Stepping Back

Matt Yglesias asks a good question:

The truth of the matter, though, is that there hasn’t been a moment when the United States didn’t try to micromanage events in the Gulf since, well, since the British Empire was doing it instead. There isn’t, however, much in the way of evidence that this kind of policy is actually necessary. It does, however, seem to have succeeded in producing one of the most politically screwed up places on the planet.

It’s pretty unequivocally true that much of the blame for the state of the Gulf should be placed at the feet of the West, not least those who placed colonial ambitions ahead of ethnoregional integrity when divvying up the Middle East at Versailles in 1919. It’s safe to say that the civil war in Iraq wouldn’t be anywhere close to as bad as it is today if Clemenceau and George created actual, ethnically-based nation-states instead of the artificial ones that still populate the region.
But I won’t go as far as Matt as to the lack of justification for this state of affairs. Following things like the OPEC boycott, the Iranian revolution, and the invasion of Kuwait, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the US and its allies would try to control the region. When even ostensible allies in the region can collapse more or less spontaneously (Iran), or indirectly (Kuwait) or directly (OPEC) turn against our oil interest, it isn’t unreasonable to say that we need a very hands-on approach to things. This isn’t to say that such an approach is right, but it isn’t entirely baseless.

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