Why are we in the Middle-east? I've been reading a wonderful book by the famed
Islamic scholar, Bernard Lewis. In one of his essays he remarks that the United States
got involved in the Middle-east for two main reasons. One was the presence of cheap oil.
The other was the cold war and fear of Soviet expansion. The second reason is the one
that seems to have been forgotten. According to Lewis, soon after the end of W.W.II the
Soviets carved out a piece of Iran for itself and in response the US formed the CENTO pact. Few
people today can remember the Suez Crisis that could have led to World War III. The
commitment the US had for Israel was rather slow in coming. It was not the main reason for
our presence in that region except as a check against Soviet expansion. And it's Professor Lewis' contention that, "without American involvement the Middle-east would have fallen under Soviet domination..."
And it is rather interesting to speculate that the Middle-east will diminish in significance
for the future as the world runs out of cheap oil and, obviously, the end of Soviet expansion.
The oil question remains a good one to try and get a foothold in. Those interested might
short article by Professor Heskett of Harvard, How Do We Prepare for a World Without Cheap Oil? The key point is that the two most populous nations, India and China, will start producing ravenous middle-classes who will want the kind of life Americans, generally, enjoy.
And that will take cheap oil. Of course, as the demand rises and the supply declines that usually means the price rises. And it's a price new, surging societies are willing to pay but a price that can be devastating for older nations like the US or Europe.
The American citizen is in the odd dilemma of having to know the world as never before and confronting possible dire scenarios at every step. And yet, of keeping a kind of optimistic, even idealistic cast of mind. If the citizen simply relegates the thinking about the world to the experts then America will go the way of the British Empire or, even, Rome. The amount of people actually involved in thinking about the world and knowing it in some profound way will shrink and they will ascribe to themselves a special insignia that will rationalize their use of any power for their own ends.
We don't claim that that will happen; only that we hope it doesn't and spend a few precious
hours a week thinking about these things.
Our last terrible thought: bin Laden has won the first part of this war against George
W. Bush. And President Bush must stand accountable for this loss. There is no other way
to look at it at this point; the defenders and apologists for President Bush have a nose
and lips securely pressed against his backside. One lone nut running around in the Middle-east
has defeated the mighty American army. Is anyone brave enough to admit this? It is only the first salvo and not the last but the President of the United States better be held accountable.
Posted September 13, 2004
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Back to War on Terrorism
Previous impressions on the war on Terrorism:
"Niall Ferguson has an interesting and speculative piece in
Foreign Policy, "A World Without Powers,"
There's a very interesting interview with an intelligence guy
who calls himself "anonymous" for the benefit of his employer, the CIA"
"What then, for the future? What then, for the first half of the 21 st century?"
"What is unfathomable, when looking at Iraq, is that no one in the Bush Administration
took seriously how those states fabricated by empire would disintegrate..."
"Most reasonable accounts and analysis see Iraq, now, as a slogging, painful,
impossible sort of conflict in which the U.S. can't possibly win."
"If you are a poet, a madman even, certainly a thinking person, the last place
you want to be is in the backwaters of history."
"We are patriots and for the good that America can produce..."
"We are neither fear-mongers or prophets..."
"Dissent is one thing that keeps free people honest..."
"The first question to ask is, "Is it worth the killing?"
"The core issue still remains this: How real is the threat of terrorism?"
"Can a good citizen agonize over the policy but love the country and still believe in its future?"
"President Bush's credibility wanes for some simple, clear-cut reasons..."
"The idea that the U.S. can "rule the world," is an absurd notion..."
"Common intuition says that the U.S. is at a cross-roads, a threshold point..."
"The most fascinating and awful thing to confront is this..."
"Our fears did not start in September of 2001..."
"In foreign affairs, the citizen is sucked into the final drop of calculation the
state is capable of..."
"The loyal opposition of the Democrats may have disintegrated in Iraq..."
"Listening to the good, heart-felt discussion about diversity and affirmative action..."
"We have two perspectives..."
Go to War in Iraq
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The Uncertain Decade
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March 27, 2003