By Patrick J. Buchanan
Is it not long past time to do a cost-benefit analysis of our involvement in the Middle and Near East?
In this brief century alone, we have fought the two longest wars in our history there, put our full moral authority behind an “Arab Spring” that brought down allies in Tunisia, Egypt and Yemen, and provided the air power that saved Benghazi and brought down Moammar Gadhafi.
Yet this week U.S. embassies were under siege in Tunisia, Egypt and Yemen, and U.S. diplomats were massacred in Benghazi.
The cost of our two wars is 6,500 dead, 40,000 wounded and $2 trillion piled onto a national debt that is $16 trillion, larger than the entire U.S. economy. And what in heaven’s name do we have to show for it?
We face pandemic hatred of our country from Morocco to Pakistan. The sight of American flags being ripped to shreds and burned by mobs has become so common over there we seem almost to have gotten used to it.
What are the roots of that Arab and Islamic hatred?
Osama bin Laden in his declaration of war against us gave three reasons as his casus belli.
His first reason for war was the presence of U.S. troops on the soil of Saudi Arabia, sacred home to Mecca and Medina. His second was the U.S. sanctions on Iraq then said to be causing the premature deaths of as many as 500,000 Iraqi children.
Third was U.S. support for Israel, seen in the Arab world as a colonial implant to humiliate them and deny to the Palestinian people their right to a nation of their own.
Lately, new causes of Arab and Muslim hatred of us have arisen.
The first is what devout Muslims regard as our immoral and decadent culture, which they see as a threat to their societies and their young.
The second are the Islam haters and baiters in America and the West who deliberately provoke them with insulting and blasphemous portrayals of the Prophet and their faith.
While the U.S. bases in Saudi Arabia have by now largely been closed, and the United States is largely withdrawn from Iraq and the sanctions there have all been lifted, America is not going to change herself to accommodate their world.
Support of Israel is the declared position of both parties. And, though Secretary of State Hillary Clinton rightly called the crude amateur film “Innocence of Muslims,” which caused the latest anti-American rioting, both disgusting and reprehensible, we are not going to repeal the First Amendment, which protects provocateurs and pornographers.
Yet, worldwide, there are hundreds of millions of Muslims for whom their faith is their most priceless possession. They live it. They will die for it. And not a few will kill for it. Others will seize upon real or imagined insults to that faith to excite the crowds to expel us from their world.
And some Americans will accommodate them by using books, films and videos to manifest their contempt of Islam.
So we have here an irreconcilable conflict.
The Islamic word, especially across the Arab region, is undergoing a transformation, a Great Awakening. Muslims from Nigeria to Mali to Ethiopia to Sudan to the Maghreb and Middle and Near East are growing more militant and more hostile toward Christianity and other faiths.
And as we are not going to change our position on Israel, or our culture, such as it is, or our First Amendment, clashes between us are inevitable.
Perhaps the best course of action for America is to lower our profile in that region, bring most of our diplomats and troops home, and let these people work out their destiny themselves.
Second, given the costs and consequences of our wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and intervention in Libya, let the Syrians settle their war themselves. There is no guarantee the fall of Bashar Assad, given the jihadist and al-Qaida presence in the forces seeking his overthrow, will be an improvement for the United States.
Third, the United States should tell the Egyptian government that its failure to provide security for our embassy was an outrage, that if we cannot see them as a friendly government with common interests, we will not hesitate to cut off aid and warn U.S. citizens not to travel to Egypt.
Without U.S. aid and Western loans and tourists, Egypt‘s economy would sink with President Morsi in the wheelhouse. We must make it clear to them that, denied the respect our nation deserves, we are willing to pull the plug on his regime.
The Middle East appears to be undergoing a sectarian and tribal conflict not unlike our Thirty Years’ War from 1618 to 1648. As they stayed out of our Thirty Years’ War, let us get out of theirs.
If they will not protect our embassies from mobs who come to burn our flag, let us lower the flag ourselves and bring Old Glory home.