Self-interest, self-preservation and diplomacy are the most important keys to making our efforts successful, not just in the short run, but 10, 50, even 100 years from now. History is no longer taught very well, but William Shirer, in “Rise and Fall of the Third Reich”, quoted Santayana prophetically: “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to re-live it.”
Right now, some wise people are available to President George Bush as he builds a world coalition. His father, George H.W. Bush, has as much experience as anybody at doing exactly what W is attempting to do. So are his top advisors, among them Colin Powell and Dick Cheney.
Another great mind to be utilized is former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. Anybody who wishes to understand what we need to do should read his book “Diplomacy”, along with Barbara Tuchman’s “The Guns of August” (which John Kennedy made note of in determining how nations “accidentally” stumble into wider war).
As good a place as any to avoid “re-living the past” is a study of Austrian diplomacy in the post-Napoleonic Era (1815-50). This period influenced Kissinger’s thinking, and was the key to the Vienna Conference, the development of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and spurred a period of relative European peace lasting a century.
The first reaction is to discredit any correlation of the “civilized” governments of Victorian Europe with the extremist animals running rampant throughout the Middle East. Kissinger, however, reminds us that all politics and diplomacy is rooted in the concepts of self-interest and self-preservation.
All the players have an interest and an end game. The most difficult to deal with would be if bin Laden’s motive were to create an apocalypse that spurs a worldwide Islamic holy war. However, bin Laden was allegedly human and he and his people have the instinct of self-preservation, at some level. This is the area Kissinger would have us exploit. This concept goes extra and especially for countries with territory, armies, and so forth.
The slippery slope is in convincing our adversaries of our steadfast resolve. Saddam Hussein of Iraq calculated that American resolve would end before marching on Baghdad, and he was right (until we decided to make him wrong). His self-interest (and sense of self-preservation) was based on maintaining power and using his role in the Gulf War to make himself into a defiant rebel in the eyes of a segment of the Islamic world. Had he been positive that we would have gone all out to destroy him and his government, his actions would have been much different.
It is instructive to understand that the Middle East is not the same, and the populations do not react, in the manner of Germany and Japan after World War II. It is just as instructive to study the fall of the Roman Empire and the end of colonialism, and further emphasize that the new insurgents are not the bomb-throwers of French Algeria. The new rebels have anthrax and maybe worse.
If a huge portion of America is wiped out in a biological and chemical weapons attack, we will come back with great and furious anger. That could mean military action that has a major effect on every Middle Eastern nation.
The key countries, surrounding the Persian Gulf, Gulf of Oman, the Red Sea, the Mediterranean, and the Caspian Sea, do not want to become a 21st Century nuclear/chemical/biological Cambodia or Balkans. We need to explore what the following countries want out of this: Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, India, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, China, and Israel.
History and new realities tell us that to have the locals take care of their business, or at least have a big part in so doing, is a lot better than having the "world’s policemen" come in, and leave everybody to clean up the mess. Coalition building based on self-interest is as relevant today as it was when England hooked up with Prussia and other nations to stop Napoleon at Waterloo.
Now, as Kissinger would advocate, comes the concept of linkage, which combined with former House Speaker Tip O’Neil’s adage that “all politics is local,” is how we should go about building a safer world for everybody via a diplomatic solution.
As students of Kissinger know, the diplomatic solution does not preclude military force. He had his Christmas bombings. Bush justifiably used force, too.
The keys could be China and Pakistan. These two are linked, via the Cold War, by the 1947 break-up of India (with India “going” to the West). China had influence with the Taliban, and was motivated by the chance to increase their image of peacemaker as we head toward their hosting the 2008 Olympics. Pakistan is relatively powerful and more modern than Afghanistan, a country that rivaled Caligula’s Rome when it came to barbarism as spectacle. Pakistan’s chance to get aid and cooperation from the U.S. benefits their position with neighboring India. However, it should deflate tensions with the New Delhi government, a long-time Western goal.
Back to bin Laden. The worst-case scenario is that his goal was to spur World War III, and a post-Apocalyptic jihad that creates anarchy. However, we also know that bin Laden was motivated by the concept of getting American military troops out of his home country, Saudi Arabia. This was more important to him, we think, than a two-state Israel-Palestine, U.S. backing of Israel, or the destruction of Israel. He is mostly concerned with U.S. influence on Islam. A study of Western influence is complete only by going back to Lawrence of Arabia. The irony is that the U.S. pulled out of Saudi Arabia on their own, for normal reasons having to do with security and local politics. In other words, the very thing that drove bin Laden crazy beyond reason was something of small scale to the U.S., which we were planning to do anyway.
All the nations in the region must be made to understand the deterrence factor. They must know the U.S. will do what we need to do to make the world as safe from terrorism as is possible.
Other players include Russia, eager to make themselves relevant in world affairs again. Specifically, they want Colin Powell’s call to “end terrorism wherever we find it” to include a crackdown on Chechen separatists. (It should further be noted that the Powell Doctrine could eventually include using bin Laden-finding tactics in Latin America to smoke out drug lords who kill more people than bin Laden has.)
Iran has tentatively attempted modernism, a hopeful sign. They are motivated to prevent a refugee crisis across their border, and to get back into the game economically.
Saudi Arabia wants stability. They know they are a potential target because of their size, wealth and long standing as a world partner.
In a lesser way, Syria may wish to use this opportunity. Opportunity, as the Chinese say, is the real meaning of crisis. The Central Asian nations of the old U.S.S.R. are likely eager to no longer be ragged vestiges of a dead empire. They could welcome a chance to be partners with the U.S. by supplying logistical, diplomatic and intelligence help, in some cases behind the scenes.
We should explore secret agreements with countries that, for domestic political reasons, wish not to appear to be American puppets. If we successfully do this, future security will be increased only if we upgrade our regional intelligence, through satellites, technology and human resources, on a par with the Israeli Mossad, well into this century. What has happened is that Islamic Fundamentalism has emerged as the biggest threat to peace. Each act committed in its name is a recruitment tool. Because of the importance of oil, the U.S. cannot consider withdrawing interests from the region. Therefore, our strategy must contend not just with destroying the physical assets of our current enemies, but dealing with the ideas that live on. That is why Muslim cooperation is so vital.
Bin Laden was an American ally when the Soviets invaded Afghanistan. Politics in this region breeds strange bedfellows. While “dealing with the devil” is expedient in the short term, we must do so only with a plan to deal with our “friends” when they become our enemies - and in some cases our friends again. Confusing? Welcome to the Middle East chess game.
Causes Steven Travers Supports
Conservative, Christian, USC, American patriotism