Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Bush's Middle East Strategy: Whacking The Hornets' Nest

Back in April of 2003 shortly after the invasion of Iraq, I emailed a link to Josh Marshall's article Practice to Deceive from the Washington Monthly to my friend, Barb Wille. Over the weekend she sent it back and it holds up pretty well.

The central thesis is that chaos in the Middle East is the plan of Bush's neocon advisors. And, chaos, in turn, was expected to lead to a reverse domino effect wherein "democratic governments - or, failing that, U.S. troops - rule the entire Middle East."

Of course, if creating chaos is your plan, it is important to stifle any debate about the real reason for the invasion and occupation of Iraq. Consequently, the Bush administration successfully kept the debate centered on "The War On Terror" and the bogus "weapons of mass destruction" scare tactics. Within the administration, there does not seem to have been much debate about the real likelihood of such a reverse domino effect or the costs associated with it.

Many historians and foreign policy experts could have pointed out some obvious flaws in the neocon thinking. First, of course, is the fact that no domino effect happened after the fall of Saigon. Second is that countries and peoples do not like to be occupied by foreign armies. Third, as the Soviets discovered to their dismay in Afghanistan, there are fighters who know the land and bow to no one.

So back in 2003, Josh cited two interesting metaphors. One was used by Jefferson to describe slavery in America: “We have the wolf by the ears, and we can neither hold him, nor safely let him go. Justice is in one scale, and self-preservation in the other.” I love that quotation, but the better metaphor is the one Marshall ends with:
Ending Saddam Hussein's regime and replacing it with something stable and democratic was always going to be a difficult task, even with the most able leadership and the broadest coalition. But doing it as the Bush administration now intends is something like going outside and giving a few good whacks to a hornets' nest because you want to get them out in the open and have it out with them once and for all. Ridding the world of Islamic terrorism by rooting out its ultimate sources--Muslim fundamentalism and the Arab world's endemic despotism, corruption, and poverty--might work. But the costs will be immense. Whether the danger is sufficient and the costs worth incurring would make for an interesting public debate. The problem is that once it's just us and the hornets, we really won't have any choice.
And so it is that George Bush, Donald Rumsfeld and the other neocons have whacked the hornets' nest. And now it is up to new leaders to try to reestablish order.

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