by Zoe Pollock
Tom Engelhardt argues that America has "lost the Middle East." I don't agree with all of his characterizations, but his comparison to the Cold War is an interesting one:
In 1990, in the wake of a disastrous war in Afghanistan, in the midst of a people’s revolt, the Russians lost what they came to call their “near abroad,” the lands from Eastern Europe to Central Asia that had made up the Soviet Empire. The U.S., being the wealthier and stronger of the two Cold War superpowers, had something the Soviets never possessed. Call it a “far abroad.” Now, in the midst of another draining, disastrous Afghan war, in the face of another people’s revolt, a critical part of its far abroad is being shaken to its roots.
In the Middle East, the two pillars of American imperial power and control have long been Egypt and Saudi Arabia along, of course, with obdurate Israel and little Jordan. In previous eras, the chosen bulwarks of “stability” and “moderation,” terms much favored in Washington, had been the Shah of Iran in the 1960s and 1970s (and you remember his fate), and Saddam Hussein in the 1980s (and you remember his fate, too). In the larger region the Bush administration liked to call “the Greater Middle East” or “the arc of instability,” another key pillar has been Pakistan, a country now in destabilization mode under the pressure of a disastrous American war in Afghanistan.