When I was a child, the "Middle-East" was an almost fictional place that seemed to exist only in the context of evening news reports. The only thing I knew for certain was that the people there were in a constant state of conflict.
I was in middle school when Desert Storm happened, which I experienced through the lens of Channel One News. For anyone not familiar with Channel One, it broadcasts news and commercials directly into classrooms around the country, where it literally has a captive audience for marketing and political propaganda. I went to school in Ohio and also in North Carolina during the first Gulf War, and everywhere I went, Channel One was there. Of course, being a child, I saw nothing wrong with the program at the time; it broadcast the same images I saw on my television at home: night vision scenes of our highly sophisticated missiles dispensing justice on vague green outlines of buildings. It wasn't until high school, while listening to Roger Water's album, "Amused to Death" that I started to question the possible insidious intent of the ever blurring lines between news, entertainment and video games. It wasn't until college that I began to look at America's involvement in the struggles of the Middle-East as self-serving, and often destructive.
And so, with the current turmoil in Syria and Egypt, it's difficult to ascertain what the proper role of the United States should be. On one hand, these countries should be free to handle their own affairs, on the other hand, those same countries seem completely incapable of doing that.
On Egypt, I fully supported the popular movement that ousted Mubarak, and I was disappointed when Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood was elected. I was even more disappointed when Morsi used the drafting of a new constitution as an opportunity to consolidate religious control of the government rather than foster inclusiveness and cooperation with other equally important groups in the country. At the same time, I am distrustful of General Sisi who has ousted and arrested Morsi, taken control of the government, and is violently putting down Morsi supporters. After all, Morsi was elected by the citizens of Egypt, and he wasn't shaking his fist in the air and crying, "death to Israel," so Egypt could certainly have done worse. And who knows? Now they might do just that.
On Syria, I honestly feel like the media has been going to great lengths to overlook what has been taking place there. But the most recent violence there has been impossible to ignore, especially with the internet making amateur footage so easy to share with the world. It is truly heart-wrenching to watch YouTube videos of apparent sarin gas attacks on civilian populations. Tears stream down my face as I watch a naked prepubescent girl who is in shock, still soaked with the water that was poured over her by frantic adults trying to wash away the chemicals that were killing her. She is crying out for her family, that is obvious. The man covering her with a blanket is telling her that her family is dead, according to the caption. I am overcome with sorrow and outrage, "we have to do something!"
Even if we were not a war weary country, it's difficult to say what exactly the US should do in this situation, except that we should not be doing anything unilaterally. At the same time, all of this "mulling it over" by the Obama administration certainly feels a lot like inaction.
I know I usually have more well-developed opinions before I go through the trouble of writing a blog post, but I am honestly stumped on this one.
I feel like I'm back at square one in regards to understanding what is going on in the Middle-East, except of course that they are still fighting.