I think we need to look at how influence works:
Say we do as NewOldTech suggests... that is sit on the sidelines. Here is what will happen: Someone else will step in and pour $billions into the key places. Things like construction projects (dams, roads, water purificatin plants, elec generation plants), materials (steel, wire, aluminum, etc), infrastructure (water systems, elec systems, etc), telecommunications (phone systems, cell systems, internet, etc), etc. Now do you think it is in the best interest of the USA for our govt to NOT assist the co's based in the USA get those contracts? Remember, when US companies get those contracts, that is JOBS for US workers... and if Russia or China or India gets the contract... well the USA looses out. Is that a good idea?
Now here is another issue: Whomever builds the telecommunications system, has snooping ability nobody else has. 007 stuff you say... well maybe... However there are a growing number of countries that will NOT LET China's big telecommunications co's build out their telecommunications structures because they are seriously worried of snooping.
And lets not forget military: Whomever is the buddy of the country gets to sell them our second hand military hardware. The bulk of the Israel AirForce is F-16's... OLD technology by today's standards... yet lethal to anything short of a Mig-29. And when we sell our used hardware to Israel, we get $$$ to build new and better hardware for ourselves... which is again jobs as well as security.
So it is not as simple as just sit on the sidelines. If we are not actively involved... we loose in many ways. THIS is what influence is... and it is the way the world works... Either I fill the vacuum at my expense... or someone else will be ready to take my place... and I will be the looser for not being early enough to get first dibbs.
Now for GA's opinion: If we had gone into Iraq and Afgan with a determination to WIN... rather than to play games... we would have a lot more respect around the world. Nobody respects a passive person... they DO respect a STRONG person who is benevolent though.
Look at the big picture, let the little details go. Kinda like would one spend their entire time fixated on whether the bathroom had a 4" or 5" duct... when there was no load calc run on the entire house? Again: Look at the BIG picture.
Israel is our best ally in the area. But we have others, like Egypt used to be.
The question is why do we expend more than any other nation to meddle in the affairs of the ME? Very little of the oil imported into this country comes from the ME and if the current trend continues that number will only drop. The ME sells alot of oil to China among others, is it in our best interests to protect their source of energy? Wouldn't it be better for these other nations that rely on ME oil to step up to the plate?
I'll try to explain our support of Israel. I see two major reasons.
1) Jews in America have been very successful and have an incredible amount of money. We all know the favorite thing of any politician is money. Ergo money is given to politicians who will support Israel. I dont blame the jews for this, I blame the pols.
2) There are millions and millions of people(chrstians and jews) who view Israel as the wholly land. They would much rather see it in the hands of the jews than the muslims.
Now we are getting at the real reason we support Israel. I have always had doubts about it being for intelligence or influence. If it was for those reasons there should be many examples of how we have benefited in the past, but not one has been shown yet.
If it to secure Middle East oil then why is that oil flowing to countries like China that do not support them like we do?
I’ll reword the two explanations above:
1) Jews in America own a big chunk of corporate America and therefore control our politicians. They force our politicians to give unquestionable support to Israel.
2) Jews want that land for religious reasons. Christians want then to have that land because they believe Jews must occupy that land to bring about the second coming of Christ. Christians also believe Jews are "God's Chosen People".
Both of those reasons will never be admitted openly to the American public. Since the Jews control our media it is easy for them to keep it from us. Politicians tell us they are an important ally, they give us intelligence and influence in the region. However, I believe we are being forced into fighting an endless religious war for them and Christians.