The US and UK government passion to intervene in the Middle East was spurred by the murderous events of 9/11. The US decided to hunt down their enemies, concentrating on Afghanistan. It was only much later that they realised their main adversary had moved to Pakistan.
A theory sprung up from neo Con circles that NATO could influence the Middle East for the better, toppling a bad regime here, supporting rebels there, to nudge or force more Middle Eastern countries to adopt western style democratic governments. Mr Bush was keen on this approach, persuading many in the UK establishment including Mr Blair to back him. The UK, ever mindful of the need for the “special relationship” with the US, went along with these developments.
The arrival of President Obama in office promised something different. He announced his wish to change the US position and image in the world. He said he would close down Guantanamo Bay, as a symbol of what for some had gone wrong with the west’s wish to export its values. Instead Mr Obama increased the forces in Afghanistan and kept Guantanamo open. He did, however, show a marked reluctance to get involved in Libya, is stalling over Syria, and has now set a timetable for withdrawal from Afghanistan.
The west has discovered that aiding and stabilising democratic regimes in various Middle Eastern countries is difficult. The Syria case has also brought the west into confrontation with Russia, who backs the Assad regime. The west would be wise to withdraw from Afghanistan and return to diplomacy, trade and cultural links. There is no evidence that further m ilitary interventions can create happy and stable countries by the use of force from without. It is difficult to see how the UK’s national interest would be served by intervention in Syria.