Streetwise Professor

January 2, 2016

Fools Rush in Where Angels Fear to Tread: Avoiding the Islamic Civil War Is Prudence, Not Isolationism

Filed under: History,Politics,Russia — The Professor @ 7:43 pm

The combination dumpster fire, shit show, and clusterfuck AKA the Middle East got even more disastrous today when the Saudis beheaded a prominent Shia cleric (along with 46 Sunni radicals). The reaction from Iran was immediate: the Saudi embassy was sacked by outraged Shia.

And the reaction from certain quarters in the US was almost as swift: the usual (neocon) suspects in the US (e.g., Max Boot) immediately swung into action, shrieking loudly about the Iranian violation of the sanctity of the Saudi embassy (I wonder what really goes on there, besides, you know, slavery and stuff) but saying nary a word about the morals or justice or reasonableness of going medieval on Nimr al Nimr.

It is beyond bizarre that certain quarters of the right are so obsessed with Iran that they are willing to go all in with the Saudis and the other oil ticks of the GCC. How can they be blind to the facts that (a) the most direct terrorist threats that we face are all Sunni, and specifically Wahhabi-influenced, (b) these threats receive material and ideological support from Saudi Arabia, and (c) the Saudis have spent billions propagating their hateful creed, including supporting the very mosques in the US and Europe where terrorists are radicalized and recruit?

I stipulate that Iran under the Mullahs is dangerous. I further stipulate that Assad is evil. I further stipulate that Putin is a malign force.

It does not follow, however, that their enemies–the Wahhabi Sunni extremists–are good guys, or that following the enemy-of-my-enemy strategy is even remotely wise.

This is particularly true in the case of Syria, which is a proxy war between the Saudis and the other oil ticks (and the Sunni Turks) and the Iranians. Opposing Assad means throwing in on the side of the very same types of jihadis that are trying to kill us in Paris, Brussels, and San Bernardino. Empowering them today is a recipe for disaster tomorrow.

Just how far the anti-Iran cabal is willing to go is illustrated by their deification of Zarhan Alloush, whose extreme Sunni-sectarian background (he openly advocated a genocide of the Alawites in Syria) has been whitewashed in order to transform him into some martyred potential interlocutor of peace.

Insane.

There is a civil war in Islam. Indeed, there are multiple civil wars. Sunni vs. Shia. But even within the Islamist Sunni “community” there are deep divisions and vicious, brutal fights.

Intervening in a civil war, especially one between extreme sectarians with mindsets completely alien to our own–and indeed, actively hostile to our own–is a recipe for disaster.

But those who counsel staying out–such as Ted Cruz–are pilloried as “isolationists.” Rushing in where angels fear to tread is not isolationism. It’s prudence.

Cruz in fact was-and is-an ardent foe of the Iran deal. So he’s not dew-eyed about the mullahs, or an isolationist. But he’s smart enough to realize that you have to pick your battles, and even if you don’t like Iran (which he doesn’t), that doesn’t mean you have to fight their proxy in Syria.

Indeed, one of the reasons that the Iran deal was a disaster was precisely that it stoked the conflict between Iran and the Saudis. This was predictable, and predicted: well over a year ago I argued that one of the reasons the deal was a bad idea is that it would intensify the conflict in the Gulf specifically, and the Muslim civil war generally, because the Saudis would feel the need to take matters into their own hands and fight Iran before Iran became too strong. We are seeing that happen right before our eyes.

What’s particularly maddening about the interventionist crowd is that they have no specific strategy. This is epitomized by this Garry Kasparov article. Kasparov waxes eloquent about American exceptionalism, and our need to do something:

But the Iraq War was a rebuke to bad planning and lousy implementation, not a refutation of the idea that America can be an essential force for good in the world. America must do better, not do nothing.

OK. I’ll stipulate that doing nothing is not good. But it’s a long way from saying “do something!” to specifying just what that something is, and showing that it will make things better, not worse. After all, in this very paragraph Kasparov admits that we are capable of “bad planning and lousy implementation”: what’s to say we won’t have a repeat? Vacuous generalities about spreading democracy and freedom are exactly what gets us into trouble.

It is particularly irritating that Kasparov invokes Reagan’s name (as many neocons do, though he didn’t care for them, and the feeling was quite mutual). Reagan indeed engaged in soaring rhetoric about freedom and democracy. But he had a concrete strategy that he developed over years and implemented methodically when in office. The new interventionists have the rhetoric. The strategy, not so much.

Further, the situation Reagan faced–a Cold War with a military peer and ideological rival–is completely different than the one we currently face in the Middle East. There are no one size fits all solutions, and anyone who claims to know how Reagan would respond to these completely different circumstances is just full of it. That’s unknown and unknowable.

Perhaps as a chess player, Kasparov is used to there being  black pieces, and white pieces. But in the Middle East, there is no such clean divide. It is just different shades of anti-western and anti-modern sectarians looking to extirpate their enemies–who include us, by the way. Democracy and freedom are on no one’s agenda there, and we shouldn’t pretend otherwise. We made that mistake in Iraq: why repeat it again.

I am not a huge fan of Kissinger, James Baker, and Brent Scowcroft, but on these issues they have a more measured understanding of the realities. They recognize the importance of idealistic goals, but temper that with a recognition that realistic means are needed to achieve them.

Scowcroft:

Scowcroft does not believe that the promotion of American-style democracy abroad is a sufficiently good reason to use force. “I thought we ought to make it our duty to help make the world friendlier for the growth of liberal regimes,” he said. “You encourage democracy over time, with assistance, and aid, the traditional way. Not how the neocons do it.”

(The whole piece is worth reading.)

Kissinger and Baker:

Like most Americans, we believe that the United States should always support democracy and human rights politically, economically and diplomatically, just as we championed freedom for the captive peoples of the Soviet empire during the Cold War. Our values impel us to alleviate human suffering. But as a general principle, our country should do so militarily only when a national interest is also at stake. Such an approach could properly be labeled “pragmatic idealism.”

. . .

Sixth, and most important, the United States must develop a firm and differentiated understanding of its vital national interests. Not every upheaval in the region has the same origin or remedy. The Arab Spring has the potential to become a great opportunity for the people of the region and the world. Over time, fostering democracy may provide an alternative to Islamic extremism; it may also, in the short term, empower some of its supporters. We need to develop a realistic concept of what is achievable and in what time frame.

The last point is a jab at the End of History strain of neoconservatism, which is universalist and believes that everyone wants to be like us, and that the world is inevitably destined to be like us, as the result of some progressive, Hegelian process.

No and no.

Insofar as Syria in particular is concerned. Our national interest there is limited, and the cost of doing anything is prohibitive. Putin’s intervention there is not a bug, but a feature: if he is a fool who rushes in, we should take grim satisfaction, not engage in hysterical reactions like Kasparov (and Max Boot and Michael Weiss). (Relatedly, Boot slandered Cruz, tweeting that he has affection for Assad. This is scurrilous: not wanting to fight him does not imply affection, especially since those whom Assad is fighting are Islamic extremists.)

In sum, the isolationism charge is a canard when hurled at people who don’t want to get deeper into Syria, and who don’t want to take sides between medieval combatants in a sectarian civil war. Saying that the Iranians are bad is not sufficient to justify intervening on the side of their Wahhabi foes–who are just as bad, and are in fact more directly involved in attacking the US and the West than are the Iranians.

To paraphrase Kissinger again (specifically, his remarks about the Iran-Iraq War): we should hope that they both lose. In the meantime, we should look for ways of shielding ourself from the fallout. Jumping into the fray is not the way to do that.

 

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29 Comments »

  1. So, who cares if the rug sniffers fight among themselves? May they all lose.

    Comment by Podargus — January 2, 2016 @ 11:44 pm

  2. I thought it was Donald Rumsfeld who said ‘It’s a pity they both can’t lose’.

    Maybe it was a common sentiment in Washington, and they both said it. I can well understand why.

    Yeah, clear the area. Let them sort it out among themselves.

    Comment by Ex-Regulator on Lunch Break — January 3, 2016 @ 1:19 am

  3. http://news.yahoo.com/saudi-arabia-executes-47-people-224818185.html?soc_src=mail&soc_trk=ma

    The country’s top cleric, Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz Al Sheikh, called the mass killing a “mercy to the prisoners” because it prevented them from committing more evil, according to the Associated Press.

    Comment by elmer — January 3, 2016 @ 10:00 am

  4. “You encourage democracy over time, with assistance, and aid, the traditional way. Not how the neocons do it.”

    This is true, but benefits from hindsight. One of the most depressing – for some, anyway – aspects of the outcome of the Iraq War was that in those who think brown folk are incapable of living together in a civilised fashion and need either a brutal dictator or colonial power to “keep them in line” appear to have been right all along. I for one thought the Iraq War was worth doing if for no other reason (although there were other, better reasons) than to at least try to see whether a Middle East country other than Israel could be a success. Now we know the answer, well, as you say, let’s not try another.

    Incidentally, a pal of mine who is very well connected tells me the chap running Saudi is absolutely obsessed with Iran (possibly wisely so): what is going on with ISIS is a sideshow compared to their proxy war being fought against Iran in Yemen (which is making good business for British bomb factories, and I’m sure the Americans are in on the act too.) Whatever happens with ISIS the Sunni vs Shia showdown is not going to go away. This – not ISIS – is what has brought about the strange bedfellows of Israel and Saudi. The West should do the bare minimum to protect the Saudi oilfields and otherwise stay well back.

    Comment by Tim Newman — January 3, 2016 @ 10:40 am

  5. No. The west should protect Israel – and otherwise stand back. Saudi’s oilfields are their own concern.

    Comment by ETat — January 3, 2016 @ 11:08 am

  6. If the Saudi oilfields stop producing *everyone* is totally screwed. I mean plunged into medieval ways of living screwed. Agree about protecting Israel, though.

    Comment by Tim Newman — January 3, 2016 @ 1:57 pm

  7. No problem at all militarily for the US to seize the Saudi fields and put an end militarily to Wahhibism. Largely the “War On Terror” was fought in the wrong country.

    Comment by pahoben — January 3, 2016 @ 3:11 pm

  8. @pahoben & @timnewman-I’ve often wondered if the Saudis have rigged key pieces of oil infrastructure for destruction in the event of invasion by anyone, including us: the Saudi Sampson option, “if we can’t have it no one will.” Although you both would know far better than I, it seems to me that the their facilities are so extensive that they would be able to cut output substantially for a very long time even if they were surprised. And then they just might wage a guerrilla/sabotage war against the facilities.

    I’ve also wondered that if they are so enamored with the purity of life of the Prophet and his followers in the desert, and getting back to Islamic basics, they don’t do it. What’s stopping them?

    That’s a joke, of course.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — January 3, 2016 @ 8:08 pm

  9. For the USA to “defeat” ISIL would take “real war,” which the USA is incapable of at
    this time. “Real war” is annihilation including massive, so-called “innocent civilian”
    casualties. In the current situation, it would require 200K+ US ground troops plus support
    from the Arabs (who, by themselves would be useless due to divided loyalties and incompetence).
    What the US has done so far in the ME are “police actions” which are useless when significant
    cultural differences exist between combatants as well as among allies. So stand aside and
    watch the chaos!

    Comment by eric — January 3, 2016 @ 8:56 pm

  10. I read somewhere (maybe here) that one of the US Airborne Divisions (82nd or 101st?) is constantly on standby for immediate deployment to/ invasion of the key oil producing areas of the Eastern Province should the need arise. Does anyone have more detail on this? What might be instructive on this is to look at which US forces were the first to deploy (and where) immediately after Iraqi forces entered Kuwait in 1990.

    Comment by Anthony Carlisle — January 3, 2016 @ 9:07 pm

  11. @Anthony-The 82d has a battalion ready to deploy anywhere within 18 hours, and a Division Ready Brigade ready to deploy within a day. The 82d deployed to Saudi Arabia in 1990 when Saddam invaded Kuwait. Additional units from the XVIII Airborne Corps followed shortly.

    A lot has happened in 25 years. In particular, a lot of the units that were deployed and deployable in 1990 don’t exist now. We have (I think) three Division Ready Brigades (From the 3d ID and 10th Mountain Division as well as the 82d) but we don’t have as much rapid reaction capability today as we did in the Cold War and its immediate aftermath.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — January 3, 2016 @ 9:22 pm

  12. @SWP,

    I doubt very much the Saudis could run a guerrilla war against the U.S. Mil occupying the oil fields. In any case, as we saw in ’91, in Kuwait and Iraq, it wouldn’t take more than 24 months to start things up again. Not quick, but surely not impossible.

    Yes, elements of the 82nd and 101st were there first in ’90.

    Comment by The Pilot — January 3, 2016 @ 9:24 pm

  13. Thanks Professor – very informative.

    @The Pilot – surely it is unlikely that there will be any guerrilla war against US forces occupying the oil fields given the local population is predominantly Shia and would welcome the Americans as liberators … ah, oh, maybe not.

    More seriously, 24 months to start up the oil fields is way too long – see what happened to global oil markets after only a few weeks of the Arab Oil Boycott in 1973. Admittedly, there is a very different oil market today.

    Comment by Anthony Carlisle — January 3, 2016 @ 10:25 pm

  14. Excellent time to accept disurption in the crude market with global demand low and supply high. Many supertankers at anchor now with full crude cargos. Drilling would pick up immediately in the shale plays so not sure how much the US market would be impacted and don’t have current import figures at hand.

    @Professor
    lol and also opposed to nationalism for that matter.

    Comment by pahoben — January 4, 2016 @ 2:20 am

  15. @Professor
    I do not know Saudi infrastructure well but the major fields are near the Arabian Gulf and likely the pipelines are the weak point for security but the pipelines are relatively short for the major fields since on the Gulf. I would think Predators and other UAVs could provide acceptable pipeline security for these major fields backed up by constant space based observation. General aggressive offensive operations would be required no doubt.

    Comment by pahoben — January 4, 2016 @ 5:51 am

  16. Tim Newman said: “I for one thought the Iraq War was worth doing if for no other reason (although there were other, better reasons) than to at least try to see whether a Middle East country other than Israel could be a success. Now we know the answer, well, as you say, let’s not try another.”

    I generally agree with Tim Newman. I still believe the decision to invade Iraq was correct because the sanctions against Saddam were breaking down due to European malfeasance. Saddam had repeatedly demonstrated that he was a loose cannon who needed to be removed from power. Also there needed to be some action taken against the Arab world due to 9/11. Along this line, I recently became aware of the following link concerning Saudi Arabia and Wahhabism:

    http://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/5956/isis-saudi-arabia-iran

    I am of the opinion that anyone who wishes to comment intelligently about Saudi Arabia, the Sunni and Islamic fascism needs to read the above linked Gatestone Institute essay.

    Tim Newman was correct that we need to at least try to introduce the Iraqi people to democracy. Yes, it was like taking a horse to water and expecting it to drink. Also, the actual occupation of Iraq

    Comment by Eggplant — January 4, 2016 @ 2:02 pm

  17. [pardon me, I hit the “submit” button in error]

    Continuing…

    Also, the actual occupation of Iraq was badly bungled. We (the United States) naively thought the Iraqi people would be overjoyed at the prospect of being rid of an odious tyrant like Saddam. How silly of us to believe that the Iraqis would prefer occupation by a Western (Christian) nation versus being under the boot of a savage Moslem tyrant like Saddam.

    I do differ with Tim Newman on a minor point that Israel was the Middle East’s only success story. Prior to Erdogan, Turkey was doing “okay” with ups-and-downs under the political system setup by Mustafa Atatürk. Of course this was a secular political system with a democracy that was enforced by the Turkish military. Unfortunately, Erdogan yearned to be an Ottoman Sultan and directed Turkey on a path towards national destruction. The attraction of the Moon God is like that of a bug zapper towards a moth. Strange that human beings can not show more intelligence than a moth.

    Comment by Eggplant — January 4, 2016 @ 2:18 pm

  18. I guess I’m with Tim and Eggplant, in that strategically I think the neocons had the right idea but operationally it didn’t work out for a number of both self-inflicted and inherent reasons. (Although I think critics are guilty of “cashing in” the gains from being rid of Saddam while complaining about the costs of same. Were Saddam still around, his regime would have been convulsed by the same forces that affected Assad and we would likely have an even bigger degree of instability and refugee flows, not to mention attacks on rivals’ oil installations by Iraq, etc.)

    The only plausible proxy in the area is the Iraqi Kurds, but everybody is so worried about keeping the Iraqi government onside that our support for them is desultory relative to what we do for the Iraqi army. Erdogan’s outright support of ISIS against “his” Kurds is becoming more apparent every day. At this point, just protecting the Kurds and letting the rest of them kill each other does look like the best strategy.

    Comment by srp — January 4, 2016 @ 9:18 pm

  19. Prior to Erdogan, Turkey was doing “okay” with ups-and-downs under the political system setup by Mustafa Atatürk. Of course this was a secular political system with a democracy that was enforced by the Turkish military. Unfortunately, Erdogan yearned to be an Ottoman Sultan and directed Turkey on a path towards national destruction.

    I’ve no argument with this, I fully agree.

    Comment by Tim Newman — January 4, 2016 @ 10:14 pm

  20. @Tim & @Eggplant. However flawed a particular state, and Kemalist Turkey was deeply flawed, Islamism is guaranteed to make it much, much worse.

    Turkey was lurching towards modernity. Erdogan is sending it sprinting in the opposite direction.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — January 4, 2016 @ 10:18 pm

  21. The Professor said: “Turkey was lurching towards modernity. Erdogan is sending it sprinting in the opposite direction.”

    I think we’re all agreed that Erdogan is a bad guy. I have a sneaking suspicion that Erdogan along with certain members of the al Saud family (probably not the inner circle) are the real power behind the Daesh.

    Turkey’s military previously had the role of serving as guarantors of Turkish democracy. Supposedly the earlier social contract was for the military to stay out of politics provided the Turkish politicians did not attempt to demagogue with Islam. When a politician did cross the line, the Turkish military would step in, try the offending politician before a military tribunal and then hang him. For reasons that I do not understand, that process broke down with the consequence that the Turkish military was neutered politically. Even more curious, I read years ago about people inside Turkey complaining that the political process was breaking down. Supposedly members of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt through the Al Azhar university were setting up radical madrassas in Turkey. If foreigners outside the system could see the Islamists were getting out of hand then why didn’t the military intervene?

    Comment by Eggplant — January 5, 2016 @ 12:27 am

  22. @Eggplant – The left wing idiots in the EU were directly responsible for the breakdown of the Attaturk system where the military suppressed Islamist behavior in Turkey. They insisted on “full democratization” and assisted Erdogan in breaking the back of the Turkish Generals…..

    Comment by Andrew — January 5, 2016 @ 1:07 am

  23. @Andrew — To some extent we (the United States under Obama) did the same thing with Mubarak of Egypt. Mubarak was forced out with Obama’s blessing and of course the Muslim Brotherhood attempted to fill the vacuum through Morsi. Egypt was in the middle of full social/economic implosion when Abdel Fattah el-Sisi step up and fished Egypt out of toilet (literally saved the nation at the last possible moment through sheer grit).

    Egypt tends to be bimodal with its politicians. They are either pragmatic, courageous leaders like el-Sisi and Anwar Sadat or circus clowns like Nasser and Morsi.

    It would be a wonderful thing if Egypt could have a democracy like Switzerland, New Zealand or Israel. However the Egyptians first need to get the Islam thing figured out. Ditto that with Turkey.

    Of course, one can point out that we Americans are hardly in a position to criticize other nations about democracy given that we have a buffoon like Obama as President. Looks like we might flip that coin and end up with the guy on the other side, i.e. Trump. Obviously democracy as an institution just barely works and requires the public’s full diligence to maintain.

    Comment by Eggplant — January 5, 2016 @ 1:38 am

  24. @Eggplant
    I read your linked article and found it strange. The majority of the article is an indictment of Saud-Wahhibism as funding and supporting organizations hell bent on the destruction of the US but then as an apologist after thought includes the following-

    “The war for regime change in Iraq after 9/11, launched by President George W. Bush, cannot be re-litigated or undone. It was waged for reasons well-considered at the time, and the expectation that regime change would eventually lead, with American support, to the remaking of Iraq as a functioning democracy, was not unreasonable.”

    I find the above unreasonable as would I a similar statement concerning Afghanistan. Anyone who believed either of these countries would welcome the US as revered liberators bringing the gift of democracy was blinded by narcissistic ideology. These are not observations in hindsight but were clear prior to start of operations.

    The constant reference to Korea as proof of US nation building capability is such bollix. Actually Korea suffered under colonial rule by other powers. In the 20th century it suffered under Japan because it had made such great modernization strides during the short period it was independent (late 19th early 20th century) and Japan felt threatned by Korean success. In the case of Japan nuclear weapons and unconditional surreneder were required to change Japan’s course and prior to this Japan was in no way technologically moribund. These analogies are faulty but very popular among many.

    If you accept that the “War On Terror” was in response to 911 then attacking Iraq makes no sense. It didn’t then and it doesn’t now. If the objective was to destroy these groups then the logicial course would have been to destroy their funding. The House of Saud is interested in preserving the House of Saud and to contemplate that the House of Saud is acting in the interests of the US is just naive.

    Comment by pahoben — January 5, 2016 @ 3:49 am

  25. @Pahoben
    I’m on the verge of “hogging” this comment forum so I’ll try to make this my last response.

    I found the Gatestone Institute essay written by Salim Mansur to be both extremely informative and very interesting up until the very quote that Pahoben referenced. That sentence by Mansur struck me as being disingenuous. Mansur was writing to a specific audience. I suspect that Mansur believed he was going to alienate his target audience if he appeared overly critical of the Iraq War. It so happens that I strongly believe that launching the Iraq War was a correct decision. My main quarrel with America’s handling of the Iraq War was the obvious bungling that occurred during the occupation of Iraq. I would have preferred it if Salim Mansur had openly said that he disapproved of the Iraq War and then attempted to justify his argument.

    I am going to ignore the issues of Japan and Korea because they are too far off topic. I believe it was clear in Mansur’s essay that the House of Saud had not acted in the interests of the US. If anything, Mansur found it extremely ironic that the House of Saud and the nominally Christian US have been allies. Obviously this has been an alliance of convenience that will end as soon as Saudi Arabia’s oil fields run dry. Also, I find it an interesting question whether the al Saud family first chose to be criminals engaging in banditry, caravan raiding, slave trading, etc. and then adopted Wahhibism as their religion –or– if they first started out as Wahhibiis and then found that their system of religious ethics was fully compatible with being savage criminals.

    George W. Bush found himself in an “interesting” political dilemma after the 9/11 terrorist outrage. Attacking Afghanistan and driving out the Taliban was an obvious initial response since that was the easiest way to shut down al Qaeda. However al Qaeda was clearly an Arab-Sunni construct. Most of the 9/11 terrorists were either Saudi or Yemini citizens. The “return-to” address on the 9/11 terrorist attack was clearly Saudi Arabia. This was Osama bin Laden’s obvious tactic. It was clear that Osama bin Laden wanted the United States to attack Saudi Arabia in a mindless rage. Of course this would have triggered a deep visceral rage in the entire Islamic world of 2 billion people since the US would have compromised the holy cities of Medina and Mecca. The advisers to George W. Bush saw through bin Laden’s strategy and did the precise opposite. The United States withdrew its remaining troops from Saudi Arabia.

    However there still remained the problem of punishing the Arab/Sunni world for supporting the 9/11 terrorist attack (remember the Palestinians who were dancing in the streets with joy after hearing about the thousands on innocent people who died in New York). Saddam Hussein was a loose end and still dangerous. The Assad regime was actively trying to develop a plutonium production reactor. The Iranians were engaging in any sort of mischief that they could find, including strategic nuclear weapons development. Establishing an American military presence in the middle of these mischief makers without actually invading Saudi Arabia was the obvious strategic response. Also, having an American beachhead and military base in Iraq would have served as a launching point for invading Syria and/or Iran. I believe this was George W. Bush’s long term strategic agenda. I might add that it was a good plan. Unfortunately the occupation after the invasion was bungled. Then the situation was made infinitely worse after Obama assumed office and removed the American military presence in Iraq thus creating a power vacuum. Under George W. Bush, the United States was engaged in Realpolitik of the sort that Thucydides or Otto von Bismarck would have approved. Then Obama took over and the political process became something that Bozo the Clown would have enjoyed and laughed at.

    Comment by Eggplant — January 5, 2016 @ 2:39 pm

  26. @Eggplant
    My comments about Korea and Japan were in reference to this from your link-

    “American support in the reconstruction of Germany and Japan after 1945 was crucial. The transformation of imperial and militaristic Japan into a peaceful democracy was testimony to how American support can make for a better world. In the Korean Peninsula, American troops have held the line between the North and South since the end of the Korean War in 1953; this has made the vital difference in turning South Korea into a democracy and an advanced industrial society.”

    References to these countries is often made as an anology to provide support for arguments related to US establishment of liberal democratic beach heads in the ME. My point is that Germany nor Korea nor Japan satisfies the requirements for valid analogy when applied to nation building in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    What does war on terror mean when the state sponsor of the terror is coddled and favored by US policy. What it means is that the US is seen as weak and unable to attain its stated goals. The US suffers from weakened security and weakened civil society as a result.

    What could have been done differently in Iraq so that now the country would be that gleaming bastion of liberal democracy? I have an idea what would be required but it involves a very large number of dead Iraqui males. Youmust have in mind a very clever solution.

    Comment by pahoben — January 5, 2016 @ 4:51 pm

  27. @Eggplant
    I am really interested in your plan for Iraq that would have achieved the objectives if you have time to set it out.

    Comment by pahoben — January 6, 2016 @ 8:14 am

  28. @Eggplant
    Got it-Eggplant’s Hot Air Implementation Program For Ensuring Liberal Democracy In Iraq. Previously the idea was sound but the implementation sucked and is now corrected.

    It would be great to see an Iraqi convention and everyone in those nifty styrofoam boater hats.

    Comment by pahoben — January 7, 2016 @ 6:57 am

  29. Ya know when one side doesn’t consider any rationale person capable of seeing diplomacy as a zero sum game and the other side sees diplomacy only as a zero sum game then the zeros have an immense advantage.

    The dial is approaching the red for political cognitive dissonance in the EU and US it appears.

    Comment by pahoben — January 8, 2016 @ 4:07 am

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