Saturday, May 30, 2015

Reading the Map

Only a small percentage of Americans opposed the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq as they occurred. We were among them, writing op-eds on the subject with the key phrase: look at the map. As early as September 12, 2001, we could see the pattern that was going to emerge, and said so: the United States would attack Afghanistan and seek to control it, then go after Iraq. In so doing, if successful, the US would have control of the nations on either side of Iran, and with Israel would also flank Syria, like hopscotch stepping stones. We would also have a clear and powerful presence along the top side of the oil rich Persian Gulf. The map was clear. Al Qaeda gave us the excuse we needed to begin a war of expansion. Were we that cold? You bet we were. Our interference in Middle Eastern politics goes way back. Did you know that the US helped finance Saddam Hussein’s war effort against Iran in the 1980’s? Hussein was our creature, and an Iraq-Iran War was a great opportunity for us to gain influence in the region. That we failed tells volumes about our mindset toward the region and its theocratic governments. In other words, it is more about our inability to understand how people in this region govern themselves than our abilities militarily. That we seem to be miserable at solving the riddles of the Middle East would seem to indicate a change of policy might be in order. Whether you agree with me that the United States planned to invade Iraq in order to secure a foothold in the region and isolate both Iran and Syria all in one blow scarcely matters. Others see the same pattern. The fact that we seem much more willing to involve ourselves where there is oil than where there isn’t, is also clear to anyone who reads maps. Suspicion of our intentions runs rampant in the Middle East, and we have become an easy target for scorn, skepticism, and even hatred. We have done ourselves no favors: in fact, we screwed the pooch in Iraq when we did invade in 2003. Even key members of the Republican Party now admit it, though in the same breath several of them clamor to make the same mistake again.

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