Tuesday, January 23, 2007

1 Chron 12:32 report, 23: Towards a more balanced understanding of the Situation in Iraq and the wider Middle East

First, a bit of an apology: Over the past few days, PC difficulties have seriously hampered me.

But, thanks to a note from a correspondent, let us survey the above captioned, courtesy an opinion piece by a retired Foreign Minister of Barbados, in the Barbados Nation, a leading Caribbean paper.

Now, I know that at least some readers will find the original I am replying to point by point, a painful article indeed to read -- for, that is why it was shared with me. So, first let me note that I find it particularly sad that a piece in this unfortunate, disrespectfully dismissive and even arguably bigoted tone was given an evident pass for publication in a major, reputable regional newspaper – and that in a regional country that prides itself on its intellectual prowess and balance. For, plainly, neither Mr Bush nor Israel deserve to be derided, bashed and then dismissed as Mr Laurie has done. No editorial board in our region should have let such a one-sided hit piece pass without a serious re-write on tone and substance, with lack of balance and lack of basic charitableness as key issues for correction. But, that is not what happened. Therefore, the fact that such a piece was allowed to pass is itself a serious, saddening and sobering commentary on the state of perceptions, opinions, manners and thought in our region today. Thus, the call to better understand our times to know what we should do.

So also, please bear with me as I -- with much pain and regret to havre to do such a thing -- go through Mr Laurie's "On The Other Hand – Bloody folly" [even that title is itself in at least quite poor taste] point by point:

1] IS PRESIDENT BUSH (a) a moron, (b) a madman or (c) the most dangerous man on the planet? Take your pick. You can't lose.

That is how the article begins!

This is itself telling; and, not to the credit of either Mr Laurie or The Nation Newspaper.

In fact, Mr Bush, first, is a trained Fighter Pilot [cf. also here for a colleague's testimony, and here for his instructor's testimony] who holds an earned Harvard MBA, went on to eventually succeed in private business and to thereafter become a two successive term successful governor of Texas [the first ever to do that, evidently] and a two-term President of the USA. Morons simply do not earn such qualifications or attain such track records.

Nor is there credible evidence of insanity -- just, his view of the world is plainly different from Mr Laurie's, who evidently has not troubled to consider that perhaps his own views do not entirely accord with the full range of accurate facts and the implications of realistic options and alternatives in a world that occasionally sees aggressive totalitarian ideologies that make a grab for power.

2] Indeed, he's the centre of an "axis of stupidity" in world affairs. His two partners in reckless folly are Holocaust-denying President Ahmadinejad of Iran and the Castro wannabe clown President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela. The first dreams of a nuclear Iran dominating the Middle East; the second is a megalomaniac who fantasises about Venezuela being the powerhouse of Latin America. All three want to lead their countries back to the dark ages and they feed off each other like symbiotic parasites.

Observe carefully: first, Mr Laurie is by his own confession an experienced, informed diplomat. So he knows that "axis" historically denotes alliances among aggressive totalitarians making a grab for power.

Such was the case with Hitler, Mussolini and the Japanese in the 1930's to 40's [with Stalin being a temporary partner in 1939 - 40 before the falling-out of 1941]. Similarly, in recent years, with the help of Dr Khan of Pakistan, Iraq, Iran and North Korea [with a subsequently discovered "offshore" Iraqi programme in Libya] were credibly embarked on a common quest to acquire nuclear weapons, delivery systems and similar massively destructive technologies.

So, we "should" therefore expect to see from Mr Laurie's words that Mr Bush is in an alliance with Mr Ahmadinejad and Mr Chavez. Instead, he is their chief opponent and obstacle in their joint -- there IS an Iran-Venezuela axis! -- campaign to exploit the lack of will and clarity on the international stage to advance dubious power agendas. So, we have here cynical rhetoric, not factually anchored analysis.

A further, all-too-telling insight can be deduced from Mr Laurie's comment that "All three want to lead their countries back to the dark ages."

Q: What lurks there? First, to Mr Laurie's credit, we see a hint of acknowledging the unacceptability of antisemitic Mahdism in his comment, but there is a conspicuous silence on neomarxist third world socialist agendas in the second. Most of all, though, in the case of Mr Bush, just what hinted-at “dark” vision lurks there?

ANS: Mr Bush is an acknowledged Bible-believing Christian, which in part shapes his approach to government. (We will shortly address the "Neo-Con," i.e. conservative Jewish thought, part soon enough, in its proper context of anti-Israeli bias.) Now of course, it is now as common to confuse the opposition of such Christians to libertinism, licence and amorality with alleged enmity to liberty, as it is to dismiss the costly and vital contribution such Christians made to the rise of modern liberty and to the liberation of the Caribbean. (But, we are in the Caribbean, where being explicit along these lines would at once expose one's own anti-Christian agenda, utterly discrediting oneself . . .)
So – ever so sadly -- we see here a very plausible reason for the sudden switch from bold dismissals of Mr Bush as a dangerous, mad moron to dark hints on his alleged pushing of his country back into the Dark Ages rather than specific, explicit claims. A reason that would do Mr Laurie no credit. Unfortunately, as we will now see, the rest of the article does nothing to relieve such a concern.

3] . . . why is Bush so foolish? Because, despite . . . the Iraq Study Group showing him how [to withdraw from Iraq], Bush has decided to – guess what? – send 21 500 more troops to Iraq. It doesn't take a genius to know there's no military solution to the disaster of Iraq . . . . There is a political solution, but it must come from within Iraq, its neighbours and the region as a whole, with the support but without the direct involvement of the United Nations Security Council Permanent Five . . . .

Now, in fact, if Mr Bush – or the Israelis – were as ruthless as Mr Laurie imagines, a military solution could be imposed in about half and hour: bombing Iraq circa 2003 or Iran currently or in a few years “back into the stone age.” Sadly, if either Mr Hussein had acquired nuclear weapons, or if Mr Ahmadinejad succeeds in his current quest, that would likely lead to such a situation. [And, no Mr Laurie, it is not “paranoia” to credibly have the capacity to reply to a threatened or attempted nuclear holocaust at the hands of those who would use such weapons for annihilation, terrorism or to back up aggression. That is, in part, what won the Cold War.]

So, the real issue is: is there a military solution short of nuclear war?

To that, the history of the past 100 years, from facing down the Kaiser's ambitions, to underestimating the threat posed by Hitler and his axis of fascists, to the resulting challenge of defeating Nazism on the battle fields of Europe and Africa and the oceans, and on to the issue of slowly containing then turning back Communism tells us that totalitarians can be contained or defeated, if we are willing to act with strength in good time to avert catastrophe, or if we are determined to stay the course to the end once it has reached the battle field. One thing does not work: cultivating irresponsible defeatism or naive pacifism in the face of growing threats, or believing that the likes of a Hitler will be impressed by mere words, and then abandoning allies to those who would prey upon them – whether in the case of Czechoslovakia in 1938 - 39 or South Vietnam in 1975 – 76.

In the case of Iraq, in effect handing the moderate Shias, the Moderate Sunnis and the Kurds over to the tender mercies of the Iran-backed radical Shias will only precipitate a real civil war, which will then give to Iran a priceless platform for further aggression in the Middle East and beyond, one that will have to be eventually taken back at horrific cost.

While an American surge in response to the Iranian- and Al Qaeda-backed surges may not work [few things are fully predictable in war!], it has a much better chance of succeeding than handing over the moderate Iraqis to the tender mercies of their extremist neighbours. In short, here, Mr Laurie indulges in an irresponsible turnabout accusation: the one thing seriously proposed that might just avert the cascade he fears, is blamed as likely to lead to it, and in the solution proffered instead is: let's trigger the catastrophe for sure!

4] . . . if things get really out of hand, the paranoid Israelis will be tempted to bomb everyone into nuclear oblivion. . . . . the Israeli-Palestinian conflict must be brought to an end. This means the United States must lean heavily on the Israelis to negotiate in good faith

First, given that no less than three attempts have been made by its neigbours to wipe Israel out by invasion: 1948, 1967, 1973, and that these have been accompanied by eighty years of terrorism, the Israelis are NOT paranoid to see that they have determined enemies who, given a chance, would seek to massacre them.

Second, the best way to get a nuclear war in the Middle East is to allow Iran's Mahdist-Jihadist regime to get away with its ambitions in Iraq and in its nuclear facilities; given, that they already have the missiles and suicide bombers to deliver such weapons, in the Middle East and elsewhere.

Third, there is little or no real link between the Iran-Iraq situation and the Arab-Israeli dispute, but if you allow a diplomatic tactic that "links" the solution to a solvable situation to one that has defied solution for the better part of a century, then you doom us all to disaster in the Middle East.

Fourth, eighty years of “land for peace” in the Arab-Israeli dispute have shown that this bargain only works when the Israelis have the military might to make the deal stick. In the 1920's the British gave 3/4ths of Mandate Palestine to the Arabs, only to have a surge of terrorism to take the rest. In the 1930's and 40's land for peace deals or attempted deals led to terrorism and a war of intended massacre. In 1967, the Golan Heights [handed over to French Mandate Syria by the British in the 1920s], and the Sinai were used as platforms for preparing war against Israel, only the Israelis struck first since they could not tolerate slow strangulation by cutting their oil jugular vein through the Straights of Tiran. Then in 1973, the war was renewed. Each and every time, the hostilities were initiated or triggered by the Arab side – for, a dhimmi-ruled state in the Middle East is utterly unacceptable to them once they imagine they have the power to eliminate it.

Further to this, let us observe Mr Laurie's inference that the Israelis have been acting in bad faith hiterto.

But surely, as Dr Martin Luther King pointed out so memorably, the spirit of the League of Nations Mandate of the 1920s is legitimate: that the Jews have a basic right to their homeland, and should so manage their resettlement that they do not prejudice the existing population. In pursuit of that, they have been willing to go along with the out-of-the-starting gates handing over of the Eastern ¾ of the Mandate territories to an Arab state. Then, they were willing to partition the remaining ¼, only to be met with wars of intended annihilation. Subsequently, they were willing to settle refugee issues on reasonable terms.

The intransigence has historically and currently consistently been on the other side, so the assumption that the problem is “bad faith” on the part of the Israelis, is improper and seriously questionable in so informed a person.

5] George W. Bush, egged on by his hardcore neoconservative supporters, who would also like him to take out Iran and Syria, is intent on achieving a military victory on his own terms . . .

Now, “Neo-Con” is in fact in the main a short title for a cluster of formerly radical socialist American Jews who became more or less economically, politically and sometimes socially conservative in their thinking over the decades. Mr Laurie doubtless knows that, so – sadly -- the juxtaposing of his one-sided remarks, and his arrogantly dismissive tone on neo-cons, Israel, and Evangelicals, is a less than happy pattern of presentation. Surely a rethink by Mr Laurie, in light of balancing facts, is in order here?

On substance, we have already seen that there is no effective substitute for victory in a military situation such as we have between Mesopotamia and the Hindu Kush passes between Afghanistan and Pakistan. So, if one is arguing that the Americans have been defeated and should withdraw (despite winning EVERY military engagement of consequence and putting such pressure on the Baathist holdouts, Sunni and Shia insurgents and Islamist invaders that their only hope was a propaganda victory tied to fomenting a real or perceived civil war – that is what the USB memory stick recovered from Mr Zarqawi's body revealed) then one should honestly face the likely consequences of such a withdrawal and defend it as the most credible alternative now faced by the Americans and by us watching in the wider world.

That Mr Laurie resorts to further finger-pointing dismissals of people instead of addressing the issue on the merits is again inadvertently revealing as to the true balance of the matter on those merits.

6] this whole bloody bit of folly was about controlling a stable supply of oil.

Nothing like a big slanderous lie insistently repeated to create a false perception of a “truth” and to cast a pall of suspicion over the attacked party so that we do not listen to the other side of the story!

First, the specific reason for the First Gulf campaign was the invasion of Kuwait and the implied threat of further aggression. Mr Hussein was defeated in Kuwait, and was to have met several major armistice terms, which he repeatedly and defiantly breached for twelve years. Indeed, the evidence that Mr Hussein had subverted the Oil for Food programme into a global bribery and influence-buying scheme in pursuit of his goals – not least in the UN itself, is not irrelevant to understanding the forces at work in the situation.

As a diplomat and a person well aware of events, Mr Laurie knows that: [1] an armistice is NOT a peace treaty, i.e. the state of war continues, [2] low level hostilities provoked by Mr Hussein in fact continued across twelve years, [3] the cause for renewal of major hostilities was that these widespread material breaches were coming to a head. A defeated party to a war which acts as Mr Hussein acted has only itself to blame for the consequences – especially in a situation where there was serious reason to believe that the state in question was not merely a local or regional threat, by virtue of credibly having or pursuing weapons of mass destruction and the means to deliver them.. It was not just just the conservative Americans, the British and Israelis or Australians, but also the Germans, French, Russians and Chinese who believed based on the evidence in hand, that this was the situation the world faced. The issue was to find a solution, and Mr Hussein step by step eliminated the non-military options.

So, the critical issue is not “oil,” but regional and global stability and freedom from aggression.


We could go on, but I have no heart for that. I think enough on the other side of the story has already been put on the table for us as intelligent Caribbean people to want to look for ourselves at both sides of the situation, to see what is the realistic alternative in light of credible implications of different proposed policies and/or “solutions.” And that is one way we can better understand our times, to know what we should do. END

UPDATE: Some minor adjustments and a few links, now that my substitute PC has settled down a bit.

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