Sunday, July 24, 2005

Unrest in Iraq, Bombings in Madrid, London and Sharm el Sheikh

There have been a number of commentators lately expressing varying degrees of bewilderment and consernation over the recent spate of bombings.

It seems unlikely to believe that Iraq, Afghanistan, Egypt, London, Madrid and 9/11 are all related. Certainly, it seems even less likely that there is some "ubermind" bringing it all together.

After all, the bombe are often from places other than Iraq or Afghanistan - what interest could a Pakistani, or Syrian have in blowing themselves up in a suicide bombing? Reasoning further, the logic then decides that the terrorists that organize these bombings are completely unreasoning, irrational rebels without a clue or cause to speak of.

Even national leaders like Tony Blair change their rationalizations from one day to the next - first claiming that the terrorists hate "our freedoms", then turning to radical Islam as a causal explanation.

It doesn't take a genius to put current events up to the mirror of history. In the wake of World War I, the Treaty of Sevres substantially laid the groundwork for the national borders that we see in maps of the Middle East today. Little in that treaty, or any subsequent alteration of Middle Eastern borders had anything to do with recognizing natural political regions and divisions in the region. (Of course, at the end of the British Colonial era, this is not a big surprise)

However, beyond recognizing that the current geo-political environment has its roots in the early part of the last century. Since then, so-called "western" interests have tacitly and overtly supported some pretty awful regimes in the region - using the Lyndon Johnson "He might be a bastard, but he's our bastard" logic. Great, so for the last 100 years or so (I'll politely ignore pre WWI conquests of the region), foreign powers have propped up corrupt and abusive regimes. (Saddam Hussein, the Shah in Iran, among others)

So, when the United States rolls in to push over the government in Iraq (or Afghanistan, for that matter), do you think that just maybe the Arabs have good reason to be deeply suspicious? I certainly do! Then, just for giggles, we get to add the most recent incidents of abuse that have been either alleged or shown to have happened to prisoners under American control. (Abu Ghraib, Afghanistan, Guantanamo Bay - any of these ring any bells??) Factual or fictional, the point is that once out in the wild, these allegations will serve to reinforce Arab mistrust of "Western" interests.

Now, we come to the bombings and civil war in Iraq and Afghanistan. Why bomb Sharm el Sheikh? Why bomb the London Subways? Why 9/11? It's pretty simple - instead of just buying oil from the Arabs, foreign powers have decided that they had to control the oil supply. In doing so, they supported governments that abused their people, and broke every principle that America and its allies allegedly stand for. Coordinated or not, it isn't difficult to see where different groups will come up with different ways of lashing out at their perceived oppressors. The Arab isn't stupid - all but a few would realize that they simply haven't got the resources to stand in the face of American heavy armor. So - they resort to tactics they know will disrupt things - suicide bombings, car bombings, whatever. These are all cheap, easily organized operations that can have a devastating impact on the people.

Anyone who is perceived to be an ally of the "enemy" becomes a target. It's not a focused lashing out - that isn't necessary.

Can you negotiate with these people - no. Can we understand them - yes. Will further heavy military intervention in the region have any effect? No - at least not if the desired effect is to stabilize the region.

Is there a solution? Yes - but it involves handling the Arab states as economic partners and leaving them to sort out their own politics. Military invasion is a lousy way to make peace, and an even less effective way to gain trust.

No comments: