Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Middle East Meddling

The Brits, Belgians, French and other old colonial powers had a habit of giving the guns and the power to the weaker party, tribe or ethnic group. 

That is how the Hutus came to dominate the Tutsis, which then led to the horrible slaughter in Rwanda.  It's also how the minority Sunnis ended up running Iraq, and all kinds of crackpot borders came into being.  These lines on maps roped together strange and unnatural agglomerations of disparate peoples, while splitting apart kin and tribes of natural affinity.

I'm not saying the old colonial powers are responsible for the on-going troubles of Africa and Southwest Asia, but all their good intentions haven't appeared to accomplish much outside a few rich Gulf States and India.

Intervention Means Picking Sides

When Britain left Palestine after the Balfour declaration but before Israel became a state, they turned over all their forts, magazines and armament to the Arabs there, not the Jews.  It could be interpreted as a spiteful move.  The Jews lived up to their Biblical reputation as a stiff-necked people, spitting in the master's eye at every opportunity, while the Palestinians had perfected the art of kowtowing and currying favor.  But that's not it.  The Brits knew that the ragtag Palestinians stood no chance against the hardy and stubborn Jews.  Giving the Arabs all the arms salved the retreating empire's conscience and at least gave the Palestinians a fighting chance.

Shia vs. Sunni
Being the biggest guy on the block has its disadvantages.   People are constantly seeking help in advancing their cause, almost always at the expense of a rival group.  Hossein Askari steps in a writes a cogent defense of the Shia, offering evidence for why the west should weigh in on their side in that simmering Middle Eastern rivalry.

Far be it from me to take sides in the Sunni-Shia debate (and the US should not either), but based upon my experience, this article rings true, as far as a generality can. We had an influx of Iranians into the US after the fall of the Shah, and don’t recall ever hearing a negative news story about even one of them. They went to work becoming Americans and serving their new communities as doctors, restauranteurs, business owners, and military officers.

While the article rings true, it's main purpose is propaganda, to shame us into action, lest the Shia of the Middle East come to hate us (as if they don't already):
US duplicity has begun to enrage Shia throughout the Middle East. Chants in Bahrain already confirm it: protesters shouting death to the Al-Khalifas and Al-Sauds are also asking whether their rights are less important than those of people marching in the streets in Egypt, Libya and Yemen.

If the US does not adopt an evenhanded approach to upholding basic human rights in the region, the disenfranchised Shia will start including Washington on their list of oppressors. It is high time for the US to recognize how closely aligned its national interests are with those of the Shia communities in the area that is at the heart of the Middle East. (The Myth of Sunni Power – Hossein Askari)

If a Son of a Bitch Falls in the Middle East…

I don’t doubt what he is saying, but it smacks of more propagandistic manipulation designed to lure us into kicking the ass of the propagandists’ tormenters, ending in another expensive disaster for the US that empowers a new enemy.

All the more reason to take a principled stand and stop playing favorites. When a Son of a Bitch regime begins to fall in the Middle East, and we are afraid of the crash, that is a sure sign we’ve been dirty dealing in somebody else’s back yard.  The world is a dangerous place, and dirty deals sometimes must be reluctantly made, but can't the Ivy League "best and brightest" who infest our government come up with something better than this? 

We need to stop taking sides and instead take it as it comes and judge each extended hand based on its fruits. The Saudis are nasty people spreading a nasty, poisonous ideology. But this Shia’s article, although well-reasoned, nonetheless is laced with Shia bigotry against Sunni. These are deep issues fraught with cultural biases and historical perspectives we in the West do not understand, and it's not our place to sort it out.  We need to stand aside and offer assistance only when it clearly advances our national interests.


Always On Watch said...

OH, East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet,
Till Earth and Sky stand presently at God’s great Judgment Seat...

Rudyard Kipling

Note that poem expresses the idea that Islam respect the strong man.

All the West's meddling in the Middle East has led to where so far? Sheesh.

Silverfiddle said...

AOW: The realist would answer "A dependable supply of oil," which is a functional reply.

I just think overall we've been pretty stupid (US military tactically brilliant, but the larger strategy has been stupid.)

We are the United States, we can't craft a better, more nuanced policy?

Rival camps goad us to action in order to punish their enemies. It happened in Iraq, it's happening in Afghanistan, and we're doing it now in Libya.

Anonymous said...

Well the way I see it is that people have a right to choose their form of government. Shouldn't really matter what that form is, as long as they don't try to blow us up later. We might conclude that that's the result of Sharia, but whatever. I'd rather let them be giant morons and try to kill us than force them to be something they're not.

Silverfiddle said...

Well stated Jack. Experiments in westernizing have largely failed in the Middle East. The only thing that seems to have stuck anywhere is early 20th century European fascism.

Z said...

Jack, I'd rather force them not to want to kill us, but... :-) We can't have everything. Great comment.

And super thinking in your post, SF...'if a Son of a Bitch Falls in the ME.." Very well said!
And ya... "take it as it comes"...except we'll be hearing things like "you did that for THEM, why not us?" Well, then maybe we can SHOW THEM WHY NOT !?

Unknown said...

"A dependable supply of oil," That really says it all. And who needs it, really? We have it here.
The only thing we are really interested in outside of Oil (well, most of us, anyways) is Israels existence. The conflict between Sunni and Shia is just not worth getting in to it, in any way shape or form. It's been there for quite some time.

Jersey McJones said...

Actually, it was not the West arming the weaker - quite the opposite. The Sunni's, though a minority, were always the more powerful class in most of the Middle East, even in majority-Shiite countries.


Silverfiddle said...

But they were the minority, Jersey, that's my point.

Jersey McJones said...

I understand. I just wanted to make sure you weren't asserting that the Sunni's were a "weaker" minority.

Much of the historical hate and violence aimed at the Sunnis (a all that had a lot to do with the creation of the modern Middle Eastern terrorist) from the Shiites stemmed from class issues.

The Ottoman Empire was run by Sunnis. They were the elite ruling families and wealthy. The social effects remain to this day. Entrenched wealthy classes, over extended periods, will garner much hatred. And the more entrenched they they are the more they tend to abuse their power and wealth. It's a common historical phenomenon.


Karen K said...

Excellent, Silverfiddle. Just what I've been thinking but you said it well.

Silverfiddle said...

Thank you, Karen!

You're right Jersey. There's a lot of history there, and we should not be wading into the middle of it, picking sides.

Jersey McJones said...


Just the same, we long since have picked sides. Now we have to figure out how we extricate ourselves.

Downsizing the military would go a long ways. Cut off the money to those who stand to gain the most and watch the entangements detangle.

We're now importing mercenary armies. We've gone too far. It's time to end the empire.


Anonymous said...

Great post. Picking sides, why? There is nothing to win for the US and much to lose.

Anonymous said...

Our schools of diplomacy have placed us in this untenable position, and while I do believe we have exceeded our quota of incompetent diplomats and bureaucrats, a thorough understanding of history demands some consideration of circumstances for which the US is not responsible. Much responsibility for present day meddling comes to us from the Cold War; it has as much to do with curtailing the influence of the USSR and China as it did propagating our own.

It is true diplomatic ineptitude brought us conflict in Korea, Vietnam, and the Persian Gulf … but this is as much the fault of under-educated citizens who gave us milquetoast presidents, who selected timid bureaucrats, who hired incompetent “area experts.” Add to this the do-gooders who work in the basement; people who write memos that no one on the third floor ever reads, but whose insufferable self-esteem laid out for us a highway to hell, paved with good intention.

We supply Israel with arms and munitions to counter-balance the arms and munitions supplied to Iran, Syria, and the Palestinian yahoos in the Gaza strip. I have no idea why we’ve given Pakistan $20 billion; I suppose it is so that they can launch nuclear missiles in our direction. Yes, we are geniuses. We’ve made this bed, and now we have to lay in it. I think it is possible to withdraw our support in some cases, impossible to withdraw it in others. I think the consequences of doing so would be dire.

Anonymous said...

Wow! I am in complete agreement with Jersey on this subject. I'll add one more thing we need to cut off middle eastern aid this includes Israel. If private citizens and groups want to aid either side, fine, but not one more tax dollar.

Anonymous said...

of course the USA should support israel because only israel has a democracy in the middle east and nothing beats totalitarianism like freedom

the rest of those sand monkeys are pushing their hell bound ideology called islam...

islam is a horrible ideology for human rights

5 key things about islam

1. mythical beliefs - all religions have these (faith) because its part of being a religion: having beliefs without proof until after the believer dies. the problem is people will believe almost anything.

2. totalitarianism - islam has no seperation of church and state: sharia law governs all. there is no free will in islam: only submission to the will of allah as conveniently determined by the imams who spew vapors to feather their own nests. there are no moderate muslims: they all support sharia law.

3. violence - islam leads the pack of all religions in violent tenets for their ideology & history: having eternal canonical imperatives for supremacy at all costs and calling for violence & intimidation as basic tools to achieve these goals.

4. dishonesty - only islam has dishonesty as a fundamental tenet: this stems from allah speaking to mohamhead & abrogation in the koran which is used to explain how mo's peaceful early life was superseded by his warlord role later.

5. misogyny - present day islam is still rooted in 8th century social ethics: treating females as property of men good only for children, severely limiting their activities, dressing them in shower curtains and worse.

conclusions ??

there really are NO redeeming qualities for this muddled pile of propaganda.

islam is just another fascist totalitarian ideology used by power hungry fanatics on yet another quest for worldwide domination and includes all the usual human rights abuses & suppression of freedoms.

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