America's Foreign Policy in the Middle East Needs a Restart | Opinion

American foreign policy is broken. That is especially true as it relates to the Middle East. It is broken regardless of the administration in power. George Bush, Barack Obama, Donald Trump, Joe Biden—American foreign policy in the Middle East remains a deeply troubling one; one that almost consistently values monetary and political gain over the lives of those who live there.

American foreign policy in the Middle East needs a restart. It has not been able to achieve anything of value. In Egypt, President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi continues to do as he wishes, with little American resistance. In Syria and Iraq, American soldiers continue to be attacked and little headway has been made in protecting both Syrians and Iraqis. In Saudi Arabia, the government that killed Jamal Khashoggi continues to act freely with impunity. And in Israel, a new government will uphold the status quo of Palestinian apartheid.

It is time to reassess what America's goals are in the Middle East and to pursue more humanitarian policies that seek to preserve human life and the environment.

The tit-for-tat policy of responding to drone strikes with airstrikes, and vice versa, needs to be reassessed: What is it accomplishing long-term? For how many years have airstrikes been carried out against facilities all over the region, and what purpose have they served?

A U.S. Army soldier looks onto Baghdad
A U.S. Army soldier looks onto Baghdad and the Saddam-era Crossed Sabers monument from the International Zone on May 30, 2021, in Baghdad, Iraq. John Moore/Getty Images

It is a strategy that serves no actual purpose and one that is never-ending. For every arms depot or facility that is hit by an airstrike, a dozen more appear. A more long-term approach must revolve around securing American interests through sustainable ways that prioritize bettering the land and limiting the blood and treasure that has been wasted—sacrifices which the United States has apparently completely devalued, since it continues to lose lives and money on lost causes.

Some U.S. senators have already reached similar conclusions, with Senators Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) seeking to return war powers away from the presidency and back to Congress. However, that is not enough. Real change requires a complete restructuring of goals and expanding our vision away from endless and unlimited drone and airstrikes into one that prioritizes the lives of people and preserves the rich land on which they live.

While allowing Congress to limit the powers of the executive branch and limit the sales of weaponry back to those which the Constitution intended is a great first step, ensuring that a humanitarian policy that values human dignity and the environment requires many more steps. One would need to give thought to the havoc that is wrought when airstrikes impact an area. It is not only the immediate lives that are taken away by that impact, but it is also the lives of family members, the pollutants that corrupt the land and air and the ensuing economic tolls that affect countless others long after the actual strike.

Instead of bombing our way into minimal gains—and mostly losses—for decades, the United States should instead remove all American soldiers from the Middle East and invest in policies that help the people of the region root out corruption, gain jobs and clean the land, air and water. Such policies would not only help individual people, but it would help the Earth. This would also result in better environmental conditions for Americans in the United States, and for future generations to come.

It would result in a complete end of American military deaths in Syria, Iraq and other countries in the region. It would also improve mental health for all, resulting in billions of saved dollars that could be used instead on health care, infrastructure, housing, or education in the United States, leading to a society that does not deem Black and brown people as the consistent threats that they are perceived to be today. The benefits would be felt economically, socially, physically and environmentally.

It is this intersectional thinking that is the way of the future. Short-term goals are no longer viable. Threats such as viral pandemics, climate change, gun violence and racism have made that clear. If 2020 (and so far, 2021) was a year of deep challenges, then lessons should have been learned. Those lessons learned must be put to use in one of the most destructive and troubling aspect of American might: foreign policy in the Middle East.

Sam Fouad is a Middle East policy analyst and PhD student at the Catholic University of America. Follow him on Twitter at @_saf155.

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.