Nothing brings out the geopolitical analyst in a person quite like a news development in the Middle East. I'm sure you've all seen an Instagram story graphic or Twitter post with an opinion so bad from a person so unqualified that you couldn't help but think, “What in the world do they know about the Middle East?”
With a tumultuous two decades now under their belt, perhaps it's time we ask that same question to U.S. policymakers.
Despite global disapproval, no administration since 9/11 has been a stranger to drone strikes, with each seemingly authorizing more than their predecessor. Signature drone strikes are a particular cause for concern, as they target unidentified persons based on the open-ended criteria of one’s “pattern of life”. Exact numbers of strikes, casualties and targets are not publicly available, leaving no outside group truly capable of holding the U.S. military accountable.
Presidents Bush, Obama, Trump and now Biden have all been accused of reckless strike authorizations; despite public outcry the government has yet to be more transparent with their military attacks. Because military drone use is largely unprecedented, the U.S. has now set dangerous precedent for unethical use of these weapons. To kill without oversight or identification of targets could have chilling ramifications for future global conflict.
Citizens on social media and high-ranking government officials are limited in the exact same capacity–knowledge is decentralized. No one particular group holds all required knowledge to make an ideal decision; instead, it is dispersed across the world as events unfold. Theoretically, this knowledge could be assimilated into policy action; reality, however, is rife with disinformation, censorship and partisan politics.
This leaves decision-makers vulnerable to the exact same fate of ill-informed opinions as their constituents. Only this time, the stakes are real, and the ideological hills died upon in policy-making represent real lives overseas.
Sometimes, however, even when equipped with information, incentive and precedent, U.S. policy can still fall flat on its face. Nowhere is this better illustrated than in our Foreign Military Financing of Egypt. Since the 1979 Camp David Peace Accords, the U.S. has allocated an average of 1.3 billion dollars annually in the form of weapons and military supplies toward Egyptian FMF. Due to the Egypt's longstanding history of human rights abuse, Congress has legislated since 2012 that FMF be withheld unless the country takes steps to uphold democracy and human rights.
However, each of these appropriations bills has contained a “waiver clause," which allows the secretary of state to sidestep these conditions and give aid anyway. The only year in which this clause was not enacted was 2017, when Rex Tillerson withheld this aid to pressure Egypt into releasing unfairly imprisoned U.S. citizens and ending its weapons trade with North Korea. The lesson here is that this pressure is effective, a lesson not learned by either the Trump or Biden administration since. Einstein is often credited for saying that insanity is doing the same thing over and over expecting different results; but it certainly wouldn't take a genius to recognize what needs to be done. As a result of policy-making insanity, billions annually go toward the Egyptian military who continue to encroach on its peoples' rights to this day.
As they treat the Middle East as a vacuum for political stunt work, take military action based on assumption, and revel in their own “expertise”. Policy-makers are guilty of performativity far more egregious than sharing an article on Facebook. As lives hang in the balance of their decisions, government officials ought to work toward a different Middle Eastern policy initiative, heralding transparency and comprehensive policy-making over misinformation and meandering.
Canaan Charrier is a 19-year-old finance, religious studies and international relations sophomore from Monroe.