President Barack Obama's latest foray into the Middle East is unfortunately reactive and uninformed and shows how very little he seems to take into account our bloody history in the region.
It's as if the past quarter century never happened.
Where do we begin? After practically pushing Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein to invade Kuwait in 1990 (by having Kuwait demand quick payment on Billions of dollars of previous loans to Iraq and having our Ambassador in Baghdad tell Hussein that the U.S. has no treaty obligations to defend Kuwait), American air strikes killed tens of thousands of Iraqi soldiers in the first Persian Gulf War. This was followed by nearly 10 years of crippling economic sanctions against Iraq, resulting in the death of a half million Iraqi children for lack of medicine, sanitation and malnutrition.
All of this culminated a dozen years and two presidents later when, despite no connection to 9/11 or al-Qaida, the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003, resulting in as many as 148,000 civilian deaths according to Iraq Body Count, economic collapse, a mass migration of doctors and scientists out of the country, massive pollution and a rollback of basic human rights. For years, Washington supported prime minister Nouri al Maliki, who is now blamed for setting the country on the path of sectarian violence, bolstering extremism and supporting the brutal crackdown by Bashar Assad on his own opposition in Syria.
Later in 2011, as the Muslim world reached a fever pitch of turmoil, the Arab Spring began in Tunisia and quickly spread to Egypt. Uprisings occurred in Syria and Libya, all against corrupt dictators and monarchs whom the U.S. had been propping up for years. Attempts to demonstrate for freedom in Bahrain, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia — all "allies" of America — were systematically snuffed out with brutal force. The West, under the leadership of the U.S., did nothing.
Meanwhile, when Europeans and the U.S. saw western oil interests in peril, they decided madman Muammar Gadhafi must go. Together they bombed Libya, hastened a civil war, and helped corner and kill Gadhafi in 2011. The oil may be secured for now, but the rest of the country is a no man's land, virtually lawless and a breeding ground for extremists.
This takes us back to the beginning: Extremists born out of U.S. wars, interventions and support for tyranny in the region have created al-Qaida copycats, specifically the Islamic State in the Levant (ISIL). As a result, after overlooking the Syrian plight for two years, Mr. Obama has initiated bombing campaigns in both Iraq and Syria, ostensibly to snuff out ISIL (also known as Islamic State or ISIS). It is a barbaric, inhumane organization. But we should ask the question: Why do so many Arabs, Muslims and foreign-born volunteers take so much risk to join such a nihilistic organization? Because many in the Middle East and around the world think ISIL is preferable to the corrupt regimes we support and are tired of interventions that have only protected authoritarians at the expense of the powerless.
And so it goes, a cyclical call to arms to which Mr. Obama seems alarmingly inured. The pro-war machinery here in the U.S. uses demagoguery, falsehoods and repulsive videos to terrify the U.S. population into supporting war in Middle East and likely soon, "boots on the ground" in Iraq. All of the same red meat — think WMD's and "mushroom clouds" — used to justify the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
The worst of it is, this current policy — if one could call it that — flies in the face of Mr. Obama's early pronouncements of democracy building and tolerance, including his speech to the Muslim world from Cairo in 2009. Aside from attempting to free Iraqis and Kurds from the murderous hand of ISIL fighters, Mr. Obama seems to have abandoned the people of Middle East. Now they distrust American intentions more than ever, not because of some conspiratorial hypothesis but because of past deeds.
Mr. Obama is stumbling down a dead-end road littered with signs of history he seems hell-bent on ignoring. And it is to all of our peril, because this trajectory will increase hatred for us with a zealot's passion.
Adil E. Shamoo is an associate fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies, a senior analyst for Foreign Policy In Focus, and the author of "Equal Worth — When Humanity Will Have Peace." His website is http://www.forwarorpeace.com.