Friday, October 27, 2006

50 Years After Suez, US Hegemony Ebbing Fast

By Jim Lobe

"As the Middle East prepares to mark the 50th anniversary on Oct. 29 of the Suez Crisis that effectively ended European colonialism, a half century of U.S. hegemony in the region also appears to be coming to an end, according to a growing number of analysts.

"American foreign policy in the Middle East is approaching a very serious crisis," noted Zbigniew Brzezinski, national security adviser under former President Jimmy Carter, at a dinner this week in which he noted the imminence of the 1956 crisis that he said marked "the beginning of [Washington's] domination of the region." "We are facing the possibility of literally being pushed out of the Middle East," he warned.

"The age of U.S. dominance in the Middle East has ended and a new era in the modern history of the region has begun," wrote Richard Haass, president of the influential Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) and a top Middle East adviser to the George H.W. Bush administration, in a remarkably downbeat article in the latest edition of Foreign Affairs journal.

That this "New Middle East," as Haass titled his article, should be dawning 50 years after the Suez Crisis is particularly poignant, according to longtime observers of the region who note that, more than any other event, it was Washington's role in the crisis that boosted its image as a force for liberation and positioned it as an honest broker between Arabs and Israel.

To most historians, the crisis – and the humiliation inflicted on the invading powers – spelled the effective end of western European colonialism in the region and the advent of U.S. preeminence, a preeminence that was successively enhanced by the aftermath of the 1973 Arab-Israeli war, the 1978 Camp David accords, and the end of the Cold War a decade later.

Fifty years later, however, both U.S. soft power and its status as an honest broker – the two greatest achievements of the Suez crisis – are at their lowest ebb and, in Toensing's words, "sinking ever lower."

"The U.S. has come to be seen as the quintessential colonial power, and, if anything, worse than the old [European] ones, because they were viewed as having an economic agenda – resource extraction – while the U.S. is seen as having both a resource-extraction and an ideological agenda," according to Toensing."

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