Titillation over David Petraeus and political posturing over Susan Rice aside, here is the most important unasked question: Why did we foster regime change in Libya and Egypt that gave the Muslim Brotherhood control in the latter and produced a gaggle of Islamic militias in the former?
Replacing the Mubarak government has left the border between Gaza and Egypt more open for weapons deliveries to Hamas, which produced the latest conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. Now we are supporting rebels in Syria with a high probability that Islamic fundaments will replace President Bashar Assad and conflict will spill over into Jordan and ultimately Saudi Arabia. The Saudi royal family is already surrounded by the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt; unrest in Bahrain; a hostile Iran; and a civil war in Yemen.
The fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood, organized in 1928, spawned a worldwide collection of Islamist organizations that turned their wrath onto the U.S. and are determined to remove us from Muslim lands. In 1983, an Islamic Jihad suicide attack killed 241 peacekeepers in the American Marine barracks. Also in the 1980s, Iran's client Hezbollah kidnapped, tortured and murdered U.S. citizens in Lebanon. This led to the botched Iran-Contra affair.
During the 1980s we supported Saddam Hussein in the Iran-Iraq war. Our ambassador then famously advised Hussein that his dispute with Kuwait did not concern the U.S. This translated into approval to attack, and the result was the 1991 Persian Gulf War.
A 25-year experiment with westernization in Iran by the shah, which included equal rights for women and religious freedom, was backed by the U.S. with weapons and thousands of military advisors. In 1979, the shah was overthrown by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who labeled us the Great Satan. Reformist President Mohammed Khatami later proposed negotiating all outstanding issues with the U.S., including the nuclear issue. He was rebuffed, and Iran was added to the "Axis of Evil." As a result, conservatives regained power.
The 1990s saw many other mistakes and failures. There were coordinated attacks on U.S. embassies in Africa resulting in a massive loss of life. Military activity in Somalia ended in disaster; U.S. military personnel were assassinated in the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia; and the U.S.S. Cole was attacked at Aden.
In 2003, on the pretext of weapons of mass destruction, we again attacked Iraq. An estimated 100,000 Iraqi citizens were killed; about 2 million fled as refugees. Further results: 4,000 U.S. dead, 30,000 maimed, and $1 trillion spent to replace a Sunni tyrant with a parliament dominated by the party of a Shiite cleric who hates the U.S., has strong ties to Iran, and fought us with his militia. In short, our efforts there have ended in a total failure.
We supported the mujahedin against the Russians in Afghanistan. When they left, so did we; this provided the political vacuum that allowed the Taliban to rise. Al-Qaida set up operations as guests of the Taliban and planned the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks from Afghanistan. Since our invasion of that country, more than 2,000 U.S. troops have been killed; the cost is more than $500 billion; and Afghans that we have trained — incensed by Quran burnings and the deaths of civilians — are killing our military. When we leave, the Taliban will return to power.
Meanwhile, nearby Pakistan provided sanctuary for Osama bin Laden for several years; the Pakistani people despise us for our drone attacks killing innocents; and segments of the Pakistan military and intelligence service support the Taliban. Saudi Wahabbists provide funds for religious schools in the Pakistan/Afghanistan border region, which teach hatred for the U.S. and provide thousands of Taliban recruits every year.
For 40 years, every administration has careened from one debacle to another in the Middle East and North Africa and gradually turned the region over to Muslim fundamentalists. We are now on the cusp of a new financial crisis and cannot weather another military disaster. We need to pack up our kit and leave the region before we segue into another costly, unwinnable war, this time with Iran, or get further enmeshed in Gaza and Syria.
Charles Campbell, a resident of Woodstock, is a retired senior vice president of Gulf Oil Corp. His email is email@example.com.