June 04, 2007

A Region In Crisis

From the Subcontinent to the Levant, large swaths of the Middle East and South Asia are in turmoil. What follows are (somewhat random) dispatches meant to give a sense of the depth of the multiple crises that are contributing to a destabilization of the wider region.

Pakistan:

Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan’s president-in-uniform, is facing the most serious challenge to his authority since he seized power in a military coup in 1999. Weakened by unexpectedly strong opposition to his crude attempt to sack the country’s top judge and by widespread anger at his subsequent failure to prevent a bloodbath on the streets of Karachi this month, he may not be able to ride out the storm. The decisions he makes now will be critical not just to his own chances of survival but also to those of Pakistan itself.

In India, Nick Burns reportedly couldn't cut a deal:

India and the United States failed to resolve differences over an American offer to share nuclear know-how and fuel, ending three days of negotiations Saturday that were intended to seal a deal seen as the cornerstone of an emerging partnership.

On Turkey's border w/ Kurdistan, tensions continue to brew, and a conflagration between Turkish forces and the PKK (and perhaps more mainstream Kurdish militias) grows ever likelier:

Turkey's government is pondering an attack on Kurdish separatists based in northern Iraq, raising fears among people along the frontier that military action will scuttle cross-border trade and wreck the region's rejuvenated economy.

The economic fallout could be huge: The value of goods passing through this border crossing each year is more than $10 billion.

"This border is my only hope," said truck driver Suleyman Gidim, who was ferrying gasoline to U.S. troops in Iraq and has a family of seven to feed.

The Turkish military has been massing troops along the porous border, where separatist rebels cross from safe havens in Iraq to stage attacks in predominantly Kurdish southeastern Turkey.

In Afghanistan, the conflict between the Taliban and NATO rages on.

In Gaza, al-Qaeda is gaining a toe-hold to the extent now a Palestinian official says: "The day will come when we will miss Hamas. These are extremely dangerous groups that are trying to take Palestinian society back to the Dark Ages."

Up to the north in Lebanon, Fatah al-Islam (another al Qaeda affiliated group) has caused a security crisis for the Siniora government.

In Syria, I'm told by (admittedly biased, somewhat skittish Christian minority sources) that something of an Islamist resurgence is taking place in major cities like Aleppo, with increasing numbers of majority Sunnis getting radicalized, another reason sane Israelis don't salivate at the prospects of unseating minority Alawite Bashar Assad, unlike fevered dead-ender neo-con types in Washington.

Speaking of neo-con exuberances, and turning to Iran, Helene Cooper reports in the NYT that some in Cheney's circle are leaking to outsiders "that Mr. Cheney believes the diplomatic track with Iran is pointless, and is looking for ways to persuade Mr. Bush to confront Iran militarily." Who so leaketh? Speculation centers on David Wurmser who, as Kevin Drum reminds us, is the same deep strategist who suggested we retaliate in South America for 9/11 as "a surprise to the terrorists". Jokes Kevin, Wurmser is "((t)he guy who keeps Cheney bucked up when things look bad."

Funny, but more seriously one might ask--why is David Wurmser still in the employ of the U.S. government as principal deputy assistant to the Vice President for national security affairs? Given the President and Secretary of State's public positions on Iran stressing the diplomatic option, this strikes me, if indeed these reports are true, as (drearily Bolton-like) insubordination. After all, this isn't Rumsfeld era Washington anymore, where people could spout off about the "so-called Occupied Territories" and "Old Europe" and such with ribald impunity. There is supposed to be a smidgen of message discipline with Bob Gates at the Pentagon, and Condi Rice, Presidential intimate that she is, at State. So, if Don Rumsfeld, Doug Feith and Paul Wolfowitz merited defenestrations (the latter now twice), why not Wurmser (and while we're at it, throw out the horrid Addington too). Incidentally, and only for the comedic burlesque of it, note this priceless quote from Wurmser's wife (Meyrav Wurmser) to the Israeli Yediot newspaper:

I know this will annoy many of your readers… But the anger is over the fact that Israel did not fight against the Syrians [during last summer's war in Lebanon]. Instead of Israel fighting against Hizbullah, many parts of the American administration believe that Israel should have fought against the real enemy, which is Syria and not Hizbullah. They hoped Israel would do it [attack Syria]. You cannot come to another country and order it to launch a war, but there was hope, and more than hope, that Israel would do the right thing. It would have served both the American and Israeli interests. The neocons are responsible for the fact that Israel got a lot of time and space… They believed that Israel should be allowed to win. A great part of it was the thought that Israel should fight against the real enemy, the one backing Hizbullah. It was obvious that it is impossible to fight directly against Iran, but the thought was that its strategic and important ally should be hit."

Charming. David Wurmser is not his wife, of course, but you can (grimly) imagine the assorted frissons of excitement that doubtless resulted from all the grandiose regime change pillow talk at the Wurmser residence, no? As I said, burlesque fare, but (incredibly) men like Wurmser continue to have real influence with the most influential Vice President in history. Yes, something is indeed rotten in Denmark.

But I digress. The main insight of the Iraq Study Group, and why they called for a major "diplomatic offensive" throughout the region, is not because they think hapless Clintonian peace shuttling between Tel Aviv and Ramallah has anything to do with, or will solve, the brewing Shi'a-Sunni civil war in Iraq. Poo-pooing this linkage has become a favorite of AEI types, eager to just see Elliott Abram's "process for process sake" on the Israeli-Palestinian front. Nor, while we're speaking of straw men, does the ISG mean to cheerlead harried American envoys, a la Warren Christopher, visiting Damascus 26 times to prostrate themselves in the Court of Assad as perennial supplicants. This all makes for heady fare and polemical low-brow harangues chez the Mark Steyn's of the world, but it's all rather a red herring.

For here's the rub. When you have a region in the grips of growing chaos, you don't spout on about maximalist victory like an over-your-head well-meaning but grotesquely under-informed genus suburbanite like Joe Lieberman, or a Kiplingesque Arizonian like John McCain enamored by a chimerical victory that is simply unattainable under present conditions (meaning fewer than 400,000 men who aren't deployed for at least another decade). With al Qaeda and its sympathizers gaining influence in Lebanon, Palestine, and Pakistan, and with radical Shi'a militias like JAM deepening their base of support in Iraq, with a Turkish strike in Kurdistan looming ever likelier, the entire region is facing greater instability, and thus the specter of greater radicalism. And yes, a redeployment of U.S. forces out of places like Baghdad will help, not hurt, lessen the radicalization.

No, George Bush is not to blame for each and every issue in this parade of horribles, and there are specific, localized variables at play with each of these crises, many of which are beyond the control of any one country, even one as powerful as the United States. But Iraq hasn't helped, to put it mildly. Our intervention there was meant to lead to a glorious new Middle East, with all the corrupt satrapies inexorably entering the ash-heap of history, fresh on the heels of a jubilant Iraqi democratization that would reverberate through the region. Arab democrats, freed from the clutches of the horrid Hosnis and Bashars, would then make nice with the Israelis, and all sing kumbaya--with a Pax Americana ensuring none of the bad guys (a phrase tossed around with alarming regularity by the bien pensant Manichean set in the Beltway) tried to spoil the party.

Well, it didn't quite work out that way, did it? Instead, we've set back democratization in the region dramatically (at least of the non-Islamist variety). Rather than pursue reform in the region more modestly, via conflict resolution initiatives, economic liberalization, and pressing incremental political reform, we rolled in militarily in a preventative war of choice that has delivered multiple body blows to our reputation in the Middle East (and everywhere else, really). We upped the ante by providing the Israelis something of a carte blanche (remember Condi's disastrous Rome summit, where almost quite literally the entire world disagreed with our ‘bombs away’ position?) to overreact to the kidnapping of two IDF soldiers by bombing entire Beirut neighborhoods to rubble, and imposing a comprehensive naval and air blockade on Lebanon writ large, rather than concentrating efforts south of the Litani River against Hezbollah cells, a war so dismally prosecuted and counter-productive to the Israeli national interest that the Winograd Commission categorized it as a "severe failure". Meantime, Guantanamo, where inmates with increasing frequency commit suicide after languishing a half decade in captivity without charges being pressed, acts as a nonpareil recruiting tool for Islamic jihadists from Kuala Lumpur to Hamburg, as did the 'Girls Gone Wild' dog-leashing & porn rituals of Abu Ghraib (that is, when detainees weren't being sodomized or killed), an incredible breakdown in military discipline, speaking to a totally ineffective chain of command, from top to bottom. (Any decent President would have frog-marched Donald Rumsfeld out of the Pentagon the day after the incidents came to light, and razed the prison, in the hopes of immediately starting to put the abysmal episode behind us).

Given these massive blows to our nation's international standing, what the ISG Report basically says is, cease the fancifully adolescent (Walt Rostow and Joe Alsop on steroids, and without the elegance) talk of "victory" (whatever that means in the context of mediating civil war violence in Iraq) and attempt to take the temperature down throughout the region. This means making real progress on the Arab-Israeli front so that extremists like al-Qaeda and the military arms of Hamas don't see their influence continue to grow. Related, this means when you aim to resuscitate the Palestinian-Israeli peace process, you don't hastily conclude the Jerusalem summitry only to leave in your wake instead waves of rocket attacks into southern Israel and increasing talk of another Israeli push into Gaza (but for Israel being concerned this will leave their northern flank too exposed in case of a Syrian misadventure, or more trouble-making by Hezbollah). This means focusing like a laser on what is underway on the Kurdish border now, and coordinating with Ankara closely to prevent a major incursion that throws Kurdistan into chaos. This means acknowledging that Musharraf is tottering of late, and better thinking ahead about the possible ramifications, including power-sharing arrangements with elements of the (quasi-exiled) opposition. This means, when nuclear proliferation is a defining issue of the age, ensuring high level talks with Delhi on related issues don't flounder because of lack of high-level attention. This means a failing surge isn't lauded by discredited figures who two years before spoke of "last throes", but instead means reckoning with a veritable cauldron of competing groups vying for supremacy in Iraq who continue to wreak havoc through that nation, and understanding there’s increasingly little we can do about it, short of ending up taking arms against the Shi’a when they lose patience with our role protecting the Sunnis. This means not reducing the problems of Lebanon to the 'bad Syrians' and 'good March 14ers', and realizing it's a tad more complex than such a narrative would have it. And on and on.

And, dare I say, this means the Secretary of State should not be wasting time her time on opening an Iranian art exhibition, or at pressers regarding something called the "Women's Empowerment Network" for "Peace and Security in the Middle East", but instead be traveling to Delhi, Islamabad, Ramallah, Tel Aviv, Beirut, and, yes, Damascus--trying to put out various fires and urgently remedy some of the greatest foreign policy blunders in American history since the inception of the Republic. It's called statecraft, and previous Secretaries of State have deigned to do it. It's hard work, all right, and sometimes you even have to meet with people you don't like much, but by golly, it's a big, mean world out there. Yes it's well past time to get serious, and while we're at it, let's not forget relations with Russia are at their worst since, oh I don't know, the Chernenko era? I know we don't have a Middle East specialist at the helm, but surely we'd do better with a former Soviet expert on the Russian side of the equation, no? Anyway, excuse the longish rant, I’m still hankering for a competent national security team, I guess.

P.S. Well, hell, at least Steve Clemons is more optimistic, and he's a straight-shooter whose antenna are often right. I'll chew over his rays of sunshine this week and try to cool down some...


Posted by Gregory at June 4, 2007 04:23 AM
Comments

Thank you!
I thought I was crazy.
These fucktards are un-believable.
C

Posted by: Poicephalus at June 4, 2007 05:20 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The first law of holes says : "When you're in a hole, stop digging." The US Administration, possibly due to a new legal opinion from John Yoo or Alberto Gonzales have reworked this to : "When you're in a hole, keep digging until you're out of sight."

Posted by: Alexei McDonald at June 4, 2007 08:05 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

, but you can (grimly) imagine the assorted frissons of excitement that doubtless resulted from all the grandiose regime change pillow talk at the Wurmser residence, no?

Hell, you just gave me an outline for a novel: "Where Pigeons Soar" - a chest ravishingly stark portrait of the bowels of Washington - dominated by a handful of steely-eyed modern day prophets, hardened in the rough and tumble cauldron of the late 80's when America was on the brink of the cliff staring into the gaping abyss of the nothingness of the post-Reagan era, loved only by their regime change loving wives, who held on to their men with the calloused hands of Bavarian milkmaids. The only thin that stands between them and the true, unalloyed promise of Destiny dream are hordes of horrid brown people.

I'll be be the new Allen Drury.

Posted by: odradek at June 4, 2007 01:00 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Now let's imagine, as a wild hypothetical that a "national greatness" movement had grown up on the Right in the 1990s that declared with a frankness we must grudgingly admire that war as such was an ennobling project for the spirit of the nation, something to be preferred to atomistic material comfort and such. Imagine further that the adherents of such a movement obtained considerable government power and influence and spent most of the first decade of this century bringing about precisely the situation you outline above, seemingly "threatening" the US with decades of involvement in military conflicts. How do you suppose they would feel today? If your guess is, "Pretty damn pleased with how things worked out, really," then you are actually grasping the situation.

Posted by: Jim Henley at June 4, 2007 04:42 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Gosh, I'm glad the grownups are now in charge at the White House, as promised. Makes me feel so much safer.

How do you screw up a nuclear deal with India? India, with huge-ass nuclear China on one side and the Middle East on the other. I read the story, so apparently we're afraid of nuclear proliferation, but isn't the cat kinda out of the bag on that one? I'm not saying we HAVE to provide India with the means for a nuclear arsenal, but if we don't do it, they'll find someone who will. Wouldn't we rather it was us? Do we really think we can keep them from having nukes? Or Iran? I don't relish the idea of Iranian nukes, but realistically (a word that is apparently never uttered in the White House), what can we do to stop it? They have the oil money to buy what they want, we don't have the military power (short of nuking them) to do anything to stop them, so what? What do Cheney et al hope to do here?

Are these people (our govt overlords and their supporters) really so immature and clueless that they really believe it is still about us vs. the single big bad evil, like an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer?

Posted by: LL at June 4, 2007 06:50 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Greg-

"With al Qaeda and its sympathizers gaining influence in Lebanon, Palestine, and Pakistan, and with radical Shi'a militias like JAM deepening their base of support in Iraq, with a Turkish strike in Kurdistan looming ever likelier, the entire region is facing greater instability, and thus the specter of greater radicalism. And yes, a redeployment of U.S. forces out of places like Baghdad will help, not hurt, lessen the radicalization. "

And you know this fact how (how Islamic radicalization self-calibrates)? And why always the excluded middle option, btw, either all-in or all-out? I'm not convinced that our about-face absence in the mideast will lessen radicalization any more than an absence of cops in West Phila. on any given weekday would reduce crime.

When I read the eschatological, recruitment graffiti from the latest loonies-bin Laden, Zawahiri, Zarqawi-or from the O/Gs themselves, Qutb, Rahsid Rida and Abdallah Assam, I hear the same sentiment, the same noise:

Caliphate sweet caliphate.

Don't get me wrong. I'm all for bringing the boys home, too, and letting the mideast flies wallow in their own ideological swamp. But didn't the Muslim Bro'hood, 911 and the Taliban happen during the glory days of our global noninterventionist ennui, that now so moves you?



Posted by: reshufflex at June 4, 2007 06:55 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

careful reshufflex. i'm not advocating some paleo-isolationist line here. i'm saying get us out of an urban civil war in baghdad, and redeploy to areas where we can focus on T&E, securing borders, hitting al-qaeda, and the like. on top of this, i'm calling for a massive engagement, but of a diplomatic kind, not a quixotic poorly manned surge so think-tankers in their washington cubicles can endlessly wax rhapsodic that victory is around the corner in baghdad.

Look, I'm all for Tal Afar type counter-insurgency tactics, but 28,000 men in Baghdad just ain't gonna cut it--especially w/out concomittant full-blown dialogue with the Iranians and Syrians. It's a city of 6MM, and we don't have the man-power (prob 400,000), or staying power (5-10 yrs) to pull it off. nor apparently is this a struggle so vital it merits the draft, or a major war tax, as much as Newt Gingrich and other notables tell us this is WWIV. so we just don't have the troops, if we really mean to 'do the job right'.

And, no, I don't believe they'll 'follow us home' if we re-deploy, and eventually move 'over the horizon' in toto, that's just demagoguery, if anything, we'd be creating fewer Mohamed Attas, who are getting radicalized in European suburbs by images of Americans in fire-fights with, alternately, radical Shi'a militias, or Sunni ones, if we de-escalated our presence there.

(All that aside, given the 'stuff happens' era of '03-'04, we've lost vital crediblity with too many Iraqis that we can convincingly secure the country regardless, there's just too much water under the bridge (2MM refugees, 2MM IDPs, tens of thousands dead, etc etc)).

Meantime, just by way of clarification (not that you raised this, but for the benefit of anyone reading the comment thread), note my mention of "hapless" Clintonian peace shuttling was meant as a descriptive of how the Abrams crowd views it, not my take, which is that any sustained attention (even of an occasionally haphazard, chaotic variety) is welcome in trying to resolve that poisonous conflict. And we all know the main parameters of a deal (land for peace w/ dismantlement of most settlements, arab east jerusalem to the palestinians (with special arrangement for key religious sites), w/ the Palestinians in turn dropping right of return, save a symoblic number plus compensation. And if the Israelis agree such a deal, and irrendentist Palestinian factions try to scuttle it, the entire world (save radical Islamist sympathizers) would declare such factions beyond the pale, and work to decimate them. In other words, international guarantees would be in place to ensure Israel's 48 borders were treated w/ inviolable legitimacy.

Posted by: greg djerejian at June 4, 2007 08:17 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink
But didn't the Muslim Bro'hood, 911 and the Taliban happen during the glory days of our global noninterventionist ennui, that now so moves you?

And when would that have been?

Posted by: Jim Henley at June 4, 2007 09:34 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"And, no, I don't believe they'll 'follow us home' if we re-deploy, and eventually move 'over the horizon' in toto, that's just demagoguery, if anything, we'd be creating fewer Mohamed Attas, who are getting radicalized in European suburbs by images of Americans in fire-fights with, alternately, radical Shi'a militias, or Sunni ones, if we de-escalated our presence there"

Yeah, look how far away they kept on 9/11! :P

(/end sarcasm)

How many Nazis do you feel were "created" by the fighting of WWII? o_O

Sorry, but the sad truth is people do that which they see pays off and abstain from doing that which burns them. If you run from a foe they will follow and try for more because why shouldn't they? Likewise. fighting Al Qaeda in Iraq really does serve to distract those who would kill us by forcing them to try to retake a sanctuary they have lost. No one wins a purely defensive fight.

May I take some of the "hot spots" mentioned in your post one at a time? ^_^

1. Pakistan - Musharraf has *always* been facing his most serious challenge since before the military coup when he was playing cat and mouse with Bhutto and the decisions of a head of state are always crucial. No surprise there.

2. India - Ever consider that the key word might be "reportedly"? And in any event negotiations wouldn't be needed in the first place if there *weren't* things to be worked out. No need for jitters there.

3.Turkey/Kurdistan - Here you do have a legitimate source of concern. That said, why be surprised by the fact that there would be friction between Turks and Kurds? o_O

4. Afghanistan - Good Grief! You are dismayed by the fact that a gang of no-hopers like the Taliban would keep on fighting? Villains might just give up and conveniently stop defending themselves in silly movies like Pirates 3 but welcome to the real world! :P

The Taliban fights but the Taliban loses and loses badly. That is as it should be. ^_^

5. Gaza - Since when should we care about what happens to Hamas? It's not as though they were ever our friends.

6. Syria - Old news. Baathists aren't our friends either in case you haven't noticed which is noe reason why they joined Iran in making it easy for jihadis to travel to Iraq. If you like I could probably still dig up an old article from the Scotsman that indicated their Nazi origins.


With all due respect, you may want to think upon the fact that the isolationism you mention as not being in favor of really is the only choice to fighting once you have been attacked as we were. Those who won't fight can only run and hide if they would not be slaves. Such isolationism didn't work too well for China, it didn't work that well for Japan, it didn't work too well for the British in the late 19th and early 20th Century and it sure didn't work well for America in the 1930s, but hey!, why should anti war, anti globalization people think the fact that it never worked in the past would be any reason to abstain from doing it now? :P

Like it or not, "redeployment" is merely a first step towards the isolationism you say you don't favor *at best*. I think we can do a *lot* better than that so be of good cheer! There will doubtless be many diverse alarums in the days to come because war is always a perilous time but there is no doubt that we will win! ^_~

Posted by: Towering Barbarian at June 4, 2007 11:22 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The problem is no longer policy, it is personnel.

Who in their right mind, in this country or abroad would believe the solemn word of Mr. Bush or any of his representatives?

Posted by: feckless at June 4, 2007 11:34 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


Like I say, this is the predictable result of an administration taking office and handing key roles to signing members of the Project for a New Arab Caliphate.

Posted by: Jon H at June 5, 2007 12:02 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"With all due respect, you may want to think upon the fact that the isolationism you mention as not being in favor of really is the only choice to fighting once you have been attacked as we were.'

Um, no. What we've been doing is "fighting stupid", by which Bush and Cheney and their ilk have done more to advance the cause of Al Qaeda than the 19 hijackers.

They've sent more Americans to their deaths, cost more US treasure, caused the cost of oil to shoot up, given Al Qaeda great fundraising propaganda material, stripped the US of whatever sympathy and empathy ever existed, provided a priceless terrorist training ground, and handed Osama Iraq (and its pilferable oil wealth) on a trillion dollar silver platter.

Osama Bin Laden could not have achieved these things without people like you.

Posted by: Jon H at June 5, 2007 12:09 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Jon H.,
You debate with great spirit but I would say that "fighting stupid" does tend to be better than the "panic stupid" our liberal and leftist friends seem to prefer. Would you like me to take some of your points one by one? o_O

1. "They've sent more Americans to their deaths,..."

And how many Americans did FDR send to their deaths after Pearl Harbor, Jon? More than died at Pearl Harbor, wasn't it? Don't you want to take this moment to publicly regret the fact that so many Americans died in Europe when Hitler had nothing to do with Pearl Harbor? :P

2. "...cost more US treasure,"

Ooooo! How careless of them when everyone knows that the food, salaries and weapons of soldiers sent to defend America cost nothing at all, right? I mean, every Democrat believes FDR ran WWII for free, right? u_u

3. "... caused the cost of oil to shoot up,..."

Hugo Chavez had nothing to do with that, right? And if anyone disagrees I'm sure Chavez will shut down their TV station. :P

War is always inflationary. That's one of the reasons why it sucks when war becomes necessary. But if you think things would be any less inflationary under the Jimmy Carter party you are only kidding yourself.

4. "...given Al Qaeda great fundraising propaganda material,..."


Yeah, their current "We're losing and in danger of extinction. Save us, save us!" approach always does have a certain amount of fundraising appeal but forgive me if I abstain from joining you in your laments over that. ^O^


5. "...stripped the US of whatever sympathy and empathy ever existed,..."

Which is why Great Britain, Australia, Japan, Israel, Denmark and Poland among others have been our reliable allies in this from start to finish, right? ^_^

Note, btw, the shabby way the Congressional Democrats treated the President of Columbia when he was visiting America. Proof that we'd have fewer allies under Democrats than we would under Republicans when you think about it. One wonders if those Democrats want FARC to win in Columbia? o_O

6. "...provided a priceless terrorist training ground,..."

Dead terrorists don't learn much. Being dead sorta does that to them when you think about it. ^_^

"...and handed Osama Iraq (and its pilferable oil wealth) on a trillion dollar silver platter"

Oh really? And here I thought that in Greg's initial post it was a faceoff between the Turks and the Kurds he was worried about. Care to explain when Osama became the ruler of Turkey? O_O

Sorry, but at the end of the day nothing alters the fact that America is winning. And that's the way we both prefer it, right? ^_~

Posted by: Towering Barbarian at June 5, 2007 12:58 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

...and redeploy to areas where we can focus on T&E...

T&E? Does that stand for "training and equipping"? If so, I'd ask why we would want to train and equip combatants in inter and intra factional civil wars. The soldiers we are training and equipping by and large do not serve some exalted concept of "Iraq" that transcends communal allegiance.

We have known this for some time, and little to nothing has changed since we first discovered the fact that these forces have dubious loyalties, and are otherwise highly infiltrated by rabid partisans.

That is a waste of resources, and the troops required to protect and support the trainers would create a larger presence than is commonly conceived when such missions are discussed.

I'm also not so sure we gain much by moving toward the border areas. Re-supply will still leave us vulnerable and will require activity closer to the hot-spots.

It's time to get out, and move at least over the horizon. At most, keep small special ops teams in the region (Jordan ie) to support anti-AQ activities.

Posted by: Eric Martin at June 5, 2007 02:46 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Greg-

"careful reshufflex. i'm not advocating some paleo-isolationist line here. i'm saying get us out of an urban civil war in baghdad, and redeploy to areas where we can focus on T&E, securing borders, hitting al-qaeda, and the like. on top of this, i'm calling for a massive engagement, but of a diplomatic kind, not a quixotic poorly manned surge so think-tankers in their washington cubicles can endlessly wax rhapsodic that victory is around the corner in baghdad. "

Ok. Got it. Apologies if I misrepresented your theme. It's just that I'm tired of Islamic extremism-ah, bin Ladenism-being portrayed (even subtly) as a reflexive, defensive entity (which, say, Hezbollah vis-a vis Israel in early-80s Lebanon might find brief justification) that legitimates itself through western geopolitical arrogances.

Maybe the dumb bastards ought to look in their own little abyss-their backyard-before we allow them, invite them, to make Gitmo, aggressive democracy or the assault on precinct Baghdad as their handy theological demon seed.

I remind everyone that, oh, Egypt and Saudi Arabia (and nearly all lands proximate) have certainly been around for as long as the USA; do we need to discuss their liberal economic developments in terms of the body-politic? Scientific, technological or intellectual developments, anyone? Well maybe we can pinpoint to their esteemed judicial system...oops...best not. Then surely we can cite their human rights records, their sense of egalitarianism, civil liberties or their respect for self-determination. No? Gee, how could I forget. Theirs is the land that Allah built, so surely religious freedoms and progressiveness must underscore their enlightened piety?

Nope. Sorry. None of that applies. Right church, wrong pew. Mohammed Atta and his choir are creatures of western depravity and imperialism. I know that because bin Laden said so.

QED.

Posted by: reshufflex at June 5, 2007 03:06 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Hey Towering Barbarian, making and implementing foreign policy isn't like GM'ing a GURPS campaign, okay?

Posted by: Needle at June 5, 2007 03:17 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Jim-

"And when would that have been?"

I was speaking in relative terms, as occupiers. I'm unaware of US intervention in the mideast pre-911, except when asked by the Saudis/Kuwait during Desert Storm-which was bin Laden's cause celebre.

Please don't try to sell me on some delusional Kucinich-esque interventionism, whereby a western tourist within Mesopotamian circles wearing an Old Glory tattoo on his arm equates to blatant imperialism.

Posted by: reshufflex at June 5, 2007 03:28 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I was speaking in relative terms, as occupiers. I'm unaware of US intervention in the mideast pre-911, except when asked by the Saudis/Kuwait during Desert Storm-which was bin Laden's cause celebre.

Mossadegh? The Suez Crisis? Giving the Israelis and Pahlavis blank checks? Lebanon?

Posted by: Doug H. at June 5, 2007 03:48 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I was speaking in relative terms, as occupiers. I'm unaware of US intervention in the mideast pre-911, except when asked by the Saudis/Kuwait during Desert Storm-which was bin Laden's cause celebre.

FWIW, I too didn't take your "noninterventionist" descriptive to mean "non-occupiers." There normally is a good deal of space between the two concepts.

In terms of occupations, and other active interventions, would it help if someone pointed out that our involvement in Iraq and Saudi Arabia didn't end with the conclusion of Desert Storm? It continued thereafter throughout the decade (and still today with respect to Iraq, though we have been able to move out of Saudi Arabia to a large extent - though not completely).

And why start the clock ticking at Desert Storm, as if that represented the first foray of American influence in the region - be it by occupation or other excessive interference? There is also an extensive and checkered history in Saudi Arabia that dates back to FDR and involves some rather unsavory alliances and actions. See, ie, ARAMCO (Robert Vitalis' book is highly recommended).

Egypt too - complete with coup attempts and usurpations of sovereignty as part of Cold War/natural resource machinations. I guess one should probably add Mossadegh to the kitty as well (at least if one wants to look to our Persian friends). Lebanon wasn't exactly a hands off affair either. And then there's that gorilla in the corner that is the Israeli/Palestinian crisis to which we can hardly claim a laissez faire relationship.

Though I'm not certain to what extent tatoos were an issue with respect to any of those affairs/entanglements. I can look into it.

Posted by: Eric Martin at June 5, 2007 03:52 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink
Funny, but more seriously one might ask--why is David Wurmser still in the employ of the U.S. government as principal deputy assistant to the Vice President for national security affairs? * * * * After all, this isn't Rumsfeld era Washington anymore, where people could spout off about the "so-called Occupied Territories" and "Old Europe" and such with ribald impunity. There is supposed to be a smidgen of message discipline with Bob Gates at the Pentagon, and Condi Rice, Presidential intimate that she is, at State. So, if Don Rumsfeld, Doug Feith and Paul Wolfowitz merited defenestrations (the latter now twice), why not Wurmser (and while we're at it, throw out the horrid Addington too).

Well, aren't you missing the worst bad actor of the bunch, namely Cheney? Why indeed, after all the disasters this sick, Strangelovian lunatic has spawned, does the President allow him to speak a single word in public?

The only conclusion I can come to is that Bush is too intimidated and/or stupid to exercise the power he has to muzzle Cheney completely. Can one imagine an LBJ putting up with the kind of reckless insubordination Bush tolerates on a daily basis from his VP? I think not.

Then again, maybe Bush's grasp of "policy" is so tenuous that he still relies on Cheney for "guidance." I believe Bush is too stupid to grasp even a fraction of the damage Cheney has done to his credibility as President. For the rest of his term we're likely to have this grotesque, public infighting and posturing between the "victory" proponents and the "realists." Nothing positive will be accomplished internationally until we get a new President capable of thinking for him (or her) self.

Posted by: Redhand at June 5, 2007 04:48 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I'm not sure I understood Greg's point in the main post and so cannot respond to it. If responding to it is what other posters are doing here it must have been an unusual point indeed.

You have to be more imaginative than I am to think of the Suez Crisis as an example of American interventionism in the Middle East. I mean, it was, in a sense; the Eden government certainly thought so, and under the circumstances Eisenhower would have been much better advised to let the British and French finish what they had started. We had fought the war with them, after all, and what was Nasser to us anyway? And talk about blowback -- over 50 years after Eisenhower put the kibosh on Eden's little expedition the thanks we get is outraged blog comments citing America at Suez as one of a list of outrages against, well, against someone who sure is hopping mad about something, and it could be about that, right?

I tell you, interventionism just doesn't pay.

Posted by: Zathras at June 5, 2007 04:54 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Wow, Mr. Barbarian, have you always spoken in non-sequiturs or is that a learned skill?

Posted by: Jon H at June 5, 2007 05:38 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

You have to be more imaginative than I am to think of the Suez Crisis as an example of American interventionism in the Middle East.

Guilty as charged, though it was technically a Middle Eastern intervention by the United States.

Posted by: Doug H. at June 5, 2007 07:52 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink
I was speaking in relative terms, as occupiers. I'm unaware of US intervention in the mideast pre-911 . . .

See, this is the problem. People imagine that if they weren't paying attention, nobody else was either. You had a literally daily bombing campaign in Iraq from 1991-2003 - 14,000 sorties a year on average. Combined with a sanctions regime that the US used its security-council veto to repurpose from spur to disarmament to "these are never coming off while Saddam Hussein is in power," as Madeleine Albright made clear. The CIA fomenting coup attempts every year. America paying Hosni Mubarak's security forces to keep the old thief in power, and bankrolling the addition of 100,000 new houses to West Bank settlements. And of course the famous "troops in the Holy Land." Bin Laden started ranting about in 1992 or so.

All of these things happened. Bizarrely, some Americans, a couple of them in this very thread, imagine this as "non-intervention" or "isolationism" or "a holiday from history" just because they personally didn't notice it at the time. To them it was just the background noise of being "the world's only superpower" or whatever. But when the tree falls in the forest, other people know damned well it hit the ground, because they live in the woods.

Now you may feel that any or all of the above policies were wise or right and good. But don't imagine that they constituted "ignoring the world" or "leaving the Middle East alone."

Posted by: Jim Henley at June 5, 2007 11:47 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

What follows is an accurate chronology of United States involvement in the arming of Iraq during the Iraq-Iran war 1980-88. It is a powerful indictment of the president Bush administration attempt to sell war as a component of his war on terrorism. It reveals US ambitions in Iraq to be just another chapter in the attempt to regain a foothold in the Mideast following the fall of the Shah of Iran.

From
Arming Iraq: A Chronology of U.S. Involvement

Whatever his complexes, Khomeini had no qualms about sending his followers, including young boys, off to their deaths for his greater glory. This callous disregard for human life was no less characteristic of Saddam Hussein. And, for that matter, it was also no less characteristic of much of the world community, which not only couldn't be bothered by a few hundred thousand Third World corpses, but tried to profit from the conflict.

From:
The United States and Iran-Iraq War 1980-1988

Posted by: someotherdude at June 5, 2007 06:56 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Blow back is a bitch!

Posted by: someotherdude at June 5, 2007 08:38 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

So which is it , the US, or the entire world community; by that I mean UK, France, Germany, India, Norway, Argentina, Chile,
China; they were all involved to greater or lesser extents, in the
build up of Iran &/or Iraq; don't forget Saudi Arabia and the emirates which split their allegiances. As to the US contribution; a few of those Hughes helicopter gunships; that Powell ignored at the
Safwan accords; ) What were we up against in Iraq T-72 tanks,
Mig fighters, Scud missiles (what country was thaf from) and a fair
amount of French armaments.

On the wider point, should we just force Musharaf out, repalce him with Nawaz Sharif or Bhutto; that will solve things right. Do you want to invade the Northwest Frontier of Pakistan. Yes the Turks
want to marginalize the Kurds ;maybe not as much as they
'marginalized' the Armenians, what' new there. Lebanon, the fruits
of the last time ,we redeployed, and left the nation to the tender
mercies of the IRGC and Syrian Mukharabat AS to Gaza; the distinctions between Hamas and Al Queda, tend to elude me; so
I don't see the point; There both driven by Al Azhar trained mullahs
like Yassin, Mashaal, Quaradwi, Had the Lebanese actually incorporated the Palestinians into their societies fully; we would have the spectacle of having to deal with the like of the Nahr elBahr
camp; from whence the button man for Munich came. (Of course,
facilitated by Abu Mazen's financing).

Posted by: narciso at June 7, 2007 02:26 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Dude, you're aware that disordered writing signifies disorded thought, right?

Posted by: Jim Henley at June 7, 2007 03:30 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I believe Musharraf will throw his military uniform if he face any trouble in the coming president election...You perhaps miss to include Srilanka in the list...
Car Breakdown Cover

Posted by: sakthi at June 7, 2007 04:41 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

About Belgravia Dispatch

Gregory Djerejian, an international lawyer and business executive, comments intermittently on global politics, finance & diplomacy at this site. The views expressed herein are solely his own and do not represent those of any organization.


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