Challenges Facing the US in the Middle East
December 31, 2007 1:25 PM   Subscribe

Top 10 Challenges Facing the US in the Middle East, 2008

Top Ten Myths about Iraq 2007
posted by homunculus (54 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
Or, to put it differently, the 10 biggest foreign policy disasters caused by the Bush Administration's negligence, incompetence or both. God that's a depressing list. How much you wanna bet nothing of substance happens in any of those areas in 2008?
posted by psmealey at 1:30 PM on December 31, 2007


Top 10 Challenges Facing the US in the Middle East -ANY YEAR-

We are powerless to make things better by use of force.
posted by edgeways at 1:39 PM on December 31, 2007 [2 favorites]


psmealey writes "Or, to put it differently, the 10 biggest foreign policy disasters caused by the Bush Administration's negligence, incompetence or both. "

C'mon, now. By my count, only 5 of the things on that list were directly caused by the negligence or incompetence of the Bush Administration. There are another three or four that were merely blithely ignored by the Bush Administration for seven years.
posted by mr_roboto at 1:43 PM on December 31, 2007 [1 favorite]


This administration doesn't want things of substance to happen under their watch that actually help us and others -- unless of course it's for the rapacious enrichment of their cronies in the oil/gas and homeland security "industries", and furthering privatization of our military and other parts of governments--all under the name of "democracy" and "fighting terror".

from 03, and still very operative in many ways too: Chaos in the Middle East is not the Bush hawks' nightmare scenario--it's their plan. (and we've seen the same people from then calling for us to go into Pakistan even now after everything to secure/grab their nukes)
posted by amberglow at 1:45 PM on December 31, 2007 [1 favorite]


Why are we linking to axe-grinding blog entries?
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 1:47 PM on December 31, 2007 [1 favorite]


Ah, the Cole agenda. Lebanon eco nomy destroyed by Israel attack...wait! I thought Hebollah, now in control of most of Lebanon, kidnapped an Israeli dolsier and then began lobbing rocketsinside Israel. And Gaza? Yes. Civilains get killed when Hamas hidesmidstcivilians and lobs rockets--bnut somehow it is Israel that isat fault and not Syria running Lebanon and Hezbollah, violating the accord and rebuilding in the South of Lebanon. Why isthat France has cut off all relations with Shyria till it allows Lebanon to have free elections?
posted by Postroad at 1:47 PM on December 31, 2007


Maybe for 2008 the US could look into the biggest Middle East challenge yet: stop messing with the Middle East. Don't tell "insist" that Israel does this or that: stop supporting Israel militarily and economically. Don't "facilitate" anything in Iraq: let other countries that still have some credibility left help the Iraqis if they want that help. Don't "put pressure" on Musharraf: stop supporting a military dictatorship in Pakistan. Don't "repair" relations with Turkey: stop trying to bribe and bully Turkey into doing the US's bidding.

This blog's kind of bullshit, which assumes that the US not only should, but must mess around with pretty much every other country in the world to further their own goals, makes me sick.
posted by ssg at 1:58 PM on December 31, 2007


Meanwhile in babykiller news: Marine avoids Iraq murder charge
posted by Artw at 1:59 PM on December 31, 2007


Why are we linking to axe-grinding blog entries?

Translation: Waaahh, reality has crushed my fever dreams of conquest and glory by proxy! I'm going to cry about it!"
posted by delmoi at 2:03 PM on December 31, 2007 [3 favorites]


#8 - definitely
#6 - Free elections in Pakistan would be great. But pressuring Musharraf is not on the table (one of those Feynmanian ‘it’s not even wrong’ sorta deals.) Not that I don’t agree with his position, but there are several assumptions inherent in his position that are at odds with the, perhaps unseen, reality of the situation. Let me put it this way, there was no way Bhutto wasn’t going to get clipped. (Doesn’t mean I like it, I’m just laying it down. I’ve been saying “OMG! Pakistan!” etc. for years. I know a bit more about the situation there than, say, Huckabee.)
#3 - not a chance. Certain people want young girls and refugees exploited. Aid is great, economic pressure is better.
#1 - bit off, most of the casualties were Palestinians v. Palestinians. Not that the situation isn’t brought on by the heat from the blockade.
posted by Smedleyman at 2:03 PM on December 31, 2007


I don't think any amount of pressure that the US can put on Musharraf can come close to his already knowing that he will likely be assassinated the moment he appears in public and his security detail relaxes, even just for a second. The political capital to change things on that front just isn't there.
posted by clevershark at 2:08 PM on December 31, 2007


I suppose it would be a bit mean of me to point out that Pakistan isn't even in the Middle east? Nor is Afghanistan.
posted by Artw at 2:08 PM on December 31, 2007 [1 favorite]


Good point, actually. Pakistan in particular is a whole two countries removed from the Middle East...
posted by clevershark at 2:11 PM on December 31, 2007


thought Hebollah, now in control of most of Lebanon, kidnapped an Israeli dolsier and then began lobbing rocketsinside Israel

No.

1) Hezbollah (not hebollah) kidnapped two soldiers (not a dolsier)
2) Israeli security forces charged after into Lebanon, where they were killed.
3) Israel started an air campaign
4) Hezbollah started firing rockets.

The key point is that Hezbollah didn't start firing rockets until Israel escalated the military conflict by launching air strikes. Keep in mind that about 1,000 Lebanese died (according to wikipedia) compared to just 44 Israelis.
posted by delmoi at 2:11 PM on December 31, 2007 [2 favorites]


(sorry, 1,000 Lebanese civilians, vs 44 Israeli civilians)
posted by delmoi at 2:13 PM on December 31, 2007


I suppose it would be a bit mean of me to point out that Pakistan isn't even in the Middle east? Nor is Afghanistan.

I don't consider those countries middle eastern, but other people do. According, again, to wikipedia those two countries are included in the G8's definition of the "greater middle east".
posted by delmoi at 2:15 PM on December 31, 2007


Yes, it would be mean of you to get geographically medieval on people. Glad you asked first. *snicker*
posted by jamstigator at 2:18 PM on December 31, 2007


"greater middle east"? Sorry, but wikipedia and the G8 can fuck off with their "greater middle east", that's quite clearly central and south Asia.
posted by Artw at 2:20 PM on December 31, 2007 [1 favorite]


Aha. I see the problem. The "Greater Middle East" is a term introduced by your geographically incompetent president, presumably as shorthand for "all the muslim places with brown people". I think it can be safely ignored.
posted by Artw at 2:26 PM on December 31, 2007


Oh, and here's my totally untestable theory on a way to improve relations in/with the Middle East: elect Obama. Because of his name.

Is it preposterous to imagine that a name that's familiar to the average Middle Easterner would elicit better/kinder/saner responses than a name that's alien to their culture(s)? Someone with some impressive credentials in psychology should devise a test that could be given that would somehow measure this; I bet we'd be surprised at the difference.
posted by jamstigator at 2:27 PM on December 31, 2007


Our own apathetic populace, and the corporations that'd like to keep it that way -- that isn't on the list?
posted by not_on_display at 2:55 PM on December 31, 2007


jamstigator: I may be mistaken, but I think Obama is not a particularly common surname outside East Africa, so I'm not sure it would be more recognizable than e.g. Bush in the Middle East (using the traditional definition of the Middle East). Barack, however, comes from Hebrew, but it looks like it might have some familiarity for Arabic speakers. Here is something more about that.

In any case, I think it is a little facile to argue that a US president with a different name would improve relations between the US and the Middle East. Many people in the Middle East have some pretty good reasons to dislike the US. Frankly, it smells a little of smarmy PR: The new US, now with a kinder and gentler big stick!
posted by ssg at 2:58 PM on December 31, 2007 [1 favorite]


Why is that in wars with Israel figures are given for ho many civilians in non-Israel places are given to show that Israel is bad buty those attacking them are not? In fact, be it in Gaza, West Bank, Lebanon, etc the Arabs hide among civilian populations and thus many civilians do get killed.
As for how that war got started, here:
http://www.lebanonlinks.com/special/lebanon_israel_war_2006.html
posted by Postroad at 3:04 PM on December 31, 2007


Yes, yes, Israel is an unrestrained force for good. Come back and argue your case when you are less drunk.
posted by Artw at 3:07 PM on December 31, 2007


C'mon, now. By my count...

Domo arigato, mr_roboto. You're right. To say that Bush Adm "caused" all of these is inaccurate and a very poor choice of words on my part. The administration certainly inherited most of these difficult situations, but through blunders, mismanagement, myopia, arrogance, naïveté, ignorance, hubris and stubbornness, made them all worse. They started with a perfectly capable Secretary of State and very publicly emasculated him, and then replaced him with a doddering lightweight.
posted by psmealey at 3:47 PM on December 31, 2007


psmealey writes "replaced him with a doddering lightweight."

Well, they replaced him with an expert on the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact. Which is just what our nation needed most at this trying time.
posted by mr_roboto at 4:18 PM on December 31, 2007 [1 favorite]


psmealey: On that note, I'd like to say that I can't wait for Colin Powell's tell-all memoir, whenever that comes out. I imagine it'll be like reading a 250 page Dilbert strip.
posted by Weebot at 4:33 PM on December 31, 2007


the Arabs hide among civilian populations

I'm not 100% certain, but I think it's possible to be simultaneously a civilian and an Arab.
posted by stammer at 4:35 PM on December 31, 2007 [2 favorites]


Of course one can be both an Arab and a civilian. And of coufrse one can fire guns and hide among kids and the elderly with the hopes that those you are trying to kill will not fire at where you are hiding for fear they might kill those who are not out to kill , ie, innocent and unarmed civilians.
But if you have a grenade launcher and you hide in a school, it is possible that school kids might get killed in an exchange of fire. This is all part of the new type of warfare we confront in Iraq, Afghanistan etc In the South of Lebanon,Hez. purposely housed themselves in the midst of population and fired rockets. Result: lots of non-combatants got killed.
posted by Postroad at 4:40 PM on December 31, 2007


Juan Cole's post about the top 10 challenges in the Middle East begs one important question (as amberglow alluded to above) -- what possible interest (given its prior lack of commitment to any kind of stability in the Middle East) would the Bush Administration have in pursuing any one of these goals, let alone all 10 of them?
posted by blucevalo at 4:41 PM on December 31, 2007 [1 favorite]


This is all part of the new type of warfare we confront in Iraq, Afghanistan etc In the South of Lebanon,Hez. purposely housed themselves in the midst of population and fired rockets. Result: lots of non-combatants got killed.

So then why are we greatly escalating our airstrikes both in Iraq and Afghanistan?-- Coalition forces launched 1,140 airstrikes in the first nine months of this year compared with 229 in all of last year, according to military statistics.

Airstrikes are up in Afghanistan, too. Coalition planes have made 2,764 bombing runs this year, up from 1,770 last year. The figures don't include strikes by helicopter gunships. ...

posted by amberglow at 4:46 PM on December 31, 2007


I generally think Cole is wrong about most of what he says, but occasionally, he astounds me. Return Golan to Syria???? Really??? In exchange for a promise not to "back Palestinian militants" anymore? Because of a UN charter? After he calls for the great dictator of Pakistan to step down and shames the US for supporting him? Does he even try to be consistent in his ramblings anymore?
posted by loquax at 4:59 PM on December 31, 2007


We are escalating because Taliban making a strong comeback in Afghanistan, and that in part because of American presence. I do not believe in the Iraq war but clearly the link indicates that we have singled out Al Qaeda and are going after it. The result has been that this outside group has now been greatly diminished but then too this taking place because Iraquis have turned against Al Qaeda Muslims who are killing Iraq Muslims.

Now Israel ought not be building more settlements at this time, and Hamas et al ought not be firing rockets randomly into civilian areas, but this has gone on for some time and is going to go on, it seems, so that Cole would be more judicious if he assigned blame to all parties rather thanb singling out those he dislikes as though they are solely responsible for the conflict.
posted by Postroad at 5:01 PM on December 31, 2007


Not to be glib, but I'd say the number one challenge facing the US in the Middle East (and Central Asia, for that matter) is the presence of George W Bush. I seriously doubt anything on Juan Cole's list will be undertaken, if even acknowledged, unless he's no longer in charge.
posted by krinklyfig at 5:07 PM on December 31, 2007


we have singled out Al Qaeda and are going after it

In Pakistan?
posted by kirkaracha at 5:16 PM on December 31, 2007


Ah, or what blucevalo said.

Yeah, he does what he wants; even when all his dad's friends very publicly gave him advice (otherwise known as a public spanking), because he'd made such a huge mess of things doing it his way, he shrugged it off. The only thing he's managed to do right is the surge (at least as well as it could be done), and that is a purely military exercise meant to buy more time, not anything representing an end in itself. And it was only done under extreme duress, basically the generals putting their collective feet down and demanding something better. And Rumsfeld sure as hell didn't want to increase troop levels, because that might mean his initial assertion was wrong, not to mention his whole concept of a light, nimble military. All these guys, Bush among them, just in CYA mode and trying desperately to exit this term without too much embarrassment. It doesn't bode well for any workable, long term foreign policy goals. That's not Bush's thing, anyway, who prefers to go with his gut. I wonder if his gut is now telling him to ride this thing out and lay as low as possible, until the last day of his office when he'll ram through some major, disastrous executive decisions, like it's his mandate to leave a legacy, as well as pardoning anyone who might be in jail on his behalf at that point. Watch out for that, but don't hope for any better.
posted by krinklyfig at 5:19 PM on December 31, 2007


Result: lots of non-combatants got killed.

Use of the passive voice when describing quite active acts of war is a propaganda technique so discredited that even slimebucket Michael Ledeen (faster! faster!) has spoken out about it.
posted by telstar at 5:21 PM on December 31, 2007


amberglow writes "from 03, and still very operative in many ways too: Chaos in the Middle East is not the Bush hawks' nightmare scenario--it's their plan. (and we've seen the same people from then calling for us to go into Pakistan even now after everything to secure/grab their nukes)"

Yeah, I know all about that, but those guys really don't have much sway anymore - even as thick as Bush can be, he's trying to keep them at arm's length but avoid alienating them. He's not buying into the Rice/Powell diplomatic philosophy, but he's not really listening to the PNAC much anymore, either. As hell-bent and Machiavellian as those guys are, they don't have many friends left, particularly among the old guard Republicans, who are desperately trying to pull their party together after the neocons tore it asunder. There are still those who are working the familiar and tired excuses they've trotted out a million times, like Frank Gaffney, Bill Kristol, Podhoretz, and the rest of those clowns, who are just being good soldiers at this point and may not even believe their own bullshit anymore. Interesting stuff coming out of the Weekly Standard right now. They aren't that thrilled with Bush anymore, but they ain't giving up the ghost, and I imagine they will always believe in their cause, much as some people claim today that we could have won Vietnam if not for the peace protesters, and that Nixon may have done some wrong but he had noble intentions. And this is two generations ago, and after all that went down, some people still buy the fairy tale. When Bill Kristol is old and feeble he will likely smile his wide smile and recount how it would have all gone so well, if only they had someone more competent in charge. It's like Machiavelli said. If there is a distasteful task that must be done, a leader will be chosen who lacks character to do the deed. Later, he will be removed or otherwise disgraced for his character flaws, and then people can believe it was his flaws that were the problem, thereby absolving people of the guilt in their participation. I don't think it's an accident that Bush was chosen for the role he played, but I also don't think the neocons planned on being pariahs.
posted by krinklyfig at 5:37 PM on December 31, 2007 [1 favorite]


Result: lots of non-combatants got killed.

Alternatively, one can focus on the long-term strategic objective, disregard the short-term tactical loss, and not be baited into attacking the civilian-rich areas where militants hide.

Honestly, one of the most pathetic revelations of the last few years was of the CIA terrorism model that was apparently causing jaws from Langley to Fort Meade to drop in wonderment.

What was this bolt from the blue?

Well, it seems that-- okay, let me slow down here-- you can think of a violent revolutionary movement as having... three parts.

Yes!

Three parts. So, to continue:

The top part-- the apex of the three-tiered pyramid, if you will-- is the violent part.

Now, now, not so fast-- we don't just attack all three parts. Hold on.

See, the three parts are... different.

Specifically, while the topmost, narrowest, smallest part is radicalized to the point of active or imminent violence, the larger, middle part beneath it is not yet violent. They're angry, but not angry enough to take up arms or strap themselves with bombs.

That means we don't have to attack them yet! We actually might even have a chance of diverting or diminishing their grievances, so they don't ever actually become violent!

But, wait-- there's more!

The wide, bottom part... the broad base... the foundation
of the pyramid, to extend this richly elaborate metaphor... is the general populace-- the people from whom the smaller pool of the passively aggrieved and the much smaller pool of the actively violent is ultimately drawn.

And if you don't attack them, they tend not to become dangerously aggrieved; in fact, you can mollify them. And the more you can mollify them, the fewer passive hostiles and active enemies you wind up with.

Isn't that great?

It's this kind of ground-breaking, insightful analysis-- the kind that takes the blatantly obvious and puts it in a Top Secret binder, where you can use colored tabs to help organize your thoughts, and where there's sometimes a little pouch in back that you can put other things in-- that insures America's strategic supremacy... forever, and beyond.

Beyond forever, I mean.

In case that wasn't clear.
posted by darth_tedious at 5:45 PM on December 31, 2007 [3 favorites]


insures


ensures

uggh.
posted by darth_tedious at 5:48 PM on December 31, 2007


Artw Pakistan, whether geographically in the middle east or not, is a huge factor in the middle east. Afghanistan to a lesser degree.
Additionally, a good deal of muslim intrafaith politics have that whole Watandost thing going on so they themselves (the people we speak of when we consider "problem" and "middle east" together) consider all the muslim places with brown people (or whatever people) as a whole.
The ignorance of Bush notwithstanding (perhaps because China is called the 'far east' traditionally? Who knows; doesn't matter really). And indeed, many of the political events follow traditional muslim patterns* - f'rinstance there's a beef in Pakistan between people who think one guy should lead based on popular support and adherence to the political agenda and the other folks who think Bhutto's son (Bilawal) should lead (is it just me or does Asif Ali Zardari look like D-Day from "Animal House"?) The issue of leadership is a different thing to certain sects of muslims and Pakistan is, without question, an Islamic country (currently arguably a republic).
But that link with Islam, it's massive ties with Iran and other countries in the area traditionally considered geographically the "middle east" both economic and social as well as (obviously) religious, is what makes it a factor when considering problems in the middle east. Geographically it's pretty close to the Indian subcontinent as well, or right on it if we're talking tectonic plates.
But it'd be ridiculous, nay, willfully stupid to lump Pakistan with India merely because they're in the same general area. They've been at each other's throats for quite some time.
All this apart from The Base being perhaps strongest in Pakistan than any other place on the Earth (Saudi Arabia perhaps a tie or a close 2nd).

In every way that counts, it's "IN" the middle east.

(*There's a schizim in Islam - the major division is between Sunni and Shi`i. Shi`i scholars believe that the community's leadership should have remained within the Prophet's family: in the hands of Ali, the Prophet's cousin and husband of his daughter Fatimah. An early community of Shi'is considered Ali to be the first Imam. This idea was subsequently expressed in the doctrine of the Imamate a central defining feature of Shi`i doctrine. Specifically, the Shi'is believe that the issue of leadership is religious in nature and that the Prophet explicitly named Ali as his successor. Sunni scholars trace the Shi`i community's genesis to what they consider to be political arguments about leadership after the Prophet's demise. They argue that many companions supported the leadership of Abu Bakr, one of the Prophet's closest early followers, and that the leadership of Muslims falls under the control of the general Muslim community.)
posted by Smedleyman at 6:08 PM on December 31, 2007 [1 favorite]


This just in: we're totally fucked.

Film and impending apocalypse at 11.
posted by Rangeboy at 6:38 PM on December 31, 2007


As hell-bent and Machiavellian as those guys are, they don't have many friends left

The major exception being one Rudulph Giuliani
posted by cell divide at 6:40 PM on December 31, 2007


Cole mentions the Combating Terrorism Center @ West Point, including the released then retracted 'Harmony' documents gained from Iraqi sources.
posted by acro at 6:46 PM on December 31, 2007


We are escalating because Taliban making a strong comeback in Afghanistan, and that in part because of American presence. I do not believe in the Iraq war but clearly the link indicates that we have singled out Al Qaeda and are going after it.

You can't stop a Taliban or Al Qaeda comeback with air strikes. The Taliban are now back governing vast parts of Afghanistan with our full knowledge and/or cooperation. You can't win or even hold Iraq with airstrikes, nor do they promote any sort of political governing or even military governing. You can't succeed in any way with air strikes. They don't even keep our own soldiers safer (07 was the deadliest year yet in Iraq for our soldiers) let alone native populations of millions of innocent bystanders (millions have either fled or been killed--or have been turned into haters because of our actions).
posted by amberglow at 7:00 PM on December 31, 2007


for 08: watch what happens with all our battleships in the Gulf this coming year.
posted by amberglow at 7:05 PM on December 31, 2007


As hell-bent and Machiavellian as those guys are, they don't have many friends left

The major exception being one Rudulph Giuliani


and Huckabee (...John Bolton, Ken Allard, Dick Allen, Frank Gaffney, Newt Gingrich, Richard Haas ...), and Romney , and McCain (Salon: The Last Neocon), and ...
posted by amberglow at 7:15 PM on December 31, 2007 [1 favorite]


Of course you can not win anything with air strikes. But they can be a help. Note that we did use them in WWII. You can not win in Iraq etc unless you get a political settlement, which means that on the ground troops will also not ensure victory of any kind.
posted by Postroad at 7:18 PM on December 31, 2007 [1 favorite]


cell divide writes "The major exception being one Rudulph Giuliani"

Yes, bingo. That's precisely why that guy scares me. It's not just him and his proto fascist tendencies. It's his posse, who are all failed foreign policy idealists from the Bush circle. He'd be a more competent version of the last eight years. I sure as hell hope people realize that before they vote.
posted by krinklyfig at 7:23 PM on December 31, 2007


Right, Huckabee too. If any of these guys glom onto the Republican nominee, no matter who it is, the Dems better hammer them relentlessly about it.
posted by krinklyfig at 7:25 PM on December 31, 2007


Happy 08 all! ; >

(i get the feeling it'll be even more eventful than 07 -- but not in good ways-- from the economy to int'l things--ugh)
posted by amberglow at 8:49 PM on December 31, 2007


Whenever I see Poastroad's name, I'm reminded of this thread, and just find it so excruciatingly hard to judge him without bias. Sorry Postroad.
posted by hadjiboy at 5:23 AM on January 1, 2008


Then don’t judge him. Ignore the name and just consider and evaluate what the comment says. Truth is truth no matter who it’s from (not that I agree or disagree with any of postroad’s comments in particular, just putting forth that point in general). Either it’s correct, factual, cogent, or it isn’t, or you have a different perspective or you agree. Doesn’t matter who says it. Someone has a good take on something, it’s a good take and deserves attention. (again, not that I'm saying anything about postroad's comment in particular)
posted by Smedleyman at 12:30 PM on January 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


But if you have a grenade launcher and you hide in a school, it is possible that school kids might get killed in an exchange of fire.

Well, this presumes we have a very good way to tell who's a combatant and who isn't. Do we? And doesn't this rationale open the way to a lot of mischief both by our military and by others? Perhaps the civilians in Darfur are hiding combatants in their midst. Is the government justified in burning their homes and killing the women and children? Would the Iraqi citizens upset with our occupying presence be justified in killing the civilians that co-reside with our troops in the green zone?
posted by Mental Wimp at 12:59 PM on January 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


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