By Victor Davis Hanson:
The United States is trying to square a circle, remaining strong and deterring dangerous elements, but to do so for U.S. interests—interests that increasingly seem to be fewer and fewer in the Middle East.
Since World War II, the United States has been involved in a series of crises and wars in the Middle East on the premise of protecting U.S., Western, or global interests, or purportedly all three combined. Since antiquity, the Middle East has been the hub of three continents, and of three great religions, and the maritime intersection between East and West.
In modern times American strategic concerns in no particular order were usually the following:
1) Guaranteeing reliable oil supplies for the U.S. economy.
2) Ensuring that no hostile power—most notably the Soviet Union between 1946-1989 and local Arab or Iranian strongmen thereafter—gained control of the Middle East and used its wealth and oil power to disrupt the economies and security of the Western world, Europe in particular.
3) Preventing radical Islamic terrorists from carving out sanctuaries and bases of operations to attack the United States or its close allies.
4) Aiding Israel to survive in a hostile neighborhood.
5) Keeping shipping lanes in the Eastern Mediterranean, the Suez Canal, and the Persian Gulf open and accessible to world commerce at the historical nexus of three continents.
6) To the extent we could articulate our interests, U.S. policy was reductionist and simply deterred any other major power for any reason from dominating the quite distant region.
7) Occasionally the United States sought to limit or stop the endemic bloodletting of the region.
Those various reasons explain why we tended to intervene in nasty places like Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, and Syria. Yet despite the sometimes humanitarian pretenses about our inventions in the Middle East, we should remember that we most certainly did not go commensurately into central Africa or South America to prevent mass killings, genocides, or gruesome civil wars.
Read more: American Greatness