Some Saturday Links On The Middle-East

Just a blogger in the wilderness, trying to make sense of our foreign policy.  Because of the many levels of security, knowledge, intelligence, and experience out there, it’s a pretty daunting task, but maybe it’s of some use.

Syria-Still burning. As Israel gets further involved to secure their interests, Walter Russell Mead thinks Obama could cut a deal with the Israelis to help them deal with the deteriorating conditions in Syria, Iran and Egypt, and get some concessions on the Palestinian issue.  One big concern in Syria has been a long conflict that inflames other fault lines throughout the region.

Interesting paper here.

Al Jazeera live blog on Syria here.  Possibly 70,000 dead so far.

Libya-There’s a book out on Benghazi (the authors do not look favorably on John Brennan conducting covert operations without the knowledge of most everyone else, which they claim caused the retaliatory attack, killing Ambassador Stevens).  Obama’s Libyan war has also stirred the uprisings in Mali, and Algeria, and which could spill over into Niger.  Regardless of what you think of our strategy, the same authors lament the lack of an overall strategy, and stronger leadership.

Afpak-We’re in a pretty much un-winnable situation, but our objective really hasn’t been met.  The FATA region of northwest Pakistan is poor, tribal, and not even controlled by the federal government.  Enemy fighters in Afghanistan simply melt back into Pakistan, recharge, and return.  The Taliban mill around, kill our troops, and know they can pretty much wait us out.  Kabul is notoriously corrupt.  Pakistan is barely stable, and nuclear.  The area is still home to the Haqqani network and some Al Qaida fighters. 

Dexter Filkins, now at the New Yorker.  The Afpak channel at Foreign Policy.  Michael Yon’s Twitter feed.

Iran-Part of the axis of evil or not, Iran is a state sponsor of terror in Hezbollah, is still supporting Assad in Syria as a key ally, and is still trying like mad to get nuclear weapons.  In order to be top dog in the region, they lie, project, delay, and play aggressive, belligerent games.  They are almost completely untrustworthy, even by international standards.  Yes, we took over Britain’s colonial project, yes, we helped to install a Shah, yes, the Khomeni came back and is running an aggressive, repressive theocratic regime alongside Ahmadinejad. There are many ways of thinking about what happens if Iran gets the bomb.  Almost none of them are good.

Even Obama has said Iran getting the bomb is a red line, so we’ll see how this develops.


Since Obama took office, it seems his overall inclination is towards Enlightenment humanist/universalist ideals.  Many former human rights players turned diplomats are those he chooses for positions of power.  Some of their idealism is tempered by realpolitik, and Obama has often had to rely the experience of others.

Other, more hawkish Democrats like Hilary Clinton and the Clinton camp have gone along to get along.  In the Wilsonian tradition,  he seeks to subsume U.S. interests to international organizations, laws and courts.  I would guess his strongest base are made up of the peaceniks, one-worlder types, secular humanists, human rights people, and the anti-Bush crowd.  This noted, he’s enjoyed much broader popular support due to strong feelings of isolationism, his having appropriated the Clinton wing, and other factors.  Our economic recession/depression, the American people’s suspicion of our long wars and continuing challenges have contributed to his relative popularity.

Here’s to hoping we don’t back ourselves into worse situations.

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