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Topic: US Foreign Policy (Read 62949 times)
Let's compare Obama's life experience to this...
Reply #600 on:
November 04, 2014, 11:42:54 AM »
Stratfor: Robert Kaplan: The Realist Creed
Reply #601 on:
November 20, 2014, 01:51:46 PM »
The Realist Creed
By Robert Kaplan
All people in foreign policy circles consider themselves realists, since all people consider themselves realistic about every issue they ever talk about. At the same time, very few consider themselves realists, since realism signifies, in too many minds, cynicism and failure to intervene abroad when human rights are being violated on a mass scale. Though everyone and no one is a realist, it is also true that realism never goes away -- at least not since Thucydides wrote The Peloponnesian War in the fifth century B.C., in which he defined human nature as driven by fear (phobos), self-interest (kerdos) and honor (doxa). And realism, as defined by perhaps the pre-eminent thinker in the field in the last century, the late Hans Morgenthau of the University of Chicago, is about working with the basest forces of human nature, not against them.
Why is realism timeless and yet reviled at the same time? Because realism tells the bitterest truths that not everyone wants to hear. For in foreign policy circles, as in other fields of human endeavor, people often prefer to deceive themselves. Let me define what realism means to me.
First of all, realism is a sensibility, a set of values, not a specific guide as to what to do in each and every crisis. Realism is a way of thinking, not a set of instructions as to what to think. It doesn't prevent you from making mistakes. This makes realism more an art than a science. That's why some of the best practitioners of realism in recent memory -- former U.S. National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft and former U.S. Secretary of State James Baker III -- never distinguished themselves as writers or philosophers. They were just practical men who had a knack for what made sense in foreign policy and what did not. And even they made mistakes. You can be an intellectual who has read all the books on realism and be an utter disaster in government, just as you could be a lawyer who has never read one book on realism and be a good secretary of state. Former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger was unique because he was both: an intellectual realist and a successful statesman. But successful statesmen, intellectual or not, must inculcate a set of beliefs that can be defined by what may be called the Realist Creed:
Order Comes Before Freedom. That's right. Americans may think freedom is the most important political value, but realists know that without order there can be no freedom for anyone. For if anarchy reigns and no one is in charge, freedom is worthless since life is cheap. Americans sometimes forget this basic rule of nature since they have taken order for granted -- because they always had it, a gift of the English political and philosophical tradition. But many places do not have it. That is why when dictators are overthrown, realists get nervous: They know that because stable democracy is not assured as a replacement, they rightly ask, Who will rule? Even tyranny is better than anarchy. To wit, Iraq under Saddam Hussein was more humane than Iraq under no one -- that is, in a state of sectarian war.
Work With the Material at Hand. In other words, you can't just go around the world toppling regimes you don't like because they do not adhere to the same human rights standards as you do, or because their leaders are corrupt or unenlightened, or because they are not democrats. You must work with what there is in every country. Yes, there might be foreign leaders so averse to your country's interests that it will necessitate war or sanctions on your part; but such instances will be relatively rare. When it comes to foreign rulers, realists revel in bad choices; idealists often mistakenly assume that there should be good ones.
Think Tragically in Order to Avoid Tragedy. Pessimism has more value than misplaced optimism. Because so many regimes around the world are difficult or are in difficult straits, realists know that they must always be thinking about what could go wrong. Foreign policy is like life: The things you worry about happening often turn out all right, precisely because you worried about them and took protective measures accordingly; it is the things you don't worry about and that happen unexpectedly that cause disaster. Realists are good worriers.
Every Problem Does Not Have a Solution. It is a particular conceit that every problem is solvable. It isn't. Mayhem and human rights violations abound, even as the United States cannot intervene everywhere or take foreign policy positions that will necessarily help. That's why realists are comfortable doing little or nothing in certain instances, even as they feel just as bad as idealists about heartrending situations.
Interests Come Before Values. A nation such as the United States has interests in secure sea lines of communication, access to energy, a soft dominance in the Western Hemisphere and a favorable balance of power in the Eastern Hemisphere. These are amoral concerns that, while not necessarily in conflict with liberal values, operate in a different category from them. If Arab dictatorships will better secure safe sea lanes in and out of energy-producing areas than would chaotic democracies, realists will opt for dictatorship, knowing that it is a tragic yet necessary decision.
American Power Is Limited. The United States cannot intervene everywhere or even in most places. Precisely because America is a global power, it must try to avoid getting bogged down in any one particular place. The United States can defend treaty and de facto allies with its naval, air and cyber power. It can infiltrate communications networks the world over. It can, in short, do a lot of things. But it cannot set to rights complex Islamic societies in deep turmoil. So another thing realists are good at -- and comfortable with -- is disappointing people. In fact, one might say that foreign policy at its best is often about disappointing people, not always creating opportunities so much as keeping even worse things from happening.
Passion and Good Policy Often Don't Go Together. Foreign policy requires practitioners among whom the blood runs cold. While loud voices abound about doing something, the person in charge must quietly ask himself or herself, If I do this, what will happen two steps down the road, three steps down the road, and so forth? For passion can easily flip: Those screaming the loudest for intervention today can be the same ones calling your intervention flawed or insufficient after you have embarked on the fateful enterprise.
Reading this list, you might think that realism is immoral. That would be wrong. Rather, realism is imbued with a hard morality of best possible outcomes under the circumstances rather than a soft morality of good intentions. For there is a big difference between being moral and moralistic: The former celebrates difficult choices and the consequences that follow, while the latter abjures them. Realism is a hard road. The policymaker who lives by its dictums will often be rebuked while in office and fondly recalled as a statesman in the years and decades following. Look at George H.W. Bush. But foreign policy realists who have served in high office, I suspect, are more comfortable with the kind of loneliness that comes with rebuke than some of their idealist counterparts. Loneliness is normal for the best policymakers; it is the craving for the adoring crowd that is dangerous.
Robert D. Kaplan is Chief Geopolitical Analyst at Stratfor, a geopolitical intelligence firm, and author of Asia's Cauldron: The South China Sea and the End of a Stable Pacific.
Stratfor: STrategic Reversal: US, Iran, and the Middle East
Reply #602 on:
November 24, 2014, 05:00:19 PM »
Strategic Reversal: The United States, Iran, and the Middle East
November 24, 2014 | 1114 Print Text Size
Strategic Reversal: The United States, Iran, and the Middle East
Editor's Note: With negotiators reportedly extending the Iranian nuclear talks by seven months — with a basic agreement anticipated by March 1, 2015, and a final, comprehensive pact by July — the talks between Iran and the five permanent members of the Security Council plus Germany will remain a geopolitical focal point in 2015. Stratfor founder and Chairman George Friedman predicted this outcome in Chapter 7 of his 2011 book, The Next Decade. To give our subscribers a more comprehensive look at the geopolitical realities that produced the current state of affairs and that will continue to steer the detente process, Stratfor republishes this chapter in its entirety.
Beyond the special case of Israel, the area between the eastern Mediterranean and the Hindu Kush remains the current focus of U.S. policy. As we've noted, the United States has three principal interests there: to maintain a regional balance of power; to make certain that the flow of oil is not interrupted; and to defeat the Islamist groups centered there that threaten the United States. Any step the United States takes to address any one of these objectives must take into account the other two, which significantly increases the degree of difficulty for achieving even one.
Adding to this challenge is that of maintaining the balance of power in three regions of the area: the Arabs and the Israelis, the Indians and the Pakistanis, and the Iraqis and the Iranians. Each of these balances is in disarray, but the most crucial one, that between the Iranians and the Iraqis, collapsed completely with the disintegration of the Iraqi state and military after the U.S. invasion of 2003. The distortion of the India-Pakistan balance is not far behind, as the war in Afghanistan continues to destabilize Pakistan.
As we saw in the last chapter, the weakness of the Arab side has created a situation in which the Israelis no longer have to concern themselves with their opponents' reactions. In the decades ahead, the Israelis will try to take advantage of this to create new realities on the ground, while the United States, in keeping with its search for strategic balance, will try to limit Israeli moves.
The Indo-Pakistani balance is being destabilized in Afghanistan, a complex war zone where American troops are pursuing two competing goals, at least as stated officially. The first is to prevent al Qaeda from using Afghanistan as a base of operations; the second is to create a stable democratic government. But denying terrorists a haven in Afghanistan achieves little, because groups following al Qaeda's principles (al Qaeda prime, the group built around Osama bin Laden, is no longer fully functioning) can grow anywhere, from Yemen to Cleveland. This is an especially significant factor when the attempt to disrupt al Qaeda requires destabilizing the country, training the incipient Afghanistan army, managing the police force of Afghan recruits, and intruding into Afghan politics. There is no way to effectively stabilize a country in which you have to play such an intrusive role.
Unscrambling this complexity begins with recognizing that the United States has no vital interest in the kind of government Afghanistan develops, and that once again the president cannot allow counter-terrorism to be a primary force in shaping national strategy.
But the more fundamental recognition necessary for ensuring balance over the next ten years is that Afghanistan and Pakistan are in fact one entity, both sharing various ethnic groups and tribes, with the political border between them meaning very little. The combined population of these two countries is over 200 million people, and the United States, with only about 100,000 troops in the region, is never going to be able to impose its will directly and establish order to its liking.
Moreover, the primary strategic issue is not actually Afghanistan but Pakistan, and the truly significant balance of power in the region is actually that between Pakistan and India. Ever since independence, these two countries partitioned from the same portion of the British Empire have maintained uneasy and sometimes violent relations. Both are nuclear powers, and they are obsessed with each other. While India is the stronger, Pakistan has the more defensible terrain, although its heartland is more exposed to India. Still, the two have been kept in static opposition — which is just where the United States wants them.
Obviously, the challenges inherent in maintaining this complex balance over the next ten years are enormous. To the extent that Pakistan disintegrates under U.S. pressure to help fight al Qaeda and to cooperate with U.S. forces in Afghanistan, the standoff with India will fail, leaving India the preeminent power in the region. The war in Afghanistan must inevitably spread to Pakistan, triggering internal struggles that can potentially weaken the Pakistani state. This is not certain, but it is too possible to dismiss. With no significant enemies other than the Chinese, who are sequestered on the other side of the Himalayas, India would be free to use its resources to try to dominate the Indian Ocean basin, and it would very likely increase its navy to do so. A triumphant India would obliterate the balance the United States so greatly desires, and thus the issue of India is actually far more salient than the issues of terrorism or nation-building in Afghanistan.
That is why over the next ten years the primary American strategy in this region must be to help create a strong and viable Pakistan. The most significant step in that direction would be to relieve pressure on Pakistan by ending the war in Afghanistan. The specific ideology of the Pakistani government doesn't really matter, and the United States can't impose its views on Pakistan anyway.
Strengthening Pakistan will not only help restore the balance with India, it will restore Pakistan as a foil for Afghanistan as well. In both these Muslim countries there are many diverging groups and interests, and the United States cannot manage their internal arrangements. It can, however, follow the same strategy that was selected after the fall of the Soviet Union: it can allow the natural balance that existed prior to the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan to return, to the extent possible. The United States can then spend its resources helping to build a strong Pakistani army to hold the situation together.
Jihadist forces in Pakistan and Afghanistan will probably reemerge, but they are just as likely to do so with the United States bogged down in Afghanistan as with the U.S. gone. The war simply has no impact on this dynamic. There is a slight chance that a Pakistani military, with the incentive of U.S. support, might be somewhat more successful in suppressing the terrorists, but this is uncertain and ultimately unimportant. Once again, the key objective going forward is maintaining the Indo-Pakistani balance of power.
As in the case of stepping back from Israel, the president will not be able to express his strategy for dealing with Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India openly. Certainly there will be no way for the United States to appear triumphant, and the Afghan war will be resolved much as Vietnam was, through a negotiated peace agreement that allows the insurgent forces — in this case the Taliban — to take control. A stronger Pakistani army will have no interest in crushing the Taliban but will settle for controlling it. The Pakistani state will survive, which will balance India, thus allowing the United States to focus on other balance points within the region.
The Region's Heartland: Iran and Iraq
The balance of power between Iran and Iraq remained intact until 2003, when the United States invasion destroyed both Iraq's government and army. Since then the primary force that has kept the Iranians in check has been the United States. But the United States has announced that it intends to withdraw its forces from Iraq, which, given the state of the Iraqi government and military, will leave Iran the dominant power in the Persian Gulf. This poses a fundamental challenge both for American strategy and the extremely complex region. Consider the alliances that might occur absent the United States.
Iraq's population is about 30 million. Saudi Arabia's population is about 27 million. The entire Arabian Peninsula's population is about 70 million, but that is divided among multiple nations, particularly between Saudi Arabia and Yemen. The latter has about one third of this population, and is far away from the vulnerable Saudi Arabian oil fields. In contrast, Iran alone has a population of 70 million. Turkey has a population of about 70 million. In the broadest sense, these figures and how these populations combine into potential alliances will define the geopolitical reality of the Persian Gulf region going forward. Saudi Arabia's population — and wealth — combined with Iraq's population can counterbalance either Iran or Turkey, but not both. During the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s, it was Saudi Arabia's support for Iraq that led to whatever success that country enjoyed.
While Turkey is a rising power with a large population, it is still a limited power, unable to project its influence as far as the Persian Gulf. It can press Iraq and Iran in the north, diverting their attention from the gulf, but it can't directly intervene to protect the Arabian oil fields. Moreover, the stability of Iraq, such as it is, is very much in Iran's hands. Iran might not be able to impose a pro-Iranian regime in Baghdad, but it has the power to destabilize Baghdad at will.
With Iraq essentially neutralized, its 30 million people fighting each other rather than counterbalancing anyone, Iran is for the first time in centuries free from significant external threat from its neighbors. The Iranian-Turkish border is extremely mountainous, making offensive military operations there difficult. To the north, Iran is buffered from Russian power by Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia, and in the northeast by Turkmenistan. To the east lie Afghanistan and Pakistan, both in chaos. If the United States withdraws from Iraq, Iran will be free from an immediate threat from that enormous power as well. Thus Iran is, at least for the time being, in an extraordinary position, secure from overland incursions and free to explore to the southwest.
With Iraq in shambles, the nations of the Arabian Peninsula could not resist Iran even if they acted in concert. Bear in mind that nuclear weapons are not relevant to this reality. Iran would still be the dominant Persian Gulf power even if its nuclear weapons were destroyed. Indeed, a strike solely on Iran's nuclear facilities could prove highly counterproductive, causing Iran to respond in unpleasant ways. While Iran cannot impose its own government on Iraq, it could, if provoked, block any other government from emerging by creating chaos there, even while U.S. forces are still on the ground, trapped in a new round of internal warfare but with a smaller number of troops available.
Iran's ultimate response to a strike on its nuclear facilities would be to try to block the Strait of Hormuz, where about 45 percent of the world's exported seaborne oil flows through a narrow channel. Iran has anti-ship missiles and, more important, mines. If Iran mined the strait and the United States could not clear that waterway to a reasonable degree of confidence, the supply line could be closed. This would cause oil prices to spike dramatically and would certainly abort the global economic recovery.
Any isolated attack on Iran's nuclear facilities — the kind of attack that Israel might undertake by itself — would be self-defeating, making Iran more dangerous than ever. The only way to neutralize those facilities without incurring collateral damage is to attack Iran's naval capability as well, and to use air power to diminish Iran's conventional capability. Such an attack would take months (if it were to target Iran's army), and its effectiveness, like that of all air warfare, is uncertain.
For the United States to achieve its strategic goals in the region, it must find a way to counterbalance Iran without maintaining its current deployment (already reduced to 50,000 troops) in Iraq and without actually increasing the military power devoted to the region. A major air campaign against Iran is not a desirable prospect; nor can the United States count on the reemergence of Iraqi power as a counterweight, because Iran would never allow it. The United States has to withdraw from Iraq in order to manage its other strategic interests. But coupled with this withdrawal, it must think radical thoughts.
In the next decade, the most desirable option with Iran is going to be delivered through a move that now seems inconceivable. It is the option chosen by Roosevelt and Nixon when they faced seemingly impossible strategic situations: the creation of alliances with countries that had previously been regarded as strategic and moral threats. Roosevelt allied the United States with Stalinist Russia, and Nixon aligned with Maoist China, each to block a third power that was seen as more dangerous. In both cases, there was intense ideological rivalry between the new ally and the United States, one that many regarded as extreme and utterly inflexible. Nevertheless, when the United States faced unacceptable alternatives, strategic interest overcame moral revulsion on both sides. The alternative for Roosevelt was a German victory in World War II. For Nixon, it was the Soviets using American weakness caused by the Vietnam War to change the global balance of power.
Conditions on the ground put the United States in a similar position today vis-a-vis Iran. These countries despise each other. Neither can easily destroy the other, and, truth be told, they have some interests in common. In simple terms, the American president, in order to achieve his strategic goals, must seek accommodation with Iran.
The seemingly impossible strategic situation driving the United States to this gesture is, as we've discussed, the need to maintain the flow of oil through the Strait of Hormuz, and to achieve this at a time when the country must reduce the forces devoted to this part of the world.
The principal reason that Iran might accede to a deal is that it sees the United States as dangerous and unpredictable. Indeed, in less than ten years, Iran has found itself with American troops on both its eastern and western borders. Iran's primary strategic interest is regime survival. It must avoid a crushing U.S. intervention while guaranteeing that Iraq never again becomes a threat. Meanwhile, Iran must increase its authority within the Muslim world against the Sunni Muslims who rival and sometimes threaten it.
In trying to imagine a U.S.-Iranian detente, consider the overlaps in these countries' goals. The United States is in a war against some — but not all — Sunnis, and these Sunnis are also the enemies of Shiite Iran. Iran does not want U.S. troops along its eastern and western borders. (In point of fact, the United States does not want to be there either.) Just as the United States wants to see oil continue to flow freely through Hormuz, Iran wants to profit from that flow, not interrupt it. Finally, the Iranians understand that the United States alone poses the greatest threat to their security: solve the American problem and regime survival is assured. The United States understands, or should, that resurrecting the Iraqi counterweight to Iran is simply not an option in the short term. Unless the United States wants to make a huge, long-term commitment of ground forces in Iraq, which it clearly does not, the obvious solution to its problem in the region is to make an accommodation with Iran.
The major threat that might arise from this strategy of accommodation would be that Iran oversteps its bounds and attempts to occupy the oil-producing countries in the Persian Gulf directly. Given the logistical limitations of the Iranian army, this would be difficult. Also given that it would bring a rapid American intervention, such aggressive action on the part of the Iranians would be pointless and self-defeating. Iran is already the dominant power in the region, and the United States has no need to block indirect Iranian influence over its neighbors. Aspects of Iran's influence would range from financial participation in regional projects to significant influence over OPEC quotas to a degree of influence in the internal policies of the Arabian countries. Merely by showing a modicum of restraint, Iranians could gain unquestioned preeminence, and economic advantage, while seeing their oil find its way to the market. They could also see substantial investment begin to flow into their economy once more.
Even with an understanding with the United States, Iranian domination of the region would have limits. Iran would enjoy a sphere of influence dependent on its alignment with the United States on other issues, which means not crossing any line that would trigger direct U.S. intervention. Over time, the growth of Iranian power within the limits of such clear understandings would benefit both the United States and Iran. Like the arrangements with Stalin and Mao, this U.S.-Iranian alliance would be distasteful yet necessary, but also temporary.
The great losers in this alliance, of course, would be the Sunnis in the Arabian Peninsula, including the House of Saud. Without Iraq, they are incapable of defending themselves, and as long as the oil flows and no single power directly controls the entire region, the United States has no long-term interest in their economic and political well-being. Thus a U.S.-Iranian entente would also redefine the historic relationship of the United States with the Saudis. The Saudis will have to look at the United States as a guarantor of its interests while trying to reach some political accommodation with Iran. The geopolitical dynamic of the Persian Gulf would be transformed for everyone.
The Israelis too would be threatened, although not as much as the Saudis and other principalities on the Persian Gulf. Over the years, Iran's anti-Israeli rhetoric has been extreme, but its actions have been cautious. Iran has played a waiting game, using rhetoric to cover inaction. In the end, the Israelis would be trapped by the American decision. Israel lacks the conventional capability for the kind of extensive air campaign needed to destroy the Iranian nuclear program. Certainly it lacks the military might to shape the geopolitical alignments of the Persian Gulf region. Moreover, an Iran presented with its dream of a secure western border and domination of the Persian Gulf could become quite conciliatory. Compared to such opportunities, Israel for them is a minor, distant, and symbolic issue.
Until now, the Israelis still had the potential option of striking Iran unilaterally, in hopes of generating an Iranian response in the Strait of Hormuz, thereby drawing the United States into the conflict. Should the Americans and Iranians move toward an understanding, Israel would no longer have such sway over U.S. policy. An Israeli strike might trigger an entirely unwelcome American response rather than the chain reaction that Israel once could have hoped for.
The greatest shock of a U.S.-Iranian entente would be political, on both sides. During World War II, the U.S.-Soviet agreement shocked Americans deeply (Soviets less so, because they had already absorbed Stalin's prewar nonaggression pact with Hitler). The Nixon-Mao entente, seen as utterly unthinkable at the time, shocked all sides. Once it happened, however, it turned out to be utterly thinkable, even manageable.
When Roosevelt made his arrangement with Stalin, he was politically vulnerable to his right wing, the more extreme elements of which already regarded him as a socialist favorably inclined to the Soviets. Nixon, as a right-wing opponent of communism, had an easier time. Obama will be in Roosevelt's position, without the overwhelming threat of a comparatively much greater evil — that is, Nazi Germany.
Obama's political standing would be enhanced by an air strike more than by a cynical deal. An accommodation with Iran will be particularly difficult for him because it will be seen as an example of weakness rather than of ruthlessness and cunning. Iranian president Ahmadinejad will have a much easier time selling such an arrangement to his people. But set against the options — a nuclear Iran, extended air strikes with all attendant consequences, the long-term, multidivisional, highly undesirable presence of American forces in Iraq — this alliance seems perfectly reasonable.
Nixon and China showed that major diplomatic shifts can take place quite suddenly. There is often a long period of back-channel negotiations, followed by a breakthrough driven either by changing circumstances or by skillful negotiations.
The current president will need considerable political craft to position the alliance as an aid to the war on al Qaeda, making it clear that Shiite-dominated Iran is as hostile to the Sunnis as it is to Americans. He will be opposed by two powerful lobbies in this, the Saudis and the Israelis. Israel will be outraged by the maneuver, but the Saudis will be terrified, which is one of the maneuver's great advantages, increasing American traction over its policies. The Israelis can in many ways be handled more easily, simply because the Israeli military and intelligence services have long seen the Iranians as occasional allies against Arab threats, even as the Iranians were supporting Hezbollah against Israel. They have had a complex relationship over the last thirty years. The Saudis will condemn this move, but the pressure it places on the Arab world would be attractive to Israel. Even so, the American Jewish community is not as sophisticated or cynical as Israel in these matters, and its members will be vocal. Even more difficult to manage will be the Saudi lobby, backed as it is by American companies that do business in the kingdom.
There will be several advantages to the United States. First, without fundamentally threatening Israeli interests, the move will demonstrate that the United States is not controlled by Israel. Second, it will put a generally unpopular country, Saudi Arabia — a state that has been accustomed to having its way in Washington — on notice that the United States has other options. For their part, the Saudis have nowhere to go, and they will cling to whatever guarantees the United States provides them in the face of an American-Iranian entente.
Recalling thirty years of hostilities with Iran, the American public will be outraged. The president will have to frame his maneuver by offering rhetoric about protecting the homeland against the greater threat. He will of course use China as an example of successful reconciliation with the irreconcilable.
The president will have to deal with the swirling public battles of foreign lobbies and make the case for the entente. But he will ultimately have to maintain his moral bearings, remembering that in the end, Iran is not America's friend any more than Stalin and Mao were.
If ever there was a need for secret understandings secretly arrived at, this is it, and much of this arrangement will remain unspoken. Neither country will want to incur the internal political damage from excessive public meetings and handshakes. But in the end, the United States needs to exit from the trap it is in, and Iran has to avoid a real confrontation with the United States.
Iran is an inherently defensive country. It is not strong enough to be either the foundation of American policy in the region or the real long-term issue. Its population is concentrated in the mountains that ring its borders, while much of the center of the country is minimally or completely uninhabitable. Iran can project power under certain special conditions, such as those that obtain at the moment, but in the long run it is either a victim of outside powers or isolated.
An alliance with the United States will temporarily give Iran the upper hand in relations with the Arabs, but within a matter of years the United States will have to reassert a balance of power. Pakistan is unable to extend its influence westward. Israel is much too small and distant to counterbalance Iran. The Arabian Peninsula is too fragmented, and the duplicity of the United States in encouraging it to increase its arms is too obvious to be an alternative counterweight. A more realistic alternative is to encourage Russia to extend its influence to the Iranian border. This might happen anyway, but as we will see, that would produce major problems elsewhere.
The only country capable of being a counterbalance to Iran and a potential long-term power in the region is Turkey, and it will achieve that status within the next ten years regardless of what the United States does. Turkey has the seventeenth largest economy in the world and the largest in the Middle East. It has the strongest army in the region and, aside from the Russians and possibly the British, probably the strongest army in Europe. Like most countries in the Muslim world, it is currently divided between secularists and Islamists within its own borders. But their struggle is far more restrained than what is going on in other parts of the Muslim world.
Iranian domination of the Arabian Peninsula is not in Turkey's interest because Turkey has its own appetite for the region's oil, reducing its dependency on Russian oil. Also, Turkey does not want Iran to become more powerful than itself. And while Iran has a small Kurdish population, southeastern Turkey is home to an extremely large number of Kurds, a fact that Iran can exploit. Regional and global powers have been using support for the Kurds to put pressure on or destabilize Iraq, Turkey, and Iran. It is an old game and a constant vulnerability.
In the course of the next decade the Iranians will have to divert major resources in order to deal with Turkey. Meanwhile, the Arab world will be looking for a champion against Shiite Iran, and despite the bitter history of Turkish power in the Arab world during the Ottoman Empire, Sunni Turkey is the best bet.
In the next ten years, the United States must make certain that Turkey does not become hostile to American interests and that Iran and Turkey do not form an alliance for the domination and division of the Arab world. The more Turkey and Iran fear the United States, the greater the likelihood that this will happen. The Iranians will be assuaged in the short run by their entente with the Americans, but they will be fully aware that this is an alliance of convenience, not a long-term friendship. It is the Turks who are open to a longer-term alignment with the United States, and Turkey can be valuable to the United States in other places, particularly in the Balkans and the Caucasus, where it serves as a block to Russian aspirations.
As long as the United States maintains the basic terms of its agreement with Iran, Iran will represent a threat to Turkey. Whatever the inclinations of the Turks, they will have to protect themselves, and to do that, they must work to undermine Iranian power in the Arabian Peninsula and the Arab countries to the north of the peninsula — Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon. They will engage in this not only to limit Iran but also to improve their access to the oil to their south, both because they will need that oil and because they will want to profit from it.
As Turkey and Iran compete in the next decade, Israel and Pakistan will be concerned with local balances of power. In the long run, Turkey cannot be contained by Iran. Turkey is by far the more dynamic country economically, and therefore it can support a more sophisticated military. More important, whereas Iran has geographically limited regional options, Turkey reaches into the Caucasus, the Balkans, Central Asia, and ultimately the Mediterranean and North Africa, which provides opportunities and allies denied the Iranians. Iran has never been a significant naval power since antiquity, and because of the location of its ports, it can never really be one in the future. Turkey, in contrast, has frequently been the dominant power in the Mediterranean and will be so again. Over the next decade we will see the beginning of Turkey's rise to dominance in the region. It is interesting to note that while we can't think of the century without Turkey playing an extremely important role, this decade will be one of preparation. Turkey will have to come to terms with its domestic conflicts and grow its economy. The cautious foreign policy Turkey has followed recently will continue. It is not going to plunge into conflicts and therefore will influence but not define the region. The United States must take a long-term view of Turkey and avoid pressure that could undermine its development.
As a solution to the complex problems of the Middle East, the American president must choose a temporary understanding with Iran that gives Iran what it wants, that gives the United States room to withdraw, and that is also a foundation for the relationship of mutual hostility to the Sunni fundamentalists. In other words, the president must put the Arabian Peninsula inside the Iranians' sphere of influence while limiting their direct controls, and while putting the Saudis, among others, at an enormous disadvantage.
This strategy would confront the reality of Iranian power and try to shape it. Whether it is shaped or not, the longer-term solution to the balance of power in the region will be the rise of Turkey. A powerful Turkey would counterbalance Iran and Israel, while stabilizing the Arabian Peninsula. In due course the Turks will begin to react by challenging the Iranians, and thus the central balance of power will be resurrected, stabilizing the region. This will create a new regional balance of power. But that is not for this decade.
I am arguing that this is a preferred policy option given the circumstances. But I am also arguing that this is the most logical outcome. The alternatives are unacceptable to both sides; there is too much risk. And when the alternatives are undesirable, what remains — however preposterous it appears — is the most likely outcome.
To see how that would affect wider circles of power and their balance, we turn to the next concern, the balance between Europe and Russia.
Excerpt from the book, The Next Decade, by George Friedman, published by Doubleday, a division of Penguin Random House, Inc. Reprinted with permission.
Read more: Strategic Reversal: The United States, Iran, and the Middle East | Stratfor
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WSJ: The lessons of Nazi romance with Islam for US
Reply #603 on:
November 28, 2014, 04:38:57 PM »
The Nazi Romance With Islam Has Some Lessons for the United States
Two new important histories look at Hitler’s fascination with Islam and Atatürk, the founder of modern Turkey
By David Mikics|November 24, 2014 12:00 AM|Comments: 46
Both Hitler and Himmler had a soft spot for Islam. Hitler several times fantasized that, if the Saracens had not been stopped at the Battle of Tours, Islam would have spread through the European continent—and that would have been a good thing, since “Jewish Christianity” wouldn’t have gone on to poison Europe. Christianity doted on weakness and suffering, while Islam extolled strength, Hitler believed. Himmler in a January 1944 speech called Islam “a practical and attractive religion for soldiers,” with its promise of paradise and beautiful women for brave martyrs after their death. “This is the kind of language a soldier understands,” Himmler gushed.
Surely, the Nazi leaders thought, Muslims would see that the Germans were their blood brothers: loyal, iron-willed, and most important, convinced that Jews were the evil that most plagued the world. “Do you recognize him, the fat, curly-haired Jew who deceives and rules the whole world and who steals the land of the Arabs?” demanded one of the Nazi pamphlets dropped over North Africa (a million copies of it were printed). “The Jew,” the pamphlet explained, was the evil King Dajjal from Islamic tradition, who in the world’s final days was supposed to lead 70,000 Jews from Isfahan in apocalyptic battle against Isa—often identified with Jesus, but according to the Reich Propaganda Ministry none other than Hitler himself. Germany produced reams of leaflets like this one, often quoting the Quran on the subject of Jewish treachery.
It is not surprising, then, that there are those today who draw a direct line between modern Jew-hatred in the Islamic world and the Nazis. A poster currently at Columbus Circle’s subway entrance proclaims loudly that “Jew-hatred is in the Quran.” The poster features a photograph of Hitler with the notoriously anti-Jewish Mufti al-Husaini of Palestine, who is erroneously labeled “the leader of the Muslim world.” The truth is considerably more complex. The mufti made himself useful to the Nazis as a propagandist, but he had little influence in most Muslim regions. Few Muslims believed Nazi claims that Hitler was the protector of Islam, much less the Twelfth Imam, as one Reich pamphlet suggested.
The Nazis’ anti-Jewish propaganda no doubt attracted many Muslims, as historian Jeffrey Herf has documented, but they balked at believing that Hitler would be their savior or liberator. Instead, they sensed correctly that the Nazis wanted Muslims to fight and die for Germany. As Rommel approached Cairo, Egyptians started to get nervous. They knew that the Germans were not coming to liberate them, but instead wanted to make the Muslim world part of their own burgeoning empire. In the end, more Muslims wound up fighting for the Allies than for the Axis.
Hitler’s failed effort to put Muslim boots on the ground still stands as the most far-reaching Western attempt to use Islam to win a war. Such is the judgment of David Motadel, the author of a new, authoritative book, Islam and Nazi Germany’s War. Motadel’s detailed and fascinating explanation of how and why the Nazis failed to get Muslims on their side is a must-read for serious students of World War II, and it has an important message as well for our own policy in the Middle East.
To grasp why the Nazis had such high hopes for Muslim collaboration—and why their hopes failed—we need to go back to the great war that made Hitler the fanatical monster he was. One hundred years ago, a few months into World War I, Germany looked like it might be in trouble. The German offensive had failed to break through at Ypres after a month of bloody fighting. The waves of German soldiers stumbling through no-man’s land slowed to a stop. The kaiser’s army was exhausted, and its commanders suddenly realized that the quick Western Front victory they had dreamed of was impossible. Meanwhile, Russia was massing troops around Warsaw, and the tsar had just declared war on the Ottoman Empire.
There was one bright spot, though. On Nov. 11, 1914, the highest religious authority of the Ottoman caliphate, Sheikh al-Islam Ürgüplü Hayri, issued a call for worldwide jihad against Russia, Britain, and France. Suddenly, the Great War was a holy war. Surely, the Germans dreamed, Muslims would join their side en masse and turn the tide of battle.
In the early years of World War I the German Reich caught Islam fever: Muslims became the great Eastern hope against the Entente. Helmuth von Moltke, chief of the German general staff, planned to “awaken the fanaticism of Islam” in the French and British colonies, making the Muslim masses rise up against their European masters. Max von Oppenheim, the German diplomat and orientalist, described Islam as “one of our most important weapons” in his famous position paper of October 1914. Oppenheim wanted to spark a Muslim revolt stretching from India to Morocco that Germany could use for its own purposes. Germany just needed to get the message across, Oppenheim insisted: Russia, Britain, and France were the oppressors of Muslims, whereas the Germans would liberate them.
The German strategy didn’t work. Instead, Britain and France won the game when they capitalized on the Arab uprising against a crumbling Ottoman Empire. T.E. Lawrence, rather than the kaiser, inspired the Arabs. After the war, Britain and France sliced up the Middle East pie between them in the Sykes-Picot agreement of 1916.
Germany tried once again to mobilize Islam in WWII. Astonishingly, in 1940 Oppenheim, at that point 80 years old, championed the same plan that had failed so badly in the previous war. Even more surprising, Hitler and Himmler warmly embraced the part-Jewish Oppenheim’s idea: They too thought that Islam would help bring about a Nazi triumph.
“German officials would always refer to global Islam, to pan Islam,” Motadel told me over the phone from his home in Cambridge, England, where he is Research Fellow in History at the University of Cambridge’s Gonville and Caius College. The Nazis spoke of the Muslims as a “bloc” that could be “activated” against the British, the French, and the Soviets. Their belief that Islam was monolithic led them to ignore differences of region, sect, and nationality, which helped to ensure the failure of their efforts.
As Motadel documents, those efforts were indeed considerable. Germans sought out imams who would issue fatwas for their side, and they told their soldiers to be especially careful of religious sensibilities when traveling through Muslim territory. They gave special privileges to Muslims who joined the Wehrmacht: The Nazi leadership even allowed them to follow Muslim dietary laws. Astonishingly, German forces in the East permitted Muslims to practice both circumcision and ritual slaughter, proving more liberal on these two issues than many Europeans are today. At the beginning of Operation Barbarossa, the Germans murdered many Muslims because they were mistaken for Jews: They didn’t realize that Muslims were also circumcised. But Berlin soon corrected the error and cautioned troops in the East to make sure to treat Muslims with respect, since they were Germany’s potential allies. In December 1942 Hitler decided he wanted to recruit all-Muslim units in the Caucasus. He distrusted Georgians and Armenians, but the Muslims, he said, were true soldiers.
The Germans assumed that the Muslim world would naturally flock to the Nazi banner, since Muslims like Germans knew that Jews were the enemy, and since Germany was offering them freedom from France, Britain, and Russia. But for the most part, they were wrong. Muslims only embraced the Nazi cause in places where they were desperate to arm themselves against local persecutors, the Crimea, the Caucasus, and the Balkans. In most of the Muslim world, Hitler failed to attract a large following.
North Africa was a miserable failure for German recruitment. “230,000 Muslims fought for the Free French against the Axis from North Africa,” Motadel pointed out to me in our interview, far more than those who enlisted with Germany. The Germans had their millions of leaflets, but they were not the only propagandists in the field. “The Free French mobilized them with anti-colonial rhetoric. The British and French were the ruling powers; they had much more control over propaganda.”
The East was much more favorable than North Africa to the German recruitment drive. The Muslims of the Caucasus and the Crimea had many reasons to choose Germany over Stalin’s Soviet Union. “In the East the Muslim population had really suffered under Stalin, economically and religiously,” Motadel remarked to me. They had nothing to lose, they thought, by siding with “Adolf Effendi.” The Crimean Tatars took a notorious place among Germany’s most loyal and ruthless battalions, fighting both in the East and, near the end of the war, in Romania. The Tatars made the wrong choice: Stalin mercilessly deported many of them to his gulags after the war.
In the Balkans many Muslims turned to Germany in the middle of a brutal civil war, fleeing the rampages of the Croatian Ustase. The infamous all-Muslim Handžar battalion of the SS, organized in the Balkans late in the war, committed many atrocities. In Serbian areas, noted one British officer, the Handžar “massacres all civil population without mercy or regard for age or sex.”
The Nazis made sure, with few exceptions, that the Nuremberg laws could be applied only to Jews, not to those other Semites, the Arabs, nor to Turks and Persians—which paradoxically allowed certain communities of Jews in Muslim regions to also survive the Shoah. In Crimea, two puzzled officers of the Wehrmacht, Fritz Donner and Ernst Seifert, reported on “Near Eastern racial groups of a non-Semitic character who, strangely, have adopted the Jewish faith,” while also noting that “a large part of these Jews on the Crimea is of Mohammedan faith.” What to do? In the end the Reich ruled that the Karaites, traditionally seen as a Turkic people, could be spared, while the Krymchaks should be murdered as Jews, though both these Crimean tribes followed Jewish law. In the northern Caucasus, the Nazis decided that the Judeo-Tats, a tiny Torah-observant island in a sea of Muslims, had only their religion in common with Jews. In effect, they became honorary Muslims and were saved from death. The Karaites were close to the Muslim Crimean Tatars, and the Judeo-Tats also had deep ties to their Muslim neighbors. It was their supposed affinity to Islam that saved the lives of these observant Jews. In these cases the Nazi wish to cultivate the Muslim world even affected to a small degree their anti-Semitic policy—to the Jews’ advantage.
Hitler cultivated many parts of the Muslim world, but he was fanatically enthusiastic about only one country: Turkey (the Nazis officially decided in 1936 that the Turks were Aryans). Stefan Ihrig’s brilliant new book Atatürk in the Nazi Imagination demonstrates convincingly that Mustafa Kemal Atatürk’s conquest of Turkey was the most important model for the Nazis’ remaking of Germany, far more so than Mussolini’s 1922 March on Rome, which is usually cited as Hitler’s main inspiration. Turkey had taken control of its destiny in manly fashion, in proud defiance of the international community—if only Germany would do the same! So argued many on the German right, including Hitler, during the 10 years between Atatürk’s victory and the Nazi seizure of power.
The victorious Entente had vastly curtailed Ottoman territory under the Treaty of Sèvres after WWI, just as the Treaty of Versailles shrank German territory. But the new nation of Turkey threw off the victors’ shackles and, after Mustafa Kemal (later renamed Atatürk) marched from Ankara westward, the Turks won the right to a homeland in the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne. The Weimar Republic’s newspapers obsessively celebrated the Turks’ victory and endorsed their claims to the disputed region of Hatay (the Turks’ Alsace-Lorraine), portraying the Turks as more advanced than the Germans, trailblazers on the path to strong nationhood. “If we want to be free, then we will have no choice but to follow the Turkish example in one way or another,” the right-wing military man and journalist Hans Tröbst announced in the newspaper Heimatland in 1923. Nearly every item in Hitler’s playbook can be found in such Weimar-era endorsements of Atatürk: All Turkey had mobilized for the war; strong faith in their leader had saved them.
Ihrig argues that the Turkish treatment of minorities, both under Atatürk and earlier, was the true precursor for Hitler’s murderous policy in the East. Those “bloodsuckers and parasites,” the Greeks and Armenians, had been “eradicated” by the Turks, Tröbst explained in Heimatland. “Gentle measures—that history has always shown—will not do in such cases.” The Turks had achieved “the purification of a nation of its foreign elements on a grand scale.” He added that “Almost all of those of foreign background in the area of combat had to die; their number is not put too low with 500,000.” Here was a chilling endorsement of genocide, and one that surely did not escape Hitler’s eye. Shortly after his articles appeared, Hitler invited Tröbst to give a speech on Turkey to the SA.
From 1923 on, Hitler consistently praised Atatürk in his own speeches as well. Berlin, like Istanbul, was cosmopolitan and decadent. Munich, site of Hitler’s beer-hall putsch, was the place for a German “Ankara government.” When Hitler seized power in 1933 his Völkischer Beobachter cited Atatürk’s victory as the “star in the darkness” that had shone for the beleaguered Nazis in 1923, after the putsch’s failure. Turkey was “proof of what a real man could do”—a man like Atatürk, or Hitler.
The Third Reich produced many idolizing biographies of Atatürk. Six years after the Turkish leader’s death, in late 1944, a delusional Hitler was still dreaming of a postwar alliance between Turkey and Germany. He never got his wish. During the war, Turkey, as a neutral power, kept its distance from the Nazis until it finally declared war against Germany in February 1945.
In Turkey, criticizing Atatürk can still get you three years in jail, though the country’s increasingly unhinged President Recep Tayyip Erdogan broke the law himself last year when he called Atatürk a drunkard. While Erdogan wants to reverse his predecessor’s program for secularizing Turkey, he appears to be imitating Atatürk’s extravagant cult of personality along with his habit of demonizing his enemies. But while Atatürk disdained Hitler’s anti-Semitism, Erdogan is obsessed with Jews. The 2014 Gaza operation, he has remarked, was worse than anything Hitler ever did, and the Israelis have been committing “systematic genocide every day” since 1948. Perhaps if Erdogan had been in power in the 1940s, the Nazis would have found the Muslim ally they so desperately sought.
Weaponizing Islam has often been a temptation for the United States, just as it was for Germany. In its battle against Moscow, Washington recruited Islamic leaders after WWII, most famously Said Ramadan, a major figure in the Muslim Brotherhood. The United States even smiled on Saudi Arabia’s funding of radical Islamist organizations, hoping that religion would serve as a bulwark against Soviet Communism. Then the Muslim Brotherhood killed U.S. ally Anwar Sadat, and its follower Ayman al-Zawahiri became, along with Osama Bin Laden, the founder of al-Qaida. We supported the Mujahedeen in Afghanistan, until the Mujahedeen turned into the Taliban.
We are still trying to turn the Muslim world to our own purposes, but this time by supporting Shiite against Sunni. In addition to courting Erdogan, President Barack Obama hopes to make use of Iran as a stabilizing regional force. In his most recent personal letter to Ayatollah Khamanei, Obama seems to have made a promise: We will repeal sanctions, fight against ISIS, and preserve the rule of Iran’s client Bashar al Assad as long as Iran agrees to a deal on nuclear weapons. But what will the United States get in return? In the best-case scenario—which is far from assured—Iran’s bomb-making abilities will be hindered by the deal they sign. But even an Iran without the bomb cannot be relied on to make the Middle East less conflict-riven, unless we are aiming at the kind of stability famously mocked by Tacitus: They make a desert and call it peace. Iranian actions speak for themselves: support for Hezbollah, with its hundred thousand weapons aimed at Israel, and support for Assad, who has massacred his people endlessly and thrown massive numbers of them into concentration camps. Anyone who looks at the Syrian defector “Caesar” ’s photographs of the thousands of starved, mutilated bodies produced by Syria’s bloodthirsty optometrist-in-chief, which are now on permanent exhibition at the Holocaust Museum in Washington, a few blocks from the White House that has refused to grasp their meaning, will ask the same question: Don’t these Arab bodies, resembling so exactly the bodies of Jews at Auschwitz, have the same call on our conscience?
One thing is certain: If Khamanei and Rouhani are given a larger role in the Middle East, they will not serve U.S. interests, nor those of the majority of Muslims. They will serve their own interests, which are inimical to ours. We still have not learned the major lesson of 20th-century history so adeptly conveyed by Motadel and Ihrig: Western leaders who try to get Islam on their side through propaganda and favors will be unpleasantly surprised.
Re: US Foreign Policy: 31% approve
Reply #604 on:
November 30, 2014, 05:17:05 PM »
US Foreign Policy, Pearl Harbor attack, May we never forget!
Reply #605 on:
December 07, 2014, 12:22:32 PM »
Happy December 7th everybody. I wonder how long a period FDR meant by "May we never forget!"?
What were the lessons?
Peace comes through strength and deterrence.
There are people and regimes out there who would love to harm us.
Never has this been more true than now.
FDR did not say, may our strength and resolve oscillate with the polling data of current era focus groups!
Washington's Farewell Address, 1796
Reply #606 on:
December 08, 2014, 12:01:51 PM »
"There can be no greater error than to expect, or calculate upon real favors from nation to nation. 'Tis an illusion which experience must cure, which a just pride ought to discard." --George Washington, Farewell Address, 1796
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