Skip to comments.America in the dock- The truth: America is indeed subverting the Middle East
Posted on 10/24/2002 4:37:55 PM PDT by Pokey78
It sometimes seems that the three groups of people in the British Isles most bitterly hostile to American foreign policy are Muslim extremists, Trotskyists and former Tory foreign secretaries. Of the three, it is the former foreign secretaries who have the closest grip on reality. What they understand is the Truth with which we end this series: since September 11, America has ceased to be a "status quo" power in the Middle East and has become, or anyway is becoming, a revolutionary one.
The modern Middle East was, of course, a British and French invention, but America long ago took responsibility for policing and protecting it. Over the years, that job has become more and more demanding. In 1961, it took only 6,000 British troops to save Kuwait from Iraq. Thirty years later, America and its coalition partners sent more than 500,000.
The full cost of maintaining the old order in the Middle East did not, however, become apparent until September 11. The Middle East is now a region of overpopulation and underemployment, where tens of millions of young men waste their lives in economic and sexual frustration.
The region's oppressive regimes stifle their people's complaints about every local grievance, and direct their rage outward instead: to Israel, to America, to the infidel West, until one day that rage devoured 3,000 lives in New York in a single morning.
And on that morning, the old order became unsustainable.
What has happened to America's Middle East policy at the beginning of the 21st century is a lot like what happened to Britain's Near East policy at the beginning of the 20th.
Britain fought one war to defend the Ottoman empire in the 1850s, and nearly fought another in 1878. And yet in 1914, the Turkish government chose Britain for an enemy and Britain was left with no choice but to destroy the empire it had protected for so long.
America has not yet reached the point of deliberately smashing the post-colonial Middle Eastern order. On the contrary, Americans are doing everything they can to preserve it. They speak with a low voice about human rights abuses in Arab countries. They seek military and intelligence co-operation from Arab autocracies they describe as moderate. They are working dutifully to create a Palestinian state.
William Burns, an Assistant Secretary of State, has just returned to the region for another round of negotiations only this week, in the hope of protecting friendly Arab regimes against the putative wrath of the Arab street. Americans endlessly praise the contribution of Saudi Arabia and other Arab states to the war on terror - you'll find an impressive collection of them on the website of the Saudi embassy in Washington.
And yet, as the elder statesmen of the Foreign Office understand, at the same time as they do all these careful, conservative things, the Americans every day take other actions that subvert and undermine the old order in the Middle East. As the Americans follow the terror trail, they are exposing the intimate connections between the so-called moderate states and terror organisations such as al-Qa'eda and Hizbollah.
As they crack down on fundraising for terrorism, they threaten the legal position of wealthy and powerful individuals throughout the Islamic world who, out of fear or out of conviction, have contributed millions to the terror network. As they apply the "with us or with the terrorists" standard enunciated by George W. Bush, the Americans are systematically depriving Arab regimes of the margin of ambiguity that had once insulated them against both the Americans and the radicals.
Above all, as they come to appreciate how political oppression in the Arab world has turned populations against the West, Americans have begun, for the first time, to promote democratisation and liberalisation.
In the words of Colin Powell last November: "When you don't have a free democratic system, where the street is represented in the halls of the legislature and in the executive branches of those governments, then they have to be more concerned by the passions of the street. And so," Mr Powell told Arab governments, "in addition to sort of criticising us from time to time . . . you'd better start taking a look in the mirror."
None of these steps was consciously intended to weaken the position of America's supposed friends in the Arab world. But the old Arab hands in London and Washington correctly perceive their subversive tendency.
And most subversive of all is the looming war with Iraq. For 10 years, America has struggled against Saddam Hussein in a way that T E Lawrence would have approved of: a series of covert actions and plots intended to kill him and replace him with another Sunni strong-man who would govern in a way more amenable to Western interests.
That campaign repeatedly and ignominiously failed, leaving America to confront the growing likelihood of a nuclear-armed Saddam, or else to deal with him openly and take responsibility for replacing him. And since America, operating in its own name and under its own flag, cannot replace one dictator with another, the preparations for war in Iraq have forced America for the first time to consider imposing - and defending - representative government in an Arab state.
This possibility horrifies moderate regimes as much as radical ones, a horror symbolised by the embrace given by Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah to Iraq's Izzat Ibrahim at the Arab summit in March.
Democratisation and liberalisation mean doom not only for the rulers of the moderate states - the Saudi royal family, the Mubarak clan, and so on - but also for a much broader swath of the elite: all those people who have made fortunes out of the closed system of controls and special favours that directs the Arab world's wealth into the hands of a tiny, well-connected elite.
The American determination to root out terror - to put a stop to the game where Arab regimes direct their people's anger outward at America and Israel, to eliminate the ambiguity that allows terrorist groups to raise funds more or less openly in states that pretend to deplore them - threatens to upend a system of government to which many in the West have become comfortably accustomed.
As Saudi Arabia's veteran ambassador to the US, Prince Bandar, told the Washington Post in a report this February: "If the reputation . . . builds that the Saudis take care of friends when they leave office, you'd be surprised how much better friends you have who are just coming into office."
It was a shrewd assessment, and, after nearly 20 years, in America, Prince Bandar has acquired some very good friends indeed.
America does not want to destabilise the Middle East. But Islamic extremism, anti-American incitement, and willing and unwilling support for terrorist organisations have fastened themselves deep into the societies and cultures of the Middle East. Osama bin Laden's terrorism is not the work only of a few sociopathic killers: it is the product of a wide and deep complicity throughout the Arab world. Finding, uprooting, discrediting and destroying terror will have equally wide and deep - and unpredictable - consequences.
And that is why so many Europeans with an interest in the Arab world and its oil have urged America to learn to live with terror: to be realistic, to adjust, to accommodate - as they have had to do. And it is America's refusal to be realistic in this way that, more than anything else, has puzzled, vexed and even enraged so many in Europe and in Britain.
America's greatest disappointments and disasters have originated in the national unwillingness to live within realistic limits. So have America's greatest triumphs. Into which category will the war on terror ultimately be assigned? Of course I do not know. But let us hope it is the second - because, like it or not, with friends or without them, America is going ahead.
This looks like a job for Jocelyn Elders.
Best line from a very good article.
This article draws the distinction between American and European attitudes on this issue better than any I have seen. We look at the status quo and see a nest of terrorists. We find that to be unacceptable and intend to shake things up. Obviously, our action may have results that can't be fully anticipated. However, we have enough confidence to think we can acheive a better result than what is there now.
On the other hand, Europeans fear what might happen and accept the status quo because it is at least known. Americans will not be slapped in the face and just let it slide. Europe has lost the capacity to do anything about it, even if they wanted to.
The biggest question I have (which has not been perceived by the author of this article) is whether America has been weakened by the forces of political corectness, diversity, and multi-culturalism to the point where may lack the strength and will to prevail in this struggle. I think we need to get started sooner rather than later. Time may not be on our side.
We've been down this road before. I recall vividly watching a stupid, naive, idealistic fellow make the ridiculous statement "I have this idea of the Cold War - we win, they lose. What do you think of that?" I recall laughter and derision precisely as we are getting now for not understanding that accommodation is the mark of a political sophisticate.
But, of course, Mr. Reagan did turn out to be correct after all, didn't he?
A large number of things are about to change, and this may well turn out to be something similar to the process bin Laden thought he was going to set in motion, but the outcome is very likely to be the opposite of the one he expected. His idea was that by precipitating a battle between Islam and the United States the latter was doomed to defeat for what are theological reasons rather than sober strategic estimations. And he may very well have succeeded in precipitating a battle between the Wahhabbist form of Islam and the U.S., but not, I suspect the rest of Islam - the latter is too big and diverse for that, as the reaction of Iran to all this suggests. These guys are truly expecting Allah to intervene - this isn't just propaganda, they really expect it. The bewilderment and subsequent denial that our victory in Afghanistan was met with is evidence of this. "God willing, we will throw the U.S. out in shame," only God wasn't, apparently, willing. This should have given the more radical jihadists pause for thought, but stubborn, blind self-righteous assurance in the face of contrary fact is symptomatic of that segment of society no matter which religion it espouses.
But a change in Iraq is really the least of what will happen if we're to drag this part of the world kicking and screaming into the 21st century. I'm not entirely comfortable with the idea of forcing secularization on a population that may not really want it, but if the alternative is to face eternal enmity and death of innocents as a result of accepting the status quo, then we can and will force a change. Osama should have been careful what he wished for, he's about to get it.