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Belmont Club

The Lies That Ate a Region

May 7th, 2013 - 3:44 pm

The Obama administration’s efforts in the Middle East appear to be ending in a series of dead ends. Take Syria.

A recent Pew research survey found little optimism for the outcome of the ‘Arab Spring’ in that country. Ninety five percent of Lebanese, 80% of Jordanians and 60% of Turks were concerned the war there would spread to their own countries. Or if not, then to some other country at the least. Eighty nine percent of Tunisians, 79% of Jordanians, 78% of Israelis, 77% of Egyptians and 74% of Palestinians believe conflict will cross the border into some other country.

Nor is there much optimism that the leaders from behind can steer the wreck. The survey shows only a small margin of support for Western aid to Syrian rebels. Even Arab support for the rebels is weak.

Only the Jordanians (65%) and Lebanese Sunnis (63%) back Arabs arming the rebels. Nearly all the Shia (97%) surveyed in Lebanon are opposed to such outside intervention.

At the same time, there is no public support in the United States, Western Europe or in Turkey for sending arms and military supplies to the anti-government groups in Syria. Eight-in-ten (82%) Germans oppose such assistance, as do more than two-thirds of the French (69%) and the Turks (65%) and a majority of the British (57%). Nearly two-thirds (64%) of Americans were also against arming the rebels when the survey was taken in the first two weeks of March.

Invoking the threat of chemical weapons increases public support for intervention, but by surprisingly little. Pew says “since then evidence has emerged that the Assad government may have used chemical weapons in its fight against opposition forces. In a subsequent Pew Research Center poll taken April 25-28, Americans, by a 45% to 31% margin, favor rather than oppose the U.S. and its allies taking military action against Syria, if it is confirmed that Syria used chemical weapons against anti-government groups.”

But if the rebels are not particularly loved, Assad is deeply hated, the survey found. To a surprising extent the region seems to share the Kissingerian hope that it would be best if both sides could lose.

Joseph Hoar at Foreign Policy argues that the critical line along which the fire can spread to the Arab world is through Jordan, now swamped by nearly a million Syrian refugees. Economic pressures are mounting in the Kingdom and the unthinkable may happen. The Jordanian crown is no longer safe. But it will surprise many Americans to learn that economic pressures are mounting in the Saudi Arabia as well.

Recently Saudi Arabia attempted to deport tens of thousands of foreign workers, which according to the New York Times was “part of a continuing effort to lower the country’s staggering youth unemployment rate, in part by shifting the balance in hiring practices for private-sector jobs, which are overwhelmingly occupied by the kingdom’s 10 million foreign workers. In November, the government started penalizing private companies that hire more foreigners than Saudi citizens as part of a plan to create six million new jobs for Saudis by 2030. The policy also reflects fears of political instability among the monarchies of the Persian Gulf region, where the authorities have combined inducements with repression to contain the discontent among young people that helped propel the Arab uprisings more than two years ago.”

The Saudis need to take the expat jobs, even the low end ones. Yet even if the Saudis succeed it will only shift the pressures elsewhere. The Guardian notes that the Kingdom plans to deport 300,000 Yemenis to their impoverished homeland,  which would implode the neighboring country. “An estimated 800,000 to 1 million Yemenis live in neighbouring Saudi Arabia, remitting about $4bn (£2.6bn) annually. Yemen is the poorest and least developed country in both the Gulf and the Arab world, running out of oil and water while facing grave internal security challenges.”

These upheavals are occurring at a time when the old guard of Saudi Arabia’s Royal House is dying off. The Washington Institute notes the appointment of a new senior royal, Prince Fahd bin Abdullah bin Muhammad to replace his predecessors who either died of old age in office, became hopelessly corrupt or in one case afflicted with dementia.

His appointment will mean the end of the gravy train for some.  And he’s an outsider. “Prince Fahd’s pedigree is not part of the House of Saud’s mainstream, so he is not a potential future king. But Khalid’s sacking will likely be seen as a setback for some of the king’s rival half-brothers (the so-called Sudairi princes) and their sons.”

For Washington, Fahd’s appointment means that the U.S. military now has a competent, experienced, and authoritative royal to deal with in further developing the longstanding bilateral relationship. The long-range air-launched missiles that will be discussed during Secretary Hagel’s visit are an important element in U.S. efforts to counter Iran’s apparent hegemonic regional ambitions. But Washington should also be concerned that this latest twist in royal politics could provoke destabilizing countermoves within the House of Saud.

An administration which came to office promising new relations with the Muslim world and tantalizing voters with “grand bargains” stares at nothing but ruins. The ruins, however, are staring back. The desperate state to which President Obama’s projects have fallen is illustrated by reports that he is urging Israel, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Turkey to form an alliance against Iran. Quoting London’s Sunday Times the Israel Times says “the plan would see Israel join with Turkey, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, to create a Middle Eastern “moderate crescent,” according to the Sunday Times, which cited an unnamed Israeli official. Israel does not currently maintain formal ties with Riyadh or Abu Dhabi, and relations with Ankara have been strained since 2009.”

Under this plan, the goal to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon would be abandoned. Instead, Israel would share Iron Dome with Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries and they would emplace batteries in their countries to defend themselves against Teheran.

According to the report, Israel would gain access to radar stations in Saudi Arabia and the UAE and in exchange share its own early warning radar information and anti-ballistic missile defense systems, though it’s not clear in what form. The report details that Jordan would be protected by Israel’s Arrow long-range anti-missile batteries.

The so-called 4+1 plan is being brokered by Washington, and would mark a sharp shift in stated policy for the White House, which has insisted the US is not interested in containing Iran but rather stopping it before it reaches nuclear weapon capability.

RT also reports the “4+1″ talks and adds that Patriot missiles may be added to the mix. However, some quarters have dismissed the proposal as too fantastic to be true. “Turkey has dismissed the report. ‘These are manipulative reports which have nothing to do with the reality,’ a Turkish Foreign Ministry official told Hürriyet Daily News.”

But if manipulation has an alias, it is “leading-from-behind”. For some time now the administration has been attempting to substitute its talent for plotting to replace its incapacity in sound policy making. First there was the encouragement of anti-Mubarak forces which led to present day starvation Egypt. Next there was support for the Arab Spring rebels in Libya which resulted in well — “what difference does it make?” in the words of Hillary Clinton. Next there was the denial that Iran could obtain a nuclear weapon followed by the empty promise to prevent it in the unlikely event that they did what they we were assured they could not do. This was followed by the stern attempt to stop the spread of chemical weapons use by warning of “red lines”, a warning that has now transformed itself into a four course menu of Crow in the White House. Now that the fires in Syria are threatening to rage out of control there is this strange report hinting at organizing Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Turkey into an alliance to “contain” Iran.

You can almost hear the click of the hammer on the empty chambers.

Perhaps the real objective of the Benghazi coverup was not to hide a particular act of incompetence or dereliction but to mask an entire failed policy process; one so epically shambolic, amateurish and bizarre it is a scandal in itself. What has protected the administration till now is the sheer implausible scale of their incompetence. Who would believe it? It was reflected in the astonishment of a senior State Deparment counterterrorism official on the night of Benghazi. “You should have seen what (Clinton) tried to do to us that night,” he said.

The defenders of the administration have pointed out that the key problem to explaining Benghazi is that no Secretary of State or President could be so stupid. And yet as a famous statesman from the 20th century reminded us, effrontery is often the best flag under which to advance. A grifter never works from a small lie. He works from a big one.

in the big lie there is always a certain force of credibility; because the broad masses of a nation are always more easily corrupted in the deeper strata of their emotional nature than consciously or voluntarily; and thus in the primitive simplicity of their minds they more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie, since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters but would be ashamed to resort to large-scale falsehoods. It would never come into their heads to fabricate colossal untruths, and they would not believe that others could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously. Even though the facts which prove this to be so may be brought clearly to their minds, they will still doubt and waver and will continue to think that there may be some other explanation.

The Three Conjectures at Amazon Kindle for $1.99

Storming the Castle at Amazon Kindle for $3.99

No Way In at Amazon Kindle $8.95, print $9.99

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All Comments   (31)
All Comments   (31)
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Malthusian solution. I lived in Oman for many years from '76 to '92 and still keep in touch with friends there. In that time, with the improvement in obstetric services and child care, the population has rocketed as the infant survival rate has vastly improved.

Unfortunately, large families and uncontrolled breeding are still a way of life there. For religious reasons, family planning is prohibited in the general population. I found this out personally as I staggered out of hospital after having a vasectomy. The orderly leered at me and told me that it would never happen to him, as it was prohibited by his religion.

The Ruler recognised that technical skills were necessary for those not set for a more academic, university education and opened technical schools to cater for the mechanics and those who get their hands dirty (as I do).

But he recognised and bemoaned the fact that many of his subjects liked too much the idea of being a ‘manager’ right off, with the trappings of a cool, shady, air-conditioned office, but with none of the skills or experience. There were workers from the sub-continent who could do the ‘hard yards’ out in the sunshine, that were there to be ‘managed’.

Oman is a well-run and solvent country.

Egypt is neither.

My experience of Saudi was mainly in passing through, where my Omani comrades were treated discourteously, because of their non-Wahhabi brand of Islam. They suffer from the same population explosion. Many of the young there are not well educated, but would not consider the sort of work that is carried out by the Yemenis, Pakistanis and Bangladeshis. Becoming a religious policeman is all that a Koranic education fits a person for,

Population explosion, due to religious prohibition on birth control, is a monstrous problem throughout the Muslim world (and now in the Muslim population in Europe). Conquering the world through demographics is no longer simply an issue to the West and Western way of life - it is a clear and present danger.

Presently, and I hate to be downbeat, but there is no solution.

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Wahhabism is a stew of Islam and racial supremacism -- the Arab version of Nazism.

Not surprisingly, it doesn't 'travel well.' If any non-Saudi adopts Wahhabist norms -- then they must accept that they are a lower caste on the Islamic totem pole.

Even among Saudis, it's a big deal how close you can trace your blood-line to either Mo' or the royals. They use hats/ head scarves to denote that status -- lest the lessers be confused on the matter.

As for breeding in place: the term of art is Sitzkrieg Jihad, in which all good muslims let their women take jihad to the maternity ward.

With polygamy, this can be sustained on a 'tag-team' basis.

It's a costly form of warfare -- so the warriors go on welfare -- all the better to bleed the infidel.

The MSM-Compassion Complex has packed our hospitals with parasites.

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Marie Claude - If it is not in the outside world's interest to arm any side within Syria, how do we in NATO get to a arbitrated solution?

It seems that getting through Putin's thick skull that the biggest potential target of chemical weapons in the hands of the jihadists in the opposition forces would be Russia via the Chechens, Can he be persuaded to stop his arms shipments to Assad in exchange for letting Assad go into exile in Moscow? The proximate cause of all this was a dispute about Assad's legitimacy. So remove him and let the remaining forces choose between the horror of war or negotiations.

I agree with your depute, stop arms shipments to ALL combatants. And that means stopping shipments from Russia and Iran first.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Bing West has a piece at NRO describing the "paralysis by analysis" of the Pentagon during the attack in Benghazi.

"Have our military’s best and brightest lost the capacity to improvise? Clearly, that merits an assessment. Will General Dempsey ask for a review of his own procedures? Do as I say, or as I do? The chairman of the joint chiefs is the only general who can answer that."
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I could go on forever about this. Peacetime advancement in the military is not about improvisation. It is about institutional loyalty and go-along to get-along.
Senior officer (1 star up) are full time politicians. O-6's (Capts and Cols) are politicians-in-waiting, hoping one of the few stars each year drop on them.
Improvisation occurs after the shooting starts, kills lot of privates and company grade officers and humiliates senior officers. Then the American Soldier starts to lead himself and those renegade hanger-ons in the officer corps improvise and win the war, to be cast aside for those who stroke the political leadership.
It is always thus, and is well known by all in or around the service.
Somewhere in mid-career each officer selects (usually by personality) his path. War fighters are promoted 'due course' on merit to O-5 or O-6 and ushered out with the place holders not knowing whether they had 'it' or not.
You might note that much of the interesting and innovative military thought is provided by these very O-5/6's. Rarely by a flag officer. It is too risky for flags to stray from the party line of the day
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
How right you are but there are exceptions, eg my late regimental commander. He told me more than once that he would probably retire as a colonel for that reason, tho he had a great personality and was a fine, respected officer.

Amazingly, perhaps because he was a whiz at managing logistics, he got one, then two stars. Couldn't have happened to a nicer guy--and this was not during peacetime which probably helped.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"What has protected the administration till now is the sheer implausible scale of their incompetence." I'm not so sure.

To me it seemed monumentally and obviously incompetent to pretend that the founding organization of Islamism - the Muslim Brotherhood - was somehow moderate. And I say that knowing that Bush (who I support4ed through thick and thin because he fought back) managed some monumentally incompetent moments - like thinking that Democracy was a panacea or managing to have two men in Iraq simultaneously - one to repurpose the Iraqi Army and another to disband it. It was George Keenan who smartened up the Truman administration that quid pro quo didn't work with totalitarians like Stalin. Truman didn't have a degree so he was capable of learning. Post colonial college professors, well.......
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Looked at this story again and this time, the situation hit me in more of a "big picture" kind of way. Given their inherent violence, irrationality, and true lack of civil institutions outside of an ossified religion, it was inevitable that the Arab nations/people would destroy themselves with the tools of modern technology. Only a quirk of geology caused us to give them money (really, tribute) which enabled them to survive the last 70 years or so. But that money supply has reached the limits of its effectiveness, and is going to be drying up from here on out. (Thank you, Texas!)

So where do they go from here? They spent the fat years of their societies screaming about religion and getting more and more radical - so where do they go when things get really bad, and the starvation starts?
What do we expect them to do? As Goldfinger famously said, I don't expect them to do anything at all. I expect them to die - their nations, their culture, and their people. And what we're seeing right now is what the Dying looks like.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The food problem in Egypt is merely Our Western limitation in expectations. They may easily solve their hunger by making meals of their troublesome Coptic communities. Evidently they're already murdering them in significant numbers. It may very well occur to them that their Divinity would be displeased if they left all that perfectly good protein to rot. Christians of the Catholic church have been assured that it is no sin to consume the flesh of the dead in order to survive. If the Egyptians feel it is their Islamic duty to slay the infidel, don't be surprised if the absence of wheat to make bread is used as absolution for cannibalism, especially the preparation and consumption of those who refuse to accept conversion.

We have seen plenty of videos made of beheadings of bound captives, gasoline poured on living condemned ones and lit to burn them to death, hangings of homosexuals, stoning of adulterers, acid thrown upon insufficiently modest women, machine-gunning and beheading of schoolgirls, bombings of trainloads of Hindu pilgrims, bombings of planeloads of travelers, machine-gunnings and bombings of teens and travelers in Pizza Parlors, bars, Airline terminals and buses, and on and on. It would be instructive to hear from an Islamic scholar as to whether feeding upon the corpses of freshly killed infidels is in a category denied the faithful, in a way similar to the consumption of pork, or the touching of a woman unclean because of menses.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"What has protected the administration till now is the sheer implausible scale of their incompetence."

I would add "the fawning sycophancy of the mainstream media and the criminal cluelessness of the American electorate".
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
If the POTUS made the decision to stand down then he should be up front about it, but if he couldn't decide and froze giving no orders or directions then that is almost a firing squad Offense for any Military Officers.
A decision even a bad decision is better than paralysis in a crisis.
Did Obama just walk away and allow Allah's will be done.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The KSA jobs crackdown is actually centered around Egyptians and Yemenis.

The Royals have entirely flipped against their previous favorite adjacent labor pools. However, it wouldn't do to focus too explicitly against these muslim lands.

Because of their command of the language -- and skin pigmentation -- the Egyptians and Yemenis are the two most persistent pools of over-staying workers -- the target class.

For obvious reasons, both groups are more motivated than ever to stay on; conditions back home are terrible and getting worse.

That is all.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment

As evening prayer got under way
And bade the brig Obama stay
The chaplain said in opening prayers
That thanks to folks like good Bill Ayers
The ship of state on which they sailed
Was by the people proudly hailed
As bringing hope and change to all
And for his text he turned to Paul
Obama, though, lashed to the wheel
While steering from behind did feel
The rising wind quite blowing hard
And as he watched the topsail yard
Came crashing down upon the deck
As White House staff cried, “What the heck!”
The forestays went, the jib as well
Now bobbing in the ocean swell
The brig Obama hung in stays
While all recalled the glory days
When sailing proudly ‘fore the wind
Topgallants bent and pennants pinned
Yet in an instant, all aghast
There fell the stately, stout main mast
Into the sea went rigging, sails
The Cabinet reduced to wails
Obama though, remained serene
Lashed to the wheel, at severe lean
“‘Tis but a temporary lull!
Behold the soundness of the hull!”
There came there then a wrenching sound
As planking flew and knees gave ground
And as she sank the band played on
Some took to boats but O stayed on
And as the ship sank ‘neath the waves
There passed one of the greatest knaves
To ever sail the ship of state
Onto the rocks most saw too late
To be the end he had in mind
Lashed to the wheel, led from behind
The sea now calm, the wreckage gone
The vespers sung, awaiting dawn
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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