Thursday, December 14, 2006

1936, here we come

Saudis tell U.S. they may back Iraq's Sunnis

One of my many unfinished columns, written when the "Is Iraq a civil war?" was still a live , if absurd, question) draws some parallels between Iraq and the Spanish Civil War. The announcement a few days ago by Saudi Arabia that it may throw massive support behind its Sunni brethren in Iraq is the most ominous indication yet that a repeat of the SPanish Civil War may be a best-case scenario.

For those not up on their history, the fascists, under Franco, squared off against the left-leaning Republicans. Spain became a proxy war and an entr'acte for the cataclysm of WWII.

The Republicans received weapons and volunteers from the Soviet Union, Mexico, the international Communist movement, and the International Brigades, while the Francoists received weapons and soldiers from Italy and Germany, logistical support from Portugal, and support from Roman Catholic nations such as Ireland.

Now Iraq is rapidly assembling the dramatis personae for a detailed re-enactment. Iran will back the Shia, Saudi Arabia the Sunni. Both countries have the resources and the motivation to scorch Iraq for many years. The opportunities for massive escalation are countless.

And the beauty part? It may be that the only thing keeping the Saudis and Iranians from launching Spanish Civil War II is our continued presence.

One of the columns I did finish was "Who you calling a fly?", in which I pointed out more than a year ago that we are the ones stuck to the flypaper conservatives were offering as a justification for our Iraq policy. I was right then, but I fear that this fact is now an order of magnitude more horrifying in its implications. Even worse, I can easily imagine a scenario in which the Bush Administration not only seizes on this nightmare as justification for staying the course, but actually fans the flames of this horror-in-waiting. After all, the neocons have been talking about, and encouraging, a clash of civilizations since even before 9/11. In their twisted world view, bringing about such a war is infinitely preferable to admitting failure by withdrawing. Evidence has not been a major component of their arguments so far, but the mess they made could actually reach a point at which leaving will unleash a whirlwind even worse than the disaster we already caused.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

About a decade ago, I came across a description of a situation in which a person was dead, but hadn't yet realized it. He had only minutes to live -- was already irreparably damaged -- but he was completely unaware of his predicament. So, for the last few minutes of his life he chatted with the others around him as though everything was normal.

I think that a great part of the Middle East, and perhaps an even larger segment of humankind, is in much the same position. The external signs are relatively normal. After all, humans have been fighting and fussing with each other for as far back as the records go. But I think this time is different and perhaps you think so too. Anyway, on reading your piece, I was caused to wonder the following: If a great many people are going to die in the Middle East, no matter what, and there is no way to make a dent in those numbers, is there any rationale for intellectual or emotional involvement? I think not.

Sure we feel sorry for the guy who is dead but doesn't know it yet, but we sure wouldn't start a long and convoluted dialog with him. And no one, no matter how empathetic, would take those last few minutes to become more emotionally involved with him than was necessary to help him remain calm. So, if my first question and answer about the Middle East are correct, how should we (as individuals) position ourselves and what should we do? Clearly it is a dangerous place and must be monitored lest the conflict and insanity suddenly start to overflow the region, but is there any more than that which could remotely have an impact?

There are some "unthinkable" options, but would anyone use them, even if it were clear that they were the only hope of making a difference? What about if they were the only way to contain the insanity? I am neither being specific nor advocating anything, but it seems we (collectively) have come on a massive "train wreck" with millions already dead but not fallen over yet, and are facing the possibility of "disease" emerging from those "bodies" on a global scale.

So now what?


6:39 PM  

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