Thursday, February 8, 2007

Arming an Unknown Future--Again

We have certainly done our share of arming countries only to  look down the barrel of those guns in future. The world is swimming in small arms. Kalishnikov automatic weapons are said to bring slightly less than the price of a chicken in many parts of the globe.

We have certainly done our share of arming countries only to  look down the barrel of those guns in future. The world is swimming in small arms. Kalishnikov automatic weapons are said to bring slightly less than the price of a chicken in many parts of the globe.

Childsoldiers Not only has there been an explosion of the hardware of war sufficient to bring a smile to the face of any card-carrying NRA member, but the finger on the trigger is likely to be a teenager. Kids are great at warfare. They’re virtually fearless, handy with the knack, eager to show bravado and—let’s face it—expendable by warlord and national army alike.

Sadrandguard The latest plea for weapons comes from none other than Nouri al-Maliki, Iraq’s erstwhile (probably temporary) Shiite leader. He insists upon (and will get) additional American weaponry for his government troops--in a country so saturated with guns that to be unarmed is to be in the absolute minority. We are asked not to concern ourselves that the guy who allows Maliki to almost-sometimes-occasionally govern is the leader of Iraq's strongest militia, Moqtada al Sadr. A conservative cleric as well in what was a secular society, there's little doubt he'll end up with the guns.

From the Times-Online

Asked how long Iraq would require US troops, Mr al-Maliki said: “If we succeed in implementing the agreement between us to speed up the equipping and providing weapons to our military forces, I think that within three to six months our need for American troops will dramatically go down. That is on condition that there are real, strong efforts to support our military forces and equipping and arming them.”

I guess if he succeeds, then he’ll want the Americans the hell out of the way so the real killing (and divvying up of resources) can begin. This is America's continuing again mistake--Africa again, Southeast Asia again, Yugoslavia, Cambodia, Burma and Zaire again.

Iraqwolfbrigade_2 And why not? We’re eager enough to go, even though there are a lot of chips on the table. It's been made into a losing hand. What will be left behind in the scramble to get out, is a wasteland, a temporary vacuum in which every gangster will seek to fill the void. And of course, fill it they will—that is the nature of both vacuums and gangsters—they are natural associates.

But (there is always a but), one way or another we Americans will revisit Iraq in future. It won’t be a pretty reunion. The country is clearly broken and will remain so, its working and intellectual class killed-off, made homeless or fled, its infrastructure destroyed, oil industry wrecked and secular government a mere shadow of days long gone. A Taliban-type Islamic fundamentalist minority will continue to destabilize Iraq and its neighbors.

Revisit we must. Not because of oil. That’s a commodity that will be made available to us, because the world (complain as it may) cannot survive without a vibrant America.

Iranpreskhatami_1 Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria may not care all that much about our long-term welfare, but the countries that count in the Middle East—Egypt and Saudi Arabia—will clean up after our mess. When the chips are down, China and Russia will grudgingly pitch in. No one will like it. We will revisit because a more prudent American government will prevail, probably (but not necessarily) after the next national election. The world will breathe a collective sigh of relief and forgive us.

Nonetheless, the weapons will be there. Always, the weapons will remain--so long as we are dependent upon military rather than intellectual power.

How might a more prudent government set America and its adversaries on a less destructive course? The first requisite is to get over our cold-war mentality. As long as elders run the machinery of American government, foreign policy will be seen in terms of East and West, winners and losers, surrogates, deputies and alter-egos. That’s no longer a responsible template for American foreign policy.

Condoleezarice_3 But don’t expect any sudden changes. Our Kissingers may be on the wane, but prudent government or not, they spawned a sufficiency of Rices. Condoleeza is an old Russia-hand, from the days when there was an old Russia and it flavors her tendency toward supporting various power-blocs. More than one dictator has ridden that horse off into the sunset.

America can effortlessly sit down at the table with Syria, Iran, Venezuela, Lebanon, Palestine, (the African nation of your choice) as well as China and North Korea. We each of us have goals that are mutually supportive and politically attainable. Humbling and deriding the weak and the poor is an expensive exercise, as we find to our dismay in the Middle East.

The powerful are at their most credible when they listen and at their most successful when they act in mutual interest. There isn’t a reason, other than outdated thinking, that prevents us from that political progression.

Senbarackobama_1 If there exists a national conscience that tends us away from the John McCains and Joe Bidens toward the Barack Obamas and (I’m sorry, my imagination fails me on the Republican side), it is the recognition that old thinking can’t take us where we need to go. This need not be the century of terrorism. It can as easily be an internationally profitable second Renaissance.

America needs patience and that’s tough because we are an impatient country. It needs a long-term world view that welcomes new players with new aspirations to the stage. Neither of those attributes come easily to a nation brought up on MTV, quarterly earnings and the next big thing.

But we will have them, because the failure to have them is too high a price to pay.


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