Blame it on Bush/Cheney and the half-baked neo-conservatives. They took it upon themselves to undermine American dominance in the Middle East and in that, if nothing else, they succeeded even if unintentionally.
Rumsfeld sent the Legions steamrollering into Afghanistan and Iraq only to watch them sink into a quagmire of their bosses' making. It's more than a bit humiliating when a country that spends more on its military than all the other nations combined has its ass handed to it by a bunch of farmers with Korean-war vintage assault rifles. And no matter how you dress it up, that will be the lasting legacy America will carry once it finally leaves Iraq and Afghanistan - the most profligate wastrel loser in the history of mankind. Oh yes, you are indeed Number One.
Gwynne Dyer thinks the ongoing upheaval in the Arab world is the product of a lot of factors including al Jazeera, social networking, and a disaffected youth questing for democracy and an end to corruption. But he maintains that, more than anything else, the uprisings reflect a realization that the despot's once reliable safety net, American power, is unraveling.
The traditional motives for American strategic involvement in the Middle East were oil and Israel. American oil supplies had to be protected, and the Cold War was a zero-sum game in which any regime that the U.S. did not control was seen to be at risk of falling into the hands of the Soviet Union. And quite apart from sentimental considerations, Israel had to be protected because it was an important military asset.
But the Cold War is long over, and so is the zero-sum game in the Middle East. The Arab oil exporters choose their customers on a purely commercial basis, and they have to sell their oil to support their growing populations. You don’t need to control them or threaten them to get oil from them; just send them a cheque. Besides, less than a fifth of America’s oil imports now come from the Arab world.
As for Israel, its military value to the United States has gone into a steep decline since the end of the Cold War. Nor does it need American protection: it is a dwarf superpower that towers over its Arab neighbours militarily. So remind me again: why, exactly, should the United States see “stability” in the Middle East as a vital national interest?
The revolutions of 1989 became possible when people in the Eastern European countries realized that the Soviet Union would no longer intervene militarily to preserve the Communist regimes that ruled them. Is another 1989 possible in the Arab world?
Well, the Arabs now know that the United States will not intervene militarily to protect the regimes that rule them.