Vrede too wrote:How different would the ME look without the massive, decades-long infusion of US arms
Pretty much the same. For the four or more decades the major trouble spots - Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya - have gotten the bulk of their arms from Europe and Russia. Saudi Arabia and others would simply have bought from Europe and Russia. Egypt would have simply kept buying from Russia.
Heck, BEFORE that four decades, American meddling in the middle-east was pretty minor compared to that of Europe.
Vrede too wrote:and would we still be a prime target for Islamist terrorists?
Yup. Because America wasn't just exporting arms; it was exporting culture. Even worse is American exceptionalism - not the bragged about kind but the demonstrated kind. (Digs out an old post...)
Much of the 9/11 gang come from fairly affluent families in Saudi Arabia. That's because Saudi Arabia was the target of the 9/11 attacks. Bin Laden was trying to overthrow the House of Saud, and found it impossible with the Saudis being supported - not just militarily, but financially and politically - by the US. A major goal of 9/11 was to drive a wedge between the US and the Saudis, so he chose Saudis for the attacks.
Beyond that, there's a side-effect of slavery. Saudi Arabia only abolished slavery in 1967, and visitors have reported seeing slave auctions as late as 1981. The case can be made that it hasn't yet ended. And as a replacement, much of the work is done by hired foreigners, often from third world countries. Major accomplishments - engineering and technical work, is done by the non-Muslims from western countries.
The point being, in a slave society, work is not honorable and cannot be a source of self-worth. Without honorable work, and with any accomplishments not overshadowed by western countries, their sense of self-worth comes from being the possessors of the One True Religion.
And Allah doesn't seem to be delivering on his promises of being exalted above the unbelievers these days
. America is the worst offender. The largest economy. Nukes. Moon and Mars landings. Action movies. Decent porn. The tech industry. America is too successful for a country of unbelievers.
But that's Saudi Arabia and Wahhabism. Go to Tunisia or Jordan - without the recent slavery heritage - and you'll find people doing their own work and picking up skilled professions. And a lot less terrorist recruits.
America is simply the biggest, most obvious, most high-value target. That wouldn't have changed. Especially for the (so-called) Islamists who want an all-out war between Islam and the west.