Summary: Recent events in the Middle East reveal the emptiness of US foreign policy, our inability to assess situations before we jump in, and an important trend emerging into view.
The scorecard so far in the latest round of the never-ending Middle East game:
- Tunisia — Big changes, but minor effects on the region.
- Egypt — The western news media have exaggerate the significance of events. So far there has been no regime change. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss (with a slight change in the pecking order, the priority with which various elite groups feed at the trough).
- Libya — The nature of events unclear at this time. It’s probably a little crisis, magnified by the news media and our war-hungry geopolitical experts (see below).
- The Gulf States — The main event, changes in the big ring. There are powerful new trends emerging, revealing the true nature of US foreign policy — hence they’re almost ignored by the news media and our geopolitical experts (for whom truth is like kryptonite to Superman, or holy water to vampires). See below for details.
Libya, the small story
Past posts (listed below) have chronicled the child-like war advocacy of our geopolitical experts. Especially is their disinterest in the nature of the regime the rebels will establish if they win. They believe we should support a TBD regime (nature To Be Determined later), ignoring the possibility it might be worse than Qaddafi and company (despite his new-found reputation in the US news as a monster, the past century has seen many leaders compared to whom he’s Mother Teresa).
Worse, they don’t bother to assess the rebels odds of winning: the depth and breath of their support — or their skills, cohesion, and organization. The same day that the UN approves a no-fly zone Stratfor finally stumbles on the obvious (they’re first over the hurdle, low though it be):
Throughout the conflict, rebel forces never took much territory by conquest, only coming to power as Gadhafi’s eastern forces disintegrated, took a neutral stance or defected. It was never entirely clear how many of those forces were really with the rebels — much less willing to fight and die with them. The emergent question in recent days is whether meaningful military resistance ever actually took shape in the east. … There has been little in recent days to suggest that the opposition was ever able to coalesce into much of a meaningful fighting force. There have now been unconfirmed rumblings that the military in the east has abandoned the opposition, though the extent of this remains unclear. In other places, local garrisons may have simply ended their neutrality or returned to Gadhafi’s side as his forces began to arrive in numbers.
Who might be the big winner in Libya? China, if Qaddafi gives Libya’s oil concessions to them (see this Bloomberg story, and this Stratfor report). Libya would join the growing list of nations who want allies with cash, who want to do business — without telling them how to live (see How China builds its commercial empire).
The Gulf States, the big story
As described here on March 11, the big story is the move to the right of the Gulf princes. They have to chart their own course, away from America. The US pressure against their fellow autocrat in Egypt (abandoning an ally). The US failure in Iraq, converting a secular enemy to Iran into a fellow-Shiite theocracy (signs of incompetence in their major supporter). They’re moving away from the West, towards self-reliance. Away from liberalism, away from Democracy, towards repression and force.
Today we see these trends at work. The oppressed Shiite majority of Bahrain go to the streets, protesting. The Gulf tyrants send their troops across the border, firing at the crowds as needed. And Obama says nothing. Our war mongers, who scream for war to help the Libyans, say nothing.
The silence is deafening. We bow before the Gulf Council, genuflecting before their oil. Revealing our lofty rhetoric, poured out on Egypt and Libya, as empty words. What’s sad about this is that we’re consistently backing the losers, gaining a reputation only for fecklessness and hypocrisy. Not exactly realpolitik. Bismark would laugh at us.
For more information
Perhaps the most valuable Stratfor article about the Libyan rebellon (although a misleading title): Libya’s Opposition Leadership Comes into Focus, 20 March 2011 — It”s coming into focus, but still remains vague. We’re fighting to bring a new regime into power, of a nature To Be Determined Later.
- Libya’s people need uninvited infidel foreigners to save them!, 1 March 2011
- “You just have not seen enough people bleed to death”, 8 March 2011
- About attacking Libya – let’s give this more thought than we did Afghanistan and Iraq, 6 March 2009
- Our geopolitical experts see the world with the innocent eyes of children (that’s a bad thing), 14 March 2011
- “The Revolution Is Not Yet Over”, Yasmine El Rashidi, blog of the New York Review of Books, 23 February 2011
- “Volcano of Rage“, Max Rodenbeck, New York Review of Books, 24 February 2011
- Important information about the riots in Egypt, FM website, 30 January 2011
- Why do we fear the rioters in Egypt?, FM website,30 January 2011
- Sources of information about the situation in Egypt, FM website, 6 February 2011
4 thoughts on “The Middle East scorecard”
“Arab League criticizes Western strikes on Libya“, AFP, 20 March 2011 – Excerpt:
“African Union demands ‘immediate’ halt to Libya attacks“, Agence France-Presse (AFP), 20 March 2011 — Excerpt:
Two articles about events in the Gulf, the center ring of the Middle East
(1) “High Anxiety – Saudi Arabia’s nervous leaders might not have a creative way to quell dissent, but at least they’re consistent.“, Toby C. Jones (Asst Prof Middle East history, Rutgers U), Foreign Policy, 23 March 2011
(2) “The Bahrain crisis and its regional dangers“, Salman Shaikh (Brookings Institute), Foreign Policy, 23 March 2011
“Outraged in Riyadh – Is the House of Saud dumping Obama? “, Simon Henderson, Foreign Policy, 14 April 2011
Simon Henderson, the Baker fellow and director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy’s Gulf and Energy Policy Program, is author of “After King Abdullah: Succession in Saudi Arabia.”
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