Saturday, March 19, 2011

No exit from the House of Mirrors

Let’s face it, the Middle East is a house of mirrors, and American foreign (and military) policy is lost in it.

Worse, there’s no such thing as an exit map from such a place.

Illusion becomes reality.

So we have the Obama administration calling for military action in Libya where the nation’s leader is attacking his own people.

But over in Bahrain and Yemen, where the exact same thing is happening, the administration is virtually silent.

The reason is that the rulers of Bahrain and Yemen are our “allies,” while Col. Muammar Qaddafi is an armed-to-the-teeth nut case.

Never mind that Libya is cross-hatched with ethnic rivalries certain to dictate a patchwork outcome of any outside intervention. It’s the same kind of intractable division we found in Iraq.

In Sunni-controlled Bahrain, the subtext is the Sunni-Shia chasm, our Persian Gulf Naval base, and our oil reliance on the Sunni powerhouse Saudi Arabia. The Saudi king is now playing ruthless enforcer against Shia protestors in Bahrain. Saudia Arabia, whose king casts billions around like so much loose change, is also a key player in the festering Isaeli-Palestinian stalemate.

In Yemen, the stated concern seems to be a rising Al Qaeda presence. Visions of 9/11. Scary stuff. It all seems a bit facile. But who knows?

Meanwhile, what’s going on in Egypt and Tunisia, where this all began? And what about Iran, the great non-Arab Shia counterweight to Saudi Arabia?

And, last but certainly not least, if we are on the side of democracy, how can we support (and arm) monarchies?

The deeper you are drawn into the halls of the House of Mirrors, the more lost you become.

It may not help us mere morals out of this morass, but if you want to understand our so-called foreign policy, you could do worse than start with oil (and protection of our access to it), multi-national oil companies (read: money and political clout) and a nuclear-armed, PR powered, morally conflicted Israel, which is its own house of mirrors.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

There are only so many battles we can fight at one time. If I'm not mistaken, the people of Libya have asked for our help and that of the international community, while those in Bahrain and Yemen have not. Yet. Once and if they do, it will be interesting to see what happens.

4:51 PM  
Blogger Rick Seifert said...

You and I may both be mistaken, sort of. The term "The people of Libya" is one I have fallen into myself, echoing the press. "...a leader attacking his own people." In both cases, we would do well to qualify our "people." Many? Most? Some? I wish I knew enough to be more specific. In Bahrain and Yemen I'll bet there are, what?, a few at least, who'd love to have outsiders come to the rescue.

Another term to hold up to the light for close inspection is "The International Community," which carries connotations far beyond the majority of the United Nations Security Council.

5:16 PM  
Anonymous brother Rick said...

Interesting as well is the 'fact', reported on the Al Jazeera website, which apparently is not available to American computer users, that the US is about to begin training a new cadre of Saudi pilots, at a base in Idaho, in the use and operation of our sophisticated jet fighters which we are selling to them. I ask, "Who do we - America - love?"

3:00 PM  
Anonymous Alec Macph said...

>> If I'm not mistaken, the people of Libya have asked for our help and that of the international community, while those in Bahrain and Yemen have not.

So did Iraqis pre-2003. Then again, there are plenty of Libyans who pledge their loyalty to Gaddafi... why not heed their call?

The question is, what would that well-known Quaker, Smedley Butler have done?

He'd have got the guns out!

9:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonymous here again. My partner and I had an interesting discussion about people asking for help. Which people and when? We kind of came to the conclusion that when a leader is committing atrocities against their people and those people ask the international community for help, that's generally the time to do something.

I'm pretty much against the US going cowboying into other countries. Rick, I agree with you about the international community going far beyond the UNSC. I'd like to see some greater mechanism to represent the world community. Until then, though, I'll go with what we've got. Thanks for listening.

6:08 PM  

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