Monday, April 16, 2007

The Western Orient Express

We don't get it. We ... just ... don't ... get it.

By "we," I mean the policy wonks in Washington, the entire administration, military leaders and the population of this country in general.

Retired Marine Corps general, John J. Sheehan, posted an op-ed in The Washington Post today, describing why he refused to accept the newly minted "war czar" position, thought, no doubt by the White House, to be a way to rescue the failing efforts in both Afghanistan and Iraq. Sheehan's article has been met with fairly glowing admiration by Bush administration critics as evidence that, indeed, the White House really has no idea what they're doing, as though further confirmation of this were needed. But people like hearing that from a general. Sheehan's op-ed was clear, concise and reasonable. And entirely wrong-headed. And until we recognize why, the larger Middle East will be doomed to the now extant, nightmarish conditions, ad infinitum.

Contained within Sheehan's article was a statement that many or most people reading it probably passed over with nary a notice. The statement revealed, albeit subtly, that our fundamental problems with the rest of the world and in particular the Middle East, are simply not recognised for what they really are.
There has to be linkage between short-term operations and strategic objectives that represent long-term U.S. and regional interests, such as assured access to energy resources and support for stable, Western-oriented countries.
This country and especially policy makers have not yet learned the one vital lesson from all our decades of meddling in the affairs of oil-rich countries in the Middle East, wherein the majority of the population are not "western-oriented." They generally don't want to be "Western-oriented" because they have often been victims of regimes that have been "Western-oriented" and which, therefore, allowed "assured access to energy resources." In fact, the backlash against our aggressive support for "stable, Western-oriented countries" is a direct result of the support we have enthusiastically ladled upon the most brutal dictators and monarchies throughout the region in order to assure US access to energy resources.

The United States has overthrown democratic governments and supported the ruthless Shah of Iran and the equally detestable Saddam Hussein, both of whom have tortured and murdered countless citizens of their respective countries, citizens who rose to oppose these dictators. Administrations across the board have demonstrated an unswerving devotion to the repressive Saudi monarchy and other "Western-oriented" regimes throughout the Persian Gulf region. The current administration sat idly by while Mubarak's state police shot and murdered Egyptian voters who were expected to vote the wrong way -- for the Muslim Brotherhood. Palestinians continue to suffer for exercising their voting rights. And they suffer under the yoke of unilaterally imposed "sanctions" in violation of international law. If there has been one unifying theme for the citizens of the countries that have maintained close ties with the United States, it is that being a "Western-oriented" country in no way means that it will represent or heed the needs or interests of the citizens of that state. If you are a "Western-oriented country," well, you'll be allowed to get away with bloody murder and if you are not "Western-oriented," you could be the victim of it.

Americans continue live in a bubble of delusion. It is pervasive and reinforced daily. It is evidenced by Sheehan, who seems content to passively suggest that being a "Western-oriented country" is something the world aspires to, if only troublesome, contrarian leaders would get out of the way. That delusion stems from an American mythos, which we hear often enough today, that the United States is exceptional and uniquely so. From this, we wish to believe or are told, over and over again, that everyone else wants to be just like us. But they don't. And they especially do not when they have lived in a country or some region of murderous repression that the US government has supported and endorsed.

The sooner we recognize that much of the world is not inclined to be "Western-oriented," and indeed, has a great deal of resentment toward that notion, the sooner we will be able to start actually solving some of theses problems, many of which stem directly from a misguided belief that everyone wants to be like us or, at the very least, should be inclined to support American "interests." Everyone has interests and they do not often coincide. In fact, they will oftentimes be at odds. But we can no longer afford the long-prevailing attitude that the world should bow to our interests. That is a a recipe for endless conflict.

Of course, there are no guarantees that this is not exactly what the military-industrial complex would very much enjoy.


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