Monday, March 20, 2006


In an email to a list I'm on, Austin Bay was asked (by me): "What was our STRATEGIC objective in going to Iraq?"

He responded:
BLUNT FORMULATION: Pull the gun away from the head of Arab moderates.

POLI-SCI FORMULATION: Foster modern political alternatives to terror and tyranny in the politically dysfunctional Arab Muslim Middle East. From that comes states that police terrorists and don't empower them. And yes, that means evolving Saudi Arabia and the other autocrats. Also means breaking the Hell formula -- terrorists, rogue/failed states, and WMD. We can't get WMD back in the bottle, but we can go after tyrants and failed states.
I like the strategy - it's clear and at least nominally attainable. What I don't like is that I don't think we're succeeding.

See, an implied (at least to me) element of this strategy is that the gun stays away from the moderate Arab heads even when we're out of the picture. That's because for all intents and purposes if we're standing right there then we're the ones holding the guns. Now, I don't think we're really doing so. It's just that when you've been bullied for a long time and a bigger person comes along and kicks the previous bully to the curb, the initial perception is that you've just had a change of bullies. The only way for you to know they're not really a bully is by the test - do they leave you alone, or do they force you to go along?

So far, we haven't left them alone. We're right there, supervising and criticizing. Frankly, we have to. We have to for many reasons, not least because the gun's still at the head. (I say so because of the recent news of an Afghani citizen condemned to death because he converted to Christianity some years ago. That's a major bullet in the original gun, and one we are supposed to be striving to pull away.)

Of course, the reality is that we're never really going to leave them alone. We're going to be back every time it looks like they're accedinng to the wishes of those who attack and vilify us, who hold cultural norms opposite our own, who are or appear to be our enemy. Which means in the end that we're going to be perceived as the bigger bully for a long, long time.


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