Sitting in an unheated room in Kabul, Afghanistan, surrounded by an omnipresent dustball, endless dilapidation, and heart-breaking poverty, the rich and mighty United States appears to be in another galaxy.
At the very least, the U.S. seems to be on another planet.
Yet, in the minds of a majority of Muslims, America is as close to them as the skin on their bodies. They believe America is at the heart of anything and everything that happens in their turbulent arc.
To back up that overwhelmingly held view, Muslims cite a few examples.
Let’s look at a number of them:
Many Iranians, the most westernized of Middle Eastern Muslims, are convinced that Ayatollah Khomeini’s Islamic revolution was U.S.-instigated to get rid of the Shah who, as they claim, had become too independent in his country’s economic policies, especially his oil-pricing strategy.
In another such sample, many Muslims believe that in the Palestinian-Israeli issue, America is not the impartial interlocutor it pretends to be. They state that American politicians are in the pockets of American Jews and have no independent will of their own in the matter. According to most Middle Eastern Muslims, U.S. politicians, including the U.S. president, lie when they claim to be working for a just peace between Palestine and Israel.
Muslims, especially Muslim Middle Easterners, almost unanimously maintain that America invaded Iraq to bring under its control the second largest oil reserves in the Middle East. They claim that President George W. Bush’s neocon allies wanted the U.S. to confiscate the Iraqi oilfields and simply pay Iraq a yearly fee.
Muslims in South Asia, the Middle East, and North Africa are convinced that America’s stranglehold over their destinies does not stop at the above stated paradigms. They believe that 9/11 was an Israeli-American plot to provide the United States the justification for unleashing its might upon the Islamic world. Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and ISIS, they maintain, are American creations to rationalize the continuation of America’s onslaught, engaging the Islamic world in constant warfare and destruction, freezing its development, forcing it to remain weak and in perpetual need of support from the U.S. and its Western allies.
At these disputations, the world outside the Islamic arc may role its eyes and say, “Typical. The creation of minds filled with paranoia and conspiracy theories.” And it may be so.
In the immediate years after World War II, claims by present-day Muslims that members of that faith were treated as less human might be true. But much has changed since. One of the positive changes is that major powers are called upon to behave themselves and stop playing roughshod with smaller nations.
In other words, the post-Cold War international social development commands nation-states, especially greater powers, to pursue just policies, rules that do not merely follow selfish designs but further the cause of peace and benefit the economic well-being of the global community.
On June 1, 2002, in a speech entitled Overview of America’s International Strategies, then President George W. Bush told his West Point audience, “Our goals on the path to progress are clear: political and economic freedom, peaceful relations with other states, and respect for human dignity.” This statement obligates America to observe the new currents in international relations.
If America is to craft strategies that would promote peace among different nations and cultures, it would be vital for it to be aware of the feelings and beliefs of the global population. Only then could American policymakers create suitable stratagems to benefit their country, the affected people, and also the world community as a whole.
What has also changed over the years, is America’s dollar-based financial power. The years of massive deficit spending and the unnecessary and expensive wars President George W. Bush waged has weakened America’s monetary strength.
The U.S is no longer the singly powerful and well-heeled nation it was in the 1950s and early 1960s, when it could throw around its military might and financial prowess to solve international problems. It now must carefully guard its monetary fluidity and economic vigor.
Major additional mistakes, such as its Afghanistan and Iraq misadventures with their combined price-tag of about $ 5 trillion (and counting), would further erode its financial health and weaken its economic power to the extent that it could no longer afford to maintain the necessary military strength to continue playing the role of the unquestioned sole global power.
Among some trivial and many important foreign policy hot spots Donald Trump will face once in office is the far-stretched Islamic arc. Within the context of America’s global interests and responsibilities, what matters in and to the Islamic nations cannot and should not be considered a trivial matter. After all, they represent 20 percent of humanity and control a large piece of oil and gas reserves in the world.
Most Muslims have become convinced that Americans don’t like them. They can’t imagine Mr. Trump institutionalizing his Islamophobia would add much to their plight.
This is a situation that is gladly and capably being used by Russia’s President Putin. The human tragedy and recent fall of Aleppo to Assad forces is a clear example of an American policy failure in the Middle East.
The recent United Nations Security Council meeting in this matter showed the hollowness that the American Representative was left with. Her speech was sharply accusative but utterly toothless.
The tragedy of Muslims is that they live at a time that the modern world has passed several-hundred years before.
And here lies the crux of the matter.
This enormous time lag in the life of modern societies and Muslim communities has created a major problem both for the Muslims and the United States.
In their mutual relations, both have flunked and continue to fail for the same lack of understanding: The Muslim world for living in the dark Middle Ages; American policymakers having been formed, mentally and physically, by one of the most advanced societies of our time.
Many leaders of Muslim countries don’t accept modern forms of governance. They fear democracy, pluralism, and the freedom of thought and expression. With brutal oppression, they have imprisoned their people in the shadows of dictatorships, holding them back from exiting the darkness that had enveloped the world 800 ears ago, and, to the same nefarious end, they also successfully use an archaic interpretation of Islam. To topple a regime that claims to be God-given, seems insurmountable to people who believe everything comes from God and humans have to submit to God’s will.
What makes it even more difficult for the Muslims to resist their leaders is the harsh truth that for the last 70 years American administrations have been in bed with those cruel, murderous leaders who have stolen trillions from their people, have stashed the money in banks that are governed under American jurisdiction.
America, it is whispered, has assured, at least, some of those corrupt leaders that in the event of a successful revolution against them it would not allow succeeding regimes to claim those vast fortunes.
Similar reasons form the basis for America’s political failure in the Islamic region. In its foreign policy with the Third World, the U.S., for economic and financial reasons, opted to side with Third World dictators, giving them legitimacy and propping them up against their own people.
The problems the U.S. now faces in the Islamic world emanate from its having stuck to those past policies for far too long. It missed the moment when it was time to refuse its support for dictators and shift its goodwill to the people. Despite the dictators and their powerful benefactor, the people have decided to change their lot come what will.
And America finds itself involved in civil wars it has no business having anything to do with. And this is happening at a time when it feels financially overburdened and economically enfeebled in a historically slow growth period.
While Putin’s Russia, America’s real and true adversary, has rearmed itself with modern weapons and--after having annexed Crimea and preparing to dismember Georgia--keeps a weakened America on the run in the Middle East.
The all-important question now is: What will Mr. Trump do? His Islamophobia doesn’t seem to lead to a people’s friendly foreign policy in the Islamic world. And his bendable words toward Russia doesn’t augur well for a firm anti-Moscow policy.
However, Mr. Trump has surprised many of us so often during his turbulent campaign.
And he may yet have another surprise up his sleeve for us.
Nasir Shansab has maintained homes, business interests and dual citizenship in both the United States and Afghanistan for the past three decades.
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