by Richard Nadler
(The first of three pre-election valedictories)
Democratizing the Middle East, starting with Afghanistan and Iraq, is the policy of the administration of President George Bush. Its humanitarian rationale should be obvious to residents of the West. But as American foreign policy, it must stand or fall on national security.
The post-colonial Middle East is controlled by totalitarian apparatus-states funded by petro dollars. The economies of the larger tyrannies are dominated by their oil sectors, the security forces that protect them, and the power-cliques that control both. Other sectors of the economy are overregulated or actively repressed. Unemployment is rampant.
The resultant witches’ brew of inequality, inopportunity, and economic paucity generates constant revolutionary pressure. The Pan Arab Nationalist states (such as Saddam’s Iraq) sought to control these pressures through internal repression and wars of aggression. The monarchial and theocratic states (such as Mullah Omar’s Afghanistan) control these pressures through jihad – the export of home-grown revolutionaries to foreign soil.
The foreign policy of George W. Bush attacks the threats of jihadist and pan-Arab imperialist states at their root: the totalitarianism that generates their instability. This strategy, often ridiculed in Iraq, has a pedigree. The quasi-democracy of Post-WW-I Turkey has abandoned the imperial tradition of the Ottoman Empire. The Russia of Vladimir Putin, while arguable expansionist toward several former republics of the USSR, no longer seeks hegemony globally or socialism internally.
And within Iraq itself, the Kurdish tribes, locked in bloodfeuds as recently as the 1990s, formed a thriving democracy under the cover of an American “no-fly zone.”
The hope of the Bush doctrine – the “forward strategy of democracy” — is a better life for the peoples of the Middle East, and greater security for the United States.
The difficulties of implementing such a policy have been well-publicized. Many options to the Bush doctrine have been circulated.
What is their end-game?
1) More troops.
The rationale is that the United States “broke” the civil order of Ba’athist Iraq, and must therefore provide adequate American troops to police the new state. But policing and war-making differ. To assume total civil responsibility for a nation of 29,000,000 would require troop levels politically unfeasible. (This obvious fact eludes some of our retired generals who enjoy cameos on CNN – useful idiots for the anti-war crowd.)
But substantial troop increases, if possible, would not be desirable. A larger American “footprint” can do nothing but retard the critical negotiations among Shi’ite, Sunni and Kurd leaders, whose current pace of reconciliation occasions so much impatience.
2) “Strategic redeployment.”
Sunni intransigence, not Shi’ite death squads, is the long-term impediment to domestic peace in Iraq. It was an al-Qaeda tactic to slaughter Shi’ite civilians en masse, without cause, in order to stimulate revenge killings on peaceful Sunnis, therefore radicalizing them. The tactic has worked all-too-well.
It is the height of naivity to believe that the departure of America from the killing fields of Baghdad will pacify Sunni radicals willing to kill the own in order to drive us out.
3) Partition into three states
It matters little where the borders of the three new states will be drawn: they are wrong by definition. The multi-ethnic central Iraqi “Sunni” state will be bathed in blood. The Iranians will interfere in Basra. The Turks will intervene in Kurdistan, and the Arabs will revolt in Kirkuk. This is a sure formula for regional war.
A popular formulation of the “responsible” opposition, “federalism-plus” eliminates the conflicts among the parties in the new Iraq with glib verbal tricks. We will “create” three states – but the independent states will divide oil revenues equitably, and share a common foreign and defense policy.
This is rubbish. Oil is currently 95% of the Iraqi economy. Regional militias are among the biggest obstacles to peace. The resolution of these two problems is the essence of Iraqi nationalism – the preferred solution of the overwhelming majority of Iraqis.
“Federalism-plus” is in fact authorized under the Iraqi constitution. To give it a new name adds nothing to the solution of the problems it describes.
5) Our strongman
This was the preferred option of opponents of de-Bathification in the State Department and CIA: Pick a general from Saddam’s army, and back him as he slaughtered his nation into submission — but in alliance with us, as “our” dictator.
The idea has been revived among advocates of a coup in Baghdad.
This course, called “realism” by some, was and is feasible. There is no force in Iraq that can stand against American arms. Were we willing now, as in the past, to empower a “strongman” to slaughter all opponents, we could indeed reestablish a regime as stable as that of our one-time ally Saddam Hussein.
But that’s the kicker. The administration no longer accepts this as “realism,” or such regimes as “stable.” A substantial portion of Islamo-fascist petrodollars have been, and will be, spent on jihadist ventures and armies of aggression. This is how they externalize the internal tensions that their regimes invariably generate.
The dictatorships of the Middle East are neither our friends nor our allies. That is the new realism.
6) Chase Osama
A great applause line among the low-I.Q. set, no one who studies jihadist terrorism believes that its root cause is it’s most-photographed adherent. And oh, by-the-way, how many troops should we deploy to invade and occupy the mountain provinces of Pakistan, a nuclear power?
7) Passive defense
Democrats enjoy outlining the billions they will spend inspecting cargo, computerizing fingerprints, and protecting infrastructure. These are great jobs programs. But potential targets of terror are infinite. Freedom cannot be protected by locking down facilities and those using them. It makes better sense to kill the terrorists, and overthrow the regimes that mass-produce them.
8) “Bring the troops home”
Otherwise known as “cut-and-run”, few Congressional Democrats embrace this option overtly. The consequences are too well-known: a full-scale bloodbath in Iraq, and an enormous impetus to jihadists globally. But if cut-and-run is not the declared option of liberal politicians, it is their inevitable option. Either one defeats global jihadism at its roots, or one retreats before it. Having expended years discrediting the sole strategy to defeat it – overthrow of the petro-tyrannies of the Greater Middle East – these politicians will expend little-to-no political capital sustaining any alternate strategy whose essence is orderly retreat.
“Cut-and-run” makes no sense relative to victory. But it makes a lot of sense once one accepts defeat.
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The Bush “forward strategy of democracy” is the only Middle East policy short of total war that offers a clear strategic doctrine to counter Islamo-fascism.