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Four Solutions to the Middle East - Aretstikapha - 05-13-2004

On National Review, David Frum asserts there are four possible solutions to the problems of the Middle East:
Quote:1) Try to find some way to calm the extremists down. This was the policy the US followed in the 1990s – it was the ultimate justification for Clinton’s Palestinian diplomacy. By now it should be obvious that the people we are concerned about won’t be calmed. The appeasement option isn’t an option: It’s a wish.

2) The Bush approach – try to deal with the sources of extremism by promoting democratic change in the region. By curbing tyrannies that foment extremism to justify their hold on power – like Iraq’s, like Saudi Arabia’s – the US and its allies can promote what the president calls “the peaceful pursuit of a better life.”

3) But let’s suppose that the Bush policy fails too. Let’s suppose policy-makers decide that the Middle East cannot be changed any more than it can be calmed. What then? Then I’m afraid we are going to see the emergence of a harsh new pseudo-realism that will in effect try to seal the Middle East off from the rest of the world. Hire new dictators to police the region, lock the people in, and “let them kill each other” as they say in the line at my supermarket.

4) But any policy so self-consciously dismissive will be anathema to the soft spirit of American liberalism. And so the likeliest consequence of a Bush defeat and a turn away from his policies will be: nothing at all. We’ll end up averting our eyes, telling ourselves that we can protect ourselves by chasing down al Qaeda fugitives, and basically forgetting about the whole problem – until of course it strikes again.
What do you guys think - any of these work for you?

- mv - 05-13-2004

Well, lets try.

1. Never had a chance and already failed.

2. Never had a chance and we should be close to understanding that it failed too.

3. Worked for a while; basically have our bad guys kill not-our bad guys. Our bad guy Saddam did a fine job on the Iranians, with about a million killed on both sides. Our new bad guy Quadaffi might turn out to be quite useful if this scenario is tried again. But practically, this is hopeless; it does nothing about the WMD spread and the moment our bad guys get hold of real toys, they would cease to be ours. (Consider: our bad guy Mubarak seems to be working on nukes too.)

4. Not an option either. We cannot *partially* disengage (buy oil and let them do what they want); 9/11 was one reminder. And does nothing about WMD's too.

Basically, Frum offered four non-options.

My vote is for 5; Frum indeed missed some options.

- Aretstikapha - 05-13-2004

Quote:My vote is for 5; Frum indeed missed some options.
Well don't keep us hanging! What are the options he missed? :?:

- mv - 05-13-2004

There are two more options at least.

Option 5. Gradual narrowing of the Gap, starting with the regions that are most ready to be civilized. Afghanistan and Iraq were particularly bad choices; you cannot bring them out of the middle ages any time quickly.

The initial efforts should have been directed elsewhere. Possibly options would include Iran and Kurdistan. In the case of Iran, the country has some experience with democratic systems; the younger generation is generally pro-West, and there is a very real difference between Persians and Arabs in terms of ability to adapt to modern times. In the case of Kurdistan, they managed to set up reasonable institutions themselves; this is even better. One approach would be to encourage them to expand as far south as they can and leave the rest of Iraq alone for now.

The overall strategy would be slow expansion from the "democratic platforms". Slow would mean decades at best.

Option 6. Quarantine of the entire region. Frum is correct that we cannot do it because of the oil dependance; what he misses is that it is possible to take big chunk of oil under control, transferring the local population beyond defensible borders. Yes, not a PC options, but an option to consider, given the existential nature of this war.

Observe that 5 and 6 can be combined.

- Baldar - 05-13-2004

Iraq was not in the middle ages. I think the option of democracy can be achieved and I disagree that it is beyond us to help them achieve a democratic state. Iran for example has a wonderful democratic state that is constitutionally kept from doing its job by the existence of theocracy whose power overrides the state.

If Iraq achieves a democracy (which responds to the will of the people even if it doesn't closely resemble ours), then I will feel more content in its ability to spread. The fear in the area is that a democratic Iraq would shred the last tenuous hold the mullahs in Iran have (by example), it would also pressure the Saudi's substantially. The Palestinians would soon begin to chafe under the less than fair control division under Arafat (or will it be Hezbollah?). Kuwait will begin to have to review its own policies. It would be a multiple destabilization of existing power structures for both allies and enemies. For this reason Iran and Syria and others are allowing so many people to use their lands as conduits into the porous Iraqi borders. It will not be easy but I see it as a must that has not come anywhere near failure at this point. Iraq is much better off and will continue to improve. The difficulty is understanding that we must win, we must show positive dominance and quick reprisal (something we lost in Fallujah and we ended up taking out the Mosque in the end anyway) and we must show that our way is better. I believe the people in the area respect the strength of arms and even Syria (like Libya) will eventually ( and possibly after armed conflict) reflect upon where it should go.

There is much to do and it will not be resolved in a few years, but if we have and maintain the political will, it can be resolved in our favor, just as the Cold War was.

- mv - 05-13-2004

Baldar Wrote:Iraq was not in the middle ages

Iraq is still largely a tribal society. If this is not middle ages, I don't know what is. Iraq *never* had democratic institutions, except for the ritual of electing Saddam. OTOH, Iran -- as you correctly point out -- has a potentially working system in place. People are actually aware of how it is supposed to work.

There are several more reasons why a Iran-first strategy could have worked much better.
* More or less nation-state; no worries about a tribal war as we face in Iraq.
* Less interference from the outside; Iraq neighbors all can influence some factions in Iraq; in Iran this would have not been the case.
* Large number of Iranian emigrants in the US, large enough to find many leadership choices if we have to.
* A takeover in Iran would have removed the *real* WMD threat from Iran, and also would have isolated Pakistan (another very *real* threat).

- Baldar - 05-13-2004

Being tribal is not the middle ages.

Tribes also formed alliances and nations even in the Middle Ages. So I disagree with your view that tribalism (which I acknowledge exists to a strong extent though I don't think it exists to the extent you might believe).

I think tribalism in Iraq was actually an artificial creation by a dictator that was tribal.

I believe it would have been better to start with Iran, had the opportunity presented itself. The opportunity however has not presented itself (much like the war with Germany where Hitlers joint declaration of war had created the opportunity to become involved in Europe). Since there was no direct Iranian opportunity, Iraq I believe is the next best thing and workable.

I believe we can "create" a history of democracy in Iraq, just as a history of democracy was created in the United States. The path will not be the same of course, but the end results are what we are searching for, we know it can happen.

- mv - 05-13-2004

Quote:I think tribalism in Iraq was actually an artificial creation by a dictator that was tribal.

No, these are really old tribes. Incidently, the previous dictator was from Fallujah tribe which is not all that close to the Saddam's Tikriti tribe (I'm not using the proper tribe names).

While Tribal is not synonymous with medievil, you may want to notice the heaviy triblal presence in Chechnya--Afghanistan---Albania/Kosovo-- Iraq--Somalia--Sudan---Northern Pakistan....did I list most of the trouble spots already?

Quote:I believe it would have been better to start with Iran
Quote:had the opportunity presented itself

This brings up a question. We still have no good opportunity, but Iran is probably less than a year away from the bomb. If we intend to act, this is your opportunity. If we don't intend to act, then the rest of ME discussion is a waste of time, because we are not going to achieve anything anyway.

- WmLambert - 05-14-2004

mv, Iraq is a tribal state, like you said, but it is also an advanced technological culture with nuclear physicists and advanced engineers. There are some theocratic schools where the brainwashed rock on their heels all day chanting surats from the Koran that they are never taught the meaning of, but there are also first-rate teaching colleges and universities.

The beauty of helping a representative government take root in Iraq is because it is a microcosm of the rest of the Middle East. Libya's Muammar Muhammad al-Qadhafi leads a nation of Sunni Muslims and saw fit to adapt his governance because of what was going on in Iraq. Like the Saudi Royal family he holds power outside of the theocratic Islamic powers.

It all seems to flow in a brilliantly logical plan to me.

- mv - 05-14-2004

I smell unhealthy optimism here... never mind.