Middle East Studies and Muslim Experience after September 11th, 2001: Rebellion against Islamic Ideology and the New Counter-Jihadis

Middle East Studies and Muslim Experience after September 11th, 2001: Rebellion against Islamic Ideology and the New Counter-Jihadis

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-9731-7.ch011
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Abstract

United States foreign policy towards the Middle East has shifted from advocating authoritarianism, to embracing capitalism and free market, and finally, to promoting democracy. These shifts have been administered after new ideas emerged to supersede old ones, thus justifying new thrusts in policy approach. Following the September 11th terrorist attacks, there was a major change in the US policy in Islamic countries, and in the Middle Eastern region in particular. The September 11th attacks demonstrated that support for corrupt, authoritarian, yet pro-Western regimes jeopardized American domestic security, and the failure of U.S policy destabilized the region. We present different concepts which show that today's Islamophobia may harm the formation of a real multicultural society in which Islam can become a recognized and meaningful part of Western society.
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Introduction

Over the past three decades, United States foreign policy towards the Middle East has been predicated upon its understanding of the nature of the region’s culture. The U.S., therefore, aimed to facilitate the advancement of its self-interests through a steady supply of oil and the recycling of petrodollars back into US hands. Yet, within the Middle East, three major crises have occurred that have caused US foreign policy toward the region to change. The three crises are the oil embargo of 1973, the Iranian Revolution in 1979, and the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Each of the three crises encouraged American scholars and policy makers to build useful theories for the United States to protect its interests. These are problem-solving theories that seek to guide policy makers in their assessment of events in the region. Once US policy makers have defined their interests, they then set a strategy that helps realize these interests with minimum costs. A crisis may unravel prevailing shared understanding and even the definition of state interests (Widmaier, 2003). In other words, it constitutes a turning point, a place where uncertainty stimulates the demand for new ideas and creates its own supply. Under certain conditions, the modification of some prevailing ideas would deal more effectively with the roots of the crisis. A good example of this is the Iranian Revolution of 1979 that brought about the school of Neo-Orientalism but failed to bring about the demise of the Orientalist set of ideas. During the last three and a half decades, US foreign policy towards the Middle East has shifted from advocating authoritarianism to embracing capitalism and the free market, and, finally, to promoting democracy. These shifts have been administered after new ideas emerged to supersede old ones, thus justifying new thrusts in the policy approach.

According to Halabi (2006), there are two theoretical approaches to explaining American foreign policy in the region: “structural” and “cultural.” Within the structural approach, we found two major theories: interdependence and hegemonic stability. The theory of interdependence examines the asymmetrical distribution of power within the issue area (Keohane and Nye, 1977). The hegemonic stability theory also examines the international distribution of powerful states in the world since the World Wars. The US became the greatest hegemon in the western hemisphere with its role of providing international public goods, including a steady supply of oil. In order to fulfill this role, it had to participate in the Middle East’s balance of power in order to forestall regional state aspirations from controlling the oil fields. Iraq under Sadam Hussein is a good example, with his opposition to foreign control of oil fields. By contrast, the cultural approach looks at the Arab-Islamic culture as an ontological structure that controls the lives of Arab-Muslims. So-called “Oriental scholars” insist that the U.S. work in unity with these cultural forces. That is to say, they prescribe cooperation with traditional regimes in the area (Halabi, 2006).

Some argue that none of these approaches can explain the long-term changes resulting from a regional crisis, and instead present another approach that captures the dynamics of US foreign policy in the Middle East (Halabi, 2006). None of these various approaches provides a learning process on the part of the hegemon, particularly after the eruption of a crisis.

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