On March 19th, 2003 the first steps of the American led invasion of Iraq began. Around 175,000 men from 4 countries, in the smallest coalition to ever be sold as global in scope, began the process of removing the governing structure of Iraq, with a naive plan to install democracy in a place whose geography and demography indicate two primary things, both demonstrating it’s inevitable failure.
First, Iraq, as it is drawn on the map, is artificial, with no natural geographic deterrents to outside influence and invasion. Secondly, Iraq`s religious and ethnic diversity virtually guarantee that a truly secular, democratic state will encounter massive problems in finding consensus regarding how to build and govern a country in a way that pleases all involved inside such arbitrary borders.
These two things, likewise, guarantee two further things. Number One, a seemingly unending saga of sectarian warfare as the result of this artificial boundary, so long as the central government is weak. Balkanization, with each group declaring its independence, would be a quick result if the one thing everyone can agree that they want within their own future, independent, borders was spread evenly over the whole nation: oil.
Everyone wants their share. But as the map shows, the vast majority lies in the north and east, and operationally, the geopolitical significance of the oil acts as a counter to inevitable balkanization, and making for an uneasy, artificial country united only by it’s people’s desire for their respective share of oil revenues.
The Second thing we can learn from Iraqi history is that to hold the country together, as drawn on the map, requires strong governance, and by that I mean authoritarian government.
We in the west like to believe in a one size fits all model of government that can solve all nations problems if they but follow it, and that belief ignores the significance of geopolitics almost completely. The relief map has become a thing of beauty, rather than something of hard geopolitical significance, and this kind of ignorance has seeped into our collective foreign policy. As a result geopolitics is receiving far less than it’s due hearing, so let me be clear: A region’s geography, demography, and the tale of their interrelationship through history, determines the kind of government that will provide stability in a given region far more often than external idealism.
You did not have to like Saddam Hussein’s government to recognize that it was the culmination of a long process of civil warfare. His was the kind of government that inevitably rules Iraq most effectively, throughout history, and under his rule, in spite of crippling rules and sanctions after the First Gulf War, his people enjoyed a far more stable and prosperous life than they do today, the excesses of the regime notwithstanding. The issue isn’t if Hussein and his people were good guys. However, the cold pragmatic fact that the liberal west absolutely hates to face is that Iraq was better off under dictatorship than it now is after our gift of “freedom”.
We went in, took Hussein out, and left a massive power vacuum that dominates to this day. Iraq’s government is weak, the country is splintered, unable to enforce it’s borders as the Iraqi army is just as weak, demoralized, and under funded as the central government. The Second Gulf War was the beginning of the middle east’s modern problems, and it was among the greatest strategic blunders in U.S. (and western) history.
Many might say that what George H. W. Bush did in the First Gulf War, by pushing Hussein back, breaking his military, and leaving the task of regime change undone, was unwise, and weak (including the no fly zone of 1990’s, and the policing of Iraq, under Clinton). But it may have been one of the last sound geopolitical acts undertaken before a post 9/11 foreign policy took hold.
Forcing the compliance of an authoritarian regime, boxing it in, but letting it survive actually served the goal of stability, and honored the geopolitical reality of Iraq far better than the approach to Iraq since. It was also cheap by comparison. Regardless of the fact that Kuwait was slant drilling, and regardless of world opinion of Hussein’s cassus belli in spite of that fact, western goals were to get Iraq out of Kuwait, isolate it, police it, and disarm it, while preserving regional stability. The First Gulf War was won, and the peace worked, for what it was.
You do not have to be a fan of U.S. imperialism to understand how an imperial U.S.A. would operate effectively, and the First Gulf War was sound work by the standard. However, the war of 2003 was the opposite.
During the Obama years, several expressions of this new foreign policy have manifested, and all of them significant geopolitical blunders. I’ll start first with our “liberation” of Libya, which resulted in freeing them from order, and enthroning tribalism and anarchy in it’s place.
Little disgusts me more than what we did there. Uncounted tens of thousands have been raped, tortured, and murdered as a direct result of our actions. Make no mistake, Canada was there as an active participant.
Qhadaffi was a strong man, and his family was essentially a modern monarchy. We do not seem to have a problem with the House of Saud’s monarchism, but, with Qhadaffi, the difference was that he was the leader of a rich, independent nation, and he wasn’t willing to give up that independence to the international financial system. This was the crime he was sentenced for, and the other excuses offered up by the mainstream media we’re nothing more than propaganda.
To make a long story short, a coalition of western air power, including Canada, bombed the most prosperous country in Africa back into the stone age. It was a country of clean water, clean cities, and stability. People enjoyed a modest life complete with home ownership, mass and individual transit, education, health care, and the highest standard of living in all of Africa. The government was strong, but largely benevolent towards the vast majority of it’s citizenry. Qhadaffi had given up his weapons of mass destruction, and leading up to our military operation in Libya, it looked like he was about to be welcomed into the global community of countries, much like the Arab Emirates are accepted today in spite of their aversion to western style democracy.
But Qhadaffi wanted Libya for the Libyans, and that was his mistake. We backed an Islamic rebellion that had no chance of success on it’s own, and used our air power to hand it the country. Millions of people suffer the consequences, everyday, as a result, and end up drowning in the Mediterranean Sea. We now know them as the European migrant problem, to say nothing of the state of affairs they are fleeing.
Our media refuse to convey the truth of this sequence of events, either by deliberate choice, or genuine ignorance. They talk of a migrant crisis, and try to paint Europe as heartless in dealing with it, but none talk of the root cause: Our handing of these countries to Islamic Extremism, and they dare not speak of how to fix it properly.
In Egypt, we backed the Muslim Brotherhood, in spite of the population not sharing our desires, and we pushed forward a revolution that would never be accepted by the Egyptian people. Our man was eventually removed, jailed, and now stands to be executed. The details no longer matter as much as the result: A destabilized Egypt that is worse off for it’s chapter in the fiction of the “Arab Spring”.
One last example, though far from the last I could list, and one that we are most familiar with currently, are our continuing efforts to topple Assad in Syria, which are a direct extension of the same foolish thinking that led to these other blunders.
You do not have to love authoritarian government to understand that it works for some countries better than others. In our support for Syrian rebels, we gave birth to ISIS, and I would venture a step further and say MOSSAD, the CIA, and others to a lesser extent, had a definitive role in the creation of the force that now carves a country out of Syria and Iraq, and erases the regions cultural history. It is well armed thanks to the American taxpayer, well financed thanks to the oil it now controls, and it is one of the larger forces behind the worst migrant crisis to face Europe in almost two generations.
ISIS represents our ultimate failing.
The national boundaries on this map have become increasingly meaningless since the Second Gulf War, and no more so now that ISIS occupies such a large area, and for all intents and purposes constitutes the early stages of a new national state.
Leaving out Yemen, Somalia, and other area’s where western interference (or the machinations of regional regimes which we support) have contributed only to the cause of chaos, we can draw an arch of instability across the Greater Middle East revealing the net result of 12 years of failed foreign policy. The uni-polarity of American led, western power that resulted from the collapse of the Soviet Union was spent on this failure, and the result is ruinous to western civilization as a whole.
To sum, the root cause of the migrant crisis in Europe is bound to western foreign policy, and the answer is not to tear down national borders, and let migrants fleeing the chaos we created sow demographic chaos in Europe. Throwing down borders will not solve the crisis of instability crippling normal living across the Middle East, but it will erode national systems in Europe to the point of collapse, leading to further instability in the heart of western civilization.
We are proceeding from one blunder to another blunder, and the resulting discord will draw the entire world into economic collapse, and, inevitably, towards global war.
Borders must be enforced in Europe. Throwing them down will not bring the drowned Syrian boy (who now was apparently trying to get to Canada with his family), found on a Turkish beach, back from the dead. Allowing the population fleeing the conflict we created to simply resettle into Europe (or North America, as some 70 to 80 percent of accepted refugees end up here) will not cure the root problem (the conflict we created), and it will lead to far worse political forces being unleashed over the next decade, the world over.
If you think Trump is extreme for wanting to build a wall on the Mexican border (which I support), or Farage for wanting to pull England out of the EU and close the border, wait until the consequences of dealing with the symptom (the migrant crisis) rather than the cause (a destabilized greater middle east) manifest fully.
We used to respect what the middle east needed: Strong, authoritarian, and secular central government. Assad, to name one, is not our enemy. ISIS is. If we succeed in taking out Assad, we gain nothing except the loss of another secular government, and the further enthronement of extremism.
Iran is one of the last countries we haven’t screwed up. That being said, I do not support the nuclear deal. But, likewise, I do not support regime change in Iran for all the geopolitical reasons illustrated above. I think a nuclear Iran is of more significance than a nuclear Pakistan. Iran is a strong nation, not facing either the demographic crisis of an aging population (the west) or a population that is to young (the middle east). It’s 74 million people have managed to carve their own destiny, in a stable way (low birth rate, strong national identity and institutions, a country whose geography actually makes sense, etc.).
I do not have to like the theocracy to understand it is what Iran has made for itself. I do not have to like it to know that it works for Iran. I do not have to like it to acknowledge that the Iranian government enjoys the support of it’s people far more than Hussein’s did in Iraq, and to recognize that if Hussein’s was a strong regime, Iran’s is all the stronger for being of it’s own collective making.
Iran must be forced, one way or another, to comply to international demands for nuclear transparency. A nuclear armed Iran is unacceptable (as unacceptable as a nuclear armed Israel, but we are far past the point of no return there), but forcing their compliance on this issue is not at all synonymous with regime change. Much the opposite. The regime must be allowed to survive, and it must be forced to prove it has no nuclear weapons.
Bombing Iran and removing the government will not make the middle east a safer place to live for anyone, and in fact, will make it much worse.
The chaos engulfing Libya, Iraq, and the in between spaces, is not the result of authoritarian leadership and militaristic governance, but a lack of it. We need to wake up to this reality: Western altruism has no place in the reality of middle eastern politics.
And, like it or not, we have to go back into the middle east, in force. We have to remove ISIS, we have to restore strong government, and we have to stabilize the region in a way that reflects it’s needs, rather than our own altruism.
We are living in a fairy tale if we think that liberal democratic forces will clean this mess up.
I do not like writing this, but I do have to accept it. 15 years ago I would have railed against these words, but 15 years ago the middle east was stable, our armies were home, and the west was all powerful. Our problem’s then were very different from those we face now, and make no mistake, we are far worse off now than we were then.
If we want any hope of getting through this century without witnessing a structural implosion of global proportions, we have to settle the middle east.
We have to go in, with troops, we have to occupy the regions of greatest instability, we have to take out ISIS, and we have to restore strong central authority appropriate to their needs, not ours. The entire world needs to get in on this project, as no one country is powerful enough to get the job done alone.
Opening Europe’s borders to millions of refugee’s is about the worst possible thing that could be done, and will only kick the ball down the road for another few years, by which time the far right will start to look far more appealing to a far larger portion of the west’s people than it does right now. The strain on the structure of Europe will be so great a collapse will result, and all the consequences that go along with it will be made manifest.
People like to whine about extremism in the west as though it exists in the present: It doesn’t. We don’t know anything about extremism, and what it will look like when it next manifests. Right now its a word bandied around like a grade school insult we heard from our parents that sounded great, turned heads in the schoolyard when we used it, yet we had no idea what it signified.
We are too busy playing politics, working to score points, while the world burns. In our play we sow the seeds of far greater evils to come.
If you think western military intervention at this point is immoral in comparison to halting the experience millions face daily, suffering horrors worse than we in our cushy little western lives can scarcely imagine, it’s time to reassess those beliefs. If you think the cost in soldiers and capital is too great, and your stomach cannot handle the thought of thousands of troops spread over the entire arch of the middle east, fixing the mess we created, how are you going to handle the world wide chaos that will come as a result of not intervening now?
The world where soft power could accomplish what now must be done with hard power is gone. Clinging to the memory of a time when peace could have been bought cheaply, and with a broad consensus, does not serve to clearly identify and deal with the present situation. It’s bad. Real bad. It will get way worse, too, if we don’t start taking it seriously.
To clarify, I am talking here of interventionism to halt the violence, and break ISIS. After which, international peacekeepers would ensure the peace until new, stable, and strong, national structures could take hold where they have been lost. I am not a fan of interventionism. But in this case, the west has directly, or via it’s members indifference, made such a mess of things as to require it.
In the end, the armies of the world will end up in the middle east; of that I am sure. The choice we face is to go there as a future expression of a new state of broad international strife, or to go there now, as a global coalition, with the mission of stabilizing the region, and helping it find the kind of government that can provide stability on the middle east’s own geopolitical terms: To build the modern expression of the very things we just destroyed.
Our goal needs to be solving the migrant crisis at it’s root; fixing that which they are fleeing, which is the situation we created.