Arming an Unknown Future–Again

We have certainly done our share of arming countries
only to  look down the barrel of those guns in future. The
world is swimming in small arms. Kalishnikov automatic weapons are said to
bring slightly less than the price of a chicken in many parts of the globe.

We have certainly done our share of arming countries
only to  look down the barrel of those guns in future. The
world is swimming in small arms. Kalishnikov automatic weapons are said to
bring slightly less than the price of a chicken in many parts of the globe.

Not only has there been an explosion of the hardware
of war sufficient to bring a smile to the face of any card-carrying NRA member,
but the finger on the trigger is likely to be a teenager. Kids are great at
warfare. They’re virtually fearless, handy with the knack, eager to show
bravado and—let’s face it—expendable by warlord and national army alike.

The latest plea for weapons comes from none other than Nouri
al-Maliki, Iraq’s erstwhile (probably temporary) Shiite leader. He
insists upon
(and will get) additional American weaponry for his government
troops–in a country so saturated with guns that to be unarmed is to
be in the absolute minority. We are asked not to concern ourselves that
the guy
who allows Maliki to almost-sometimes-occasionally govern is the leader of Iraq’s
strongest militia, Moqtada al Sadr. A conservative cleric as well in what was a
secular society, there’s little doubt he’ll end up with the guns.

From the Times-Online

Asked how long Iraq would require US troops, Mr
al-Maliki said: “If we succeed in implementing the agreement between us to
speed up the equipping and providing weapons to our military forces, I think
that within three to six months our need for American troops will dramatically
go down. That is on condition that there are real, strong efforts to support
our military forces and equipping and arming them.”

I guess if he succeeds, then he’ll want the Americans
the hell out of the way so the real killing (and divvying up of resources) can
begin. This is America’s continuing again mistake–Africa again, Southeast Asia again, Yugoslavia, Cambodia, Burma and
Zaire again.

And why not? We’re eager enough to go, even though there are a lot of
chips on the table. It’s been made into a losing hand. What will be
left behind in the scramble to get out, is a wasteland, a temporary
vacuum in
which every gangster will seek to fill the void. And of course, fill it
will—that is the nature of both vacuums and gangsters—they are natural

But (there is always a but), one way or another we
Americans will revisit Iraq in future. It won’t be a pretty reunion. The
country is clearly broken and will remain so, its working and intellectual
class killed-off, made homeless or fled, its infrastructure destroyed, oil
industry wrecked and secular government a mere shadow of days long gone. A
Taliban-type Islamic fundamentalist minority will continue to destabilize Iraq
and its neighbors.

Revisit we must. Not because of oil. That’s a
commodity that will be made available to us, because the world (complain as it
may) cannot survive without a vibrant America.

Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria
may not care all that much about our long-term welfare, but the countries that
count in the Middle East—Egypt and Saudi Arabia—will clean up after our mess.
When the chips are down, China and Russia will grudgingly pitch in. No one will
like it. We will revisit because a more prudent American government will
prevail, probably (but not necessarily) after the next national election. The
world will breathe a collective sigh of relief and forgive us.

Nonetheless, the weapons will be there. Always, the
weapons will remain–so long as we are dependent upon military rather than
intellectual power.

How might a more prudent government set America and
its adversaries on a less destructive course? The first requisite is to get
over our cold-war mentality. As long as elders run the machinery of American
government, foreign policy will be seen in terms of East and West, winners and
losers, surrogates, deputies and alter-egos. That’s no longer a responsible
template for American foreign policy.

But don’t expect any sudden changes. Our Kissingers
may be on the wane, but prudent government or not, they spawned a sufficiency
of Rices. Condoleeza is an old Russia-hand, from the days when there was an old
Russia and it flavors her tendency toward supporting various power-blocs. More
than one dictator has ridden that horse off into the sunset.

America can effortlessly sit down at the table with
Syria, Iran, Venezuela, Lebanon, Palestine, (the African nation of your choice)
as well as China and North Korea. We each of us have goals that are mutually
supportive and politically attainable. Humbling and deriding the weak and the
poor is an expensive exercise, as we find to our dismay in the Middle East.

powerful are at their most credible when they listen and at their most
successful when they act in mutual interest. There isn’t a reason, other than
outdated thinking, that prevents us from that political progression.

If there exists a national conscience that tends us
away from the John McCains and Joe Bidens toward the Barack Obamas and (I’m
sorry, my imagination fails me on the Republican side), it is the recognition
that old thinking can’t take us where we need to go. This need not be the
century of terrorism. It can as easily be an internationally profitable second

America needs patience and that’s tough because we
are an impatient country. It needs a long-term world view that welcomes new players with
new aspirations to the stage. Neither of those attributes come easily to a
nation brought up on MTV, quarterly earnings and the next big thing.

But we will have them, because the failure to have
them is too high a price to pay.


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