Saturday, April 27, 2013

"East Is East...West is West"


"East is East..and West is West..and never the twain shall meet"

Eleven years ago, having returned home from living and working in the Middle East for a decade, I sat watching TV and seeing American troops invade Iraq.  I turned to my wife and said "what the hell is Bush doing?"  We were already well into the quagmire of Afghanistan and were now "doubling down" by invading Iraq!  

A decade of living in the region had proven to me that you can't democratize a Muslim culture.  I knew Bush had access to diplomats who surely told him the same thing.  So why were we getting so deeply involved?  Why were we not just going after the Taliban and Al Quada, doing a quick hit, then getting the hell out?  Ten years later we finally left Iraq, after spending a trillion dollars and sacrificing American lives and Iraq is as troublesome as it was before we went in.  They pal around with Iran and have no special gratitude for America.  The same tired story in Afghanistan.  More lives and more national treasure, and only to prop up a corrupt Muslim regime.

After a decade, did we learn anything from Iraq and Afghanistan?  No!  Two years ago I cautioned all those wild eyed optimists that the "Arab Spring" would prove to be no more than one fanatic Muslim regime trading places with another.  The Muslim Brotherhood runs Egypt and they can continue to kill Christians and burn their churches.  As more right wing regimes fell like dominoes in the Middle East they are simply replaced by fanatics from another place.

So now we have Republicans and Democrats alike just itching to get involved in Syria.  And weak-kneed Obama foolishly drew a "red line" in Syria as well, saying if the brutal regime in power began using chemical weapons, then we'd have to intervene.  


I was about to offer Obama kudos for setting a timetable to get out of Afghanistan and for his forbearance in staying out of the Syrian mess.  Alas, the war drums from Congress got to Obama and he just had to "draw a red line".  

The idiocy of our Middle East foreign policy is beyond me!  We learned a hard lesson in Vietnam, then forgot it when we invaded Iraq and occupied Afghanistan.  Now we've had eleven consecutive years of Middle East messes and we just seem to want to wade even deeper into them!

The latest saber rattling coming from the White House and Congress is coming at a time when they've cut next year's military pay raise to 1%.  They've decimated the Defense budget, with 50% cuts to current spending over the next ten years.  The VA hospitals can't take care of our injured veterans and they want to kill and maim even more of them?  Enough!

Am I advocating that we forfeit our responsibilities as a super power?  No, of course not.  But we need to set priorities.  Two of our priorities ought to be taking out North Korea's nuclear capability in order to put a stop to their exporting that technology to radical regimes who are bound to get one and use it against us.  We should have taken out Iran's nuclear facilities years ago.  And we ought to pre-position troops, supplies and equipment in the area (as we already do), in order to execute quick strikes against those who threaten us...but we should pledge never to occupy a Muslim nation ever again!

We can't democratize Muslim cultures where their religion overrides every other societal factor.  And we can't afford it!  We can't keep borrowing money from China to give foreign aid to these countries, or fight their wars for them!  

My God!  It doesn't take a genius to know that, at a time when you're shortchanging our military, when you're executing massive cuts to the poor and aged in America, you don't then turn around and reward Muslims who hate us with great passion!

One of the most striking insights I gained while living in the Middle East was the wide expanse between the Muslim and Non-Muslim.  More than a dozen times I was told that Muslims, any and all Muslims, no matter what their political or social differences,  would always have a vital connection that no westerner could come between.   We need to learn that lesson, let Muslims settle their differences, no matter how brutal the outcome.


Brian Clancy said...

The Middle East always has been and always wiil be a hornets nest best left alone barring any immediate threat to America or Americans. I've often likened the changing regimes of that region as " same old beast with a different mask". It seems to me that decades of involving ourselves in foreign affairs has worsened our standing on the international stage with no end in sight.
Enough of my rant, thanks for another insightful piece.

A Modest Scribler said...

And thank you Brian. I was just watching a documentary on the 1930's the other day. The flashed a newspaper headline of the day and it read "Muslim uprising! Bomb planted that kills a thousand!

Yes, sadly, we've seen this played out for centuries. If the American people fully realized how hopeless it is to try to achieve peace in that region I'm sure they would forbid their politicians from going off on these foolish forays that cost so much in treasure and in lives.