Monday, November 29, 2010

WikiLeaks: Damaging or a Positive Paradigm Shift in Foreign Policy?

What do you do when you’ve got the mightiest military force hanging out in your backyard at your beck and call, putting out brushfires, while you fret about a suspicious neighbor from a different tribe beefing up his own military power and behaving like he’s king of the block? You might just ask your big bad military “guests” to snuff out the suspicious neighbor’s military force before it gets too strong.

According to the latest documents dump of State Department cables — some 250,000 of them — by the WikiLeaks website, that’s exactly what our Mideast “ally” Saudi Arabia did by urging America to attack Iran and take out its nuclear capacity. The UAE added helpfully that ground troops may be required. Gee, and we thought Bibi Netanyahu’s Israeli government was hawkish and warlike … certainly not compared to Saudi King Abdullah. While the Israelis focus on non-lethal cyber attacks to cripple Iran’s nuclear program, the Saudi king and his junior potentates in their medieval garments are all gung-ho over war with Iran. As long as it’s American lives on the line.

King Abdullah reminds me of  the anti-Castro agitator who kept alive the dream of “liberating” Cuba by “urging” America to invade the island and take Castro out. I remember telling one of these dudes that if he wanted his island “back” (a common refrain these days re: the U.S. … where did it go?) do what Castro did: lead a group of guerrillas to Cuba, head for the Sierra Maestra, and start a war against the Cuban government. Oh, and maybe grow a beard to look like Che. But don’t demand (he wasn’t asking) that the U.S. should expend blood and treasure staging another Bay of Pigs to satisfy his right wing agenda. Needless to say, that didn’t go over very well.

For Americans like Sarah Palin who don’t know the difference between EYE-ran (Iran) and EYE-rack (Iraq) here’s a brief primer:  In the tribalist world of Middle East (and environs) Arab and Muslim nations, of the two major Islamic sects — Sunni and Shia — Sunnis comprise about 85 percent of Muslims with large majorities in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and most Arab nations, as well as non-Arab Turkey, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Iran is the Shia outlier and a major regional power made stronger by George W. Bush’s reckless invasion and war of choice in Iraq.

By deposing Saddam Hussein, the U.S. turned a tenuous regional balance of power on its head, empowering Iran to flex its regional muscles and the weaker oil-rich Sunni states to secretly (lest their interests be aligned with Israel’s) urge a U.S. strike on Iran. The minority Shia dictator of Iraq had nothing at all to do with the 9/11 terrorist attacks carried out by Sunni fanatics, most of whom were Saudi nationals. Nor did Saddam have weapons of mass destruction or the means to obtain them. But he did provide a check on Iranian power and regional hegemony, which was shattered by the invasion of Iraq.

In backing the Iraqui Shia insurgency against the U.S. and the Sunni government of Iraq, Iran has been just destabilizing enough to inflict pain in casualties, resources and materiél on the U.S., while weakening the political structure. And we haven’t even gotten to Af-Pak yet, the nexus of Islamic terrorism today. That is the border region between Afghanistan and Pakistan where Bin Laden and Al Qeda (Sunni fundies) are holed up, with hot spots all the way to Yemen. It may be an oversimplification but the relevant point, getting down to brass tacks, is that the Shia-Sunni sectarian divide is thousands of years in the making and we’re the clueless kids on the block taking fire from all sides.

Fahrenheit 911 had a scene of U.S. authorities hustling (facilitating) the flight of Saudi members of Bin Laden’s family out of the country only hours after the 9/11 attacks, when all commercial flights were grounded. Nothing could have been more symbolic of the incestuous vassal-master relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia than the country from which most of the 9/11 terrorists originated should be given the royal treatment to remove members of the 9/11 terrorist mastermind family from the reach of U.S. law. 

This uneven relationship drove President Obama to insist throughout his campaign and presidency on the urgency of freeing ourselves of Middle East oil dependency: It wasn’t just about the abstract need (in most Americans’ minds, amid all this “cheap” Saudi oil) to gain strength through energy independence. He spoke of what we knew to be true but didn’t have “official” confirmation of: Saudi Arabia is one of the sleaziest anti-American operators (they’re not a country, they’re a crime family) on the face of the globe, and they have us by the balls.

All they need to do is turn off the oil spigot.

The U.S. government knew of Saudi madrassas throughout the world, those schools that have become breeding grounds for terrorists. But they chose to look the other way. Now we get “official” confirmation thanks to WikiLeaks that “Saudi donors remain the chief financiers of Sunni militant groups like Al Qaeda.” How can the Saudis be our “allies” at the same time they're funding and perpetuating terrorism? My educated guess is that Saudi intelligence knows a whole lot more about prospective terrorist plots against America than it is willing to share. But it will continue to warn U.S. intelligence when such plots go operational … as long as the U.S. does its bidding. The word for this is, extortion.

Perhaps we can turn the WikiLeaks State Department documents dump into an opportunity. Turn lemons into lemonade. Go in a different, honorable direction of open and frank diplomacy, of sunshine, and treat those nations that harbor, fund, promote and encourage terrorism as the pariahs they ought to be. And if they deign to turn off the spigot, we shall take all necessary measures to protect our interests — a paradigm shift in foreign policy that recognizes the new realities of a WikiLeaker's world.

1 comment:

DMG said...

Interesting commentary. Thanks.