Ideology and Diplomacy

I can well remember back in fourth grade when I was introduced to the music of Tom Lehrer, the mathematician and musical satirist whose album This Was the Year That Was became very popular about that time.  Among the songs it contained was one entitled Send the Marines, which incorrectly suggested that sending the Marines was the American solution to any problem that presented itself on the world stage. This sentiment was echoed by a classmate years later who suggested that the best way to promote world peace was to disband the Marine Corps, based in a similarly incorrect assumption that the USA was involving itself in wars in order to keep the USMC busy. It ignored the history of the Corps and the role it played in World War II, without which the Pacific War would have been much more difficult. At the same time, it provided the genesis of an idea that appears to have been brought to fruition during the last decade or so; that all history begins after 1945 and that everything the USA has done since then has been detrimental to the world. Exceptions can be made to the “post-1945” rule for anything that can be used to make the USA look bad or brand it as “evil” such as slavery. Thus the War Between the States and the Emancipation can be safely ignored.

What the above situation entails is an ideological view of history that ignores facts. It is another member of the “don’t confuse me with facts; I know what I know” school of thought. What it also ignores is that when you refuse to recognize or apply true facts then the results of your actions will be other than what you purportedly wanted. Thus, the posture of the present administration in favor of a stable, self-reliant Iraqi state cannot be achieve if it ignores the facts of political life in the region and attempts to apply, instead, the idea that all we need to do is set up a government, write a constitution for it, hold elections, and all the problems will be solved. It hasn’t taken long for things to fall apart in epic fashion.

The problem in the “Middle East” is not one of colonialism, or of a US presence; it is a problem of a culture that is stuck in a rut of primitive militaristic tribalism that is largely the fault of the pervasive and virtually mono-cultural Islamic influence. The end result is that the local people are perennially at war with each other. A temporary solution appears when a strongman enters the scene and enough people flock to his banner creating a sufficient mass to allow stability to set in as long as that strongman appears to be a winner, and one who is strong enough to keep rivals at bay. Saddam Hussein was such a person. Removing him may have been desirable because he was a detestable human being, but doing so created a vacuum into which, it appears, the ISIS/ISIL forces are moving. The cure has proven to be worse than the disease, at least in this case.

Meanwhile, the current US foreign policy, being shaped by ideological considerations, rather than the factual background of the region, results in the wrong decisions and the wrong results. Instead of a strong, self-reliant Iraq we have a fragmented, undependable nation in which many of the people refuse to follow the political leadership because it is from the wrong background, tribe, or belief subgroup. It is, in many respects, the fulfilment of Genesis 16:12 which states that the Ishmael’s and his descendants “his hand will be against everyone and everyone’s hand against him, and he will live in hostility toward all his brothers.”

Now, this does not necessarily mean that modern foreign policy should be governed by a Bible reference, but rather, that we should look at the behavior of the people in question and shape policy to fit it. The times of peace in the region were always imposed upon it by outsiders, such as the European powers, or by insiders who were strong enough to do so. US policy that depended on people who had no concept of nationalism and no tradition of democratic rule, or patriotism toward a national entity is foolish. To expect anything different from the people there is equally foolish, given what happened during the US invasions. In both cases the majority of Iraqi troops gave token resistance, or surrendered outright. Saddam’s “mother of all battles” never materialized. Expecting loyalty toward an unpopular democratic government in the face of what appears to be an overwhelming force makes no sense. But then, ignoring facts makes no sense, either.

Rush Limbaugh recently summed up the philosophy underlying present foreign policy as sitting around waiting to see what happens. If instituted, such a policy leads to reactive, rather than pro-active behavior. This may well mean closing the stable door after the horse has run away. Or, more apropos of the current situation, waiting to see if the Iraqi government can prevent genocidal activities by the invaders, and then, when it is too late, blame the events on someone else; perhaps the presidents George Bush for getting us involved in the region.

The 1960’s condemnation of US supposed militarism was the product of a misplaced faith in the idea that other nations were somehow more peaceful than we were and if we got out of the way peace would break out everywhere. It was also, in the minds of some, the product of an idea that somehow free market societies require wars to keep themselves going. It was allied with the socialistic ideals that pervaded so much of the 1960’s and 1970’s political ethos and turned so many away from the success of past generations. Today we see a destabilized world in which the forces of imperialism and barbarism are making a more dangerous environment for all. US detachment is not contributing to peace, but rather to the ability of others to make war. It is a bad situation all around. The resulting world in one in which the only remedy we may have in a few years is to send the Marines… and the Army, Navy and Ari Force as well. All because a few people didn’t want to be confused with facts and would rather play golf instead.

 

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