Saturday, May 26, 2007

Common Sense Strategy...

Common Sense Strategy
US and the Middle East

Ali Asghar Kazemi
May 26, 2007


It is a pitiable fact to realize that despite so many prominent strategists, think tanks and prestigious research institutions in the United States, American politicians have done so many blunders in their policies towards various problems of the Middle East. Perhaps, the concept of rationality and coherent decision making is a relative matter in the field of foreign policy and national interests, but one does not need to be very intelligent to understand that US policies towards various problems of the Middle East, including Arab-Israeli conflict, Iraq and Iran have been total fiasco in the past several years. (I am letting aside for simplicity the problem of Afghanistan and other issues related to the North African and near Eastern countries.)

The bitter truth is that politicians here and there usually do not listen to academicians and non-partisan people whose advices might work against their individual or group interests or reputations. This is a common feature of more or less all ideologically oriented arrogant leaders whose mistakes might cause irreparable damage to the sublime interests of a nation. It is a common sense that a policy that produces bad results is a bad policy that should be avoided and not insisted upon.

As an example, neither the United States nor the Islamic regime in Iran has been following the rational path to a conclusion of animosity and mutual distrust. They both continue to emphasize on their rhetoric and particular values associated with their beliefs, dogma and ideologies. They both have a tendency to sacrifice their respective interests by using eccentric ways and means to intimidate each other in a zero-sum game whose outcome may not be in the interest of regional security and world order.

Failure of American strategy and policy in the Middle-East , is not just because the disregard of this superpower of the very basic principles of international law and explicit provisions of the United Nations Charter on peace , security and arbitrary use of force in international relations, but mainly due to the arrogant attitude of American unilateralism and lack of understanding the cultural affinities of the Moslem world .

Indeed, this will not help American national interests in the long-run, neither this will promote the cause of democratic changes in the Middle East. Quite on the contrary, this policy is apt to distort American picture abroad and will make life more and more difficult for U.S. soldiers and diplomats in foreign soils.

American policy makers and strategists shall not be surprised by this misfortune. Moslem peoples are very suspicious to foreigners who try to impose their will upon them, even with quite good intentions. Similar policies were applied successfully to Japan and Germany after World War II by the United States, but it did not work in Afghanistan and Iraq, and very probably may not work elsewhere in the region. Persistence on such policies may only deepen the divergence and animosity between Americans and local governments on the one hand, and will prompt anti-American sentiments among peoples which could only benefit totalitarian regimes in power.

Both outcomes are susceptible to be detrimental to U.S. economic and strategic interests in the Middle-East, especially, the Persian Gulf. Thus, it seems that peaceful change, initiated from within, compatible with local norms and values, and legitimately supported by the international community, without hindrance from outside powers, may best benefit the United States and the region as a whole

It seems that the prevailing discipline of social and political science tends to overlook the emerging factors and variables rooted mainly in religious reawakening and struggle for identity in the Middle East. The emergence of new neglected actors, in forms of fundamentalists Moslem has indeed changed both dimensions and patterns of relations among nations. This should necessarily change our perception of the world.

Almost seven years after September 11, it is high time to ponder upon certain questions with respect to security and order in the Middle East and American interests and prestige in the region. Are US interests more protected and American flag more respected than before? Are the Middle-East stability and security more guaranteed and the ground for establishing democracy and a just and durable peace in the Arab-Israeli conflict more fertile?

Unfortunately, answers to most of these questions are not encouraging and do not lead to optimism. A common sense approach says that bad policy leads to bad result. Good intentions are not sufficient. Appropriate policy along with good action and adequate understanding of domestic, regional and international environment are requisites of a good strategy. When the outcome is not in one’s favor, this means that the policy is defective and therefore it shall not be pursued at all costs. /

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