This is a question to Americans: Should our values -- what we believe in -- matter at all in foreign policy?
This may seem at first glance a ridiculous thing to ask.
But the U.S. seems to have evolved recently to Middle East policies close to 100 percent in opposition to traditional core American values, like democracy and national self-determination, from what had previously maybe only been 75 or 80%. Under a President who seemed to promise something very different.
We used to say governments derived their just powers from the consent of the governed. That was a defining American belief. Articulated just that way in our founding document, the Declaration of Independence, held up for the last two-and-a-half centuries as a great beacon across the world.
Our leadership today implies that values like democracy and national self-determination are "nice to haves" that must be balanced with realpolitik to keep whoever they may define today or tomorrow as our "enemies" at bay.
This is exactly the thinking that gave us the CIA's overthrow of the elected secular government of Iran in 1953 in favor of the seemingly more reliably anti-Soviet dictatorship of the Shah. This horrific betrayal of our values led inexorably to the supposedly "evil" regime we confront in that country today.
Can't we learn from history?
Abandoning democratic human values -- effectively becoming the monsters we fear -- is not the path to anything good.
In just the last several weeks, the U.S. has eliminated all restrictions on massive aid to the Egyptian military dictatorship that overthrew that country's elected government. Secretary of State Kerry went to Cairo again, voicing full-throated support, promising to help in every way to fight to the death those who threaten that dictatorship, to find yet new and better ways to bolster its illegitimate authority, effectively helping it keep locked up the representatives of the democratic parties that won all the elections during the brief period those were allowed.
If democracy is a U.S. value, why are we borrowing more money we don't have from China to prop up dictatorships? Kerry speaks as if what's needed in Egypt are a few reforms and all will be well. This to a tyranny that's imprisoned or killed thousands of opponents. What's needed is for the criminals atop Egypt's government to trade places with the now-imprisoned elected leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood.
During this same period, the U.S. has also effectively switched sides toward helping Turkey decimate its Kurdish resistance, which has by the way been the only effective force against the Islamic State, our current bogeyman. Kurdish resistance groups have of course been fighting for decades for national independence against the ruthless brutality of many of our "friends in the region," determined to keep them from ever getting anything like their own Kurdish state.
The U.S. meanwhile continues to support a war of unbridled brutality by "our good friend" -- the family dictatorship of Saudi Arabia -- against Yemen's Shia Houthis. Little as we know about Yemen, the Houthis, unlike the Saudis, actually live there (they're Yemenis!).
Our 21st century Black Eisenhower is hosting the Arabian dictator at the White House again this week, happily selling him more arms with which to carpet-bomb Yemeni villages.
In old news, we continue to finance Israel's perpetual occupation and devastating blockade of the Palestinians, despite again our nominal support for self-determination of peoples and democracy, which goes nicely with our lip-service support over decades for a "two-state" solution in Palestine, while for some reason giving over three billion dollars a year (again, more that with our deficit, we don't actually have and must continue to borrow) to a modern Israeli state whose government opposes all our nominal peace efforts, preferring permanent occupation.
This is not humanitarian aid. With the Iranian nuclear deal as excuse, we are now looking for yet new ways to give Israel even more to strengthen its strangulation of nearly five million Arabs.
Should we really be financing Israel's next bi-annual killing spree in Gaza, maybe again slaughtering 540 children like in 2014 to punish their parents who fight back against permanent impoverishment by blockade?
What is it we believe in again?
If virtually everything we do in the Middle East supports dictatorship and/or stronger nations permanently ruling weaker ones against their will, what exactly are we fighting and paying for as Americans?
All is justified today of course at the highest political levels as somehow helping fight the new "ultimate evil" of the Islamic State (as it once was the "ultimate evil" of the Soviet Union).
But ISIS is a radical Sunni reaction to the elites and governments that own and run the Middle East today, already heavily shaped by U.S. policies that sadly support dictatorship, corruption, sectarianism and occupation. ISIS -- and Al Qaeda before it -- developed as reactions to Western domination of the region over the past century, which we seem determined to militantly embody in the present.
Yet when we are subject to another attack like 9/11, our leaders will reliably wail in unison that we are attacked "for no reason," that our perpetual efforts on behalf of oppression in the region can't possibly be related to this blowback.
Without paying attention to what our government does, we never see the Great Satan in the mirror.
Our country's extension of pitiless struggle across the Middle East AGAINST our values as a people -- the democracy and national self-determination most of us earnestly support elsewhere -- continues to impress the region's young people as demonstrating the West's true nature and fuels movements we like to call "terrorist."
We are repeating the mistakes of our similarly horrific Twentieth Century efforts to dominate Southeast Asia and Latin America -- supporting strongmen, opposing democracy and popular nationalist movements for self-determination while destroying the lives of huge numbers of people, imitating the many evil empires of the past we like to define ourselves against.
It appears the values most Americans cherish would actually be greatly strengthened in the Middle East if the U.S. simply stopped doing everything it is now doing across the region.
Let's try Middle East policies that match what we believe in.
We have met the enemy and he is us!