U.S. Cannot Afford To Play The World’s Peacekeeper Forever
With municipal elections out of the way, we ought to be looking toward 2008 presidential race with considerable apprehension. On one hand, we are witnessing the winding down of an administration which has led our country into a hopeless war and dubious economic future; on the other we have candidates for the presidential seat, milling around without a clue as to how to bring the ship of state on an even keel. We are given hollow promises of social plans which will be never realized unless we disentangle ourselves from the Iraq and Afghanistan quagmires.
Candidates for political offices invariably claim being able to make “tough decisions”. Well, we should ask them tough questions and demand straight answers. Yes, the G.W.Bush administration has made many wrong decisions, but it also has steered us through some rough situations. It would be downright stupid of our political representatives, however, to assume that they can’t do anything wrong as long as they do everything opposite to GWB during the next presidency. One rule they should learn is that when they voice their opinions quoting “the American People” they should call for what is truly best for our nation, not for their personal or their Party’s convenience. Enough harm has already been done.
Looking back to the terrorist attack of 9/11/2001 we can recall the reaction of our nation at its patriotic best in the recovery from shock, in the spirit of righteous wrath. Unfortunately the GWB administration had misinterpreted it for an empowerment to act without forethought. GWB and his team chose to cast all caution aside.
True, our reaction against al -Qaida and Taliban in Afghanistan was justified. However, our military had failed to plan for deploying “ boots on the ground” immediately. Instead, our initial action relied on CIA teams and aerial bombardment, allowing the Taliban and al-Qaida to dissipate and vanish into the caves and, eventually, into the haven of Pakistan. The Pentagon had years in which to study the mistakes made by the Soviets during their Afghanistan venture. One of the most dangerous errors a strategist can make is to underestimate his enemy. The attitude taken by our leadership has been to treat Bin Laden as a terrorist “towel head”, capable only of hit and run attacks. The timing and technical manner of the 9/11 attack have always appeared to me as having been explained too simplistically to the public.
Prior to 9/11 attack the Bin Laden family and many of their associates had a free run in the United States. People have forgotten that following 9/11 the Saudi government prevailed upon the Bush administration to allow a planeload of Bin Laden family members to leave the U.S. without any investigation regarding complicity. Many Arab scientists had been trained here and had access to American research facilities. I would suspect, therefore, that the impact points and temperatures required to cause most damage to the World Trade Center had been carefully calculated through a scientific study, probably using our facilities in broad daylight. Al-Qaida succeeded beyond their expectations.
As for the timing of the attack, I would suspect that it had not been random. During the latter part of the Clinton administration our economy had become paper based. The reader may recall the IPOs (Initial Public Offerings) of stocks in imaginary ventures and how some people became millionaires overnight. Meanwhile, our manufacturing was being sold abroad, along with our industrial and military secrets. Even the Lincoln Bedroom at the White House was available for an appropriate donation! Our imaginary economic boom obscured the fact that we had been brought to the edge of an economic disaster by the Clinton administration. I believe that economists advising Bin Laden had determined that the time was appropriate to push the American economy off balance, allowing him time to create turmoil in the Middle East.
The quick reaction by GWB and his disregard for any meddling by the United Nations upset al-Qaida’s timetable. In order to carry out a large scale war on terroristm, however, the U.S. would have to have access to virtually unlimited funds. This was solved by putting our defense on war footing which, incidentally, averted the looming economic crisis. So far, so good…..
The key to counter al-Qaida’s plans lay in a pacified Middle East. The arrogance and posturing of Saddam Hussein had made his complicity in terrorism credible. His attitude displayed an ominous slant toward Islamism, making his future actions highly suspect. The First Gulf War had been won at a minimal cost and loss of American lives. This must have led GWB and his advisors to the simplistic notion of eliminating Saddam and placing U.S. in firm control of the Middle East and its oil resources. Thus, in our planners’ minds, the “new, democratic” Iraq would ensure stability in the region, hem in Iran and ensure the flow of cheap oil which, in turn, would pay for the cost of the war. Slam dunk!
It is now common knowledge that we started a war without an administrative plan. Our military did their job brilliantly, only to realize that they had not been given a civilian backup. Naively, we deconstructed Iraq’s infrastructure, without a rebuilding plan. In the resulting vacuum, al-Qaida was quick to recover and promote insurgency and mayhem among the disheartened Iraqis. This also allowed outside players to join the fracas. Recent history of the region was full of warning signs.
Iran has long been an interested party. Iran’s designs on the control of the Middle East oil and Muslim holy places, like Mecca and Medina predate the ayatollahs. They had been known to our government, which supplied arms etc. to the regime of the Shah, oblivious of the mounting anti-American feelings among the Iranians. The popular movement forced the Shah into exile only to see him reinstated on the throne by CIA, as a virtual puppet of American government. In 1979, the monarchy was overturned, establishing an anti-American, ayatollah controlled government. Iraq attacked Iran in 1980, over oil rights in the Persian Gulf, leading to eight years of bloody warfare. The U.S. had not remained neutral, covertly siding with Saddam and providing materiel and satellite data. This was understandable, following the Iranian violation of U.S. diplomatic immunity and open anti-American policy by the Khomeini regime. The ayatollahs seethed with rage and vowed revenge.
Iran can see our current problems in the region. Tough talk by Mr. Ahmadinejad is intended more for local consumption than that of U.S. Of course our military establishment, as well as countries relying on U.S. for arms funding lap it up. It also helps our politicians to talk tough. Let us not forget, however, that in the background lurk countries supplying the nuclear technology and funding to Iran. I am certain that they would not want to see a nuclear war in the region. I would worry more about Pakistan and India.
After the First Gulf War and eviction of Saddam’s forces from Kuwait, American ignorance of Iraq’s sectarian tensions caused a call by the U.S. for insurrection against Saddam, followed by withdrawal of American support in Iraq’s south, resulting in massive retaliation by Saddam against the Shiites. This betrayal has created a lasting distrust of Americans. It made all the Iraqis wary. Following the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, the Shiites remained neutral, apparently in anticipation of preferential treatment, in view of their numerical majority. Meanwhile, the Sunnis and al-Qaida started an insurgency directed against U.S. forces and the Shiite population, with the intention of starting a civil war. One can assume that Syria and Saudi Arabia had largely financed the Sunni activities. The Shiites retaliated causing sectarian violence, resulting in high losses both among U.S. personnel and the general population.
The wholesale sectarian murders have caused a mass exodus of Iraqi intelligentsia to Syria and Jordan. If these peopleare not resettled they will become another source of terrorism, as has been the case of the Palestinians. Their displacement from Iraq will also aid Islamist elements to fill in the resulting vacuum.
The Kurdish population is spread throughout the region, with approximate numbers of 4 million in Iraq, 12 million in Turkey, 4.5 million in Iran and a few hundred thousand in Syria. The Kurds are politically fractured, but united in their desire for an independent state of Kurdistan which, obviously, is not in the interest of the countries involved. The U.S. has used the Kurd factor since World War II; Great Britain and Russia have used them since the days of the “Great Game” for access to India.
During World War II Iran had shown pro-Axis tendencies, resulting in its occupation by the Allies. The Soviets occupied the part of Iran with a large Kurd population, allowing the formation of an autonomous Kurd government. After the war, when Iran’s last Shah was returned to the throne, the Kurd movement was suppressed with thousands following Mullah Mustafa Barzani, their leader, into exile in the Soviet Union. The Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) has roots in that faction, known for Russian and/or Communist sympathies. Look for Russian bear tracks all over that neck of the woods.
While PKK has been primarily active in guerilla warfare against the Turkish government, they have moved freely into Iraq, to find succor from Iraqi Kurds. This led to an understanding between Saddam Hussein and the Turks, permitting the latter to conduct military strikes against PKK on the Iraqi side of the border. Hence our current political dilemma with the Turks, exacerbated by the politically stupid timing of Turks’ censure for the genocide of Armenians under the Ottoman rule. For some reason, our politicians have had no problem treating Germans as our allies and blaming Nazis for genocide.
Through sheer ignorance we have allowed ourselves to be mired in Iraq. Had we allowed the basic infrastructure to remain intact and only removed the top layer of the regime, things might have turned out different. Much wiser statesmen did that in post WWII Germany and Japan and it worked! Of course the White House is fearful that we may lose face in the Middle East, and lucrative Iraqi oil contracts. Meanwhile we are spending $10 billion a month of money borrowed against future generations of Americans and feeding a corrupt system in Iraq and all along the Gulf of Iran, as well Afghanistan. There is something wrong with this picture.
Meanwhile, our troops in Iraq face danger every day. At least in Iraq we have a relatively secure logistics network. In Afghanistan, however, we must depend on the mood of Pakistan or Kazakhstan, which may change overnight. What then?
It is high time to rethink our foreign policy and make it more realistic. U.S. cannot afford to play the world’s peace keeper forever. Our former Communist enemies in Peking, Moscow or Ho Chi Minh City wear Western dress and tread on red carpet at the White House. With every day they get more reasons to trade rather than fight. Deep down they also worry about hotheads like Ahmadinejad interfering with their improving lifestyles. Let’s draw them to a round table and talk diplomacy.
Meanwhile, Iran, Iraq, the Saudis and other oil producers will have to keep selling oil in order to survive. They all would be more scared of U.S. technology producing more efficient cars and alternate fuels than they would be of American guns. They know we can do it. They would also not hesitate to tell their al-Qaidas, Hezbollahs and others to go pound desert sand, if it would interfere with their comfort.
President Bush will not, apparently, change his policy. This, however, does not mean that whoever will take over the Oval Office should not. To ensure that, our nation must stop judging the candidates by the size of their war chests or points in the polls. What should count is the understanding of global politics and the commitment to our nation’s interests.