For more than a decade I have described on JPost and other Israeli web-based forums the retreat of the United States from the Middle East and the world. Since Bush invaded Iraq and sued for peace in 2007 America has desperately sought a graceful exit from the region. America, I concluded, would soon be replaced by a more determined and aggressive Russia, with dire consequences for the US and the EU.
With 70% of the world’s oil reserves; with the Suez Canal as transit point for global commerce; with the surrender of the region as military crossroad between north/south, east/west: it seems beyond the ability of American politicians and their academic advisers to see the implications of abandoning the region to Russia. Apparently overlooked in the rush to vacate is that along with control of the ground, Russia would also achieve its likely principal goal, control also of the Mediterranean Sea. And, lest American policy-makers need reminding Europe, already dependent on Russia for natural gas to heat its homes and fuel its factories will find itself sandwiched between the Russian Navy to the south and The Russian Army to the north. Does it really require deep strategic imagination to appreciate that the loss of NATO will leave the United States naked and alone, with but two oceans as buffer in a world of nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missiles? Is Isolationism a viable option in a world which views the United States with equal measures of envy and hate?
In an op-ed piece appearing recently in JPost, , Amitai Etzioni describes a counter-script to the general impression of the US Government and its military. America, he insists, did not lose the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Just the opposite, it
“won both wars easily and quickly, suffering few casualties and low costs, and causing little collateral damage. Both campaigns ended up badly once the US decided to make out of these nations stable, democratic, US-friendly regime." (emphasis added)
Whatever Bush’s true motivation for deposing Sadam Hussein, in the end he fell back on, "providing the Iraqi people the gift of democracy.” And the outcome was Iraq as failed state and hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqis. Obama, determined to be “Not-Bush” wound up pursuing the same Bush agenda with identical results: the failed states of Libya and Syria and hundreds of thousands more dead Arabs. And while Obama did his best to add Egypt to that list by ousting America’s loyal and secular ally Hosni Mubarak in favor of an Islamist for president intent on imposing Sharia law on Egypt, in the end it took another general to oust the Islamists and restore Egypt to secular governance. Adding insult to injury Obama then refused to recognize the new Egyptian president with the result that Egypt has now turned to Russia for military materiel needed in fighting MB-inspired terrorists. Egypt is also purchasing several nuclear reactors, a response to Obama welcoming the terror-state Iran into the nuclear community.
It is likely that an Arab Spring and its revolutionary anti-West Islamism was an event waiting for an opportunity. That it emerged when it did is clearly the result America’s faith-based “diplomacy,” its stubbornly-held Gospel of Democracy.
The single, most obvious lesson of United States-imposed regime change in the Middle East is that not only does the American model of “liberal democracy” fail as an option for ill-prepared states (recall it took two centuries for the West to arrive at its present approximation of that political ideal), but most of the world today is only recently emerging from a century and more of western-imposed colonialism. And how many states born of that oppressive regime even approximate the basic social stability fundamental for an “educated” electorate? Imperialism created “states” without recognition or regard for religious and traditional tribal distinctions. While a strong colonial military with superior weaponry provided the appearance of “native” social tranquility, rivalries simmered for centuries beneath that apparent tranquil surface. And so the much heralded by the West Arab Spring; and al-Qaeda in Iraq have metastasized into today’s “Daesh.” Amitai Etzioni' article, Defeating Islamic State, describes the hoped for end to the terror empire. But Daesh as seething memory of defeats past will continue to survive and evolve, to metastasize likely into something even more brutal.
Cultural grudges are not soon forgotten.