I read an article today about how United States foreign policy in the Middle East has become incoherent. Duh. It has been incoherent since 9/11, the false flag attack used to justify the first in a series of disastrous blunders. When you blunder in a chess game, your position becomes incoherent – its parts no longer cohere – and so it disintegrates. It is no longer defensible.
That is happening to the U. S. position in the Middle East right now. We assume that our wise leaders have a plan to deal with what has happened, and is happening in the region, but that assumption is false. The people who make U. S. foreign policy have no idea what to do. The people who started us down this path – the so-called neocons – did not know what they were doing, and neither do the amateurs who succeeded them.
Saudi Arabia recently conducted air strikes against Iranian backed Houthis in Yemen without consulting the United States ahead of time. The Saudis informed the U. S. of the strikes shortly before they occurred. The Saudis and the Iranians do not like each other. Saudi Arabia and the United States have been allies for a long time. The United States and Iran have been enemies for a long time. So what do our friends in Riyadh think when we ally ourselves with Iran in Iraq? They think, “These guys are crazy unpredictable! They don’t have a plan that anyone can understand. We can’t trust them anymore.”
So the Saudis mount air strikes on their own now. They certainly don’t want to see Iran become more powerful in Saudi Arabia’s own back yard. Iran already has militias in Lebanon, Gaza, Syria, and Iraq. Now Saudi Arabia watches Iranian influence in Yemen grow and grow. Meantime, John Kerry works hard to bring Iran back into the family of nations. President Obama says that if we do not sign a treaty with Iran, we may well have another war.
Another war?? Does he mean a direct war between Washington and Tehran? How could that happen? Iran will not attack the United States. If the United States attacks Iran, our leaders in Washington are even dumber than I thought. Besides that, the region is saturated with wars already, from Tunisia to Pakistan. It’s hard to see how this vast region has room for more parties at arms.
We found a way to ignite this horrible conflict with one criminal act of aggression in 2003. That’s how big wars start: one conflict ignites another, and another, and another. Our goal then was to establish a friendly outpost of democracy in an area populated with dictators. So we hanged our friend Saddam – we were on a first name basis with this guy – with a noose in a Baghdad jail. A democratic renaissance was sure to follow. Remember the fingers with purple ink, ten years ago? You know propaganda when you see it. Democracy is coming on the next boat, along with the cash! People are voting. Our work here is done!
The people with purple ink on their fingers are dead now. Or refugees. Or exiles. Or living in constant fear of one of these fates. That is the lot of people caught in a world war. Civilians cannot escape it forever. As the saying goes, you may not be interested in war, but war is interested in you. A new group of people with guns shows up, to burn your house, rape your daughter, take your food, and if you’re lucky, leave before they spray you with bullets or cut off your head. That is what happened to our outpost of democracy. That is what happened to the people with purple fingers.
So you say, “Stop criticizing. Tell us what we should do now.” One retrospective response is easy: don’t start wars. The same advice applies to the future too, of course, but in fact the United States does not plan to start more wars at this point. It clearly cannot handle the ones it is already responsible for. It no longer has goals, interests, allies, resources, or visions for the region’s future. Incompetent, incoherent leaders just keep talking, to distribute cheap words that have virtually no connection to the situations they describe.
Here’s a simple example. You’ll read sentences like this one: “U. S. led coalition forces are working to build up the Iraqi army, so the Iraqis can drive the Islamic state from their land.” First of all, Iraq doesn’t exist anymore. It has broken into Shiite, Sunni, and Kurdish sectors. Second, the coalition does not exist anymore. The coalitioin has not leader, no coherence, no goals, no coordination, not even a list of members! Third, Iraqi armed forces cannot defeat the Islamic State. Kurdish and Shiite forces may engage the Islamic State, and you can call these forces Iraqi if you like, but saying that these forces represent the nation of Iraq does not make it so.
I will make the same argument now that I made ten years ago. We as citizens have to ignore the incompetent, irresolute jokers who hold power, if we want to figure out what to do next. Leaders with too much power – and hubris – created this catastrophe; they certainly have no idea how to repair it. They do not even concede that they have made any mistakes. Foreign policy – of all government functions, the one most protected and removed from ordinary citizens – must be recreated, independent of the national security state. How likely is that to happen? Yet that’s the only path we have in front of us.