The Puzzle Pieces
“The genius of you Americans is that you never made clear-cut stupid moves, only complicated stupid moves which makes us wonder at the possibility that there may be something to them we are missing.”
—Gamal Abdel Nasser, in the 1950s.
“Our friends and allies naively believe that we have a plan and know what we are doing… they are convinced that we have a secret plan we are not sharing with them… They look at me with disbelief and bewilderment when I tell them there is no secret plan and we are as incompetent as they fear.”
—Larry Johnson, former CIA agent, today.
After spending enormous amounts of time studying the Mideast situation the past year, I’m starting to form some overall theories and observations. Or modify my original theories. Or ramble weirdly about stuff that gets more complicated and harder to understand the more I study it. I have reached a point in my studies where I find unrepentant liberal writings as offensive as the flip side of the coin. I suppose that’s progress of a sort.
In any event, things just keep rolling along in the Mideast as the blowback from Bush’s invasions and meddling continue to send shock waves through the region. And unfortunately they aren’t the democratic shock waves we were so glibly promised. Just the opposite in fact, almost everywhere extremists have been empowered and moderates are on the run. How the hell did this happen? This is my theory du jour…
It starts with propaganda. Since 1948 it has been “common knowledge” that Israel was surrounded by terrible enemies who would destroy it if they got the chance, and that only the fighting spirit and military might of little democratic Israel served to protect it in a sea of hostility. Intelligent and educated people knew this was self serving propaganda, and the truth was far more complicated. For one thing Israel has never been in any danger from its neighbours, the opposite in fact has been the case since 1948. But I digress.
This propaganda allowed the US to give buckets of money to Israel, it allowed Israel to pretty much do as it please, and the corrupt western toadies running the oil states could sell their oil while letting their nations stagnate. All problems could be blamed on Israel, while the US was mostly seen as a force for stability and moderation in the region. It was a pretty good system, and it kept the oil flowing and Israel safe for decades. Behind the scenes of course Israel and the west played off the many factions in the Arab world against each other, and nothing ever changed. Sure, there was constant low grade terrorism, but in the world of realpolitik a few dead western civilians a year was a small price to pay for Israel’s regional dominance and western control of the oil.
In 2001 it all changed though. A new administration came to power in Washington. More than a politically affiliated administration, these were ideologues. Yes, Bush and company actually believed the propaganda about Israel and its enemies, they actually believed that the world consists of good guys and bad guys. Even more important, like the dot commers that preceded them, they actually thought they had the power to change the rules and redraw the middle east to match their own ideals. Not understanding history, not understanding diplomacy, not understanding realpolitik, not willing to listen to anyone including America’s own generals and career diplomats; they abandoned America’s traditional role as moderator of the status quo and set out to destroy their perceived enemies.
The result has been disastrous. Instead of being regarded as a moderating force on Israel, the USA is now so solidly and unabashedly on Israel’s side that moderate and pro America voices in the region have been weakened and stilled. From Somalian warlords to Fatah to factions in Iraq, and throughout the middle east, being seen as receiving American backing is now a death knell. Traditional enemies who have been at each others throats for decades have buried the hatchet and have joined forces against a common enemy, the US and Israel.
As Alan Bock so succinctly put it, Bush has managed to has managed to “…convert allies into neutrals, neutrals into doubters, doubters into foes, mildly hostile parties into actively hostile, and enemies into sworn and even fanatical enemies.” Throughout the entire region anti American forces and extremists are on the ascendancy, and America’s friends are on the run. By so blatantly and openly taking sides, Bush is literally creating the situation he set out to fix.
Could I be wrong? Well, my predictions about Bush’s foreign policy have been a lot more on the mark that the people who thought the middle east was just waiting to be “liberated” and “democratized” by beneficent Americans. And it’s getting worse all the time, look at Iraq even. Last year’s attack on the Golden Shrine triggered a wave of Sunni/Shia violence. Last week’s attack triggered a wave of statements by Iraq’s leaders calling for unity against the common foe…America. And in Palestine, Lebanon, Somalia, Egypt, and Pakistan et al…anti Americanism is on the rise and the voices of moderation and peace are being silenced.
The collapse of America’s foreign policy in the region is not the result of some diabolical plot emanating from Syria and Iran. It is the direct result of Bush’s ham fisted “diplomacy” and military interventions. And since Bush and company for the most part seem utterly unable to grasp that they have wrought this mess, it’s just going to get worse. Mark my words, if the sight of Hamas brutally murdering its American backed foes bothered you…you aint seen nothing yet.
(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It is not being used for profit and it is central to illustrating the post. Despite extensive searching I have not been able to find out who to credit for the picture, though I believe it came from an Israeli media outlet. If anyone knows please contact me so I may give credit where credit is due.)