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Catastrophe by Consensus

May 20th, 2013 - 4:05 am

Catastrophe by Consensus

How neocons and Obama liberals have created catastrophe by consensus in the Middle East

[Note: Tablet changed my proposed headline to "Dumb and Dumber," which carries a connotation I did not intend]

By David P. Goldman|May 20, 2013 12:00 AM|3comments
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Egyptian protesters, seen through a flag, march toward Cairo’s landmark Tahrir square during a demonstration against President Mohammed Morsi on May 17, 2013. (Gianluigi Guercia/AFP/Getty Images)
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I published this essay today at Tablet magazine:

Errors by the party in power can get America into trouble; real catastrophes require consensus.

Rarely have both parties been as unanimous about a development overseas as they have in their shared enthusiasm for the so-called Arab Spring during the first months of 2011. Republicans vied with the Obama Administration in their zeal for the ouster of Egypt’s dictator Hosni Mubarak and in championing the subsequent NATO intervention against Muammar Qaddafi in Libya. Both parties saw themselves as having been vindicated by events. The Obama Administration saw its actions as proof that soft power in pursuit of humanitarian goals offered a new paradigm for foreign-policy success. And the Republican establishment saw a vindication of the Bush freedom agenda.

“Revolutions are sweeping the Middle East and everyone is a convert to George W. Bush’s freedom agenda,” Charles Krauthammer observed in February 2011. “Now that revolution has spread from Tunisia to Oman,” Krauthammer added, “the [Obama] administration is rushing to keep up with the new dispensation, repeating the fundamental tenet of the Bush Doctrine that Arabs are no exception to the universal thirst for dignity and freedom.” And William Kristol exulted, “Helping the Arab Spring through to fruition might contribute to an American Spring, one of renewed pride in our country and confidence in the cause of liberty.”

They were all wrong. Just two years later, the foreign-policy establishment has fractured in the face of a Syrian civil war that threatens to metastasize into neighboring Iraq and Lebanon and an economic collapse in Egypt that has brought the largest Arab country to the brink of state failure. Some Republican leaders, including Sen. John McCain and Weekly Standard editor Kristol, demand American military intervention to support Syria’s Sunni rebels. But Daniel Pipes, the dean of conservative Middle East analysts, wrote on April 11 that “Western governments should support the malign dictatorship of Bashar al-Assad,” because “Western powers should guide enemies to stalemate by helping whichever side is losing, so as to prolong their conflict.” If Assad appears to be winning, he added later, we should support the rebels. The respected strategist Edward Luttwak contends that America should “leave bad enough alone” in Syria and turn its attention away from the Middle East—to Asia. The Obama Administration meanwhile is waffling about what might constitute a “red line” for intervention and what form such intervention might take.

The once-happy bipartisan consensus has now shrunk to the common observation that all the available choices are bad. It could get much worse. Western efforts have failed to foster a unified leadership among the Syrian rebels, and jihadi extremists appear to be in control of the Free Syrian Army inside Syria. Syria’s war is “creating the conditions for a renewed conflict, dangerous and complex, to explode in Iraq. If Iraq is not shielded rapidly and properly, it will definitely slip into the Syrian quagmire,” warns Arab League Ambassador Nassif Hitti. Iraq leaders are talking of civil war and eventual partition. Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah, meanwhile, warned on May 1, “Syria has real friends in the region, and the world will not let Syria fall into the hands of America, Israel or takfiri [radical islamist] groups,” threatening in effect to turn the civil war into a regional conflict that has the potential to destabilize Turkey. And the gravest risk to the region remains the likelihood that “inherent weaknesses of state and society in Egypt reach a point where the country’s political, social and economic systems no longer function,” as Gamal Abuel Hassan wrote on May 28. Libya is fracturing, and the terrorists responsible for the September 2012 Benghazi attack are operating freely.

This is a tragic outcome, in the strict sense of the term, for it is hard to imagine how it could have turned out otherwise.

The whole essay is available here.

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All Comments   (17)
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Is there a 'deep state' in Washington not unlike the alleged 'deep state' that operated in Turkey for many years, trying to keep that nation (at least) on a secular path against a rising Islamist demographic tide?

http://www.infowars.com/boston-and-the-cia-snafu-the-grey-eminence-behind-turkeys-erdogan-and-akp/

Before you poo poo the site this Sibel Edmonds claims happens to be posted on, remember that the IRS going after conservative and tea party groups and the DOJ snooping into reporters emails were also 'conspiracy theories' at one time.

David sees misguided idealism, both neoconservative and liberal, as the explanation for America's (in the view of hardened Israeli Mossad, Shin Bet and military veterans) bizarre embrace of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Arab Spring. But it isn't bizarre at all if one dares to look at how much money Qatar and Saudi Arabia have spread around Washington. Nor does it appear to be a break if one assumes that CIA involvement with international Islamist fighters did not cease with the break up of the Soviet Union in 1991 -- that is, Sibel Edmonds fundamental point. And an 'ex' CIA man (why are there no such thing as 'ex' KGB men in Russia but lotsa 'ex' CIA in academia?) just happens to be the father in law of Tamerlane Tsaernaev? Even if the Tsaernaev visit to a Georgian think tank seminar has been 'denied' (but no debunked) by the Jamestown Foundation, one has to carefully examine the overlap between the anti-Russia lobby, the pan-Turkic lobby under Mr. Gulen (profiled by Spengler here: http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/LF09Ak02.html) and the Saudis and Qataris buying themselves a pro-Israel think tank, in under the table money to Saban Center and of course the very public Brookings satellite office in Doha.

Sorry David, you see mere incompetence and like the Russians I see conspiracy.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Plus David, my personal thought is that Bibi has been offered a 'bribe' for Israel in the future of a greater chunk of the gas reserves now in Lebanese or Syrian territorial waters, or at least a nice big peace treaty with a post-Assad government that will lead to Nobel Peace Prizes all around like for Arafat and Rabin in the early 1990s. The neocons of course, are obsessed with any source of gas that bypasses Russia and for some odd reason, likely the Kurdish question, cannot get gas pipelines direct from Kuwait/Iraq to Turkey and then on to the EU for their beloved Nabucco pipeline project (the project the Jamestown Foundation keeps telling us is going to start construction any day now, and here we are over ten years since the invasion of Iraq and still no Nabucco).

Whether or not Israel will play the part of the heel and keep provoking Assad, or will be told behind closed doors to cool it or else the Russian Iskanders start getting shipped to Tartus remains to be seen. I do think open dissent by Shin Bet, Mossad and IAF/IDF types against Bibi's strikes on Syria will come into the open soon if Bibi persists. So long as the Hezbollah are bogged down in hard fighting against the increasingly weakened Syria rebels, Israel has nothing to worry about. But if it keeps bombing Syria there could be trouble.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
http://www.infowars.com/boston-and-the-cia-snafu-the-grey-eminence-behind-turkeys-erdogan-and-akp/

"As more is coming out on the role of Fuller, the evidence points to the conclusion that the Chechnya terrorists were also a project bearing the footprints of the “former” CIA political Islam expert, Graham Fuller. By 1988 Fuller had formally moved from a very senior post at CIA to the neo-conservative think tank, RAND Corporation, where he officially worked on the “Middle East, Central Asia, South and Southeast Asia, and problems of ethnicity and religion.” [8]

While at RAND Fuller played a key role gain"ing asylum for a Turkish national in the USA. Fetullah Gülen, a Turkish national who was forced to flee in 1999 and seek asylum, won his US residence permit due to the intervention of two senior CIA or former men. One was Graham E. Fuller. [9]

"Foreign Policy Journal describes the role of Fuller and the CIA in getting indicted Turkish fugitive Gülen asylum in the USA: “Fethullah Gülen became a green card holder despite serious opposition from FBI and from Homeland Security Department. Former CIA officers (formally and informally) such as Graham Fuller and Morton Abromovitz were some of the prominent references in Gülen’s green card application.” [10]

Jihad Spreads to Central Asia

"From his new luxurious heavily-guarded estate in Saylorsburg, a remote part of eastern Pennsylvania, Gülen launched a series of fundamentalist Salafist mosques and madrasses, not only in his native Turkey where he was the alleged power behind Turkey’s AKP regime of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, himself a product of Gülen’s schools, but across the Islamic regions of Central Asia as they separated from the Soviet Union in the chaos after 1991. [11]"

Jihad of course, is the only force that can effectively deny to both Russia and China access to Central Asia's resources. If America and the EU bloc cannot have them, then Z. Bzerzinski and the devil decree no one may have them.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Last piece of the Gulen/'Deep Beltway State' thread:

http://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/found-in-translation/
What happens when the people prominent Israelis have worked with in Turkey turn on their old biznis partners? And what if the Benghazi gun running, where the Turkish Ambassador was the last fellow diplomat to see Amb. Stevens alive, is intimately connected to this hidden Turkish/Pakistani/Saudi/Qatari network in Washington with the Israelis cutting their own deals with it?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Why explain by conspiracy what is adequately explained by incompetence?
http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Central_Asia/JH19Ag04.html
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Why is it that the official organs of the Left beat the drum attacking “homophobia” and “Islamophobia”, yet are curiously obvious to Muslim hate and to any necessity to protect non-Muslims from the violent hatred of Muslim. Why is there no talk of “Kaffirphobia” in the mainstream media?

It is almost as if leftists are trying to imagine that Islam doesn't exist. And that by imagining the Islam doesn't exist, it will eventually go away – or even become the shock troops of the Left. This was the delusion of the Iranian Left in 1979, yet this delusion continues to this day. Does the Left have a death wish? Was People's Temple merely an honest expression of what the Left desires? And if the Left truly seeks self-destruction, why does it insist upon dragging the rest of humanity down with it?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
At some point someone has to explain to our "progressive elites" that the emperor has no clothes. The Muslim world is not interested as we are in material things like wealth and bountiful food. Nor are they interested in religious pluralism, gender equality, freedon of association, freedom of the press or any of the lefts other Shibboleths. To paraphrase from the movie full metal jacket: Inside every muslim is not a little american waiting to get out. Once it is relized that the other is in fact the other. That he thinks differently, acts differently and has a very different vision of the future, then we can stop digging ourselves deeper into the hole of bogus multiculturalism.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
About the best you can say about events in Egypt is that it will not be Mubarak's regime that takes the heat when things go down the toilet--but rather the Muslim Brotherhood. This Catastrophe by Consensus has been made a true consensus by the ballot box. Of course, it might be argued that if not for the usurpation of Mubarak by the MB with US help--the oncoming economic meltdown of egypt might have been averted. But we don't know how far that line of argument gets anybody. Egypt has no chance of doing anything but replacing one set of incompetent government monopolists with another. How about the USA? Could you say-- if not for the tax plumbers in the Obama administration--perhaps Romney could have won. We shall see. People are seeing the analogy between Nixon and Obama. Interestingly, just as the Watergate hearings were getting started--OPEC delivered the first oil supply shock in 1973--in the form less oil. Same is happening today. You read articles in the paper today about an oil supply shock. But its coming from the USA in the form of more oil. http://bit.ly/13G4met The supply shock is coming despite the very best efforts of the Obama admin to kill it.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
So, the next question is:
What do we do do about the whole situation?
How can we beat radical Islam? Wait for it to turn into Iran or Turkey with low birthrate?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Thank you, Mr. Goldman, for another excellent essay. Perhaps one useful way to regard Neocons, mainstream Republicans, McCain, Romney, etc., is to realize that they are not really conservative, merely liberals who lean right on certain issues. Edward Luttwak may be right that America should generally step back from intervention in the Middle East, but he is wrong if he means America should step away from the most pressing national security issue of our day: the need to eliminate the Iranian nuclear program. Unfortunately, America under Obama has already stepped away from this responsibility.

That leaves little Israel--a nation state with roughly the size and population of New Jersey--alone to shoulder the burden of meeting the Iranian nuclear threat. I see grim parallels between Israel facing Iran and Czechoslovakia facing Nazi Germany in 1938. In both cases, a small country with a good military was game and ready to fight a terrible and evil foe but desperately needed Western support. In both cases the West failed to provide support due to corruption and cowardice. Obama's promises to stop Iranian nukes ring hollow.

But this time things may be different, for little Israel may possess just enough firepower to stop the Iranians. If the Israelis need to use tactical nuclear weapons against Iranian nuclear construction facilities , then they have every right to do so. Why don't Western leaders realize it is in their own self-interest to stop Iran? Iranian nuclear missiles will soon be in range of Europe, but Europeans don't seem to care very much. Don't American leaders realize that a nuclear Iran will spawn nuclear proliferation among the Sunni Muslim nations? Saudi Arabia can buy nukes from Pakistan, and Turkey and even Egypt (the new North Korea?) could follow. A plethora of unstable nuclear armed Muslim states will pose a terrible threat to America. The next Boston jihadi bombers could have nukes.

What a bitter irony that after centuries of Christian and post-Christian anti-Semitism, persecutions, and pogroms against Jews within the Western world (I speak as a Christian), the safety of the West may now depend upon the tiny Jewish state! A united West could raise one hand and stop Iran, but we lack the courage and righteousness. I hope and pray the Israeli leadership will have the courage and righteousness to do what it takes to protect Israel and the Western world. If they do, then every Western Gentile with sense and decency should stand up to defend Israel against the storm of international condemnation which will surely follow.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Interesting article, with many salient points as usual. Referencing Francis, of The End of History and the Last Man fame, as an authority on reality is amusing though. I gather his thesis, that Western liberal democracy is the end point of human social political evolution, no longer applies? It was a rather jarring read since at the time I was also reading Salman's Satanic Verses --Muslims rediscovering their magical roots in Marx's London---which really didn't jive with what seemed to be a neo-Hegelian celebration of the Soviet Union's demise.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Now Friedman has discovered Syria's devastating agricultural crisis, two years after the Israelis were publishing learned studies on the subject:
http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/MC29Ak02.html
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"Iraq leaders are talking of civil war and eventual partition. "

Wait, Joe Biden might have actually been right? I want no part of this alternate reality. Please send me back to my previous dimension.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Guilty as charged. That would be me for supporting the Neocon position on Iraq. But somehow I managed to begin to recognize that it was too simple a view by about 2006. My view of the surge, although different than yours, is that it was an attempt to save a situation that had gone terribly wrong. So there was no way I was buying into the Arab Spring as proving that the huddled masses of the Middle East were yearning to be free. By that time my inner Dubya, my inner Paul Wolfowitz, etc was stone cold dead. So I was amazed at the romantic views of Trahir square by the Bush hating left and shocked at Obama dumping Mubarak and backing the MB. My reaction to Libya was simply why? Our oil companies were already in Libya prospecting for oil (an engineer friend working for a Houston exploration company made it out with about a week to spare) and Khadafi had already given up his WMD. What do you think Mr. Obama, they are going to be grateful because you don't put boots on the ground? One way to see it is that both parties have the same policy - liberal interventionism - based on a disastrous projection of our own values on the peoples of the Middle East. I think it is significant that Romney didn't challenge Obama on foreign policy in the second debate. I hope that by 2016 the Republicans will have something new to say. Heck, I hope the Democrats do too!
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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