Term Paper: Middle East -- a Region of Ancient

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Middle East -- a region of ancient conflicts and changing American policies

The Middle East has always been an important region in the modern diplomatic history of the United States. But "if the chief natural resource of the Middle East were bananas, the region would not have attracted the attention of U.S. policymakers as it has for decades." (Richman, 1991) Economically, the Middle East is a critical source of oil, the fuel that propels the productivity of America and the entire industrialized world. But the availability of oil is not merely a matter of dollars and cents for the U.S. The nations that control the sources of these vital fossil fuels have additional political power, in comparison to their neighbors, as well as economic capital. This fact has made the Middle East a source of anxiety politically as well as economically for the United States, and the economic outlook for America's future cannot be severed from the geopolitical balance of the region.

Until the 1990s, virtually every policy of the United States was overshadowed by the specter of communism. In 1957, President Eisenhower said: "Russia's rulers have long sought to dominate the Middle East...International Communism...seeks to mask its purposes of domination by expressions of good will and by superficially attractive offers of political, economic and military aid. But any free nation, which is the subject of Soviet enticement, ought, in elementary wisdom, to look behind the mask." (Eisenhower, 1957) "The idea of a strategic relationship between the United States and Israel emerged after the Suez crisis, when the Eisenhower administration realized that both countries had an interest in containing Nasser's influence...He was the first to provide Israel with sophisticated weapons and to commit the United States to a policy of maintaining Israel's regional military superiority." (Richman, 1991) Israel was America's one, secure friend in the Middle East. Although it was a small nation, it must become militarily strong to act as a counterweight to Soviet influence. In contrast, the leaders of Egypt, and later Libya, Syria, and Iraq, formed alliances with the Soviet Union. However, "neither Syria nor Egypt was controlled by the Soviet Union; they were not even independent communist regimes." (Richman, 1991) Still, even when Israel's policies, such as the invasion of Lebanon, were questionable morally, the United States did not condemn such actions, in light of the its long-standing strategic policy to support Israel, and that any action of an enemy of the Soviet Union should be endorsed or at least not formally censored by the United States. (Richman, 1991)

The Soviet Union's dissolution caused a seismic change in the world geopolitical scene, as it spelled the decline of the bipolar balance of power in the world. However, although it called into question a number of the polices of the United States, it could be argued that the collapse of the Soviet Union, ideologically, had less of an impact upon the Middle East than the rise of Islamic fundamentalism. Communism had never been a formidable force in the Middle East, unlike Latin America. But it is true that in practical terms of foreign aid, the coming to prominence of fundamentalist regimes in the Middle East in Iran was partially enabled by the decline of Soviet influence, cash and power backing up some regimes, as in Afghanistan. Renegade groups and states in their wrangling for power in the region often… [END OF PREVIEW]

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