Sunday, October 05, 2014

The Closer You Look ...

The closer one looks at the ISIS thing, the more it starts looking like a sectarian war in the Middle East.  Yesterday in the Globe and Mail, Robert Fowler very nicely articulated the problem with short term solutions to the mess in Iraq, and today I spotted a really interesting read describing some of the reasons behind the apparent lack of response from several Arab states, in particular Saudi Arabia.

As is typical of these situations in the region, it is starting to become apparent that for all of its bloodiness, ISIS is simply another sectarian feud spilling out into the open.  Saudi Arabia is divided at the top because some people see ISIS as a challenge to Iran's Shiite beliefs and aggression and therefore a "good thing".

Suddenly, western powers are in the awkward place of having to somehow justify going after ISIS in Syria when they have all turned their backs on the Assad regime there.  (which is nominally secular(ish))

Yes, the beheadings are grisly and vile acts.  Yes, we know that radicals are now recruiting from around the world - using tactics and techniques which are neither particularly new or innovative - they are more or less the standard tactics of recruitment used by extremist religious leaders for decades if not centuries.

Is ISIS really any different than the Taliban in Afghanistan in the late 90s?  Or al Qaeda during the early 2000s?  Not particularly.  They are enacting more or less a variation on the usual quasi-tribal violence that has wracked the region for decades and longer.

While Harper is all hot to trot to drag Canada into a moral war to stop ISIS, he and his followers are missing the fundamental point.  This is a sectarian war in a region where we have no political capital left.  The western powers, all of them, have had too much to do with supporting heinous regimes over the last hundred years; and a set of borders which have little to do with the political and social realities of the region.

In 2000 years of assorted interventions in these countries, there is but one lesson for foreign powers:  Direct intervention is doomed to fail.  The Roman occupation of the Arab lands was a gong show from the start, and every intervention since has ultimately failed at the cost of much treasure and more innocent lives.  To claim that intervening against ISIS is going to turn out any differently is to ignore not only the lessons of the past, but worse to repeat its mistakes.

It is this writer's opinion that while the western powers can intervene legitimately in the realms of politics and humanitarian aid, the powers of the region must work through whatever sectarian differences they may have and develop their borders and governments accordingly.  We may not like what we see happening, but our political capital has been spent there for a long time, at least back to the withdrawal of the colonial powers if not longer.

For those who feel there is a "moral imperative" to intervene, there are interventions which will make a difference, but none of them involve bombs, guns or tanks.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

i found your blog and have been reading back as far as a year so far. thank you so much for your dedication to getting the truth out there.


what do you think of what happened in ottawa yesterday (october 22)? i know that last night even after they said it was all over, there were what appeared to be drones in the sky over my neighbourhood alone (not downtown). very worried about what all of this really means or is leading up to.

MgS said...

Right now, it's too soon to tell.

The Sun News spin machine started gearing up almost immediately with a bunch of anti-muslim rhetoric; we'll have to wait and see just how Harper himself tries to use this for political gain.

The fact that Obama commented on this hours before Harper did suggests that the PMO "brain trust" was already hard at work trying to come up with a strategy.

MgS said...

The first shoe has dropped in the news yesterday/last night:

No. Just No.