Jeffrey D Sachs, Boston Globe- To examine the political histories of Lebanon, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Syria, Libya, Yemen, and Israel-Palestine after 1950, is to observe the United States engaged in the intrigues, wars, CIA-led coups, and military overthrows that had been the handiwork of Britain and France during earlier decades. The CIA toppled governments in the Middle East on countless occasions. Media pundits tended to overlook the US role in this instability.
The United States is trapped in the Middle East by its own pseudo-intellectual constructions. During the Vietnam War, the "domino theory" claimed that if America withdrew from Vietnam, communism would sweep Asia. The new domino theory is that if the United States stops were to stop fighting ISIS, Islamic terrorists would soon be at our doorstep.
The truth is almost the opposite. ISIS is a ragtag army of perhaps 30,000 troops in a region in which the large nations - including Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, and Turkey - have standing armies that are vastly larger and better equipped. These regional powers could easily drive ISIS out of existence if they chose to do so. The US military presence is actually ISIS's main recruiting tool. Young people stream into Syria and Iraq to fight the imperial enemy.
Empires trapped in regional wars can choose to fight on or more wisely to acknowledge that the imperial adventure is both futile and self-destructive. King George III was wise to give up in 1781; fighting the Americans wasn't worth the effort, even if it was possible militarily. The United States was wise to give up the war in Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam in 1975. America's decision to cut its losses saved not only Southeast Asia but the United States, as well. The United States was similarly wise to curtail its CIA-led coups throughout Latin America, as a prelude to peace in the region.
The United States should immediately end its fighting in the Middle East and turn to UN-based diplomacy for real solutions and security. The Turks, Arabs, and Persians have lived together as organized states for around 2,500 years. The United States has meddled unsuccessfully in the region for 65 years. It's time to let the locals sort out their problems, supported by the good offices of the United Nations, including peacekeeping and peace-building efforts. Just recently, the Arabs once again wisely and rightly reiterated their support for a two-state solution between Israelis and Palestinians if Israel withdraws from the conquered territories. This gives added reason to back diplomacy, not war.
We are at the 100th anniversary of British and French imperial rule in the Mideast. The United States has unwisely prolonged the misery and blunders. One hundred years is enough.
[Jeffrey D. Sachs is University Professor and director of the Center for Sustainable Development at Columbia University, and author of "The Age of Sustainable Development."]