The New Nero

Here’s the California Senator yesterday on Face the Nation:

“The American people don’t want another war,” but it’s clear that the problems in the Middle East are going to require a new approach, the former Intelligence Committee chairman said.

Considering the problem of the Islamic State, Feinstein said, “I don’t know whether 6,000 ISIL people have been killed or not — that’s the figure that’s been floated around. But that’s not going to do it. So where [Senator John] McCain is right, I do think we need some Special Operations [forces] in these countries, on the ground, more than just advisers. We need to protect our allies.”

Feinstein has been a relatively hawkish Democrat for some time now, but calling for significantly more involvement in the Middle East is a big break from the White House.

You have to wonder if ISIL isn’t the leading indicator for the medium-term future of the Middle East. Its territory is wide, sparsely populated, and brutally (and ineptly) ruled. Our own Spengler has compared the current fighting in the Middle East to the Thirty Years War, in which the German states lost one-third of their population — and that a similar demographic tragedy might have to befall the Middle East before it ever settles down.

The problem with Feinstein’s proposal is twofold.

• It’s might be too hawkish for the American mood (and is almost certainly too hawkish for this White House.

• And while too hawkish, is probably still a case of “too little, too late.”

And to that second point I’d add that even if not, this White House and this Pentagon would probably screw it up, anyway.

We may then have reached the point where trying to contain the problem to the Levant is probably the best we can do, a precarious three-way balance between the chaos in the Levant, the Gulf States, and Iran. The problem with that though was described on Friday by Krauthammer:

Iran’s domination of Syria was further illustrated by a strange occurrence last Sunday in the Golan Heights. An Israeli helicopter attacked a convoy on the Syrian side of the armistice line. Those killed were not Syrian, however, but five Hezbollah fighters from Lebanon and several Iranian officials, including a brigadier general.

What were they doing in the Syrian Golan Heights? Giving “crucial advice,” announced the Iranian government. On what? Well, three days earlier, Hezbollah’s leader had threatened an attack on Israel’s Galilee. Tehran appears to be using its control of Syria and Hezbollah to create its very own front against Israel.

The Israelis can defeat any conventional attack. Not so the Gulf Arabs. To the north and west, they see Iran creating a satellite “Shiite Crescent” stretching to the Mediterranean and consisting of Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon. To their south and west, they see Iran gaining proxy control of Yemen. And they are caught in the pincer.

The White House’s Middle East policy is, to paraphrase Orwell, objectively pro-Iranian — and has been from the start.

The Roman–Parthian War of 58–63 began when the Parthians (today’s Iranians, more or less) established control over Armenia (standing in for today’s Iraq), which had long been a buffer state between Rome and Parthia. Emperor Nero’s claim to fame was fiddling while Rome burned, yet acted quickly and decisively against Parthia.

Our Nero in almost every case prefers to fiddle over decisive action, and the results speak for themselves.