Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Seeding Armageddon

What should we do about the centuries-old bloody sectarian tensions that are ripping Iraq apart and destroying what hopes remain for a stable, democratic society?

President Bush thinks we should exploit them. The best way to counter Shiite Iran’s regional (and nuclear) ambitions? Arm the Sunnis! (And the Israelis!) Because it should be clear to everyone by now that what’s really wrong with the Middle East is a dearth of weaponry.

Yesterday, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice confirmed that the United States is in the process of negotiating a $20 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, as “part of an American strategy to contain the growing power of Iran in the region.”

So while making nice to Saddam Hussein (including turning a blind eye to his use of chemical weapons on his own people) during his war with Iran in the 1980s didn’t work out for us, and while supporting Osama bin Laden’s mujahedeen against the Soviets and giving millions of dollars to the Taliban came back to bite us in the ass, apparently plying Saudi Arabia’s fundamentalist monarchy with satellite-guided bombs, even as they work to undermine our pro-democracy efforts in Iraq by funneling weapons and support to the insurgency, is a really great idea.

We’re “bribing the Saudis to make them more cooperative in Iraq,” says Shmuel Rosner, but “[t]he problem with the Saudis, though, is that time and again they have proved to be unbribable and unmaneuverable.”

While we may be selling $20 billion worth of stuff to the gulf countries, we’re giving Israel $30 billion in “military assistance” during the next decade, a 43% increase over the previous ten years. Robert Baer, writing for Time, says, “the Israelis make no bones about how we got here: the Bush Administration completely botched the Iraq invasion, allowing Iran to effectively annex Basra and a large part of southern Iraq.”

It’s not nearly as simple as saying Shi’a = bad, Sunni = good. Encouraging sectarian warfare across the Middle East is a messy proposition. True, in the Shiite camp we find Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Hezbollah and the Syrian government. But Sunni groups include Hamas, the Taliban and Al Qaeda, and the fledgling democracy we’re desperately nurturing in Baghdad is mostly Shiite with ties to…Iran. Do we really want to stir this pot?

The Washington Post’s William Arkin says this will backfire: “the army of contractors and U.S. servicemembers that will have to go to Saudi Arabia to support the deal…will just fuel more Arab anger and more terrorism….We will once again renew the cycle of American penetration into the heart of Islam, one of Osama bin Laden’s original and most compelling rallying points.”

The arms deal speaks volumes about whether the President and his advisers think we can achieve our original goals in Iraq and whether they believe their own rhetoric about freedom and democracy on the march in the region. Clearly, they do not. They are anticipating greater conflict and, indeed, provoking it by selectively arming the likely participants.

One of the original rationales for removing Saddam Hussein was that he was a threat to regional stability. Now that we’ve solved that problem, what do we do about George W. Bush?


Andy said...

See? I told you no one cared.

Mark G. said...

Everyone cares!!!

Seeding Armageddon -- It all sounds like a lot of self-fulfilling prophecy to me.

kr said...

No, Andy, it's just so much easier to read the shot funny ones ;). Give us a couple of days, is all.

W.Arkin: We will once again renew the cycle of American penetration into the heart of Islam, one of Osama bin Laden’s original and most compelling rallying points

see, the error isn't in having Americans there, it's that we are nearly always there to exploit them, or representing a government or a corporation that wants to exploit them.

People like that here, eh, it sux, but it's part of our system. When "multinational corporation kills children in unsafe drug test" hits the news, we yell for a day or two ... people outside our culture, slightly more objective about it, will remain permanently suspicious. People anti-American are handed more fuel for their fire.

What needs to change is US ... we need to prioritize human rights in our spending (like Coke-Apartheid, blood diamonds, etc) ... with govt making the rules, corporatons (and apparently the govt itself) is always looking for loopholes. If we build instead a society of responsibility, maybe things might get better.

This would be an extention of the "does authority come from the bottom or the top" argument, I suppose. Notwithstanding that YES the govt should be less stupid in either case grr.

kr said...

short, I meant. short funny ones.