Paul Revere by Cyrus Dallin, North End, Boston



Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Aux Etats Sunnis, by (O)CT(O)PUS of The Swash Zone

Let us recall this quote from the film classic, Lawrence of Arabia:

So long as the Arabs fight tribe against tribe, so long will they be 
a little people, a silly people - greedy, barbarous, and cruel …

Arabs or Americans ... sometimes I wonder which of the two are the little people, the silly people. If anything, Americans are a meddlesome people - provincial, opinionated, arrogant, yet exceptionally ignorant of Middle Eastern culture and history.

How many Americans recall the coup that overthrew Mohammed Moseddegh, the first democratically elected leader of Iran? In 1953, our own CIA aided and abetted the British in toppling a nascent democracy over access to Persian oil. “A cruel and imperialistic country” stealing from a “needy and naked people” were the words spoken by Mosaddegh at the International Court of Justice in the Hague. These words have informed Middle Eastern attitudes for more than half a century.

Does terrorism represent the face of Islam? Not according to the highest religious authority of Saudi Arabia, who said: “Extremist and militant ideas and terrorism which spread decay on Earth, destroying human civilisation, are not in any way part of Islam, but are enemy number one of Islam, and Muslims are their first victims” (The Grand Mufti Sheik Abdulaziz Al al-Sheik).

Not according to the highest religious authority of Egypt, who said: “An extremist and bloody group such as this poses a danger to Islam and Muslims, tarnishing its image as well as shedding blood and spreading corruption” (The Grand Mufti Shawqi Allam).

Not according to the Egyptian military, which overthrew the government of Mohamed Morsi and banned the fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood. Nor the monarchy of Saudi Arabia, which purged and banished al-Qaeda - whose affiliated groups now operate in remote regions of Yemen and North Africa. Yet, how many Americans pay attention?

Consider the impact of successive Western interventions in the Middle East over time - over oil. European colonialism is partly to blame. As colonial empires crumbled in the aftermath of WWI, European powers gave little thought to the historical schism between the Shiite and Sunni branches of Islam. Britain drew borders around rival ethnic enclaves and formed the modern nation state of Iraq - thus creating a recipe for future volatility.

Failing to take these historical antecedents into account, America blundered into an occupation of Iraq that worsened an already unstable situation. In short order, the American regency of Paul Bremer swept away a long established order. Regime change brought in a new Shiite government that promptly disenfranchised the formerly dominant Sunnis. Thus began a cycle of sectarian conflict and civil war – rife with insurgencies, ethnic militias, car bombings, kidnappings, massacres, and more. Thus, the American misadventure started a sequence of events leading directly to the rise of ISIS.

A headline de jour fails to capture the broader perspectives of history. What our news media never told us: Every bungled misadventure by a Western power has upset the status quo and upped the ante on radicalism and savagery.

We broke it. Now our defense and diplomatic establishments exhort us to fix it. How ironic! Ethnic and religious divisions of the Middle East mirror our partisan divisions at home, as the current state of the debate in Washington demonstrates:
A war-weary American public says: “No boots on the ground.” Neo-Cons in Congress demand military action. 
Iraqi President al-Maliki disenfranchises the Sunnis and creates a window of opportunity for ISIS. The Cringe Fringe blames the crisis on the president. 
Al-Malady refuses to sign a Residual Force Agreement; The Cringe Fringe blames the president. 
Our military says ISIS cannot be defeated without a Syrian incursion. Last year, Congress failed to reach agreement on a similar authorization.
Follow the trail of duplicity amongst our allies in the region: ISIS trades Syrian oil for money and arms in Turkey, our NATO ally. Our military maintains vital strategic strike capabilities at al Udeid Air Base in Qatar, Ali al Salem Air Base in Kuwait, and al Dhafra Air Base in the United Arab Emirates even as the wealthy citizens of Qatar, Kuwait, and the UAE underwrite radical jihadi groups throughout the Middle East – from al-Qaeda to ISIS.

How can the enemy of your enemy be your friend when you can no longer distinguish enemies from friends?

Meanwhile, partisans in Congress criticize the President over an honest admission: “We don't have a strategy yet” for dealing with the "existential threat" of ISIS. Perhaps the time is long overdue to rethink the complexities, duplicities and past failures - to avoid yet another national repetition compulsion - before we leap again into the Middle Eastern abyss.


Dave Miller said...

There you go again Octo... making excuses for our current middle east policy...

Seriously, what we have today is indeed a result of some of our past actions.

Sadly, many will choose to willfully ignore those facts and continue to blame our current state of affairs in that region totally on the current occupant of the White House... at least until someone of their party assumes control, and then it will still be all of President Obama's fault.

We saw this before, and we'll see it again...

Anonymous said...

A very intelligent and honest look at what's gone on in the ME. Unfortunately, as DM rightly noted, the people who need to read this won't.

Rational Nation USA said...

Is the Sotloff beheading an act of war?

Is a year of briefings about the rising ISIS threat with no strategy developed, by the white house acceptable?

Is American foreign policy adrift?

Should America withdraw from the Middle East entirely?

Ron Paul says no strategy is good, that neo cons clamoring for military action is what ISIS wants. It will provide more recruiting options for ISIS and drain our treasury, the Fed will print more money thus devaluing our currency further. A win for ISIS.

Oh my, it is just so complex and confusing.

Hannity and Fox News are making neo con hay.

And the world continues to spin out of control.

Shaw Kenawe said...

Actually Rand Paul is all over the place on this issue:

"Kentucky senator Rand Paul tells the AP that he would seek to "destroy ISIS militarily" if he were president:

Speaking to a ballroom later, some of the loudest applause for Paul came when he quipped: "If the president has no strategy, maybe it's time for a new president."

In an emailed comment, however, Paul elaborated by saying: "If I were President, I would call a joint session of Congress. I would lay out the reasoning of why ISIS is a threat to our national security and seek congressional authorization to destroy ISIS militarily."

Paul had recently expressed ambivalence about U.S. military action against the Islamist terrorists who are building a state in Iraq and Syria. "I have mixed feelings about it,” Paul said of U.S. airstrikes against ISIS in early August. “I’m not saying I’m completely opposed to helping with arms or maybe even bombing," he added."

Let's not repeat the simplistic talking point that America's foreign policy is "adrift."

Rational Nation USA said...

Let us note I referenced Ron Paul. He wrote a piece on the issue. If you can't find it let me know. If you're interested.

Note please I did not state that US foreign policy IS adrift, I asked the question if it WAS. Questioning is good isn't it?

FreeThinke said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Shaw Kenawe said...

Did you comment in the wrong thread, F.T.? Because this post does not attack you, nor is this thoughtful, factual post anti-American rhetoric nor is it quasi-erudite. It's factual and very informed.

(O)CT(O)PUS tore no one to shreds, he has given us a sober and factual presentation on where we are in the M.E. and what got us there.

(O)CT(O)PUS said...

” … insidious, subtly crafted, quasi-erudite anti-American rhetoric …

Frankly, I expected this kind of remark when I first posted this article at the Swash Zone days ago (Monday, September 1, 2014):

No doubt, the Cringe Fringe will criticize the Octopus and say: “See, the cephalopod is unpatriotic and un-American for calling us ‘a little people, a silly people.’ And ‘How dare he compare us to those AyeRabs’ … What was it that Einstein said about stupidity? Something about repeating the same mistakes again and again?

Which brings me to the point of this post: Repeating the same mistake is what an adversary wants. An adversary wants you to dig yourself deeper and deeper - and fail miserably.

In the life of a person or a country, the ability to undertake an honest and fearless self-assessment and improve upon the past – these are NOT exercises in self-blame. Reactive and reflexive knee jerk patriotism, the derision and scorn of viewpoints in a free and democratic exchange of ideas – FT’s comment smacks of more than mere rank hypocrisy. It is the same kind of counter-productive thinking that got us into this quagmire.

(O)CT(O)PUS said...

I do not necessarily interpret Obama's statements yesterday as mutually contradictory - as the Cringe Fringe prefers to characterize them. If there is an appearance of "mixed messaging," perhaps it mirrors the ambivalence of a war-weary American public:

"No boots on the ground ..."
"Go into Syria and bomb ISIS to hell ..."

Inasmuch as there are no easy solutions, perhaps the better part of valor is to enlist allies in the region - yes, there are moderate governments in the Middle East that perceive ISIS as an "existential threat" as much as we do. But the Cringe Fringe doesn't read the full range of available options or any commentary that disagrees with their slash-n-burn rhetoric.

Wouldn't it be better to go in as a coalition as opposed to "going it alone" and taking this burden exclusively upon ourselves? Ah, but we have become an impatient and impetuous people unwilling to delay immediate gratification. We want our revenge NOW but are not willing to wait for a better plan.

Jerry Critter said...

I like the idea of a coalition. We should help put one together. But when it comes to going in, let them do it. We should stay out. They are the ones with the vested interests in the region. Let them deal with it.