When the US decided that its backyard would in future be a greater Middle East from Pakistan to Morocco it imagined that it could rearrange the region to suit itself. The results have been disastrous and will be long-lasting.
This broader Middle East is an ill-defined area extending from Pakistan, through the Horn of Africa to Morocco. Since 9/11 it has become the main theatre for the deployment of US military power and the decisive, even the sole, battlefield in what the US sees as a global conflict. The regions oil resources and strategic position, and the presence of Israel, have made it a US priority, particularly since the French and British began to withdraw after 1956. As Philippe Croz-Vincent has pointed out in a subtle analysis of the American moment, the Middle East has replaced Latin America as the US backyard (3). But with a major difference: Latin America was never a crucial battlefield in a third world war.
The landscape of the Middle East has been redrawn. This was the objective of Pentagon strategists and the neo-conservatives; but it is doubtful whether the results match their dreams of remodelling the region to secure the lasting hold that the French and British established after the first world war.
Western forces are directly involved in ferocious conflicts across the broader Middle East. Afghanistan has collapsed into chaos, dragging US and Nato troops down with it. It will be hard to heal the wounds in Iraq, where religious and ethnic rivalries and resistance to foreign occupation have caused hundreds of thousands of casualties more, according to some observers, than the Rwandan genocide….
The US is indifferent to the problems of the Palestinians, the crisis in Somalia or the sectarian conflict in Lebanon; it is fixated on a global confrontation between good and evil. And this discourse feeds al-Qaidas vision of a continuing war against Jews and crusaders.
This dichotomy has turned into a self-fulfilling prophecy, which local forces have exploited for their own ends….
During Bushs first term, the neocons developed the doctrine of constructive instability in the Middle East (12). As Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said while Israel was bombing Lebanon in July 2006: What were seeing here is, in a sense, the growing the birth pangs of a new Middle East; and whatever we do, we have to be certain that were pushing forward to the new Middle East, not going back to the old Middle East.
e cynicism of her remarks provoked caustic comments at the time, but she was, in a sense, right: since 9/11 we have witnessed the emergence of a new Middle East that bears no resemblance to anything that US politicians might have envisaged, and which has become a major and lasting destabilising factor in the world.