There is an old expression about the Bolshevik revolution that says it was made by Jewish brains, Latvian bayonets, and Russian stupidity. There is a lot of truth to it, as the ethnic makeup of the revolution was not very Russian. One way to look at the revolution is as a revolt of subject people against their old masters. This was made possible by the cupidity and stupidity of the Russian elites. A very similar thing is happening in the American empire, just at a slower pace.
This formulation can also apply to the Middle East. For a long time now, the history of the region has been shaped by a combination of Israeli strategy, Saudi Arabian oil, and American force. It is reasonable to say that America would have no presence in the region if not for Israel. The creation of the Jewish state in 1948 set the region on fire, drawing in the Americans and Russian. Oil and gas, of course, is what made the region vital in the long battle between the two empires.
Since the Cold War ended, the primary reason for US involvement has been Israeli intrigue and Saudi oil production. The first crusade in Iraq was about protecting the oil and gas interests. The second crusade was about changing the balance of power in the region to meet Israel security needs. The crusade in Afghanistan was mostly about containing Iran, despite the rhetoric. Look at a map and it is easy to see that it would be a useful launching pad for air strikes against the Iranians.
The collapse of Afghanistan is getting a lot attention, but it is part of a larger collapse of the regional order. Israel, for example, has undergone a political revolution of sorts with the end of the Netanyahu regime. The new prime minister is the product of the neo-liberal order, rather than the fight for independence. He got rich selling software in America and his parents were left-wing fanatics from San Francisco. He is a man of the global managerial class rather than the local elite.
On the Saudi side of things, the walls continue to close in as their stranglehold on the oil and gas market collapses. New technology has opened up vast reserves in North America, so the need for Saudi oil has declined. Iran’s Caspian Sea natural gas deposit will put her on even footing with the Saudis. That leg of the triumvirate driving regional politics is no longer the gatekeeper of the world’s energy supply. Soon, they will be just another gas station selling a commodity on the world market.
Taken together, the old combination of Israeli strategy, Saudi Arabian oil and American force is about to unravel. America still has troops staged in Syria and Iraq, but the writing is on the wall there too. It also means Israel as the primary mover and shaker in the region is coming to an end. Without American firepower and the Saudi control of energy politics, Israeli is just another country in the region. Throw in the Russian-Iranian partnership and the Middle East is going to look very different.
This is one reason the neoconservatives have been trying to restart the Cold War with the Russians. Given the their involvement in the Middle East, a new contest with them would draw America back into the region. It was also why Israel talked Trump into dumping the Iran deal. Normalization of relations between Europe and Iran makes war with Iran impossible. If that is not an option, then there is little point in America maintaining a military presence in the region.
What we may be seeing is peak Israel. For generations, Israel has occupied the center of American politics. During the Cold War, the three “I’s” of politics were Israel, Indiana, and Ireland. After the Cold War it was Israel, India, and Investment Banking. It is fair to say that what passes for conservatism in America is just low-tax Zionism. The collapse of American involvement in the region means there is little reason to make Israel the focal point of American politics.
This is no small thing. The Republicans are celebrating the bad fortune of Biden and the Democrats over Afghanistan, but this is very bad for them. During the Cold War, the left-side of the American ruling elite was allowed a free hand in domestic affairs and the right-side ran foreign affairs. The end of the Soviet empire left the right-side without a reason to exist, so we got the crusades against Islam for the last 30 years. Suddenly, the only reason to vote Republican has gone away.
It is not all roses for the left-side either. Without the distraction of endless war, the focus will be on domestic issues. All of those people who were titillated by the prospect of “glassing” various countries can now focus their energy on the people trying to turn their sons into girls. America has been at war with someone for close to a century now and this has allowed the Left to remake the country. It also allowed them to underwrite their schemes with the proceeds of empire.
For seventy years, Israel has played an enormous role in the politics of the American empire, but that seems to be coming to an end. It may be that Trump’s decision to move the embassy to Jerusalem was the top of Israeli influence. The fading of the American empire, particularly in the Middle East, means the influence of Israel on the world must fade with it. It also means the Israelis will have to seek new partners in their endless game of neighborhood politics. America is no longer useful.
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