On Monday, we had a small neighborhood gathering in the front yard, a sort of "going away party" for our neighbors, combined with Memorial Day. We were cooking burgers and hot dogs and having a good time.
We have a primary coming up in a couple weeks for state office, and one of the candidates happened to campaigning on our street. He stopped by to talk to us, since he had Raine on a list of some sort. He moved on down the street, but left a political discussion in his wake which continued for a few hours. Despite our living in a very
"blue" area, our neighbors possess a mixed bag of political viewpoints, which made things lively and interesting. Moderate conservative, libertarian, and liberal among us, we discussed various governmental policy points. I feel lucky that my neighbors - despite disagreeing with me on various political positions - nonetheless approach them intelligently and thoughtfully, and can articulate their positions and how they got there.
One thing that wasn't touched on was Middle East policy, and how we got where we are now, and how to proceed from here. Most anywhere you look, though, the discussions tend to also blur political lines. Going beyond warhawks (and chickenhawks) to staunch anti-war absolutists, there is a huge gray area. Libertarians and some liberals believe we've already spent too much money and too many lives in the Middle East. Others look to the atrocities being committed and are reminded of our non-interventionist delay in joining WWII, and how many millions suffered and died before we helped put an end to it.
It creates several other questions: Should we do something? Can
we something (to make things better)? This post
covers those questions very well...
There is no doubt that as Robert D. Kaplan wrote at Foreign Policy yesterday, “Middle Eastern chaos demonstrates that the region has still not found a solution to the collapse of the Ottoman Empire after World War I.” He may or may not be right about the need to “bring imperialism back to the Middle East,” but one thing is for certain: the current system is not working.
David Rothkopf wrote last week at Foreign Policy in criticism of Obama’s alternative to Bush’s foreign policy. Rothkopf, cynically, I think, calls this alternative “Other People’s Armies” (OPA), “encouraging other countries to fight or help fight those conflicts we might have waded into alone or largely alone in the past.”
A better term might be “Other People’s Business.” It is easy for Westerners to talk about the merits of imperialism. Westerners have never been the beneficiaries of other people’s imperialism. We have dished it out for centuries. Middle Easterners might feel differently about it. They were certainly eager to shake off the yoke of the Ottoman Empire.
If the West intends to interfere in the Middle East at this point, it must ensure first and foremost that it is on sure footing. In other words, “Why?” To protect Israel, as Republicans claim? Well, Israel is not under attack. When Israel is attacked – if Israel is attacked, we can talk about that.
To shore up an Iraqi regime which really doesn’t seem to want to defend itself, and worse, has a population that really doesn't want to defend its regime, seems a dubious inducement to intervention. We saw how that sort of deal goes down in South Vietnam.
South Vietnam’s incredibly corrupt and collective shrug to the communist threat was heard loud and clear by Americans. Do we really want to ally ourselves again with people who seem to feel they have no vested interest in the battle, who fight only because we want them to fight? [Is it] the duty of young men and women in America to die for a cause that even Iraqis refuse to die for?
The article is well worth an entire read, I and I recommend you do so.
Regarding Middle East options - like any political discussion - you have to scrape off the surface gloss of partisanship and media hackery to get to the nuances and interwoven consequences of various choices and actions. The Middle East has been a mess for a long time, where tribalism trumps national borders, with oil money only making matters worse. Before we can do anything, we need to understand how we got here, what we realistically can do, what the repercussions might be, and then decide whether it's worth it.
Of course - that goes for most decisions regarding our nation, but I am not hopeful we'll start anytime soon. This is a big one, though, and if we're going to grow more mature in our approach, I certainly hope we start here. This is not one to "dumb down for the masses".