August 18, 2013

IN MODEST DEFENSE OF OBAMA’S MIDDLE EAST STRATEGY: Yeah, I know, you’re thinking What strategy? But hear me out.

One complaint/worry about our Iraq victory back in 2003 was that it was too bloodless:

Not only did millions of Japanese and Germans die in World War II, but U.S. and British aerial bombing of major Japanese and German cities alone killed hundreds of thousands of civilians in what is now delicately termed “collateral damage.” And that’s not even counting the carnage caused by the atomic bombs we. dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the final days of the war against Japan. . . .

Violence, death and destruction on such a massive scale have a profound conditioning effect on the psyches of individuals. And the same applies to whole nations. Japan and Germany weren’t just “defeated” or “occupied,” they were crushed — not just their armies, but their civilian populations too. This led to a sort of national humiliation and a transformative willingness to embrace defeat and change.

True defeat changes people and nations too. The fact that our subsequent occupation turned out to be so benign was extremely important. But part of that importance was the contrast between how much these populations had suffered during the war and how much better things got for them after we took over.

And thus our problem. If everything goes according to plan, the loss of civilian life in Iraq will be minimal.

More on that here. Likewise, I recall some people chiming in that the Arab world largely missed out on the massive death-and-destruction of World Wars One and Two, which so changed European attitudes toward warfare, and that it would be necessary for the mideast to experience some sort of similar shock to make the death-and-martyrdom stuff less appealing. In addition, it’s pretty clear that the places where Islamists are least popular — Iran, and now Egypt — are the places where they’ve wielded real power. Hence the strategy: Allow sectarian civil war to rage through the region until it burns itself out. Thanks to fracking, etc., we don’t need them as much for energy anyway.

Meanwhile, lots of terrorist-types are being killed. There are legitimate worries that the ones who survive will be more skilled — but the ones that don’t survive will be no threat at all. And the survivors may lose their enthusiasm after sufficient exposure.

Is that their strategy? Beats me. But if things continue to head south in the Mideast, expect Obama defenders to pick up on this line of thinking.

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