How did the United States' actions in the Middle East during the 1970-80’s impact our foreign relations today with the region?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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This is an extremely complex and nuanced question.  What is penned here can only be a start to an ongoing discussion.  Certainly, I think that the escalation of military involvement and zealous support of Israel in the 1970s and 1980s helped to create a sense of antagonism with the other nations in the region.  The result of policies to this end helped to engender much in way of antagonism with other nations in the region, according to Stephen Zunes:

The correlation is clear: the stronger and more willing to cooperate with U.S. interests that Israel becomes, the stronger the support.

For other nations in the region, this message became a fundamental wedge between the United States and their own interests.  

Much in way of short term thinking was adopted regarding involvement in the region during the time period.  The need to defeat Communism at all costs was seen as the dominant theme in foreign policy.  The actions of the United States in the Middle East was geared towards this end. Whether it was supporting the Mujhadeen fighters, most notably Osama Bin Laden, in the Afghanistan conflict with the Soviet Union or supporting Iraq and leader Saddam Hussein against the Iranian Ayatollah were actions that were undertaken in order to accomplish short term and immediate foreign policy goals.  Adding to this was that in order to accomplish these short term goals, reliance on Middle Eastern oil reserves helped to further a dependency that is only now beginning to be reevaluated and reassessed.  The current situation that America finds itself is one in which the problems in the Middle East are ones that had their infancy during the 1970s and 1980s, especially considering the challenges in Iraq and Afghanistan, the war on terror and the faces ascribed to this war, and in the idea that our foreign policy towards the region is still muddled, at best.  With our dependence on oil challenging the attempts to clarify this policy, one can see the link between the obstacles to lucidity seen today with what transpired in the 1970s and 1980s.

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