New Year is a time to look back and forward, so maybe this is a good time to ask: “What kind of a world might we well be living in, say, by a year from now?”
By the end of the Bush Administration, we could well be faced with:
- A third Intifada in Palestine resulting from accumulating frustrations;
- An invigorated and probably radicalized Islamic Courts Union ruling Somalia, as a result of receiving nationalist support in reaction to the harshness of the U.S.-supported Ethiopian military attack;
- Ethiopian-Eritrean war over both their common border and the Ogaden revolt against Ethiopia, which is being exacerbated by Ethiopian propensity to solve the issue through military force rather than accommodation with local aspirations;
- Collapse of government in Lebanon, where Washington still appears to be counseling the regime to play hardball with Hezballah rather than allowing them the central government political influence commensurate with the size of the Shi’ite population;
- A new explosion of violence in Iraq, resulting from a Sunni Awakening vs Shi’ite civil war or open fighting within the Shi’ite camp;
- End of the Iraqi Kurdish cooperation with US because of US support for Turkish attacks;
- A popular Pakistani revolt against the military, with the pro-democratic forces joining the Taliban against the US-supported military-intelligence complex that runs the Pakistani dictatorship, or a consolidation of military-intelligence control, persuading the generals that they will continue to have a free hand to continue their 20-year-long campaign of passing nuclear weapons technology around the world.
OK, anyone who can rise above obsession with one particular issue and juggle plus or minus 7 facts simultaneously can see the possibility of all these situations occurring more or less simultaneously. The question is what to do about it.
Washington’s approach seems to be military force (vis-à-vis Iraq, Somalia, Hamas); military dictatorship (vis-à-vis Pakistan, Israeli control over Palestine); and no compromise (vis-à-vis Hezballah, Hamas, Islamic Courts Union, Iran). Is this approach working or do we need a fundamentally different way of behaving toward the world?
As the U.S. continues to support military/intelligence dictatorship in Pakistan – now without even the Benazir democratic figleaf; as the US air wars in Iraq and Afghanistan accelerate explosively; as the U.S. proxy war using (primarily) Ethiopian troops in Somalia appears to be collapsing; and as Israel sabotages (e.g., via settlement expansions and economic warfare against the people of Gaza) the already thin hopes that Annapolis would lead to peace in Palestine, attacking Iran seems a step too far. This wouldn’t be what those of little faith mean by imperial overstretch, would it?
Are the risks of continuing the current approach greater or less than the risks of trying a fundamentally new policy? And what might such a policy be?
A reasonable reaction might be: “Easy for you to ask, but not so easy to answer.” Indeed, except that, judging from the political rhetoric in the U.S. today, apparently most folks find such questions too hard even to ask. And if we don’t ask, we will never get the answers.