Thursday, February 15, 2007

A Confused US in the Middle East

Editor's note: I am moving over to the other blog(also see new articles below).
Feb 14, 2007

Loss of US prestige as a super power and its growing image of being an anti-democratic, anti-Islamic regime are increasingly damaging for the Bush administration, argues Abdul Ruff Colachal.

Energy resources -- and not democratic issues -- constitute the focus of US foreign policy, especially in West Asia today. The United States, the most influential power in the world with which countries across the continents seek strategic partnership, is also the most worried nation today because of aggressive foreign policy of an arrogant President leading a failed anti-terror war in Middle East to control its vast energy resources. The horrors of "anti-terror wars" in Afghanistan and Iraq have once again reminded the Americans of earlier US failures. George W. Bush unveiled a new military strategy of enhancement and now is being routinely condemned as one of the worst Presidents ever and his Iraq policy no longer enjoys the support of a large swathe of the American establishment.

Cruel killing of Saddam did cause a slur on the format of the US diplomacy once hailed as genius when the former President Ford withdrew the US forces from Vietnam. Neither the assassination of the former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein without fair trial, nor the backlashes of invasions of Islamic nations in recent times have made President Bush to change the course of US policy. President Bush, a supporter of neoconservative line of thinking, is still reluctant to revise his views on US national interest, in spite of a weakening US power and influence as well as domestic anger against the US-led war in Middle East.

The situation in West Asia demands immediate corrective steps to rescue the USA from the hostile battle fields. Relegation of diplomatic efforts to sidelines pushed President Bush to be one of the most worried men on the earth today, and the USA itself feels let down by its responsible leaders. By displaying arrogance through their external pursuits in many parts of the world, President Bush and advisers have brought even the USA to the brim of disorder. The war on terror has tarnished the image of the world’s only super power. The so-called liberators have assumed the role of occupiers in Middle East.

Following debacle in Iraq and Afghanistan, the neo-conservatives, like President Bush in world arena, suddenly did find themselves isolated and embattled and were confined to the sidelines. A confused US President directed his forces to Somalia killing innocent civilians in searching for the so-called suspected terrorists. This explains the nature of aggressive foreign as well as the pro-rich domestic policy, including tax cuts regime of the Bush administration. Obviously, the neoconservatives with almost full sway over the decisions of President Bush just don’t permit that to happen.

The Republican Party's rule in USA owes much to the neocons for their opinion of "containment" and wars in its external behavior and well being of the well-to-do on domestic scene. The die hard neocons decline to reckon that the failed US foreign policy doctrines ended up in a sort of confused militarism and useless diplomacy that has marked its dealings with North Korea, Iran, Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon and Somalia. If the main justification for Nixon's Vietnam War was to prevent the spread of communism, the U.S. defeat then did not prove that point. The war reversals in 1970s made President Ford to flee disgracefully, restrained the USA from stretching itself too far and wide beyond its capacity and thus USA disengaged itself from the world affairs until the collapse of the USSR. End of Cold war, however, rekindled the US desire to showcase its military superiority in action. The neoconservatives hatched plans for "regime change" in West Asia. But actually, precisely for energy and economic reasons the Middle East remains one of the main areas, where the USA has focused its attention requiring military conflicts.

As the neocons misread global trends, President Bush has clearly overlooked the Vietnam experience of the USA and continued invasions and threatening postures causing misunderstanding with its other Western partners. The resultant failure of US aggressive policy in West Asia seems to have created embarrassment for the US-European relations as well. The Bush administration's embrace of unilateralism not only provoked the Iraq-Afghanistan disaster but also hastened American decline. The policy failure in Middle East could also signal decline the case globally as well. Tragic murder of Saddam has complicated US relations with European states, France and UK in particular, while. China and Russia had opposed the ghastly killing. Switch over to Somalia or the tactics of threatening Iran is no solution for current failures and that cannot save President Bush in any way.

The neo-conservatives under Bush believed that the world was ripe for a huge expansion of American power and influence. The CIA and Pentagon networks charted plans of subduing the world by employing concepts like democracy, regime change, WMD, axis of evil, etc. Threat perceptions generated by the CIA-Pentagon network kept the NATO ties fairly intact. And the world is being terrorised. US double speak on disarmament has generated enough suspicion in the world, but Washington went ahead with strengthening its power the world over. This in turn resulted in the US led forces occupying the countries like Afghanistan and Iraq. But now the forces are unable either to quit or to annex them as many other countries have done under similar situations in the past. The arrival of the new UN chief, Ban Ki Moon has not made any shift in US policy in West Asia, but only encouraged the Pentagon to pursue its destructive external policies.

Neoconservatives, therefore, don't do nuance. Their position is crystal clear: what is happening in the Middle East is an Islamist-Israeli war, part of the wider conflict between Islamist "totalitarianism" and liberal "democracy" and moderate Islam. To fight this war, the US has to confront not just terrorist networks but the states that are anti-American.That all anti-Islamic forces should be fighting against Islamic nations that are anti-US/Israel. Thus, Israel is dealing with Hamas and Hezbollah, so America should be going after Syria and Iran, which are Israel's enemies but also the enemies of the US. Accordingly, the US should, as soon as possible, launch a military strike against Iran's nuclear facilities, which would weaken the regime and put the country on the road to regime change.

Neocons make no concessions on that account and they want the Bush administration to do what they dictate. Loss of US prestige as a super power and growing image of being an anti-democratic, anti-Islamic regime are increasingly damaging for the Bush administration. The neocons guide the policy formulations of the Bush administration. Active, shuttle and aggressive diplomacy by USA to garner support of the Arabs for its Iran invasion having failed miserably, the Americans have reasons to believe that the Bush administration would rest finally. No, the neocons believe that the United States should not be ashamed to use its unrivaled power – forcefully if necessary – to promote its values around the world. Some even speak of the need to cultivate a US empire. Neoconservatives believe modern threats facing the US can no longer be reliably contained and therefore must be prevented, sometimes through preemptive military action. Ideology of neocons has remained the basics of philosophy of the Republican Party and has strong supporter in CIA, the Pentagon and the US government.

However, the Bush administration creates the impression that the President deviates from the neocons and executes only the moderated version of the extreme position taken by them who argue for quick invasion of Iran for controlling its energy resources before Russia might get through with the OPEC version of Gas regime. Even with opposition of the democrats to his Middle East policy, Mr. Bush still avoids moving towards the Iraq Study Group (ISG) position and go for, albeit gradual, withdrawal of troops. The plan by the USA-Israel combine to invade Iran would further seek terrible consequences for US. Both the Democrats and Republicans increasingly project US supremacy as the main goals in world politics .His double game only strengthens the neocons’ position of invading Iran as quickly as possible.

History of the USA has not taught Bush any serious lessons as he is still keen to invade Iran, by ignoring the key recommendations of the ISG report to involve Iran and Syria in any Iraqi settlement, including the return of the Golan Heights to Syria and to seek a new agreement between Israel and Palestine are still under vague scrutiny of the Bush administration. G.W. Bush cannot in fact help establish any New Middle East or collective global security. A reckless leader can lead his country to terrible destiny. Apart from US-Israel-UK nexus, most of the economic powers might still accept joint operations against select Islamic nations world wide. Unlike President Ford who gracefully retreated from a dangerous Vietnam War to save US prestige from further erosion, President Bush with his refusal to withdraw forces even after the poll reversals as well as a resistant Congress, has brought the US to the verge of being an insulted nation. The Democrats find it extremely torturous to defend the Bush strategy in West Asia and refuse to cooperate to send extra troops to Iraq.

USA is against a multi-polar world. Unipolarity suits USA to advance its global interests. By shelving unilateralism, the USA would have to share its influence with regional powers like Russia, China and the EU, Iran, India and Syria, but by continuing the confrontational policy, the Pentagon would advance its national interest. Both Russia and China stipulate that the US must act according to the UN rules. Sharing energy resources in Central Asia cannot be replicated in this explosive Middle East region any more. Such a scenario may well mean that the key alliance that has shaped the Middle East since 1956 between USA and Israel under UK mediation could even be increasingly downgraded and, if Iran is invaded, would ultimately be destroyed, besides its devastating consequences for US and Israel.

Dr. Abdul Ruff Colachal is a Research Scholar at the School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.

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