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MIDDLE EAST QUAGMIRE

During one of my graduate study programs, a M.A. in history, my major thesis paper was on the Middle East.  That was long ago.  I have carefully followed events and developments in the Middle East and parlayed it with my historical background in the area to bring things into clearer view.

It has always been very difficult to bring democracy, especially a particular flavor of it as the U.S. tries to do, to an area in which that is a new political concept.  It was difficult to do when the Austro-Hungarian Empire dissolved and the many smaller nations evolved from the stability of the Empire.  It has caused wars in Europe, and has seen countries evolve and then dissolve or split up [e.g. Czechoslovakia].  It has seen small nations cobbled together by a super power, as Yugoslavia was made home of the "southern Slavs."  As long as those newly forged nations were ruled by an iron hand, they survived.  When Tito ruled Yugoslavia, it remained a unit, but when he died it fell apart into Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia, and is still splintering between Serbia and Kosovo.  In the Middle East it is far more difficult.

The nation of Iraq was pieced together as a nation by European powers.  While it was ruled by the iron hand of Saddam Hussein, it was a unit.  But the wrong-headed actions by the Bush regime invaded in a knee-jerk and spontaneous way to topple Saddam without giving thought to the aftermath.  Can't you still hear the Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld gang telling us that the war was won in Iraq and we were being greeted as liberators?  Their advisors should have told them the historical and logical truth.  We made a horrible mistake invading Iraq as we did.  We complicated matters by not going directly and strongly after Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan.  We had him trapped.  Again, terrible decisions were made and he got away at Torah Borah.  And now we have been a bumbling super power that made mistake after mistake in the Middle East and have a mess on our hands.  Iran is playing it to the hilt.  Repeat: we have caused the Middle East to be a mess.

Some of our actions were due to the Bush-Saudi family ties that go back to World War II when Prescott Bush, George W. Bush's grandfather, made a fortune illegally trading petroleum between his buddies, the Saudis, and Hitler's Germany.  Osama bin Laden made a fortune as a Saudi Arabian businessman, but he hates the Saudi family and likewise the Bush family.  It is no coincidence that Osama chose the new Bush regime to unloose his hatred in the 9-11 terrorism.  When Osama had the twin towers and the Pentagon hit, Bush was fearful of a backlash by Americans against Saudis and thus closed down all flights in the U.S. EXCEPT for the Saudis, who quickly rushed out of the U.S.

This horrible mess has been left to President Obama to try and fix.  Bush mistakes in the Middle East are further complicated by his running up the trillion-dollar deficits.  We have the mess of a badly handled foreign policy, a terribly handled invasion of Iraq, not enough attention to Afghanistan, allowing Osama to escape, insulting and angering our NATO allies and expecting their cooperation in the Middle East, lies to the American people over and over, allowing Afghanistan to be ruled by a corrupt regime, and an infinite number of other mistakes.  It is this culmination of mistakes that puts us in a position that seems to have no current solution.  Sending more troops to Afghanistan may help, but the corruption is so bad that much more than that is needed.  Iraq will splinter apart between Shiites, Sunnis, and Kurds.  Terrorists are finding new havens in Yemen, Somalia, and elsewhere.  We seem doomed in that area of the world.

What is needed now is a thorough re-evaluation of our political, military, economic policies in the Middle East.  The only way out of this inherited mess is for Obama to look at the area with fresh eyes, and get some intelligent advice from outside the military and government areas.  No immediate solution is possible.  All this coming with the health care debate.  That makes the mess more tangled.  This will all take time.  A new direction in the Middle East overall is required.  Unfortunately we do not have elected officials in Washington who seem capable of anything this intelligent and heroic. 

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