Wednesday, March 14, 2012
Middle East Bully
Iraq seems to be settling back into uncomfortable, but well-recognized chaos and conflict. Afghanistan too is reverting to the sectarian internal strife that it's known for far too long. The situation with Syria's strong man continues to deteriorate, with calls going out for potential outside intervention; and Iran's continuing nuclear program's development bring more and more cries for something to be done by someone. There's no doubt that someone must step up and stop the bullying being perpetrated on the nations of this region.
Of course we know what our government would like to do, and what it's done for many years; ignore thousands of years of history and continue to meddle in what's been a war zone since long before BC became AD. Let's face it, countries in the Middle East have hated parts of themselves, most of their neighbors, and almost all outsiders for thousands of years; and probably before they were called Mesopotamia and Persia. It's an unreasoning bit of madness that goes on for reasons that few if any understand, and the remaining choose to forget. Like a millennium old Hatfield and McCoy feud whose beginnings are lost in the dust of history, all that's seemingly left for those who remain is an unreasonable and unreasoning hatred.
Make no mistake however, the perpetuation of this mindless violence does indeed serve a purpose for some. If you can stoke the fires of hatred high enough, you can get even the most reasonable of the individual members of a mob to commit what they would consider all but unthinkable acts. If you can distract a population long enough from the fact that while ordering them to do so, their leaders will never put themselves in harm's way, they will never notice the relative ease and prosperity in which those leaders live. Neither will they understand that it's their almost constant state of siege that maintains the power of despotic rule and has become the major impediment to a better life for themselves.
Not content to stand idly by or simply provide a unifying demonic figure for the region however, and incapable of staying out of arguments that we were long since proved to have no place in, the West continues to attempt to pick winners and losers in the same misguided way that it always has. Heedless of the horrendous record of its past failures, the West continues to believe that it has the right to wage wars in countries that have not asked for help; doing so in the name of a peace that remains far beyond their grasp at best, and realistically impossible at worst.
Already the nations of the Arab Spring are falling increasingly under the dominance of 'strong men', who will eventually take the reins of yet another despotic government in the region. Even the sham of democracy which has from time to time reared its head in this region, with fraudulent elections for pseudo representative governments, will soon find itself mired in the recurring story of popular oppression, religious mandate, and an ongoing struggle among tyrants attempting to reach the pinnacle by crawling over piles of dead and imprisoned. And when the dust clears, it's likely we will once again be left with two kinds of leadership in these lands; bad guys who like us, and worse guys who don't.
I can't help but ask why we don't for example, seem to care about the human rights violations, oppression of women, and autocratic rule in Saudi Arabia; an often twisted monarchy that has been a long time ally of the United States in the region? Is it that we can't see what's going on, or that we choose to ignore these behaviors since the kingdom buys military hardware from us and allows us to operate what they say are much needed air bases in the area?
Perhaps worst of all in this self-serving bullshit is the harm's way that bureaucrats, diplomats, and politicians who have never raised a hand in anger seem ready to put members of our Armed Forces into. Though armed with the latest of weapons and provided by their military leaders with the best of tactics available under the circumstances, they are doomed to win the battles and lose the wars, strangled by contradictory rules of engagement created by armchair generals and a strategic goal that's little more than a moving target used by those whose interests are likewise colored by the desire to acquire and maintain power.
Would we even care if it weren't for the oil beneath their sands? Perhaps ... when the news showed us inspiring pictures of ragged civilians standing up to well-equipped troops; but the fervor would no doubt quickly wane when "American Idol" came on. How then can we expect these people to trust us, when we lack consistency of policy, of leadership, and of effort? How can we expect them to respect us when we attempt to buy their friendship; more often than not by throwing bundles of cash to those who if we caught up with them in this country, we would throw into jail? How can we expect these people to love us when we continue to usurp their sovereignty, deploy troops to their streets, and drop bombs within their borders in order to impose our own particular version of morality upon them? What point can there be to the so-called benign interference and gunpoint morality when our efforts result in as much collateral damage as success?
Yet we pretend at benevolence in a land that doesn't appear to understand our version of it (and perhaps justifiably so), and seems not to want it (at least from us). How much of our never-ending efforts have become about assisting the current US government (and many who have come before it) in its misguided efforts to control its own economy through around the world adventures in military spending; doing things we weren't asked to in places where we weren't invited? How much of the rest is about ignoring common decency and common sense, as we continue to "protect US Interests" (the free flow of oil) not by attempting to gather that beneath our very feet, but instead by attempting to impose our will on people half a world away.
It's strange (and almost sadly amusing) that at a time when our leaders are worried about removing the bully from the schoolyard, from the street corner, and the Internet; that it's we who are the bully of Middle East politics. It's tragic indeed that those we purport to help must dream of one day being free of us.