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Needed: A Major Paradigm Shift

By Kam Zarrabi (source: Intellectual Discourse)

There is indeed an urgent need for a major paradigm shift, a meaningful reappraisal of America's foreign policies, alliances, and choice of friends and enemies. To start, those entrusted with the task of deciding our policies in the Middle East must be selected more carefully and their true allegiances better scrutinized.

Why is it that in our dealings with international issues, particularly in relation to the Middle East, nothing ever comes to pass as anticipated? It seems as though the most accurate prediction we can safely make is that our predictions will prove wrong.

For example, where were those Iraqi welcoming committees we were promised would throw rose petals in our troops' path in celebration of being "liberated" from Saddam's tyranny? Instead, insurrections began almost instantly after the President declared victory on board Abraham Lincoln. When faced with the news that dissidents were becoming increasingly more militant and causing trouble for the occupation authorities, the President reacted by proclaiming, Bring it on! Well, they did; not that they were waiting for George W. Bush's command to do so.

Now we hear voices from the Administration, amplified daily by the conservative talk-show hosts, that we have already succeeded in liberating some fifty million people from Afghanistan to Iraq since our war on terrorism began after 9/11. Sadly, the 'liberated' masses don't seem to realize or appreciate that they have been liberated, and we are finding it increasingly more difficult to convince them otherwise. Who is kidding whom?

In spite of our unquestioned and dedicated support of Israel's ambitious agendas, at the cost of alienating practically the rest of the planet, and over a hundred billion dollars in economic and military aid thus far and no end in sight, the Likud government unhesitatingly thumbs its nose at us whenever it suits its purpose. The Israeli leadership and its staunch supporters within our Administration are now increasing their pressure on our foreign policy apparatus to extend our diplomatic influence and expand our military campaigns into Iran, Syria, Lebanon, and even Saudi Arabia. The primary or the only objective seems to be to neutralize potential threats to Israel's military superiority and political ambitions in the region. Nobody even dares ask what is in all this for America's strategic self-interests. Does what's good for America count at all any more? Did it ever?

Meanwhile, our young men and women are losing their lives for an ideological farce, the homeland is under more terrorist threats than ever before, and we have effectively alienated the rest of the world that is beginning to regard us a rogue elephant aimlessly trampling everything in its path toward some non descript destination. Who is riding and guiding this elephant, dare we ask?

We are led to believe that the aim is to liberate, democratize and civilize the troubled lot in the Middle East. Has anybody ever asked the seemingly stupid question, why? Shouldn't we ask why liberating and democratizing the region's populations would be to our pragmatic interests? Do we really want Saudi Arabia and Iraq, for example, sitting atop most of the Middle East oil reserves, to be free to determine their own course and serve their own national interests? Do we really expect the Middle Eastern states to believe that our intentions are solely humanitarian and for their own good, for freedom and democracy?

As we all know, there are many Evangelical Christians who also believe that the only path to salvation for what they regard as misguided souls in the Islamic Middle East is through Jesus Christ. They simply cannot understand why those Moslems don't see their salvation in that light.

If what our talk-show gurus and neoconservative puppeteers that have been driving America's foreign policies are correct, "they", whoever they are, hate America - meaning, they don't quite see it our way - simply because they hate who we are. We have heard these remarks repeatedly from several responsible Administration officials, all the way up to the President himself.

Well, if who "we" are is defined by politicians and influence peddlers like Donald Rumsfeld, Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith, John Bolton, Michael Ledeen, Bill Kristol, and David Frum, or the high-profile bigots such as Bill O'Reilly, Rush Limbaugh, Michael Savage, Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, etc., then, yes, that's whom "they" hate. But if by "we" we mean the American people in general or what this nation is founded on and stands for, no, "they" don't hate us for who we are but, rather, they hate what is being done in and to our name.

Quite obviously, something is terribly wrong when the world's mightiest economic and military power is almost universally mistrusted these days or, as we would prefer to believe, widely misunderstood. Is the Titanic headed for some hidden iceberg as the neocon gang and Likudniks have us believe? Who is at the helm? Our Israeli navigators have been telling us all along to rest assured, not only do they know where that iceberg is, they also know what it is: It is Islam stupid, as the columnist Charles Krauthammer would put it.

Sharon and Netanyahu have repeatedly stated Israel's agenda for the Middle East, as echoed by the U.S. Undersecretary of State, John Bolton's remarks a year ago, that the United States must eliminate threats of terrorism presented by Iran, Syria, Lebanon and others in the Middle East. Does anyone bother to ask what that terrorism is, and whom it might be threatening? Did Iraq really present an imminent threat against the United States? The answer would only be yes if we'd consider Israel as the de facto fifty-first State of the United States of America. Perhaps we should conduct a general referendum on that.

No one seems inclined to point to the rather odd coincidence that the great majority of supporters of the hard-line policies toward the Middle East are either Jewish, affiliated with the Israeli lobbying organs, or are neoconservatives within the Administration with intimate ties to Israel. Some of the most high profile figures in the Bush Administration, such as Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz and John Bolton are or have been advisors to and affiliated with the Israeli government or agencies like The Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs. Is this just a coincidence?

Also, journalists and columnists who dig up every allegation, no matter how unsubstantiated, to promote the Israeli agendas by leveling accusations against Iran or other supporters of Israel's antagonists, are either Jewish or draw from sources such as the Jerusalem Post. Who is this Michael Rubin, for example, whose recent article in the National Review, Dangerous Liaison, warns us against trusting Iran to mediate in our Iraqi dilemma in any positive sense? Answer, a Resident Fellow at American Enterprise Institute! So, what else is new?

Perhaps that is exactly why with all the knowledge, wisdom, and even the blueprint for the prescribed course of action to protect our nation and promote our national interests, we are finding ourselves sinking ever deeper in the regional quagmires.

Could it be that we are in need of a major paradigm shift?

The Middle East has remained for decades as a powder keg in the middle of a brushfire, threatening to approach flashpoint at any time. America's reactions to the developments in that region have been the direct approach method; isolating each case, identifying the problem with tools at hand, and attempting to remedy the situation with money or by force.

First of all, problems brewing in the Middle East are very much interrelated. The history of the region, the creation and evolution of its arbitrarily created states, and its ethnic and religious makeup, point to an interconnectedness of all the social and political events. Treating any significant development in the region in isolation is, therefore, no more than a temporary symptomatic relief for a more deeply rooted problem that extends far beyond geographic boundaries.

Second, the tools at hand for identifying the problems in the Middle East don't seem to have worked very well thus far. These tools at hand have traditionally comprised of few convenient and simplistic presuppositions that have never received adequate analytical scrutiny to this date.

Third, money or the force of arms can only push the fundamental problems under a thin veneer of 'containment' or pseudo-stability. Furthermore, as we are quickly finding out, application of force is becoming more risky in today's world, and there is a limit to how much money we could afford to throw at various problems confronting us at every turn.

From an academic or theoretical perspective, embarking on any plan of action, whether in international relations, corporate strategy, or even at a personal level, entails the following critical analyses:

1- Determining precisely what the realistic objective is; the word realistic being of vital significance.

2- Choosing the most effective path to achieving the desired objective.

3- Weighing the merits of achieving the goal against its costs and consequences, short-term as well as long.

It must be emphasized here that the information and rationale that float in the public domain serve quite a different purpose from those upon which decisions are actually based. No administration in a democracy, or even in many dictatorships, can take a nation to war or engage in a major international undertaking without the support of its public. Official rhetoric or pronouncements, therefore, are always carefully tailored at creating general consent among the masses for any decision of great consequence by the administration. It must also be understood that, at the pedestrian level, public awareness of events, particularly in matters of foreign policy, never rise above simple generalizations and cliché-laden commentaries.

The pretexts for the invasion of Iraq, as was widely accepted by the American public, was the imminent threat that Saddam Hussein presented against the safety and security of the United States, Iraq's possession of weapons of mass destruction that would have made such threats cataclysmic, and Saddam's connection and cooperation with the Al-Gha'eda terror organization.

As the events in Iraq began to unravel demonstrating the falsehood of the original pretexts, new justifications were quickly offered to fill the voids. Today, the most commonly used substitute line is that Saddam was an evil man and the world, particularly Iraq, is better off with him behind bars. Again, a great majority of the American public has readily bought into that line.

That is obviously not the case at the levels within the Administration where actual decisions making process is taking place.

Seriously, would the United States have ventured into Iraq if there was even a small chance that the Iraqi regime was armed with weapons of mass destruction? Did we take such a chance with North Korea? Of course not! Iraq was posing no threat, imminent or long-term, against the United States, and the allegations of an Al Gha'eda connection with Saddam Hussein at the time was totally unfounded.

So, what might have been the true motives behind the decision to invade Iraq and create such a horrible mess we are finding ourselves in? There could only be two logical alternatives in answering this question: the easy version, and the more logical alternative.

The short version, or the most publicly accepted and openly discussed answer entails blaming the inaccuracy of intelligence information and reliance on highly questionable sources. This way, even though the initial assumptions were proven false, the decision for the invasion continues to appear as justified. It would not be surprising if the head of CIA or even the Secretaries of Defense and State are treated as sacrificial lambs later in order to rationalize and redeem this publicly pacifying scenario.

The second alternative points to a much more fundamental or deep-seated strategic thinking that is not likely to receive much publicity.

In a more logical scenario, the masterminds of taking the nation to a war that has the potential at least to become another Vietnam, cannot be regarded as incompetent or taken for fools. This writer was not the only analyst who, from the beginning, had attributed the decision to embark on this war plan to elements far removed from the publicly stated reasons.

Observing the current deteriorating situation in Iraq, the immediate knee-jerk reaction would be to conclude that the Administration had simply miscalculated and underestimated what lay ahead. This would be an easy way out of a more troubling analysis.

Let us just assume that the agencies and the staff that are involved with the decision making processes at the highest levels are competent, well informed people, and that the final decision to invade Iraq was not based on faulty data, wishful thinking, or hallucinatory grandiose visions.

In this "transaction" as the war campaign should rightly be called, there are give and takes, winners and losers. Let's examine who the winners and losers are, and what is at stake. As selfish as it might sound, the hope is to reach the conclusion that America winds up as the big winner, even if it were at the expense of everyone else's loss.

Immediate and potential benefits of America's military campaign and presence in the Middle East region:

·The prevention of sociopolitical developments in the Islamic states in the region that may lead to the establishment of independent "rogue" or non-compliant regimes. Such developments might jeopardize America's solid control over the energy resources of the region.

·Discouraging the development of any military capabilities that might challenge Israel's superiority, thus preventing a potential regional explosion that will, more than likely, be initiated by a paranoid Israel, which would inevitably drag the United States into it.

·Effectively neutralizing Israel's antagonists and their supporters in the region, facilitating some workable "forced" solution to the festering Palestinian dilemma.

The costs to America thus far, and projected into the predictable future:

·To start with, over 700 American lives thus far, and a hundred to a hundred and fifty billion dollars, with another fifty billion this year.

·The alienation of some of America's best allies and a loss of international credibility.

·Increase in animosities and threats of terrorism against American interests at home and abroad.

·A sense of insecurity, uncertainty and skepticism at home.

·Taking the focus away from the real war on terrorism, as well as the social and economic problems at home.

·Realistic prospects of a very lengthy military presence in Iraq and some other states in the region, possibly for twenty years or more.

·The radicalization of even more Islamic states, even the so-called moderate states in the Middle East and elsewhere.

·Israel's opportunistic adventurism under America's military umbrella, benefiting from the regional turmoil to pursue its agenda as fast and as far as it can get away with. This aggressive and blatant adventurism will likely cost the United States dearly if allowed to continue unchecked.

Even if were to accept some of the gains enumerated above, specifically the control over the oil resources of the region, it can easily be argued that better results were achievable through diplomacy. So, why insist on a confrontational stance against the oil producing states, threats and antagonisms? To understand that, we must start by tasting the proverbial pudding for the proof of its quality.

Historically speaking, certain assumptions or axioms have remained unchallenged and have served as principle vectors of wisdom guiding America's policies toward the Middle East. Some of these presuppositions have so penetrated the fabric of our collective consciousness that questioning them is tantamount to intellectual dwarfism, lack of patriotism, bordering on blasphemy.

To generalize, let us list some of these precepts:

·Islam's social and political dynamics are not conducive to modernization and democratic reforms.

·If not contained, Islamic states will become militarily and economically powerful enough to challenge the civilized world, through blackmail and threat of weapons of mass destruction.

·Moslems are in general religious fanatics, bent on the destruction of Israel, opposed to the Western ideals of freedom, democracy, and human rights, consider non-Moslems as infidels, and aspire to spread their archaic faith worldwide.

·Moslem people do not value life, and believe that terrorism is the method of choice for accomplishing their mission, and that martyrdom for their cause brings them closer to Allah.

·One cannot negotiate with the Islamic regimes; the only thing they respect is demonstrable military force.

·The only workable democracy is the American model, driven by a free market consumer-based capitalist economy, and guided by a secular constitution.

·America's mission in the world is fundamentally altruistic, to promote the cause of humanity, peace and prosperity for all.

·As the sole global superpower, America's mission as the champion of liberation and democratization is a moral obligation.

·Without America's unflinching support, Israel as the outpost of the civilized world in a savage frontier and a model for progress in the region, will be wiped off the face of the map.

The above list summarizes the prevailing conventional wisdom, as well as comprising the tenets of the notorious neocon think tank, The New American Century.

It would, however, be very foolish to regard the elitist membership in that neocon nest as a bunch of Evangelical missionaries, overzealous rednecks, or ideologues with IQ's in double digits.

If the proof of the pudding is in the eating, our precepts, political strategies and involvements in the Middle East have never produced results that one would consider favorable to America's best interests. This pudding doesn't taste very good! Something must have gone wrong with the recipe from the very beginning.

Question is, are the neocon master-visionaries and their radical Rightwing cohorts a bunch of numb-brained dreamers, or have they been up to something brilliantly subversive all along?

Let us tally the situation on the ground in the Middle East stage. Every single Islamic state is either struggling under internal socioeconomic and political pressure, is suffering under various sanctions enforced by the US, or is under the threat of regime change and military attack by the United States and possibly Israel.

On the other side, the United States and its very short list of allies are dug in the quagmire for the long haul, and face an increasingly hostile Islamic block, radicalism, and potential terrorism that could easily spread out of control.

Meanwhile, the Israeli government has been accomplishing its long awaited goals with unprecedented speed and impunity. As Iraq burns, Iran, Syria and Lebanon fear for their future, and American lives and money are being lost in a distant wasteland, Israel seems to be manifesting its Biblical destiny. In a few short months there will remain no Palestinian leadership to orchestrate a meaningful resistance against the Israeli belligerence. As the President of the United States and his Democratic rival compete to prove who is the stronger supporter of Israel in this campaign year, Sharon expands his list of assassination targets among the Palestinian leadership.

The fox riding on the elephant's back has done a good job guiding it to trample its antagonists and their sympathizers one by one.

There is indeed an urgent need for a major paradigm shift, a meaningful reappraisal of America's foreign policies, alliances, and choice of friends and enemies. To start, those entrusted with the task of deciding our policies in the Middle East must be selected more carefully and their true allegiances better scrutinized.

Is there really a chance for America to wise up, or is the problem so metastasized in our system that only a miracle can cure the patient? I don't personally believe in miracles.


... Payvand News - 4/27/04 ... --

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