AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite
Harry C. Blaney III
The recent debate over American policy in the Middle East and most recently the criticism of have engendered much debate, most of it misguided. (See Post of 5/27/15)
There has been a profusion of comments and advocacy in our national security debate. They aimed at digging us deeper into a dangerous military alliance with those that do not share our values or interests and also a perverse kind of military adventurism beyond rationality. In an area of conflicting powers, mixed loyalties and motives, and few good, if any, national powers with the same outlooks and values of Western democracies, finding good partners for the long run will not be easy. But it is necessary to try.
In the same vein, the critics recent simplistic and partisan knee jerk responses to the recent fall of the provincial capital Ramadi of Ambar province in Iraq and other events, underlines the absence of long-term critical thinking. Critics fails to look at the nature and depth of the Middle East’s woes and what can and can’t be done to mitigate these age old conflicts and their newer manifestations.
Further, there is no single leader, no single group, no single country, nor one single failure of society that can be attributed to all of the many sources of these upheavals and hatreds. Thus no single “silver bullet” exists to redeem these tragedies or can put to rest all the injustices and conflicts that we now see in this tragic “rotting” Middle East conundrum.
The entire Middle East has and is undergoing cataclysmic changes and upheavals in local communities, within whole nations, and beyond national borders, indeed throughout the whole region. Those causes of instability that otherwise might be seen in a century or more of violent change now appear rapidly and widely.
Nor is there yet in sight a serious abatement of these conflicts, and the sad part is that “new” and “old’ regional leaders, with a few exceptions, do not seem able or willing to put a stop to these conflicts. Many leaders even have exacerbated them and contributed to their savageness.
Forces and divisions long dormant have risen up. New political and military groups have asserted their power and used the tools of armed conflict, bigotry, religious extremism, and sectarian hatred to gain power and to enforce brutal rule without restraint. Powerful leaders without any moral sense have used the hatred of “the other” for narrow self-interested, and in the end likely self-defeating, political power.
All this is illustrated not only by ISIS and their mass killings, but in the mass convictions of a former prime minister and hundreds of citizens to death sentences in Egypt by a rigid authoritarian military regime. Not to mention the killings in Gaza of 1,200 largely civilians including woman and children by Israel and the use in the last election by the right-wing Prime Minister Netanyahu of denigrating statements about Palestinians citizens within and outside Israel.
Equally, this corrosive environment is shown by the deadly civil conflicts in Yemen, Libya, Syria and beyond. This all indicates not only a new level of extreme mass killings by the jihadists but also official use of the power of the state to kill or jail political opponents. There appears to be widespread indifference to the value of life and sense of justice. Civil society and institutions have become weakened.
The lack of tolerance, reconciliation and of compromise among the conflicting parties of the region in recent years has only exacerbated the problem of poverty, un-employment, prejudice between sects and ethnic groups that have lived with each other for centuries and indeed millennium. Corruption also has undermined civil society as has sizable inequality.
So can any of this be solved by added American fighting troops alone?
In these conditions it is hard to frame a workable let alone effective American and Western military strategy that can mitigate meaningfully the massive instability and brutality in the region. Those that think they have an answer appear to be critical of President Obama’s policies and action. They seem bent on actions that likely will do no good or do real harm and reflect a misguided ideology and narrow view that itself is destructive.
Above all for those supposed leaders who call for the use of U.S. active combat troops on the ground it seems that this is their only answer to these complex forces of unrest and upheavals. While some combat troops can help deal with specific events and crises, their insertion in areas with little understanding of the territory can do much harm. Their actions too often have escalated the conflicts and problems.
How can we trust them and our security with this simplistic view of massive complexity and many dangers? Some still think they have the right or arrogance to run for president and under the banner of more senseless war.
In this context the question our next post will address is how we might advance some measure of actions and policies that might stop the stride toward endless war on this region.
We welcome your comments!