The Great War Comes to the Middle East

Out of every hundred new ideas ninety-nine or more will probably be inferior to the traditional responses they propose to replace. No one man, however brilliant and well informed, can come in one lifetime to such fullness of understanding as to safely judge and dismiss the customs or institutions of his society, for these are the wisdom of generations, after centuries of experiment in the laboratory of history.

-Will and Ariel Durant

Reading about the collapse of the Middle East is depressing stuff. Of course, the collapse has been going on for some time. The latest phase is just a continuation of a process that started with the end of the Cold War, which provided a framework for the Arabs to define themselves as separate from the West without rejecting the West. Arab nationalism sprung up after WW2 and was a defining characteristic of the Mohammedan lands for close to fifty years.

The Cold War kept the lid on a lot of problems that we’re rediscovering. One is the fact that the national boundaries in the land of the Muslim are meaningless. The other is that the Mohammedan is incapable of living under anything resembling western style liberalism. Authoritarian rule by hereditary clans is the natural order. Saudi Arabia is the model, not the exception. That may take the form of military dictatorship (Egypt), theocratic dictatorship (Iran) or the palace system in the gulf states.

This reality has been impossible for American elites to accept. Egalitarianism, consumerism and materialism are the three legs of their religion. They looked out over the Muslim world and had the same reaction they get when thinking about Appalachia. The two decade war to set things right in the Muslim world have brought us to the point where region-wide war is the most likely outcome. Yemen is looking like the Balkans of the Persian Gulf.

This old article from the American Thinker offers some useful background.

What is happening in Yemen is symptomatic of the whole Middle East-North Africa (MENA) region. The population was semi-starved until oil production began in the 1980s, when oil production began and wheat imports rose to feed a population doubling every 25 years. The situation now is that oil exports will cease in the next couple of years, the capital is being besieged by rebel groups and Islamists of various types, and groundwater is close to complete depletion because of kat production.

Saudi Arabia has been ponying up to keep the Yemeni population fed. But a day will arrive when the Saudis will be sick of that, or there will simply be no administration on the Yemeni side to handle the aid. The Saudis are still building a 1,100-mile-long fence to keep the Yemenis out. Completion of the border fence will give the Saudis more options on when to stop feeding the Yemenis. The fate of Yemen is to break up into its constituent tribes and for perhaps 90% of the population to starve. That is more than 20 million people and it is likely to happen in the next few years.

The Dissident Right likes to blame the messianic spasm of the Bush years for what has gone wrong in the MENA and they have some points. Bush blowing up Iraq was a foolish decision. You never replace the known with the unknown. That’s what they did when they broke up Iraq. The unknown was an attempt to impose Western democracy on them. Instead they got a sectarian war that rippled through the Muslim world.

The true cause of that ripple is what American planners can never confront. In order to accept that the Arabs do not want and cannot accept the combination of egalitarianism, consumerism and materialism we call “liberalism” calls into the question the very nature of the western project. If “liberalism” is not universal, it is not perfect. If it is not perfect, it can be debated. If it can be debated, it can be rejected at home, as well as abroad. That’s simply impossible so the West refuses to accept the Arabs as Arabs.

The errors of the Bush years could have been patched over without going down this road. The Obama people could have backed a suitable strong man in Iraq, provided the means, money and weapons and then pretended he was just a proto-democrat. That would have allowed the region to fall back into a familiar pattern. Instead, they set off on a course that is strikingly insane. The results thus far are chaos in the Maghreb, particularly Libya. We have a breach with our only reliable ally in the region. Now, it appears our other allies are about to be swept away by Iranian backed lunatics.

Part of this is due to the people in charge. Anyone who has watched a vibrant American city government do business knows the pattern. Today they have policy X. Tomorrow it is policy Y, which is contradictory to policy X. Every day is a new day with new plans, often in conflict of with previous plans. It’s big man government jammed into an Anglo-Saxon political structure.

Another aspect is the central defect of American Progressives. Their singular focus on reaching the promised land leaves a huge blind spot, which the rest of us call the past. They never ask why things are as they are. They just assume the current arrangements happened randomly and therefore they are free to re-arrange them in pursuit of current fads. It’s why their cult ends up murdering people. They can’t imagine why the people are not going along with the new scheme so they assume it is malice. What else could it be?

In the case of the Middle East, Team Obama started with a policy of reversing the Bush policy, because Bush was Hitler and bad so they had to reverse all that. That meant abandoning Iraq to the Iranians. Then it meant undermining the despots in the Maghreb. Of course, they ramped up our involvement in Afghanistan for no other reason than the Bush people did not want to do it. The result was six years of fighting for no reason.

Once they ran out of Bush polices to reverse, they set out to re-arrange the region as if they were starting with a blank sheet. They looked at the alliance of Israel, Saudi Arabia, the GCC and Jordan and decided this did not make sense to them. if they could start over, they would have an alliance with Iran as the regional hegemonic power, with Iraq as the second. Why this is preferred is unknown to me. Shia are the minority sect in Islam so maybe that’s the connection. It will be an alliance of the oppressed. Who knows?

The result is this all out push to make a deal with Iran, no matter the cost. So far the cost is a breach with Israel and Saudi Arabia. The general destabilization of the region is a direct result of America suddenly changing sides. The fact that the president’s team is acting with the consistency of the Detroit city council only adds confusion to the mix. As a result, we are on the brink of all out war in the region. The price of incompetence in the White House could turn out to be very high if the House of Saud is toppled or Israel strikes Iran.

12 thoughts on “The Great War Comes to the Middle East

  1. Good analysis, Z. Obama and his JV team will make the world safe for democracy! Or despots. Or fascists. Something completely unpleasant, anyway. And just like Urkel from Family Matters, he’ll walk away from the whole disaster, “Did I do that?”

  2. UKer,

    Who needs to care what Iran or any of them do. We should not need to appease them, we should just leave.

    That is of course unless you believe they could build huge navies, let alone competently run them and sale to New York or London.

  3. When Chamberlain came back from Munich and boldly waved the autograph of Herr Hitler, the case for appeasement was about as good as it got. Subsequent events proved that the signature wasn’t worth the trip.

    But, as history is not a subject studied by the elite, it always comes as a surprise to them that the current round of appeasement isn’t going to work. Oddly, these great and good leaders may devour fictions such as Lord Of The Rings where appeasement is the last thing on the cards and survival everything, but they think real life is different.

    That is what I think is happening in the Middle east. All sorts of supposed intelligent people think that by appeasing the likes of Iran and the blood-thirsty hordes brandishing AK-47s, these people will somehow love them and appreciate how modern they are.

    But Iran and ISIS and all the rest are the orcs of modern life, bringing their ugly version of hell from the pit they dwelt in.

    “Come friendly orcs and fall on our soft bellies, it isn’t fit for civilised westerners now” to vaguely paraphrase Betjeman. But they fall with heavy boots and the appeasers are soon wailing that it was all someone else’s fault.

  4. I think that the elites want to ally with Iran, and by extension, Shia Islam because the Shia world has a hierarchy, a center, someone (they think) that they can pick up the phone and call and get results. Sunni Islam confounds them due to its tribal, networked nature. They are tired of trying to come to an agreement with Proteus in a turban. I think that they are willing to turn Al Shams and Iraq over the the Persians to create some sort of illusory stability in the region. One could spend an evening with a good cigar contemplating the ironies of hard-core anti-colonialists like the current bunch striving to set up a neo-colonialist Persian Empire in the heart of the Dar al Arab.

    I was listening to the weekly CFR podcast the other day (well someone has to). The “executive agreement” with Iraq was of course being discussed. The hosts, after spending ten minutes of gingerly talking around the Constitution, finally concluded that the executive agreement would be on shaky legal ground without ever once quoting or paraphrasing, “He [the President] shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur.”

    We are teh fuxored.

  5. “I think that’s part of what we are seeing in the MENA. The people calling the shots are completely wrong and completely certain.”

    In two administrations. The only policy ever to make sense would be to leave all of the MENA and never return. Also, leaving Europe and Asia would be a step toward healing.

  6. This has such potential to be utterly catastrophic that it’s astonishing to me that people refuse to even consider the implications of it. A generation hooked on Facebook and whatever as their bread and circuses will likely sit in oblivious bliss as the nukes start flying.
    Malcolm Muggeridge wrote an allegory about entertainment where people would sit in a theatre watching increasingly sensational acts. When the manager comes out and tells them the theatre is on fire they think it’s part of the show and sit there and burn to death.

  7. The missing piece in the “why Iran” puzzle is Valerie Jarrett, Obama’s seeming mommy figure. She’s from Iran (i.e., born there).
    Other than that, I think the overarching plan is to make sure that the evil US can never again be accepted as a serious dealer on the world stage. It is amusing, however, to see the Europeans, long used to playing good cop against the US’s bad cop suddenly having to act like adults. Sort of.

  8. The progressive mind removes the slim distinction between malice and incompetence because they are so invested in both. The best hope for the least disaster in the ME is the unspoken alliance between Israel and the Sunni powers, growing stronger with the absence of US presence. But the US malcompetence may beat them to it.

  9. Progressives aren’t as crazy as they seem. Progressivism is a mind virus, and it’s not important that it work so much as it weakens the host so that no other system can function. A little infection goes a long way.

    The progressives’ holy grail in this case is progressive Islam. I think they think if they can create progressive Islam, it will take over all the Islamic countries and give them control. If you believe David Goldman/Spengler, Iran is a seriously sexually dysfunctional/promiscuous country with a low birthrate, which makes it functionally progressive. It’s an oligarchy run partly by business men and partly by clerics, which is progressive, even if Shia Islam isn’t obviously so.

    Valerie Jarrett grew up there, and her affection for it must be partly anti-American, but could also be that the system and society are compatible with her and Obama’s goals and beliefs.

    • I don’t know. The American foreign policy elite have an uncanny habit of getting things completely wrong. In the Reagan years, all the smart people said he was nuts and that the Soviets were reforming and becoming more powerful. Right up to the collapse they were talking about a resurgent Soviet Union.

      I think that’s part of what we are seeing in the MENA. The people calling the shots are completely wrong and completely certain. As a result they have been blind to the long simmering conflicts with Islam and within the MENA. It’s not just the religious stuff; it is the secular stuff too.

      That said, Obama seems to be completely controlled by Valerie Jarrett, who has some very strange ideas about foreign policy. She is the Rasputin of this administration. He fondness for Iran appears to be based on nothing by memories of her youth.

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