Tuesday, March 01, 2011

A Brief Comment on the Middle Eastern Revolutions of 2011

We are so hamstrung regarding the Middle East because Americans are sadly uniformed of our terrible role in overthrowing a democratic regime and restoring a ruthless dictator in Iran (the Shah). Add to that our military support for Sadaam Hussein and his war of aggression against Iran in the 1980s, our coziness with tyrants in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Egypt, and our unquestioning loyalty to the Israelis even when they overstep and violate human rights in the West Bank, and it shouldn't surprise Americans that we aren't seen as a force for justice in that part of the world.

The president needs to make a speech in which he admits to the often bloody and tragic role we have played in the the Middle East, from our support of the British and French theft of Arab and Iranian territory and resources, to the blanket support given our own oil cartels, to the intelligence resources provided the murderous secret police squads who backed us in the Cold War, to the arms we provided ruthless Gulf State dictatorships.

We have presented ourselves as the voice of democracy, but our policies in the region -- through Democratic and Republican administrations -- have spoken more loudly. Time and again we have been the shabby puppet masters controlling dictatorial goons.

Americans need to grow up and know when to apologize. The good deeds we have performed in other places and other times don't justify when we have been complicit in murder. An Iranian family that saw their loved ones tortured by the Shah or who lost children in an Iran-Iraq war in which we ended up arming both sides doesn't care about how we saved France from the Nazis in World War II.

If we take credit for the heroic moments where we did support democracy, when we built modern plumbing or provided vaccines or provided food in places devastated by hunger or preventable disease, we need to admit our sins and our support of ruthless regimes in the Middle East, Africa, Asia, and South and Central America.

Foreign policy grounded too often in arrogance and self-absorption is doomed to failure. The victims of bad foreign policy are not going to grade us on a curve.

Americans are children if they can't look squarely at the blood on their hands. We're not an evil country. We're imperfect like every other nation, but our disproportionate wealth and military power means that our mistakes - and their have been manifold and global - carry grave consequences for the rest of the world. While self-hatred is useless, acknowledging when we have been a source of not freedom but oppression is the beginning of national adulthood and the start of a better relationship with the democracies that seem to be almost miraculously arising in the Middle East in 2011.


Michael Phillips has authored the following:

White Metropolis: Race, Ethnicity and Religion in Dallas, Texas, 1841-2001 (Austin:  University of Texas Press, 2006)

(with Patrick L. Cox) The House Will Come to Order: How the Texas Speaker Became a Power in State and National Politics. (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2010)

“Why Is Big Tex Still a White Cowboy? Race, Gender, and the ‘Other Texans’” in Walter Buenger and Arnoldo de León, eds., Beyond Texas Through Time: Breaking Away From Past Interpretations (College Station: Texas A&M Press, 2011)

“The Current is Stronger’: Images of Racial Oppression and Resistance in North Texas Black Art During the 1920s and 1930s ”  in Bruce A. Glasrud and Cary D. Wintz, eds., The Harlem Renaissance in the West: The New Negroes’ Western Experience (New York: Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group, 2011)

“Dallas, 1989-2011,” in Richardson Dilworth, ed. Cities in American Political History (Washington, D.C.: CQ Press, 2011)

(With John Anthony Moretta, Keith J. Volonto, Austin Allen, Doug Cantrell and Norwood Andrews), Keith J. Volonto and Michael Phillips. eds., The American Challenge: A New History of the United States, Volume I.   (Wheaton, Il.: Abigail Press, 2012).

(With John Anthony Moretta and Keith J. Volanto), Keith J. Volonto and Michael Phillips, eds., The American Challenge: A New History of the United States, Volume II. (Wheaton, Il.: Abigail Press, 2012).

(With John Anthony Moretta and Carl J. Luna), Imperial Presidents: The Rise of Executive Power from Roosevelt to Obama  (Wheaton, Il.: Abigail Press, 2013). 

“Texan by Color: The Racialization of the Lone Star State,” in David Cullen and Kyle Wilkison, eds., The Radical Origins of the Texas Right (College Station: University of Texas Press, 2013).

He is currently collaborating, with longtime journalist Betsy Friauf, on a history of African American culture, politics and black intellectuals in the Lone Star State called God Carved in Night: Black Intellectuals in Texas and the World They Made.

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