November 1, 2002
Can This Marriage Be Saved?
(NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF, 11/01/02, NY Times)
[A]fter 60 years of common-law marriage, it's time to arrange a separation. We'll both be better off if we pull U.S. troops out of the kingdom.
Mr. Kristof, who is apparently the Times' expert on the Arab Middle East, here displays an astonishing lack of understanding of Islamic terror. You can't read a profile of Osama bin Laden without coming upon the portion where he was radicalized by the presence on U.S. troops on Saudi soil. So to remove our troops now would reward al Qaeda for the 9-11 attacks by giving them what Osama wants most.
Posted by Orrin Judd at November 1, 2002 9:53 AM
Just as you do not want to do something simply to please your opponent, you don't want to avoid doing things simply because they please him either.
Pulling out of Saudi Arabia makes sense in the long run. We have plenty of secure bases all around the region, and it would remove a major foil from al-Qaeda's propaganda arsenal. It also reduces our exposure to terrorism there.
Additionally, our disengagement would force the Saudis to deal with their own people instead of relying on us to bail them out. It might get messy, but that's none of our business. Eventually, they'll face the same dilemma as Iran's government is now dealing with: weakened abroad and unpopular at home.
One of the other bonuses of leaving is that we can shut out their citizens without fearing for some kind of diplomatic retalition: their throwing us out in a humiliating fashion. No more express visas.
I know leaving isn't pretty. It wasn't in Somalia, but then again we shouldn't have gone there in the first place. The same thing applies to Saudi Arabia. We should have turned the little fanatical nutballs over to the tender mercies of the secular Hussein, who would have gladly hung them on the street lamps in Mecca.
I agree with Derek . . . Also, as long as we have troops there they are hostages and we are forced to kiss up to the Saudis. I'd rather the break come, perhaps not until after Saddam is defeated, but not much later.
So precisely why shouldn't terrorists attack us, if we do what they want afterwards?
Because at the same time we're withdrawing from Saudi Arabia, we're killing as many terrorists as possible.
The important point is that there aren't only 2 players in this game, us and the terrorists, and we need to influence the other players as well. The end-game is the triumph of democracy and freedom in the Middle East, and Saudi Wahhabism is one of our enemies on that path. They may be tactical allies for a while, but they are long-term strategic enemies and, ultimately, pulling out of Saudi Arabia and ending our "alliance" with them will be necessary to promote the Muslim democracy movement.
If influencing the other players to our own ends causes deluded terrorists to think they've accomplished something, we can counter that by emphasizing that the reason it's happening is our own choice to disassociate ourselves from terror-sponsoring dictatorships and promote democracy.
P.S. -- Orrin -- the hints of Saudi-sponsorship of the recent coup in Qatar (see Rantburg for links) show why we can't long-term be on the side of democratizing allies like Qatar AND on the side of terror-sponsoring dictatorships like Saudi Arabia.
If war with Wahhabismn is inevitable--and I don't necessarily disagree--why remove our troops? Aren't we going to just have to land them there later?
Heh . . . Interestingly that may be the Administration's strategy with Iraq, to use inspections to get troops into Iraq and partially disarm Saddam before the real war begins.
I think you guys are still trapped in terms of conventional warfare. The Middle East isn't so much a mountain you need to take and hold as it is a bog that's easy to get into, but tough to get out of. Terrorism will only get worse the deeper we get involved. Israel's actions in Lebanon and our involvement in the Gulf should be clear enough evidence of this.
There is, however, a way to win: Quarantine. Terrorists depend on sympathetic populations. The more we interfere in the Middle East, the more support Al Qaeda and others get. It's like pouring gasoline on a fire. The answer is to remove ourselves from the area and throw up a cultural and migratory blockade. We can trade all day with them for oil and cars, but otherwise, they have nothing to do with us. No immigrants, no schools, no aid, no missionaries, no nothing. If they want to set up their Khalifate, fine. See what it gets them. In the end, they'll be sorry, not us. Meanwhile, the fundamentalists will do exactly what they did in Iran, make themselves extremely unpopular and discredit their ideology.
This won't give you great action shot newsclips on FoxNews or CNN, but it will solve the problem over time. If there's to be democracy in the Middle East, it will have to be realized from within, not imposed from without.
Sorry Derek, leaving them to stew in their juices won't bring us security. We can't realistically quarantine them -- e.g. we can't stop terrorists from entering Canada and slipping across our border, we can't stop nukes from being shipped here in containers -- and they are bringing the war to us. I agree that democracy has to come from within, but I think we can tip the balance and help a minority of democrats become the dominant force in their country. Then, it will either take or it won't, but either way we'll be better off than if we'd stuck our heads in the sand.
Going into the Middle East only increases the likelihood of the problem getting worse. We set up our protectorates, and we get their immigrants and refugees from our Empire. This is what happened with Europe. It's no coincidence that France is overrun with Algerians or the Brits with Pakistanis, you know. In that mix of foriegners, we get the vindictive baddies. We get our own "Saddam Hussein Mosques" and cliques of separatist radicals.
In addition, the other countries we haven't invaded (Egypt, Libya, Syria, et al) are going to quickly get themselves nukes because, as the North Korean example proves, those with nukes don't get "regime changes;" they get diplomacy. Proliferation, ironically, will be the biggest consequence of our invasion.
But if we leave and secure our area using some real border control (as opposed to the joke it is now), then they'll go back to killing one another, which is what always happens when the dominant imperial power leaves the region.
It's not a perfect solution, but it's the most practical one. This isn't a regular war where you try to get there the fastest with the mostest, but a war of ideas where you try to last the longest with the leastest. We did with the Soviet Union, who was far more dangerous, there's no reason we can't do it again.
I think it's going to turn the way you envision, but in 2 years. First, though, we have to take out the people who have actually perpetrated violence against us. Otherwise, the bad guys will be encouraged.
What are other examples of non-Western nations choosing democracy without being forced to by Western intervention?
I know the Saudi intellectual and
religious classes are quite nearly as
vile as the fictional Qumaris. However, the example of Iran is
instructive. The Carter administration's hamhanded form
of accomodating 'regime change in
Iran, led to a spike in oil prices &a double dip recession, nearly a financial meltdown in 1982, and the
scourge of Shiaism, which claimed]
250 lives in Lebanon alone. It also
indirectly led to the Soviet invasion
of Afghanistan, which led to our
current predicament. A Caliphated
Saudi Arabia, would probably have
equal if greater effects
Derek may be onto something, but a big question remains: What about Israel? It does have a certain appeal to just wash our hands of the region and then let it burn. But we cannot, and will not, abandon the Israelis. Not that they are helpless of course, but long-term things could get ugly.
Pulling out of Saudi Arabia might encourage terrorists in the short run, but America would probably be better off in the long run. As OJ points out, terrorist organizations need motivated recruits and nothing motivates someone to become a terrorist as strongly as the belief that his country is under foreign domination and occupation.
Consider: Saudi Arabians could easily have attacked America before the 90s. Yet before American troops arrived in that country, no Saudi Arabian did so. By stationing troops there we radicalized Osama himself; by keeping them there we act as Osama's best recruiting sergeant.
Pulling out might also reduce Saudi sponsorship of Wahhabiism. The Saudi government has been so actively proseletyzing Wahabbism because they believe this sponsorship will appease the radical Islamists at home. If we remove the chief irritant, we might give the government a little more breathing room.
Of course, the best reason to pull out is that the Saudi government has probably paid protection money to Al Quaeda, effectively establishing an insurance policy whose premium was American lives. Sticking with such an untrustworthy client surely sends the wrong message to the rest of the world.
One of the only reasons to take the "wash our hands of it" line seriously is because we know Israel will do what has to be done. But it seems craven for us to leave this distasteful task to our less secure brothers.
It's a great comfort to believe that we create such people ourselves, because that gives us a sense of power over their actions. But We weren't occupying Pakistan when Ramzi Yousef tried, and nearly succeeded in, blowing up the Trade Center. The pathologies of these societies are beyond our capacity to shape to our liking by mere changes in our behavior.
We won't have to care about the Middle East forever. Technological advances in the next few years will permit us to start weaning ourselves from Arab oil. There are already several hybrid electric/gasoline vehicles available for consumer purchase, and more to follow, including mini-vans and SUVs. If every vehicle on the road would get 10% better fuel milage, as is quite possible, world oil prices would collapse, just as they did from '80 to the Gulf War. (Which I participated in. [On the American side, thank you very much]) Also, the Russians are so VERY interested in selling us their oil...
As to other examples of non-Western nations choosing democracy without being forced to by Western intervention, how about Turkey, Singapore, and the stellar example, Tiawan ?
Michael -- mainly true, but technology will also make it easier for Arabs to kill us as ICBM technology, nukes, and molecular biology become cheaper and more widely available. I don't think on balance we can expect technology to save us. The human issues will dominate . . .
On Paul Cella's point, I assume Derek's "Quarantine" would protect Israel? Certainly we have an obligation to protect Israel, our ally.
We weren't occupiying Pakistan when Yusef and his conspirators tried to blow up the WTC, but we did have troops in Saudi Arabia, which is holy to all Muslims. Imagine how medieval Catholics would have felt if an army of Turkish jihadi had been stationed near Vatican City. Italians would have been the most outraged, but Catholics all over the world would also have been angered. Pulling out of Saudi Arabia won't prevent all Islamic terrorist attacks, but by reducing the terrorist recruiting pool we would make it harder for terrorists to attack us. If America hadn't been in Saudi Arabia, it wouldn't have been so easy for Osama to find 15 Saudis willing to hijack American planes.
Muslim terrorists have not attacked Canada or Japan, even though these are rich democratic nations. Why? Because these countries don't have troops in Saudi Arabia, aren't bombing Iraq, don't support Israel militarily, and generally stay out of the Middle East. The terrorists are clearly punishing us for our foreign policies. These policies are defensible, but we should recognize that they carry risks.
It's interesting to note that Pakistan is the country where the Saudi funded madrassas have been most successful in spreading Wahhabism. Such schools harp greatly on how American foreign policies affront all Muslims everywhere.
Turkey's the outstanding example. It had a vehemently pro-Western dictator impose Westernism. Taiwan is an enclave of Westernized Chinese, the product of America's long missionary and military involvement in China. Singapore was British, right?
The terrorists also didn't attack barns in NE. When you lash out at the West you don't choose Canada, Japan or a corn silo as a target, you choose someplace that matters.
Japan isn't a Western country.
The terrorists who attacked Washington could have picked a target that would have had a greater body count; they could also have attacked the Capitol, the White House, or the National Cathedral. Yet they deliberately attacked the Pentagon. This suggests that among the many things they hated about America, they detested America's military policy above all.
Osama bin Laden's fatwa did not call for the death of Westerners everywhere, only Americans. The fatwa was very specific about the reasons all Muslims should kill Americans: to drive America out of Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Palestine. This is consistant with Osama's other public statements. He has rarely, if ever, complained about America's decadent un-Islamic culture. But he has endlessly wailed on American foreign policy, and has in particular complained obsessively about troops in Saudi Arabia. His fatwa goes on and on about Saudi Arabia, but only occasionally mentions Zionism and Palestine.
Japan was Westernized by the time MacArthur got through with it.