Back to PLO Bulletin 1-15 July 1979

The Carter Doctrine in the Middle East

In two high-level meetings of the Carter Administration on June 21 and 22, U.S. policy makers, the American press reported, recommended an increase in direct U.S. military presence in the oil-rich Arabian Gulf. This decision, and other recent policy statements by the United States, mark a turning point in U.S. Middle East policy, which has been in serious turmoil since the Iranian Revolution swept away the Nixon Doctrine, which relied on Iran, as well as Irael, to police the area for U.S. interests.

The emerging Carter Doctrine is a far cry from the Carter affirmation of "human rights" as the "touchstone" of U.S. foreign policy. It is also distant from earlier Carter declarations in favor of a "homeland" for the Palestinian people or from the joint Soviet-American communique of October 1, 1977 that recognized "the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people" (a statement that Carter rescinded in essence six days later with the publication of an "Israel-American working paper"). Now, according to his May 31 press conference, Carter affirms that the U.S. has never been in favor of a Palestinian state, which it sees as a "destabilizing factor."

Currently, Carter's special Ambassador, Robert Strauss, is pursuing what he calls a more "aggressive" American strategy to impose "self-rule" and deny Palestinian self-determination.

Stability has been a favorite goal for U.S. Administrations and a beloved word of foreign policy architects from Henry Kissinger to Zbigniew Brezezinski. Stability, in the American lexicon, means U.S. control. To ensure this control, Defense Secretary Brown has recently reaffirmed that "the United States would commit forces if we judged our vital interests were involved." Oil is obviously top on the list of what Brown & Company judge to be vital interests.

Therefore, in the next months, we will see the creation of an 110,000 man U.S. "strike force" for rapid deployment in a Middle East crisis, more arms sales, an increase in the U.S. Sixth Fleet, a possible creation of a Fifth Fleet in the Indian Ocean and visits of U.S. combat aircraft to various countries in the region. All this military hardware and manpower is meant to demonstrate the superiority of American power and pressure the Arab states to join Sadat in the American ranks. Sadat himself told Senator Henry Jackson during Jackson's recent visit to Egypt that he would assert his leadership and "play his role in maintaining stability in the Middle East."

Israel, unlike Sadat, does not just talk, but uses its American F-15s to bomb Palestinian and Lebanese civilians and attack Syrian planes. The $3 billion Israel will receive under the so-called "peace package" will buy more sophisticated weapons for the U.S.'s most able policeman, and may lead, according to press reports, to an American military presence in the airbases to be built in the Negev. Closer military cooperation, which may include joint U.S.-Israeli and U.S.-Egyptian maneuvers, is also expected.

Yet the Carter Doctrine, which persists in disregarding the fundamental issues in the Middle East, is doomed to the same fate as the policies that preceded it. Neither the Eisenhower Doctrine of 1956, which advocated direct U.S. military intervention, or the Nixon Doctrine of 1970, which advocated indirect involvement, confront the issues of justice and self-determination for the Palestinian people, the hear of the conflict in the Middle East.

Neither does American militarism in the long run benefit the American people, whose true interests lie in cooperation with the Arab world and justice in the Middle East. It is to be hoped that the American public will see through the current Administration campaign to blame OPEC and the Arabs, rather than U.S. energy policy and the giant U.S. energy multi-national corporations for the current "gas crisis" and U.S. energy problems. Otherwise, they may find themselves in another Viet Nam, fighting another unjust war against people who only want their fundamental human and national rights.

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