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Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Gunboat Pragmatism

Guest Editorial by Edward Cline:

Broadcast news coverage is becoming as chummy and surfacy as “Entertainment Tonight” and “Access Hollywood.” Driven by “personality” and photogenics, the kidding banter and annoying silliness of the morning and evening anchors for ABC, CBS and NBC almost makes one pine for the serious, dour days of Walter Cronkite.

Listening to the current political debates between the presidential candidates – or perhaps they should be called “personality” debates, for their political content is virtually nil – has become, to date, as deafening as a forest full of croaking tree frogs at midnight. These human tree frogs may be communicating something to each other, but not to the public’s ears.

And reading about the U.S.’s efforts to bring “peace” and “stability” to the Mideast and to Iraq is akin to being sentenced to read the entire dismal oeuvre of Franz Kafka, a special edition illustrated with etchings by Edvard Munch.

Instead of acknowledging our enemies – after first identifying them – and taking the proper military actions to neutralize or destroy them to ensure this country’s safety, our policy is has been to treat them all as potential or imagined allies, to deem them “forces of moderation” in the pursuit of peace and stability in the region, and to reward them with military hardware.

The most recent instance of this foolishness is the Bush administration’s proposed $20 billion weapons sale to Saudi Arabia and its neighboring feudal kingdoms, tyrannies, and regimes, every one of them hostile to the U.S. and to its only regional ally, Israel.

To “balance” this the U.S. is also proposing to sell about $30 billion in slightly more advanced military hardware to Israel, a country every one of our Arab “allies” would prefer to erase from existence in the name of the same Mideast “peace” and “security.”

The New York Times of July 28 reports, under the headline “U.S. Set to Offer Huge Arms Deal to Saudi Arabia”:

“The proposed package of advanced weaponry for Saudi Arabia, which includes advanced satellite-guided bombs, upgrades to its fighters and new naval vessels, has made Israel and some of its supporters in Congress nervous. Senior officials who described the package on Friday said they believed that the administration had resolved those concerns, in part by promising Israel $30.4 billion in military aid over the next decade, a significant increase over what Israel has received in the past 10 years.

“Along with Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates are likely to receive equipment and weaponry from the arms sales under consideration, officials said. In general, the U.S. is interested in upgrading the countries’ air and missile defense systems, improving their navies and making modest improvements in their air forces.”

Ostensibly, all this aid is meant to “protect” these fiefdoms from Iranian military designs. And every one of those fiefdoms holds the U.S. hostage via their expropriated oil production. This would not be a problem, if the U.S. were not held hostage by environmentalists, who refuse to allow the development of known offshore oil reserves and the construction of new refineries.

The U.S. will “insist” that that the weaponry not be used against Israel. In the meantime, Iran is not acknowledged by the Bush administration as an enemy, either. Consider the contrast: When Nazi Germany invaded Poland and France, we did not send envoys to Berlin to plead for “peace” and “stability” in Europe. When we secured a defeated Germany and Italy, Britain did not accuse the U.S. of an “illegal occupation,” as Saudi Arabia has publicly charged the U.S.

Perhaps the most revealing sentence in this report is:

“In talks about the package, the administration has not sought specific assurances from Saudi Arabia that it would be more supportive of the American effort in Iraq as a condition of receiving the arms package, the officials said.”

That is, the U.S. will not demand that Saudi Arabia stop sending Sunni “insurgents” into Iraq to kill American troops. Also, the U.S. is “certain” that Saudi Arabia is not only financially supporting Sunni groups in Iraq, but that it is working to bring down the Shiite-dominated Iraqi government. Another Times article from July 27, “Saudis’ Role in Iraq Frustrates U.S. Officials,” reports:

“…Bush administration officials are voicing increasing anger at what they say has been Saudi Arabia’s counterproductive role in the Iraq war. They say that beyond regarding Mr. Maliki as an Iranian [or Shiite] agent, the Saudis have offered financial support to Sunni groups….Of an estimated 60 to 80 foreign fighters who enter Iraq each month, American military and intelligence officials say that nearly half are coming from Saudi Arabia and that the Saudis have not done enough to stem the flow.”

Elsewhere in the article, the Times related:

“The American officials in Iraq also say that the majority of suicide bombers in Iraq are from Saudi Arabia and that about 40 percent of all foreign fighters are Saudi. Officials said that while most of the foreign fighters came to Iraq to become suicide bombers, others arrived as bomb makers, snipers, logisticians and financiers.”

But the U.S. continues to regard Saudi Arabia as an “ally” and a “force for moderation.” Franz Kafka could not have conceived of a more existentially obscene and futile a policy.

Literary lights consider Kafka’s short story, “The Metamorphosis,” in which a man overnight turns into an insect, as his pièce de résistance. “Insects” properly characterizes the formulators and purveyors of current U.S. foreign policy, and they have been insects for at least the last half-century.

Pragmatism, after all, in the name of practicality in pursuit of a “Platonic” peace, eschews making moral judgments and taking actions based on those judgments. In the run-up to the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq, pragmatism will prove to be not so “practical” after all. The current Iraqi government, created and propped up by the U.S. at the expense of American lives and treasure, on the transparent fiction that such a “stable” government will ensure America’s security, will either eventually fall from Saudi efforts, or be “co-opted” by Iran (and there is evidence that this is already the case) to threaten Israel and Saudi Arabia. Iranian “fighters” are already competing with Saudi “fighters” on many American lives they can take.

In the 19th century, Western powers, including the U.S., applied a policy of “gunboat diplomacy” to protect American and Western lives and commercial interests in countries whose governments would not protect them from killers and looters. A warship need only appear in the waters outside such a country, and the crisis would be over.

Today, we are proposing to give those renegade governments the weapons with which to threaten or destroy American lives, not only in those countries, but in the U.S. itself.

Philosopher Harry Binswanger remarked recently:

“America’s security does not require that a proper government be installed in Iraq, Iran, Syria, etc. Our security requires only that the various fanatical bands in the region know full well that the moment they raise a hint of a threat to Americans, they will be crushed. We should let Baathists, Shiites, Hamas, the PLO, Al Qada, and Hezbollah all fight each other – as long as they all know they must keep clear of America….If the Arab/Muslim populations are not culturally advanced enough to embrace the institutions of a free society, that is their problem, not ours….”

I endorse that thinking one hundred percent. We should adopt Rhett Butler’s attitude towards Scarlett O’Hara at the end of Gone with the Wind: Frankly, we shouldn’t give a damn whether or not they discover those institutions or continue to butcher each other in the name of a ghost. Just don’t point your guns on our direction – or else.

Crossposted at The Dougout
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posted by Grant Jones at permanent link#

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