Well, if memory serves me correctly, and it does, they are the selfsame crowd that supported the Afghan mujahideen and facilitated, and downright aided, the emergence of Bin Laden and Taliban. This strategy did serve to humiliate the Soviets, no doubt about that, but it did also, well, help plant the seeds for 9/11.
Policies have consequence. And Short-term ill-considered policies have far more devastating consequences on the longer run than people realize. But US officials have been notoriously lax when it comes to thinking about long-term effects of their policies. The realists in particular seem to suffer from this tendency.
A colleague has recently related to me that relates an interesting yet all too real anecdote about the current nominee for Minister of Defense, Robert Gates. He said that in an interview with Canadian TV back in 1993, Mr. Gates was asked about whether he, among other colleagues in the Bush I administration, had ever thought about the consequences of their support of Islamists during the Reagan years, not to mention the early years of the Bush Administration. Did they ever ponder what the consequences of empowering these extremists Islamic movements would be? The interviewer wanted to know. Mr. Gates replied: “No.” The interviewer asked again: “You mean you never thought about it.” Mr. Gates replied again: “No.”
So, are the realists thinking about the long-term consequences of engaging and, therefore, empowering the Assads? Hell, are they even seriously thinking about the real short-term impact of such a policy, or are they simply locked in that arrogant wishful assumption of theirs that the Assads could be won over, and that they could indeed be, not just helpful mind you, but very helpful, in saving the US from itself and from its idiotic misadventure in Iraq?
Anyone cares to hazard a guess?
During my recent talk at Brookings, one of the attendees, a well-known and respected former diplomat, asked me whether I did not think that US diplomat are smart and clever enough to be able to convince the Assads, once they engage them, of them of the usefulness of breaking away from Iran.
That’s the real problem here. US officials, their ideological predilections notwithstanding, think always that they can outsmart their way out of any mess that they outsmarted themselves into. They come to this “game” with their smug confident attitude and want us to have faith in their wisdom, because, hey, they know things about our own realities that we somehow don’t. They invest their egos in this “game,” while we invest our lives. They gamble with the lives of 300,000 or so Americans, while we are forced to see their three or so hundreds and raise them a few hundred millions more.
Now the neo-cons, because they had a place for us, Arab democrats, in their plans, that is, when victory was eventually achieved, asked us for our advice then ignore it and proceeded to do what they were inspired to do, expecting us to adjust all the while, or, from their point of view, catch up, because of course they knew better. The realists, however, won’t have to play this game with us, because the place they have reserved for us in their particular schemes is right there on the margins of things, in exile or in the dungeons of the ruling regimes. This is where everybody thinks we belong anyway. To everybody’s loss.
For while we may not have all the answers, not by a long shot, this is still our region, and these are still our peoples, and we are the liberal secular progressive democrats here, for all our shortcomings. We are the only ones who can bridge the gap between our two worlds. Relegating to the sidelines and keeping us there, will only serve to perpetuate this conflict or clash, not solve it.
Meanwhile, and according to Syrian officials, the country has no prisoners of opinion, the mysterious death of Ali Kan’an, the brother of the late and very much suicided General Ghazi Kana’an, was just another suicide, and the cancellation of a public conference attended by American religious leaders critical of the Bush Administration, who went to Syria “bearing a message of peace to the Syrian people” was meant to actually “encourage deeper bilateral dialogue” with Syrian counterparts. Oh yeah, this lot is engageable.
Indeed, the showdown in our part of the world has often been more a battle of wills than a battle of wits. If the realists want a return to the status quo ante, the Assads and their Iranian allies, have long moved on. They want more. They always wanted more. Not just their survival. They want a resolution to all outstanding issues, they need that, and they think they are well-positioned to get it. Then they will ask for more.
You don’t want to deal with these types from a position of weakness, and you don’t want to give them more than you take from them – they need to be downsized, not empowered. And mechanisms for their eventual change have to be introduced into the equation, no matter what.
But for whose benefit am I really writing this now, when I know for sure this time that no one will listen, and many will just vilify?
No my friends, antagonists and sparring partners, I will not cease to blog, but I will give more thought to my choice of themes from now on.