Ending violence in ‘unstable’ regions

This article was first written in September 2013, when there was a debate in the mainstream media about whether the West should intervene militarily to aid rebels fighting the Assad regime – but it is also useful in understanding many other situations in the world today.

It’s often not possible to solve problems from within the context in which they are presented. Often solutions can only be found by considering a wider context.

In the specific case of the violence in Syria, debating the rights and wrongs of ‘humanitarian intervention by the West’ fails to consider the wider context. It relies on the idea that the problem lies within Syria, or at least within the Middle East, and it doesn’t take into account the central role of the West (the US and allies) in creating the problem. In fact Western policy is, and has been for decades, to control the Middle East through actively destabilising the region and installing puppet governments.

I think it’s important to understand both why and how the West controls the Middle East.

Why the West controls the Middle East

The Middle East has been, and still is, the biggest source of oil and gas in the world. But having access to those resources is not the primary aim – the US has had access to enough oil and gas from more stable sources for a long time. Instead, the primary aim is to control access to those resources. By controlling their access to oil and gas, the West can maintain a dominant position over potential rival powers (e.g. China and India). There is a further complication in that, even though Europe is supposedly an ally, the US also tries to maintain dominance over Europe through control of access to oil and gas.

How the West controls the Middle East

I think it’s useful to understand the methods Western powers use in modern times to overthrow the governments of weaker countries that don’t act in ‘our’ interests. Not understanding these methods can make it seem like something has mysteriously gone wrong in the weaker country.

Currently, to control its own populations, the West has political systems that operate on an illusion of ‘democracy’ and ‘fairness’. If we are to maintain this illusion, the West can no longer openly invade and occupy weaker countries to plunder their resources.

Instead, a very common method is to find a discontented group within the target country and supply them with money and weapons. Any discontented group will do, but the most irrational are the most useful as they tend not to care about the immorality of the arrangement.

Sometimes the discontented group is the army high command. The high command of an army is usually people from the owning class. In countries that have made economic reforms to benefit working people, the army high command are discontented people. In this case money and weapons are supplied direct to the army (for example, in Egypt).

If the discontented group succeeds in taking power then they are in a good position to become a puppet government – the desired outcome for the West – because they are then dependent on the West to maintain their position.

Once they are in position the puppet government’s job is to hand over control of their country’s natural resources to the West. In return the West keeps them in power by supplying them with money and weapons. The weapons are mainly for use against their own population. This is the primary reason for the arms trade; the profit from arms sales is secondary.

If the discontented group doesn’t succeed in taking power then the violence of the civil war can be used as an excuse to ‘intervene’ – which then provides cover for more direct control of the situation (for example, as is being pushed for in Syria).

If a discontented group can’t be used in this way then the only option is to invade, as in Iraq.

These methods were widely used by the USA to gain control of much of Latin America, and other regions of the world.

Finding solutions

Clearly we should try to find solutions to the violence in Syria and other ‘unstable’ areas of the world, but I think that finding real solutions is not possible without an accurate-enough understanding of why the violence is happening in the first place.

Karl Lam

Further reading

Karl Lam: The role of the West in the Middle East conflict
Noam Chomsky on Iraq and US Foreign Policy: chomsky.info/interviews/20061225.htm
John Perkins (‘Confessions of an Economic Hitman’) talking about these issues: video

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