Saturday, November 14, 2015

The Problem of Knowing History

I know a bit of history ... 

I’ve given some attention over the last 10 years to WW1 and the aftermath, when the Western Powers, after promising Arabs autonomy if they sided with the allies and rebelled against the Ottoman Empire, broke all of their promises and gave the Levant to both France and England and then proceeded to create the current boundaries of the Middle East extending through Persia (Iran), so that England would have clear access, via land and sea, to India.

And, of course, oil.

France already had North Africa, England had Egypt ... 

Germany, in once sense, lucked out on this one - they lost all of their colonial possessions in Africa and elsewhere, so, interestingly, Germany has no association with the bitter colonial memories that still simmer in the ME.

In recent years, of course, Uncle Sam has played a fateful role, engineering coups and all sorts of adjustments to keep the oil flowing ... and, of course, the very sad story of the State of Israel ... a sore spot in the ME that won’t go away.

Now, to Paris, a great sadness ... but it’s not just a matter of “innocent” Europeans and “Evil” Muslim terrorists.

It’s a tragic mix of roosters coming home to the former colonial powers, and what better target than France with its long-standing, and often oppressive moves in North Africa and the Levant, all mixed up in the swamp of American oil interests and America’s devotion (some would say, “enslavement) to the State of Israel.

During WW2, various underground groups fought against the Nazis, and they were lauded by us as patriots and heroes, while the Nazis termed them criminals and terrorists. 

For many in the ME, who have endured the long dark nights of colonialism and its lingering legacy, who have seen their nations repeatedly molested by Western interests, there is a rising tide of resentment, especially among the young, and some if this resentment is become highly militarized, seeing the West as enemy, an enemy that understands only violence (sadly, the kind of violence inflicted on the ME by the former colonial powers).

And now learning about the Bush Administration and its hand in all of this deadly ME story further complicating our understanding of how all this came to be.

There are no innocent hands here.

Someone asked me, “Well, what should be done?”

The worst response would be a military one, as if we could defeat nationalism, which is what this all about. In the past, England failed in Afghanistan, the Soviet Union did, and we’re not doing any better there ... and nowhere in the ME are there prospects of some kind of “victory” - e.g. Iraq.
The whole thing has the feel of a potential Vietnam (a former French colony, by the way, which the US took on as a war against Communism) - a quagmire from which there is no escape, and in which there is no “victory,” in spite of massive superior weaponry.

To move militarily right now is exactly what ISIS is counting on - Western hubris, with its trust in fire power ... boots on the ground, and all that. We’ll plunge into the deserts like we plunged in the jungles of Vietnam.

What’s needed now, more than ever, is restraint, diplomacy, and to work with Iran and other ME nations who are better equipped culturally to deal with ISIS. 

We continue doing what we’re doing, with clarity, however, that we can never be totally safe, any more than the Nazis were safe from the underground movements armed by the Allies. There is no absolute safety, and it’s insanity to think so. 

We keep on doing what we’re doing - yes, learning how to be more efficient, diligent, and mindful ... but there will always be surprises, broadsides, and death. The name of the game is wisdom, not wildness.

We need to respect the ME, and we have to deal with the State of Israel which has become a rogue nation depending on Uncle Sam to back it, no matter what, while it violates the Palestinians - Christian and Muslim alike - and everyone else it can.

Now is not the time for firepower and closed borders and hostile rhetoric ... now is the time for restraint and reason ... lest we find ourselves pulled into the trap of war on a massive scale, furthering our debt load, killing more of our soldiers, devastating more of the ME, accomplishing nothing, adding to the hatred, and feeding the dogs of war.