are 1.5 billion Muslims in the world, primarily from Africa through the Middle East to Southeast Asia. Our continual meddling fuels the hatred of the Islamic masses for us. From moderate believers to radical fundamentalists, they abhor our promiscuity, women's equality, mixing of the sexes, acceptance of homosexuality and rampant use of drugs and alcohol. Most damning is our right to believe in God or not to believe, and if we do to develop our separate individual relationship with Him.

Islam is a multi-faceted culture that includes religious, political, military and social elements that are incompatible with democracy. In various Muslim cultures the murder of women who offend the honor of a family is acceptable, as is the assassination of girls who want to be educated. Blasphemy against God is punishable by death, and execution of Christian missionaries and converts from Islam is allowed. Once secure minority Christian populations are rapidly being forced out of the region by intimidation and violence.

After claiming that we had broken the back of al-Qaida last summer, we closed 19 embassies in Muslim countries because of terrorist threats. We are currently embroiled in a debate over the release of five terrorists in exchange for prisoner of war Bowe Bergdahl, having forgotten that last year al-Qaida attacked terrorist prisons in Iraq, Libya and Pakistan, respectively releasing 800, 1,000 and 250 hardened radical Islamist prisoners who are back training new jihadists and plotting against the U.S. presence in the region.

Between Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. military has suffered 6,000 deaths and 50,000 injuries and will have spent $3 trillion for these wars, plus future medical care for the veterans. Iraq will either break into Sunni, Shiia and Kurdish mini-states or will return to a harsh form of dictatorship under a new version of Saddam Hussein. In Afghanistan the Taliban will return to rule when we are gone.

We had co-opted Libyan leader Moamar Gadhafi, but for some inexplicable reason we decided to bring him down. The result was to give control of Libya to a gaggle of Islamic militias, which resulted in the deaths of four U.S. officials and spread that nation's stockpile of weapons to al-Qaida linked groups across the Sahara desert from Morocco to Somalia.

We supported the Egyptian riots that brought down President Hosni Mubarak and approved an election which put a Muslim Brotherhood president in power by popular vote. After his party had waited in the wings for 90 years and been suppressed by the military, President Mohammed Morsi made a fatal mistake in quickly ramming through the new parliament a constitution which was based on Shariah law. This resulted in a backlash from the secular Muslims who joined with the military in a coup and returned the nation to military control. Mr. Morsi now faces criminal charges.

Dennis Kucinich and Ron Paul ran for president on platforms that would have ended our involvement in Middle East wars. They were considered comic relief compared to the candidates who were elected. While U.S. politicians of all stripes wring their hands and try to give assurances that the U.S. is all powerful, they refuse to accept that we are now irrelevant in the region.

The monotonous sound bites suggest that our intrusion into the region is to protect our interests without stating what those interests are. U.S. companies entered the region for one and only one reason — oil — in the 1920s. Middle Eastern nations' concessions with the oil producers were abrogated in the 1970s with no retribution from the U.S. We have absolutely no reason to remain, inflame the Muslim masses and subject our country to continual terrorist attacks. With new oil and gas drilling techniques, nuclear power and Tesla electric automobiles, we can become energy independent as we were in 1970 and, most important, become indifferent to Muslim oil supplies. There is absolutely no reason to continue to drip American blood in the sand or leave behind more treasure.

Charles Campbell, a resident of Woodstock, is a retired senior vice president of Gulf Oil Corp. His email is lochawe@verizon.net.

To respond to this commentary, send an email to talkback@baltimoresun.com. Please include your name and contact information.

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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