Planning for a post-Obama worldclean up the Middle East post-Obama. A couple of highlights.
The chief new reality is the de facto coalition among Israel, Egypt, and the Sunni Gulf states. This comprises a potential new source of stability in the region, a stability that has been lacking since the collapse of the Ottoman imperium. The dream of an Arab equivalent of Europe -- a region of independent nation-states united through ethnicity and religion -- lies in ruins. The possibility that it can revived are minimal. Libya, Syria, and Yemen are all failed states and, left to themselves, the UN, or Europe, will remain that way. The fantasy of nation building was punctured by Iraq and Afghanistan. These people are not only incapable of governing themselves, they are incapable of maintaining a viable social system. This role must be filled by an overarching power, as it was by the Ottomans and the European imperialists.
It must be done because we require order. This is not the 19th century. The Jihadis have clearly demonstrated a global reach. They can get at any target anywhere simply by parasitizing well-established Western communications and transportation systems. The sole way to deny them this capability is through control of the failed states that act as incubators for their mujahedin.
The two major goals in the Mideast are the defeat of the Jihadis and the denial of Iranian hegemony. The coalition can encompass both, with support from interested Western powers. Despite all the appeasement rhetoric, the Iranian nuclear threat can be shut down in short order. No one has considered the possibility that Israel might utilize tactical nukes fitted to bunker-buster warheads. These would “drill” deeply into the overhanging mountains before detonating, rendering the Iranian nuclear program unsalvageable with little in the way of fallout or residual radiation. This would a bold step on the part of Israel, but existential challenges encourage that kind of thing. Sanction from the Gulf States is likely to be easily obtained.
Iran would attempt to close the Strait of Hormuz, but in the age of fracking, this is nowhere near the threat it once was. Fracking could take up a large part of the oil shortfall within months. There would be a serious economic earthquake, but the West has it coming.
Turning to the Jihadis, the long war, which the U.S. and Europe have proven incapable of maintaining, would probably be best fought by nations in the area. Saudi Arabia has valuable knowledge about these people. Israel has one of the most effective intelligence agencies in the world. Pooling their efforts should bring results that would difficult for outside actors to match. The current collaboration between the Israelis and the Egyptians could act as a model here.
Failed states such as Syria and Yemen are likely to remain non-nations on the Somalia model. As such, they will have to be controlled. Civilized forces will need to enter these degraded pea-patches on an irregular basis on punitive missions, much the same as the British mounted expeditions into Afghanistan and Somalia during the imperial period. (Libya is different, virtually bordering on the West as it does -- it must be brought under control, the sooner the better.)
This is effectively a form of neocolonialism, one that should be carried out by locals with a deep understanding of the stakes. It could of course, be “better,” in the abstract, if Somalis and Syrians could govern themselves, but they can’t, and that’s the end of it. They are a problem, and a new Mideast coalition offers a solution. Such a coalition will share goals with the West: elimination of the Iranian threat, destruction of ISIS and similar Jihadi gangs, and beyond that, a new status quo. While such a solution is far from perfect, it is the best that can be expected from a horrendous situation.
What would the U.S. role be? Basically, everybody’s benign uncle. To act as an honest broker, mentor, and guide for both sides, to ease the natural conflicts between Jewish and Arab interests, to work out strategies and policies, and nudge either side in the right direction.
Even this is asking too much at this point. Obama has, of course, downgraded the U.S. relationship with Israel even as the new modus vivendi has been working itself out -- a remarkable development that he has ignored. There’s nothing that reveals Obama’s utter fatuity more than this.Of course, if Hillary Clinton becomes President, things might not be any better. What could go wrong?
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