Sunday, September 30, 2007
In two recent posts, "You're right. Both Tel Aviv and Riyadh play us like violins" and "The other Tom's Sunday column," Tom Barnett appears to lay the groundwork for supporting, or at least being indifferent to, a war on Iran. I don't mean to say that Tom has a secret agenda, or even that he embraces the logical result of his thinking. Nonetheless, the conclusion that naturally flows from his writing is a command to opponents of offensive operations against Iran: take it easy.
Working backwards, Barnett seconds New York Times columnist Tom Friedman's call for a 9/12 President. The 9/11 emergency, so goes the argument, is over. This is because emergencies are ruled by terrorists, but policy is ruled by states. We are in this for the long haul. This means getting back to normal, and letting the American system that works so well in generating wealth and happiness function. National security will take care of itself, as it always has, because we are the biggest and best country on the block.
But earlier, Tom notes that the Israeli and Saudi governments are manipulating our policy towards Iran. While the Jewish and Wahabi States are not fans of each other, both fear the rise of Iran more than they fear each other. So both advocate, using whatever means they can, for an American strike on Iran.
What a 9/12 President would do is obvious: attack Iran.
Barnett has opposed war with Iran before on the grounds that it would wreck the "big bang effect" caused by the Iraq War. I assume, that when Tom appears to endorse ludicrous ideas (like Friedman's line of "I will not vote for any candidate who is not committed to dismantling Guantánamo Bay and replacing it with a free field hospital for poor Cubans"), Barnett is actually America's governmental infrastructure (especially when it comes to national security) is sufficiently readjusted to the point where just playing for time makes sense. (America famously used the playing-for-time strategy in the Cold War.)
But if we are now playing for time, that means allowing the instability in the middle east to unfold as it will. It means that we no longer need a president who focuses on those problems, but one who allows our response to do the work for him. The rise of Iran surely is a consequence of the take-down of Iraq, as is the push-back from Saudi Arabia and Israel.
Of course, it was dysfunction in the Sunni Arab world that led to 9/11. But Iran's been deeply involved in the Sunni Arab system since 1980, at the latest. The Iranian government is just as much part of that violently dysfunctional systems as Iraq's Saudi Arabia's, or Syria's. A "9/12" President would treat the middle east as just another part of the world, and if our two closest allies in any region are threatened by a rogue enemy, would he act as an ally does or think deeply about what that means for transformative, systemic, change?
The former, of course.
Wednesday, January 10, 2007
Barnett, T.P.M. (2006). Treating Iran as a logical swing asset. Thomas P.M. Barnett :: Weblog. January 10, 2007. Available online: http://www.thomaspmbarnett.com/weblog/2007/01/treating_iran_as_logical_swing.html.
Tom Barnett gets it!:
Great piece by Luttwak exploring how sometimes (in Iraq) we need to be pro-Shiia and not be afraid of making Sunni states nervous and sometimes (in Lebanon vis-a-vis Syria) we need to be pro-Sunni and not worry about making Shiia leaders (Syria, Iran) nervous.
Now, where Luttwak doesn't go is where I'm dying to go: play Iran more as a scary balancer. The more we dialogue (none yet) with Iran on Iraq, the more we freak the Saudis and the easier it becomes to splinter Syria because we're basically playing prisoner's dilemma with both Damascus and Iran--as in, who's gonna bite first because we'll go harder on the other next.
I agree completely, and back in August I wrote that a Shia Iraq and a Sunni Syria are exactly what we need.
Keep the Big Bang moving. Support Democracy in the Middle East. Support a Shia Iraq, and a Sunni Syria.
Monday, January 31, 2005
"Sunni Anxieties and the Rise of Shiite Power," by Shahin M. Cole, Informed Consent, http://www.juancole.com/2005/01/guest-editorial-sunni-anxieties-and.html, 31 January 2005.
"Iran Expects to Benefit from Iraq Election," by Nasser Karimi, The Guardian, http://www.guardian.co.uk/worldlatest/story/0,1280,-4766740,00.html, 31 January 2005.
The occasionally off-balance Juan Cole is still informative, as shown by a link and a guest editorial
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) - Iran strongly criticized the U.S. invasion of Iraq that toppled Saddam Hussein and opposed the American occupation of its neighbor, but with Iraqis voting Sunday for a new government, Iran stands to reap huge benefits.
``This is a unique opportunity, not seen for centuries, for Iraqi policy to go in Iran's favor,'' said political analyst Hamid Reza Jalaipour.
Iran's state-run television hailed the vote as ``the beginning of democracy and the end of occupation and insurgency in Iraq.''
Iran has good reason to celebrate. A sun of the Sunna is now a Shia satellite.
The election is likely to propel Iraq's majority Shiites into power for the first time since modern Iraq came into being in 1921, giving them the leading voice in shaping the country's future, which Shiite-dominated Iran hopes will lead to friendly relations between the two nations that fought a brutal war two decades ago.
Some Sunni Arab countries worry a new Iraqi government will form a Shiite alliance with Iran, but Iranians say they would be happy with a secular Iraqi government that will simply establish good relations. Most importantly, some said, Iraqis need to decide what they want.
But if the First and Second Battles of Iraq threw Iraq out of the Sunni solar system, for the Salafists it supernovad
Far from seeing the elections as a good thing to be emulated, the Sunni Arab neighbors of Iraq are likely to be alarmed at the rise of Shiite dominance. They will also be disturbed at any close Shiite-American alliance. Wahhabis in Saudi Arabia and Qatar, and Salafi fundamentalists elsewhere in the Gulf (including Iraq itself), deeply disapprove of Shiite doctrine and practice.
It gets better
The Gulf monarchies are afraid of the Khomeini-inspired trend in Shiism to say that “there can be no kings in Islam.” If these Sunni hardliners had an “axis of evil,” the Shiites of Iraq and Iran would be in it. Many Sunnis fear Shiite power more than they ever feared Saddam’s predations. Many of them also view the United States as an imperial power in the region. A Shiite-American alliance is their worst nightmare, and many of them will see the Iraqi Shiites as puppets of the US. The elections, which the Bush administration sees as the solution to a whole host of problems, have upset the sectarian balance of power in the Middle East, and may well bring new kinds of instability in their train.
Madame Cole believes this is a bad thing
The differences and conflicts between the Wahhabi branch of Islam (prevalent in Saudi Arabia and Qatar) and Sunnis (who account for ninety percent of the world’s Muslims) are not widely appreciated. Sunnis and Wahhabis have often been at odds. The rise of a Shiite-dominated Iraq supported by American power could well create new alliances between Sunnis and Wahhabis that will radicalize both. The US CIA is already predicting that Iraq is becoming the new training ground for international terrorism.
Attacking radicalizes. Germans were much more prepared to shoot down Allied Aircraft after we bombed their cities. FDR's declaration of war on Imperial Japan had a similar effect on the Pacific.
We are at war with an ideology of murder. We wrestle with principalities and powers that oppress their citizens. We fight for a connected and global world -- an end to national ghettos.
Every struggle must be fought differently. The war of ideas is a different type of confrontation than walking with slowly liberalizing regimes or supporting content flows. But this not an excuse for us to shy away.
The wahabis are salafists are already radicalized. Under al Qaeda and affiliated groups they have the will and capacity to bring war to our shores and death to our skies. We have decided not to appease our enemies, so they we must destroy them. We have identified radical wahabism as an ideology of death, and we know how to deal with those. State Shinto, the National Reich Church, and the Ku Klux Klan are just three of the cults we have destroyed. We can do so again.
When Iran preaches freedom, they are right. When the Wahabis see a free Iraq as a threat to their rule, they are right. When they see American intervention as protecting rituals and beliefs they deeply disaprove of they are right.
Our big bang strategy has forever altered the constellation of the most repressive region of the world. They tyrants hate this. Good.
Wednesday, January 19, 2005
"Damascus prostitutes go to war," Al Bawaba, http://www.albawaba.com/en/news/178725, 4 January 2005.
In a price war, the customer wins
The fall of Stalinist Iraq has disrupted the certain aspects of the Syrian service sector, as newly mobile Iraqis create a lower equilibrium wage
In recent months, the whores working in Damascus have complained about the “aggressive conquering” of their clientele by foreign workers. The market of whores, as well as other markets, has suffered due to the wave of immigration from neighboring Iraq.
Businesses often resort to FUD -- fear, uncertainly, and doubt, to discourage competition. Globalization and expanding free trade means competitors can come from anywhere. "Microsoft Internet Explorer will give you viruses." So will Iraqi Irene
In the past few months, a mini “world war” has been taking place between prostitutes in Syria: the many immigrants from Iraq have simply “stolen” the jobs of the local girls. However, the Syrian whores have decided not to surrender and have engaged in war by spreading rumors, claiming, “The immigrants are all sick with AIDS”.
Sadly, there are government failures. Well-intentioned government regulations prohibit often prevent true price competition. In the U.S. only licensed doctors can give certain advice. In Syria, only men can get prostitutes out of jail.
It seems that in one of the areas in which this business flourishes, a systematic system has been developed. Syrian or Iraqi pimps “marry” up to four whores (either from Syria, Iraq or Tunisia). In exchange for 10,000 dollars a year, the whores commit themselves to serve any client, anytime. In exchange, the pimp promises her that if she is arrested, he will release her after identifying himself to the police as her “husband”.
But the free market finds a way. Is pimpery becoming gender-neutral?
The Iraqi whores work in a few centers, according to reports. In the A-Thal neighborhood of Damascus, for example, one can find night clubs in which Iraqi and Syrian women perform sensual dances. According to the reports, one can even spot women in their 50s sitting by the stage smoking nargilas. Perhaps these are the mothers of the dancers that came to watch after their daughters or perhaps to mediate between their girls and the eager clients…
Wow. I got through that entire article without one comparison between Syria and John Ashcroft's America!