Time to Get Out of the Middle East

It takes a lot of time and effort to try to understand American counter-terrorism policy today.

Personally, I think the status quo is like trying to treat a cocaine overdose with methamphetamine. It’s like trying to cure chlamydia by having sex with multiple random strangers in a park. It’s like trying to cure a broken nose by punching oneself in the face.

Or, as Glenn Greenwald puts it:

I absolutely believe that another 9/11 is possible. And the reason I believe it’s so possible is that people like Andrew Sullivan — and George Packer — have spent the last decade publicly cheering for American violence brought to the Muslim world, and they continue to do so (now more than ever under Obama). Far from believing that another 9/11 can’t happen, I’m amazed that it hasn’t already, and am quite confident that at some point it will. How could any rational person expect their government to spend a full decade (and counting) invading, droning, cluster-bombing, occupying, detaining without charges, and indiscriminately shooting huge numbers of innocent children, women and men in multiple countries and not have its victims and their compatriots be increasingly eager to return the violence?

Isn’t it painfully obvious? The interventionist policies — occupation, drone strikes, cluster-bombing, indefinitely detention, false vaccination programs and so forth — in the middle east advocated by both “liberal” and “conservative” hawks that are supposed to prevent terrorism are creating anger, creating enemies, and creating terrorists. I too am amazed another 9/11 hasn’t happened. I despise jihadism and Islamism. It is contrary to everything I stand for. That’s exactly why I oppose a foreign policy that serves as a hugely effective recruiting tool for the totalitarian jihadists. 

Yemeni lawyer Haykal Bafana explained the rationale last month:

Dear Obama, when a U.S. drone missile kills a child in Yemen, the father will go to war with you, guaranteed. Nothing to do with Al Qaeda.

Or as convicted terrorist Faisal Shahzad put it:

Well, the drone hits in Afghanistan and Iraq, they don’t see children, they don’t see anybody. They kill women, children, they kill everybody. I am part of the answer to the U.S. terrorizing the Muslim nations and the Muslim people.  And, on behalf of that, I’m avenging the attack.  Living in the United States, Americans only care about their own people, but they don’t care about the people elsewhere in the world when they die.

Or as former CIA counter-terrorism expert Michael Scheuer noted:

The idea that has been pushed by President Clinton and President Bush and Mr. Cheney and Barack Obama and Senator McCain, that America is being attacked [for its freedom] is a disservice to the population of the United States. This war is not against Americans because we’re Americans, it’s motivated by the activities of our government and its allies in the Muslim world.

So why do we keep doing this? Two reasons: hubris and greed.

First, the hubris. We know Ron Paul was booed in South Carolina for advocating that we should do to others as we would like done to us:

My point is if another country does to us what we do others, we’re not going to like it very much. So I would say that maybe we ought to consider a golden rule in — in foreign policy. Don’t do to other nation what we don’t want to have them do to us.

But that’s just the propagandistic nature of being a superpower. Years of prosperity, military supremacy and pro-war propaganda have made it normal to believe strongly in the idea that America is intrinsically better, and wherever America goes America brings freedom, and anyone who doesn’t agree with that needs to be waterboarded until they do.

Yet however many times as the phrase “they hate us because we are free” is repeated, mantra-like by a Rick Santorum or a Newt Gingrich, it does not become truer. It is just an illusion, just a fantasy. While the jihadis were always anti-American, anti-democratic and anti-capitalistic, Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri and Sayyid al-Qutb — the fathers and grandfathers of modern Wahhabism, jihadism and al-Qaeda — became anti-American militants because of America’s role in the middle east.

As bin Laden himself said:

Those who kill our women and innocent, we kill their women and innocent, until they refrain.

And even more clearly:

Free men do not forfeit their security, contrary to Bush’s claim that we hate freedom. If so, then let him explain to us why we don’t strike Sweden, for example.

Second, the greed. America is in the middle east because America likes cheap energy. That myth of America as liberators flourished first as a justification for America’s petrodollar foreign policy.

And people get rich from America being at war — so far in the region of $4 trillion has gone to fighting since 9/11. A lot of weapons contractors are happy with the status quo.

So the military-industrial complex — the lobbyists, the weapons makers, the media — may accept it if Obama kills 14 women and 21 children to get one suspected terrorist. More terrorism means more weapons spending. For the lucky few it’s a self-perpetuating stairway to riches. Yet for wider society it means spending time, money and effort on war, instead of on domestic prosperity. It means the constant threat of terrorism. And it means the loss of our liberty, as the security state adopts increasingly paranoid anti-terrorism measures.

We should do to others as we would have done to ourselves. That means — unless we are comfortable with the idea of ourselves living under military occupation and drone strikes — getting out of the middle east, and letting that region solve its own problems — forget another costly and destructive occupation in Syria. Slash the war and occupation spending, and redirect the money to making America independent of middle eastern energy and resources.

24 thoughts on “Time to Get Out of the Middle East

  1. Pingback: Time to Get Out of the Middle East « Financial Survival Network

    • No we can all be Jesus by following his words of advice. I find it disgusting that the USA calls itself a Christian country, yet its leaders promote retaliation.

      Call the USA what it is. An Old Testament/Torah following nation. It is not Chhristian in leadership.

      Why should Christians evangelise in the middle east or elsewhere, and disrespect the local religion. To do so goes against other principles.

      Call religion for what it is. Competing views. You can’t have democracy, yet allow people with certain religious views to force it on others.

      If we established a rapport with the Jihadists, then they would have less ammunition against us.

      Religion. The cause of War!

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  7. AZIZ: Kuwaiti and Saudi oil DID need to be rescued/protected from Saddam, and the two lightning wars — to flush Al Quaeda (sp.?) out of Afghanistan and to liberate terrorist sponsor Iraq and its oil — seem rational in hindsight. But extended policing, nation-building, etc. were and are counterproductive failures for the reasons you cite among others. In the beginning all this was far less foolish than Viet Nam; then it seems to have evolved into political face-saving matching LBJ’s wretched “I’ll not be the first president to lose a war!”

    However, our true national interests still must be looked after, including defending against terrorism, detering destruction of democratic ally Israel, and maintaining weapons, technology and materials sufficient to deter war. Domestic and Western Hemisphere oil will end dependence on Near East supplies — very soon if we vote out Obama’s war on fossil fuels and his man-caused global warming fraud.

    In case some of your readers have missed or forgotten the war and peace lessons from all human history, may I review them: (1) Deter attack with strength and the will to use it. (2) Avoid unnecessary wars. (3) If war is unavoidable, win it promptly. Examples: (1) Churchill wrote that Hitler’s first invasion depended on horse-drawn artillery. (2) World War I. (3) Roosevelt, Churchill and Truman, all peace-loving Christians, knowingly made decisions which would kill millions of German and Japanese civilians, in order to end war and save lives.

    Your additional views?

  8. The vast majority of Americans have always supported our wars because they intuitively understand that, as a, “world power-superpower-empire,” we enjoy what we do BECAUSE we have had to take it from other people.

    Now that the 99% has also been in the cross-hairs over the past decades, it seems as if many are reconsidering how they feel about their brief encounter with wealth, particularly its etiology.

    Human beings [in groups] do not play nicely.

    • Impermanence: The vast majority of us Americans are complicit, though less so than politicians and Wall Street manipulators, in our national economic downfall, but NOT in supporting war for the absurd reason you posit. Even with internet communication, wisely or not, we usually trust our government leaders to make the big decisions, while assuming that they have our interests at heart and know more than we do.

      “The Politically INcorrect Guide to American History” (up to the end of the twentieth century) brings to light huge contemporary (many still taught and believed) public misconceptions, including how we got into the Civil War, WW I and WW II. Briefly…

      President Lincoln started the Civil War because he believed preserving the union was worth the pain (which he and everyone else terribly underestimated).

      President Wilson entered the European WW I turf battle because he was certain that, after the U.S. gave victory to the Allies in “the war to end war”, HE would bring about enduring peace through a “League of Nations”. But the congress opted out, and France, England, et al exacted traditional reparations and set the stage for WW II.

      President Roosevelt was convinced early on, right or wrong, that the world could not tolerate Germany’s and Japan’s military expansion and must be defeated in battle, and he correctly judged that this could not be done without the U.S. He ultimately used every means at his disposal, legal and illegal, to get into WW II.

      Even in a democracy, where “the people” rule, the people must pay close attention — in choosing leaders and in monitoring their actions — or suffer the consequences. Bluntly stated: it’s not wealth or arrogance that gets us in trouble, it’s inattention along with increasing laziness, selfishness and gullibility.

      • DG, look at the history of the world and you will see the same stuff going on no matter the system. It is the few that take from the many, and although the mechanisms by which this theft varies with the technology employed, it ALWAYS comes down to the same dynamic, which is, “how can we most effectively steal the majority’s labor-value.”

        -ism’s can distract you, but as we have witnessed time and again, it all boils down to base-greed, that human characteristic which most aptly defines those who feel it necessary to take what belongs to others, and make it their own.

        • IMP (no offense intended): There’s nothing in your latest post with which I can disagree or even improve! But I am more optimistic/stubborn/Quixotic. I want to put good guys in power — preach “All it takes for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing”– and try to educate the victims of the bad guys — “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me”. When I was young, I tried to convert the bad guys. Now I try to ignore the brain dead and the hopelessly brainwashed, and work on the empty brains.

        • DG, sure, you can hope for a Gandhi to surface every now and again, but look at history and it will tell you the truth.

          Apparently, the great majority of people are simply incapable of not acting in their own interests, or at least to the degree where it would counter the force of those who have absolutely no problem gathering-up maximum booty.

          But, you are correct, just the same, that the only hope we can have is to put the “best” people in place. The key is in realizing what, “best,” means and to see people in power for what they are…generally speaking, lackeys shouldering the load for the Elite in exchange for the crumbs they will flick off the table [onto the floor].

  9. I enjoyed this post on such a touchy subject. The world has a tendency to want to self destruct as shown through the course of history. I wonder sometimes why that is?

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  12. First, there is an unfounded assumption that the authorities in America want to actually stop Terrorism. I believe they want and need the threat of Terrorism to apply their Keynesian policies, to increase the role of the millitary industrail complex and to generally govern. Built into the post French Revolutionary Democratic system is the need for ‘enemies’ and making of new laws for fighting and slaughtering these ‘enemies’ whether they are real or invented. The fight against the enemies empowers Democracy it creates unity and simplistic notions of ‘we are the good’, ‘we are the free’… they are the alien enemy, ‘the other’ and even as our freedoms are being eroded and the power of the police state increasing…we are essentially the last stand against chaos and barbarism.

    • robc, the most creative [and perhaps some of most highly paid] people are those who come up with the best [most air-tight] rationalizations for justifying the theft of other peoples’ stuff, be it resources, labor-value, or what-have-you.

      The Elite are what they are because they are willing to do WHATEVER IT TAKES to this end. The really strange thing about this bizarre human trait is that people truly take pride in it, for example, the pride Americans take in the power of its military.

      I would find it difficult to believe that any American [when viewing super high tech military stuff] doesn’t say to themselves, “Thank God I am on that side!”

      The contradictions of paradoxes of human inter-relations only serve to obscure the base human drives, primarily that of dominance [greed], through [apparently] whatever means are necessary.

    • I’ll try to find time to check out some of your David Ray Griffin. But I’m skeptical about a still-secret (non-Muslim Jihad) 9/11 conspiracy.

      In addition to Pearl Harbor (see Griffin bibliography), other cases come to mind, including the assassinations of John and Bobby Kennedy. I was somewhat qualified to judge Pearl Harbor, and could find no plausible culpability other than bureaucratic/political preference for protocol (don’t upset the boss and cover his & your ass) over vigilance. If “organized crime” killed the Kennedys, I would expect that their criminal expertise and influence would have easily overwhelmed law enforcement, investigative journalism, and Washington politicians.[Sidebar: remember that Hillary Clinton, an amateur — talented and motivated, but still an amateur — was able to save Bill from Senate conviction by blackmailing Senators (“FBI-gate”). Of course this was just a rerun of the well-documented blackmail by J. Edgar Hoover and Bobby Kennedy of key congressmen to halt an investigation of President John’s affair with a woman who turned out to be an East-German/Soviet spy]. Folks, Washington, D.C., is not populated by public servants. Forgotten is Jefferson et al’s, Man is endowed with unalienable rights … to secure these rights governments are instituted among men.

      Read “Bush at War” by Washington Post’s Bob Woodward (no Bush supporter). Recall the political/diplomatic reluctance of the Clinton administration to stop Osama bin Laden.

      Things change, and at increasingly fast rates. I think that AZIZ has correctly updated the issue for the U.S. — “Time to get out of the middle-east”.

  13. Iraqi freedom, Desert Storm, got us what? As far as I can tell we don’t control one Kuwait oil ield or one Iraqi oil well. Hell we couldn’t even win the oil contracts to ugrade the iraq oil industry. Still other proples stuff? We saved hundred’s of thousands of muslims from being slaughtered in Bosnia for what control of their tourist trade? We have deindustrialized our own manufacturing base moved it overseas and left behind large swaths of unemployment in the U.S. . Drone strikes, indiscriminate kilings women and children by U.S. military were not taking place in 2001 when 9/11 occurred or when the WTC was first attacked in the 90’s or when the Cole was attacked or the U.S. embassies in Africa were bombed. if the United States is raping and pillaging the world’s resources why has international trade flourished ? We defend the world’s sea lanes for safe transport of oil so the worlds economy can operate and our reward is what? america the Imreialistic Villain. give me a break.

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