Dividing and Watching: America in the Middle East

The United States has one, rock solid worldwide goal: prevent anyone else from ever becoming another Soviet Union. The Soviets were goddamned dangerous.  Not only did they harbor designs for world conquest, but they had the nukes, tanks, and territory to back it up.  Not since the American Revolutionary War has anyone properly threatened the existence of the United States.

Well, the Soviets are gone now.  Yay!  But despite the premature declaration of the end of history, life goes on.  New states are rising; other states, collapsing.  But America’s #1 goal is to stay #1 for as long as possible.  After all, when it comes to love and war, being at the top is the safest place to be.

And so America’s policy in the Middle East is to divide and step back.  Witness, now, the many divides America is either promoting or at least allowing.  Sunni and Shi’a suddenly aren’t getting along.  Egyptian Muslims and Egyptians secularists (as well as Egyptian Copts) are fighting in the streets.  Saudi and Iran are at one another’s throats.  Few are talking about the Great Satan anymore, let alone planning for a war with it. For America, it’s good to be the king.

Greater Middle East. Anybody who attempts to unite this area won’t get far.  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The failed Iraq project

Iraq’s invasion was a gigantic geopolitical experiment.  Could a superpower, with enough will and weapons, remake an old enemy into a firm ally?  Could it not only break a bad guy but empower the good ones?  Could it, in other words, copy the post-World War II Marshall Plan?

Bush’s legions came around with all sorts of nutty ideas, from worrying about how to get a New York City-style stock market up and running to believing that sometimes freedom meant looting your government’s offices because you were mad.  They hoped to do something incredibly ambitious: impose a liberal democracy in a region with no tradition thereof.

It obviously didn’t work.  Iraq was not 1945 Germany and Bush and his Coalition of the Willing were sure as hell not the Allied Powers.

So now, Obama has changed tact

Obama learned the lesson; breaking states is easy, making them is hard.  So he quickly said, “Fuck that,” to the Iraq war and is hastening a withdrawal from Afghanistan.  Neo-cons and others in America have called these moves evidence of both America’s and Obama’s weaknesses.  But they are aligning to a simple reality: America has zero interest in building proper states in the Middle East.

Unlike after World War II, America doesn’t need to rebuild these places because they’re so divided and weak they don’t pose a threat to become another Soviet Union.  America had to rebuild Japan and Germany for two reasons – they might have fallen to the communists, and thereby aided Soviet power, or they might have come back to become great powers again in their own right and challenged America.  Either way, compliant governments and societies had to be built.  America and its citizens went the extra mile without much complaint.

On the other hand, a friendly or unfriendly Iraq makes no difference in the grand scheme of things.  Thanks to American military power, all borders in the Middle East are frozen permanently.  Nobody is invading Egypt or Iraq or Kuwait or Syria and grabbing up bits of territory.  Doing so will result in a massive military response.

And thus successful states can’t expand to run affairs in weak ones.  Rather, weak ones remain weak, atomizing and disintegrating further.

And thus Syria, Egypt, Palestine, Iraq, and Libya can all stew

Chaos bubbles in various forms in all these states.  But America could give a shit.  In fact, America prefers it that way.  States divided against themselves cannot threaten American interests or American power.  Eventually, the U.S. can choose winners or losers and rebuild societies through them – the Arab-Israeli conflict is a classic example.  It’s all much cheaper and much easier than invading a country and hoping to be welcome with flowers.

Obama is an American president, not Planet Earth’s; he’ll happily fiddle while the Middle East burns.  Because no matter how big the fires get, nobody’s going to be allowed to unite the region and build some Middle East superpower.  Hovering overhead, always watching, will be American military might.  Nothing else is worth bothering much about.

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