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Middle East scenarios

By Alan Caruba
web posted September 4, 2006
Despite having been under attack since 1979, it wasn't until September 11, 2001 that the blinders fell from the eyes of Americans. Now, some want to put them back on. The calls to withdraw American troops will grow louder as the November elections grow closer.

There is considerable sophistry behind the assertion that the "real threat" is al-Qaida and not those seeking control of Iraq in much the same way Hezbollah was used to secure control of Lebanon. The United States cannot get out of the Middle East, no matter how much we might want to. This war was imposed on us by ruthless, opportunistic men. Now we must finish it on our terms.

The creation of Middle East scenarios is the constant occupation of the various policy constituencies in Washington, D.C. these days. The Middle East has always been a sinkhole that swallows up the aspirations of the West because the hatreds that consume Muslims remain a mystery to nations governed by more pragmatic, rational philosophies.
The current version of what passes for collected wisdom seems to be saying that the situation in Iraq is untenable and that the mindless killing going on between Shiites and Sunnis will not end. The split between the Shiites and the Sunnis dates back to a dispute at the beginning of Islam concerning a succession to the prophet Muhammad, well over a thousand years ago.

Arabs are still smarting over the Crusades. Do we really expect them to find common ground with each other or us in the near future?

The most pressing question these days is whether Iraqi politicians can work together. After more than three decades of oppression by Sunnis under Saddam Hussein, Iraq's Shiites are in the driver's seat. This is giving Sunni-run nations like Saudi Arabia and Egypt fits, but someone has to take charge of Iraq and run it like a modern nation.

Like Brer Rabbit's famed tar baby that ensnared Bred Fox, the Middle East tar baby has a grip on the U.S. and the West. Originally it was just about oil (and to a great extent still is), but now the Islamist genie is out of bottle. Leaving the Middle East will solve nothing.
While the murderers who seek to advance the Islamic Revolution hold our attention, one aspect of change that goes relatively unnoticed is the relentless process of globalization, forcing the Middle East to slowly, often painfully, be "connected" to the rest of the world.

That change is being resisted by a relative handful of people acting in the name of militant Islam. It is an Islam that wants its unelected clerics to have all the power in the region. Seventh century Islam is at war with the twenty-first century.
So far as the present hostilities are concerned, the Middle East has been "in play" since the late 1970s when Iran's Shah, an ally of the United States, was overthrown. Beyond its oil, Iraq's real importance to the United States was and is its strategic military position in the Middle East, particularly as regards the threat posed by Iran's Shiite leaders.

Iran's acquisition of nuclear weapons would constitute a major shift of power. Literally no one would be safe from the ayatollahs. In a world where many nations have nuclear weapons, only Iran represents the potential for their actual use.

The U.S. and its coalition partners have their military in Afghanistan and Iraq, two nations that border Iran. The U.S. has bases in other Persian Gulf nations as well. In theory, this limits Iran's options in the region, but ironically what really limits Iran's options is the flight of direct foreign investment.

What limits Iran's options is the failure of its leaders to abandon radical Islamism in favor of the multinational capitalism that is reshaping much of the world. Most Iranians, young and pro-American, know this.

Thomas P. M. Barnett, the author of two groundbreaking books on globalization, says that, sooner or later, we will end up talking to Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas, and the Muslim Brotherhood and they will have to talk to us because globalization is a force that is bringing about change whether they want it or not.

The U.S. has shown little inclination to speak with them. History suggests that diplomacy with rogue states and terrorist organizations is unproductive. Iran's "diplomacy" has proven to be a fabric of lies. The fruitless efforts expended on the Palestine Liberation Organization, now eclipsed by Hamas, are yet another example, as have been the actions of Hezbollah.

For now, the Islamic Revolution will continue. Its defeat, like that of the former Soviet Union, is likely to require much of the twenty-first century and will be full of attacks and retreats on both sides.
While we struggle with the Middle Eastern tar baby, Russia and China will use the conflict to advance their own agendas to weaken the United States economically and militarily, hoping that the Middle East will remain a place where empires go to die.

The benefits of increased global trade and even increased global peace will continue to take second place to the mad dreams of both Communism and Islam, but globalization is as relentless as a glacier.

In time, if we remain resolute, the Middle East will be forced to conclude that it must shake loose of ancient traditions and enmities in favor of a world that offers more incentives, more benefits, and more freedoms. ESR

Alan Caruba writes a weekly column, "Warning Signs", posted on the Internet site of The National Anxiety Center. His new book, "Right Answers: Separating Fact from Fantasy", has just been published by Merril press. © Alan Caruba, 2006

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