The Arab Spring may be the Israeli Winter

Posted by PITHOCRATES - May 15th, 2011

The Arab Spring may not be all Sunny and Bright

Before anyone tried to win Ben Stein’s money, he was a speechwriter for the Nixon administration.  And the Ford administration.  So Ben Stein is a pretty smart guy.  Though controversial at times.  And he’s been wrong on occasion.  Like about the subprime mortgage market in 2007.  He didn’t think there was a problem.  Of course, there was.  A big one.  Putting people into houses who couldn’t afford houses gave us the worst recession since the Great Depression.  Especially when all the derivatives backed by the subprime mortgages became worthless.  But that’s another story.

So he knows a thing or two about history.  Foreign policy.  And the Middle East.  Looking at what’s going on now in the Middle East, he’s not seeing the “Arab Spring” a lot of others are seeing (see Ben Stein: “Arab Spring” is a fraud by Ben Stein posted 5/15/2011 on CBS News).

First, the “Arab Spring” as a force for democracy, human rights and peace in Egypt seems to me to be a fraud.

The dictator and his entourage who were kicked out in Egypt were pro-West, a bit restrained on Israel, open to free enterprise, and resistant to Iranian-sponsored terror.

Egypt is now rapidly becoming anti-Israel, pro-Iran, pro the Iranian-sponsored terrorist group Hamas, and very far from being pro-human rights. They are arresting businessmen right and left in Egypt just for the crime of being successful. They have arrested Mubarak’s sons, and have said they plan to try Mubarak.

It would seem that their democracy movement is resulting in less democracy than they had under Mubarak‘s dictatorship.  Funny.  You’d thought it’d be the other way around.

The most potent of the political forces in Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood, hates the United States, loathes Israel, condemns the killing of bin Laden (whom they praised as a martyr), and have been wedded to terror for their entire existence.

Oh, P.S, they are closely connected with Adolph Hitler.

They will probably take over Egypt completely sooner or later.

So the worst political element is also the strongest political element.  Saudi Arabia rejected the offer to bury bin Laden in Saudi soil.  Perhaps if the U.S. asked the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt they would have accepted that offer.  Even built a shrine to honor this ‘martyr’.

Has anyone noticed that the common denominator of all the successful Arab street movements is that they are sympathetic to Iran? When the dust settles, Iran is going to own the Middle East – except for maybe Saudi Arabia, if we have the guts to help them (which I very much doubt).

We are going to lose our pals in Bahrain – not nice guys, but pals of the U.S.A. anyway – and we are going to lose our pals in Yemen, and it will possibly have an actual al Qaeda government.

There is a gigantic regional coup by Iran taking place. We are doing very little, if anything, to stop it.

Yes, Iran is everywhere in these movements.  Wherever there is a Shiite population they are there.  Supporting these democracy movements.  Of course, when Iranians put on a little democracy movement themselves, the Iranian government sees that differently.  And brutally suppresses it.  But they’re all for democracy.  Everywhere but in Iran.

We are going to regret helping the Egyptians kick out Mubarak as much as we regret helping Khomeini force out the Shah.

You can call it “Arab Spring” if you want. But with Iran now the regional superpower, it is a lot more like an extremely bleak Mideast winter.

The Egyptian policy of the Obama administration may prove to be the greatest blunder in U.S. history.  Losing Iran was big.  But it was one country.  If the U.S. loses Egypt, they may very well lose the Middle East.  And the first thing on the Muslim Brotherhood’s agenda when they ascend to power no doubt will involve Israel.  Who will be by then completely surrounded.  With a nuclear option.  Faced by an enemy that will no doubt also possess a nuclear option.  Thanks to the Iranian nuclear program.

An extremely bleak Mideast winter indeed.

Egypt becomes more Islamist

So how are things in Egypt these days?  How is that democracy working out for them?  Not bad.  As long as you’re not in the minority (see Egypt’s top Christian leader calls for end of sit-in after demonstrators attacked overnight by Associated Press posted 5/15/2011 on The Washington Post).

Christians, who make up about 10 percent of Egypt’s population, have felt increasingly insecure since 18 days of street protests brought down Mubarak, who led the country for nearly 30 years until he was forced to resign on Feb. 11.

The Christians, many of whom are Coptic, have complained that the interim government and security forces have failed to protect them and have allowed extremist Islamic groups to attack with impunity.

Earlier this month, mobs of Muslims, apparently urged on by the ultraconservative Salafi sect of Islam, stormed the Virgin Mary Church in the Cairo neighborhood of Imbaba and set it ablaze. The attack was sparked by a rumor that a Christian woman planned to marry a Muslim, which some religious purists consider to be forbidden.

If Salafi Muslims are cracking down on Christians in Egypt, that can’t bode well for Israel.  Because the Jewish state of Israel is probably less popular with the ultraconservatives rising in Egypt than this Christian minority. 

Put yourself in Israel’s place.  And take a look at the map around you.  The Palestinian West Bank to the east.  Syria to the north. Lebanon to the north.  As well as Hezbollah.  And running down the Mediterranean coast you have the Gaza Strip.  Ruled by Hamas.  That borders Egypt.  Where ultraconservative Salafi Islamists are attacking Christians.  While the ascendant political party, the Muslim Brotherhood, no doubt sides with the Islamists and may be pressuring the army to allow these attacks.  In other words, Israel is surrounded.  Not just by opposing armies.  But by a people who seek the destruction of the state of Israel.  And never before were they in such a position to make this happen.

An extremely bleak Mideast winter indeed.

The Arab Spring turns to Winter over Israel

And speaking of Israel, how are things going for them amidst this “Arab Spring” (see 9 Killed as Israel Clashes With Palestinians on Four Borders by Ethan Bronner posted 5/15/2011 on The New York Times)?

Israel’s borders erupted into deadly clashes on Sunday as thousands of Palestinians — marching from Syria, Lebanon, Gaza and the West Bank — confronted Israeli troops to mark the anniversary when Arabs mourn Israel’s creation. As many as nine Palestinians were reported killed and scores injured in the unprecedented wave of coordinated protests.

It doesn’t sound like the Israeli spring is as ‘springy’ as it is in the Arab world.  In fact, one could say this is more of a bleak winter.

Every year in mid-May many Palestinians mark what they call Nakba, or the catastrophe, the anniversary of Israel’s declaration of independence in 1948 and the start of a war in which thousands of Palestinians lost their homes through expulsion and flight.

But this is the first year that Palestinian refugees in Syria and Lebanon tried to breach the Israeli military border in marches inspired by recent popular protests around the Arab world. Here too, word about the rallies was spread on social media sites.

“The Palestinians are not less rebellious than other Arab peoples,” said Ali Baraka, a Hamas representative in Lebanon.

So the “Arab Spring” is flowering throughout the Arab world.  In places that have been relatively peaceful.  Such as in southern Lebanon.  And southern Syria.  Especially in the once peaceful Golan Heights.

Yoni Ben-Menachem, Israel Radio’s chief Arab affairs analyst, said it seemed likely that President Bashar al-Assad of Syria was seeking to divert attention from his troubles caused by popular uprisings there in recent weeks by allowing confrontations on the Golan Heights for the first time in decades.

Incidentally, even though Assad did something Mubarak never did, turn the army on his people, it was Mubarak that the Obama administration said had to go.  Not Assad.  Funny, too, because the world probably had less to lose with the fall of Assad than they did with the fall of Mubarak.

The day’s troubles began when an Israeli Arab truck driver rammed his truck into cars, a bus and pedestrians in Tel Aviv, killing one man and injuring more than a dozen others in what police described as a terrorist attack.

Later, hundreds of Lebanese joined by Palestinians from more than nine refugee camps in Lebanon headed toward the border, around the town of Maroun al-Ras, Lebanon, scene of some of the worst fighting in the 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah.

They passed posters that had gone up the past week on highways in Lebanon. “People want to return to Palestine,” they read, in a play on the slogan made famous in Egypt and Tunisia, “People want the fall of the regime.”

So the “Arab Spring” is flowering among the people of Hezbollah and Hamas.  The enemies of Israel.  Friends of the Muslim Brotherhood.  And Iran.  And it was the ‘democracy’ movements in Tunisia and Egypt that have inspired them.  Imagine that.  The “Arab Spring” inspired political movements that would be anything but democratic to Israel.  Because, perhaps, to them “Arab Spring” has the same meaning as “Israeli Winter.”

An extremely bleak Mideast winter indeed.

Anything is Possible in the Middle East these Days

Even though Ben Stein was wrong about the Subprime Mortgage Crisis, it’s hard to fault him on what’s happening in the Middle East.  At least, based on the facts.  And the underlying history.  Oh, and let’s not forget how the Iranian Revolution went down.  It, too, started off as a democratic movement.  And ended in one of the harshest, Islamist theocracies the world has seen. 

Iran may soon be the regional power in the Middle East.  When that happens, life will change.  For everyone.  More terrorism.  More war.  And probably some higher prices at the gas pump.  You know, the late Saddam Hussein is looking better and better in hindsight.  Sure, he was a pain in the ass.  But he was also Iran’s pain in the ass.  And the enemy of our pain in the ass is our friend.  Of course, the wild card is what will happen to Iraq when the U.S. leaves.  Will it just be another domino to fall to Iran?  I hope not.  But anything is possible in the Middle East these days.

An extremely bleak Mideast winter indeed.

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Peace in the Middle East Depends on Egypt once Again

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 22nd, 2011

Roman Barbarism begets Christian Charity

This is Good Friday.  The day Jesus Christ, a Jew, was crucified by the Romans.  In the land of the Jews.  Palestine.  Then occupied by the Romans.  Which came after the Egyptian occupation.  But before the Byzantine occupation.  Yes, there was always a power struggle there.  And Jesus was a part of it.  Though His struggle against the powers that be was not to gain their earthly powers.  But to usher in the Kingdom of Heaven.  Despite their earthly powers.  Starting in Judea

Things went from bad to worse on the temporal side.  On the spiritual side, though, things went pretty much according to plan.  Jesus endured great suffering.  For death by crucifixion is about as bad as it gets.  Which is quite the testament of the man Jesus was.  For He suffered as a man.  Not a god.  His pain was real.  And it lasted a long time.  Then He died.  Ascended to heaven.  And ushered in the Kingdom of Heaven on earth.  Where His words and deeds became the greatest force for peace the civilized world has ever known.

Now this is the Christian view of history.  Not everyone agrees with it.  But it is impossible to refute the role of Christianity in civilizing the barbaric lands of Europe during the Middle Ages.  It was a civilizing force that transcended the warring tribes.  And ultimately brought peace, the rule of law and civil society to Europe.  And the Western world.  It was the one force in the world that restrained the arbitrary power of kings.  And the phrase ‘Christian charity’ entered the lexicon as people chose to live in peace and love their neighbor.  To live by the Golden Rule.  And this all goes back to southern Palestine.  To Judea.  Where one man once walked among us.

Assad worse than Mubarak but gets better U.S. Treatment

The Arab world is ablaze.  Tunisia and Egypt saw regime change.  Libya is embroiled in civil war.  The UN passed a resolution to help Libya.  So we started bombing Libya.  There’s been further unrest in the Arab world.  But nothing rising to the level of a Libya, though.  Not serious enough for the international community to step in (see Shameful U.S. inaction on Syria’s massacres posted 4/22/2011 on The Washington Post).

FOR THE PAST five weeks, growing numbers of Syrians have been gathering in cities and towns across the country to demand political freedom — and the security forces of dictator Bashar al-Assad have been responding by opening fire on them…

Massacres on this scale usually prompt a strong response from Western democracies, as they should. Ambassadors are withdrawn; resolutions are introduced at the U.N. Security Council; international investigations are mounted and sanctions applied. In Syria’s case, none of this has happened. The Obama administration has denounced the violence — the White House said it “deplored” Friday’s slaughter — but otherwise remained passive. Even the ambassador it dispatched to Damascus during a congressional recess last year remains on post.

This is very interesting.  For Colonel Qaddafi was killing his people, too.  And we bombed him for that.  In Egypt, Mubarak wasn’t killing his protestors but the Obama administration said he had to go.  Even though he was a strong U.S. ally.  And a strong force for peace in the Middle East.  Egypt has recognized Israel.  And remained at peace with them.   Allowing free transit of the Sinai for Jew and Arab alike.  But he had to go.  As does Qaddafi.  But Syria can kill their own people.  Why?  Is Syria a better force for peace than Egypt?

The administration has sat on its hands despite the fact that the Assad regime is one of the most implacable U.S. adversaries in the Middle East. It is Iran’s closest ally; it supplies Iranian weapons to Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Gaza Strip for use against Israel. Since 2003 it has helped thousands of jihadists from across the Arab world travel to Iraq to attack American soldiers. It sought to build a secret nuclear reactor with the help of North Korea and destabilized the pro-Western government of neighboring Lebanon by sponsoring a series of assassinations.

No.  They are not a better force for peace in the Middle East.  In fact, they’re the exact opposite of that.  You couldn’t find a bigger enemy to peace.  Or the United States.  Well, except for Iran, of course.  Who we’ve handled in the same way when their people protest their totalitarian rule.

Yet the Obama administration has effectively sided with the regime against the protesters. Rather than repudiate Mr. Assad, it has proposed that his government introduce reforms. As The Post’s Karen DeYoung and Scott Wilson reported Friday, the administration, which made the “engagement” of Syria a key part of its Middle East policy, still clings to the belief that Mr. Assad could be part of a Middle East peace process; and it would rather not trade “a known quantity in Assad for an unknown future.”

An unknown future?  Syria and Iran are at the top of our enemies list.  We worry about radical Islam taking hold in Egypt as that democracy movement looks less and less democratic and more theocratic.  But it’s already there in Iran and Syria.  What ‘unknown’ are we worried about?  That the Syrians may convert to Christianity?  To Judaism?  That they may stop killing Jews and Christians?  That they may stop killing Americans?

If we were going to practice restraint anywhere, it should have been in Egypt.  We probably should have considered long and hard what may happen in Egypt before throwing Mubarak under the bus.  We should have asked him to introduce reforms.  We were already engaged with him.  And he wasn’t killing Americans.  As far as peace partners go, that’s a pretty big plus in my book.

The Sinai Peninsula – A Great Crossroads of the Middle East

Do you know where the Sinai Peninsula is?  It’s between Israel and Egypt.  On the other side of Israel is Jordan.  Above Jordan is Syria.  Above Israel is Lebanon.  Also bordering Israel and Egypt on the Mediterranean is the Gaza Strip.  And who is the ruling power in the Gaza Strip?  Hamas.  And who do they hate?  Israel.  Who else hates Israel?  Hezbollah.  In southern Lebanon. 

Israel has fought a lot of wars to stabilize their borders where they currently are.  They still deal with the occasional rocket attacks.  But there has been an uneasy peace along the eastern coast of the Mediterranean.  They still hate each other.  And they’re still trying to kill each other.  But it hasn’t blown up into a full scale war.  Partly because of the stabilizing force of Egypt.  Under the steady rule of Hosni Mubarak. 

Of course, the Obama administration threw Mubarak under the bus.  And the future of Egypt is unsure.  If it falls to the Iran-friendly Muslim Brotherhood, that will empower Hamas to make a whole lot of mischief in the Gaza Strip.  Which may encourage a little mischief from Hezbollah in southern Lebanon.  Which Syria no doubt will exploit.  And if all of this happens, Iran will swoop in and be the major power in the eastern Mediterranean.  Putting Israel in a very difficult position.  Fighting for her existence.  Which could plunge the region into war.  And the world into war.  And the flashpoint for all of this may be in the Sinai Peninsula.  A great crossroads of the Middle East. 

U.S. Boots on the Ground in…the Sinai Peninsula

President Obama promised the American people that there would be no ‘boots on the ground’ in Libya.  That we would only use air power to protect civilians from Colonel Qaddafi.  And maybe advisors.  Because the rebel forces, though filled with the spirit of liberty, lacked a certain military discipline.  But no combat troops on the ground in Libya.  Of course, that didn’t mean there wouldn’t be boots on the ground elsewhere (see Md. National Guard Members Prep For Egypt Deployment posted 4/22/2011 on WBAL TV).

More than 400 soldiers from the Maryland National Guard will spend the next 10 month in Egypt. 11 News reporter Sheldon Dutes looks at how they’re preparing.

And guess where in Egypt these troops will deploy?  Here’s a hint.  Think of the worst possible place.  Are you thinking the Sinai Peninsula?  The potential tinder box for World War Three?  If so, you thought right.

If Egypt goes Iran’s way, there will be a lot of traffic through the Sinai.  And not the good kind.  People with guns.  And bombs.  Going into the Gaza Strip.  To kill Jews.  And anyone that supports the Jews.  Like Americans.  Who are now about to deploy to the Sinai Peninsula.

Palestine’s Elusive Peace

Egypt and Israel go a long way back.  Two of the world’s oldest kingdoms.  Three, if you count the Kingdom of Judah.  And they haven’t always been the best of friends.  But they made their peace.  Thanks to Jimmy Carter‘s diplomacy.  And billions of dollars of U.S. aid.  The Camp David Accords brought some peace to the Middle East.  Despite hostile feelings that simmered throughout the region.  So hostile that they did boil over in Egypt.  When those unhappy with the Israeli peace assassinated the Egyptian president who made that peace.  Anwar Sadat.  The world held its breath.  Would Egypt collapse into anarchy.  And break the Israeli peace?  No.  Because of one man.  Hosni Mubarak.  Who we just recently threw under the bus.

Some in the world hold their breath again.  Mostly grownups who remember what happened in Iran in 1979.  What will happen in Egypt this time?  Will it continue to honor its peace with Israel?  Or will there be world war?  Hard to say now.  It could go either way.

Some things never change in the Middle East.  Especially in Palestine.  Where happiness is as elusive there as it was during the Roman occupation.

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LESSONS LEARNED #25: “War is costly. Peace, too.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - August 5th, 2010

AT THE HEIGHT of the Roman Empire, the empire reached from North Africa to Britannia (England), from Hispania (Spain) to Mesopotamia (approximately modern day Iraq).  When Roman power ruled the civilized world, there was peace.  The Pax Romana (Roman Peace).  The Romans built empire through conquest.  And Rome grew rich with the spoils of conquest.  For awhile, peace was only those quiet intervals between growth and conquest.  But with secure borders, a uniform government, a rule of law, a stable currency, bustling trade & markets and a military to be the world’s policeman, peace broke out.  For some 200 years.

Life was good for the Roman citizen.  As well as for those living in the empire.  The Romans modernized the provinces they conquered.  Made life better.  Even for the conquered people.  Although there were those who hated being subjugated by a foreign power.

Reg: They bled us white, the bastards. They’ve taken everything we had. And not just from us! From our fathers, and from our father’s fathers.

Loretta: And from our father’s father’s fathers.

Reg: Yeah.

Loretta: And from our father’s father’s father’s fathers.

Reg: Yeah, all right Stan, don’t belabor the point. And what have they ever given us in return?

Revolutionary I: The aqueduct?

Reg: What?

Revolutionary I: The aqueduct.

Reg: Oh. Yeah, yeah, they did give us that, ah, that’s true, yeah.

Revolutionary II: And the sanitation.

Loretta: Oh, yeah, the sanitation, Reg. Remember what the city used to be like.

Reg: Yeah, all right, I’ll grant you the aqueduct and sanitation, the two things the Romans have done.

Matthias: And the roads.

Reg: Oh, yeah, obviously the roads. I mean the roads go without saying, don’t they? But apart from the sanitation, the aqueduct, and the roads…

Revolutionary III: Irrigation.

Revolutionary I: Medicine.

Revolutionary IV: Education.

Reg: Yeah, yeah, all right, fair enough.

Revolutionary V: And the wine.

All revolutionaries except Reg: Oh, yeah! Right!

Rogers: Yeah! Yeah, that’s something we’d really miss Reg, if the Romans left. Huh.

Revolutionary VI: Public bathes.

Loretta: And it’s safe to walk in the streets at night now, Reg.

Rogers: Yeah, they certainly know how to keep order. Let’s face it; they’re the only ones who could in a place like this.

All revolutionaries except Reg: Hahaha…all right…

Reg: All right, but apart from the sanitation, the medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, the fresh-water system and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us?

Revolutionary I: Brought peace?

Reg: Oh, peace! Shut up!

(From Monty Python’s The Life of Brian, 1979.)

Maintaining a peaceful empire is costly.  As people got more accustomed to peace and plenty, they began to complain about taxes.  Citizens refused to volunteer to serve in the Roman Legions maintaining that peace.  Barbarians began to serve in the Legions.  Some rose to command them.  Some Roman commanders came from the very people they were fighting in the border regions.  Soon Rome would rely on mercenaries (hired soldiers) to defend their borders.  All of this cost the empire.  It had to pay more and more to maintain the loyalty of the military.  Ditto for the huge bureaucracy administrating the empire.  And they lost control.  Trouble on the borders and economic collapse ended the peace.  And, ultimately, the empire.  The civilized world broke down and collapsed.  And barbarian leaders on the borders, hungry for conquest, attacked.  Plunging the former Roman provinces into war and instability.

RISING FROM THE ashes of the Roman Empire were the seeds of new empires.  And the ground that proved most fertile was the northern limit of the old empire.  England.

England started to assert herself with the growth of her navy.  With her borders secured, a uniform government, a rule of law, a stable currency, bustling trade & markets and a military to be the world’s policeman, peace broke out.  Again.  For about a hundred years.  During the Industrial Revolution.  After the defeat of Napoleon. 

Imperial Britain stretched across the globe.  The sun never set on the British Empire.  And wherever she went, she brought the rule of law, modernity, a sound economy and political stability.  Her old colonial possessions went on to be some of the richest, most prosperous and peaceful nations in the world.  India.  Australia.  New Zealand.  South Africa.  Canada.  And, of course, the United States of America.  She achieved her century of peace (Pax Britannia) by a balance of power.  She maintained peace by intervening in disputes, often on the side of the weaker nation.  She prevented stronger, aggressive nations from threatening her weaker neighbors.   And she provided a safe environment for the weaker nation to live peacefully in the shadows of stronger, more aggressive neighbors.

For a hundred years Britannia kept the peace.  In large part due to her Royal Navy, the most powerful and potent navy at the time.  If you ate any imported food or used any imported goods, it was thanks to the Royal Navy that kept the world’s sea lanes safe.  But this peace came with a price.  The rise of nationalism, the quest of new empires to establish their own overseas colonies and a change in the balance of power in Europe with the rise of Germany added to that price.  And then a shot fired in Sarajevo by a Serbian terrorist ignited a tinderbox.  The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand by Gavrilo Princip started World War I.  The most bloody and expensive war at the time, it bankrupted Great Britain and ended her empire.  And left the world a less safe place. 

From the ashes of World War I rose new leaders with aspirations of world conquest.  Fascist Italy led by Benito Mussolini.  Nazi Germany led by Adolf Hitler.  Communist Russia led by Joseph Stalin.  Imperial Japan led by Hideki Tojo.  And the nation that led the victors in World War II would, by default, become the new world power.  The new world policeman.  The United States of America.

SO WHAT HAPPENED during the inter-war years that led to World War II?  War exhausted Britain and France.  Neither had the stomach for another war.  Britain continued to rely on the Royal Navy for protection (as an island nation, sea power is indispensable).  France built fixed fortifications (the Maginot Line).  Both were primarily defensive strategies. 

In America, General Billy Mitchell demonstrated the vulnerability of battleships to air power by sinking a battleship with an airplane (greatly flustering the naval high command).  Colonel George S. Patton developed an armored doctrine for an unenthused army and eventually transferred back to the horse cavalry.  Meanwhile, Imperial Japan was building aircraft carriers.  And Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy and Communist Russia developed air and armored doctrine while fighting in the Spanish Civil War.

Fascist Italy attacked Ethiopia in 1935 to rebuild the Roman Empire and make the Mediterranean Sea a Roman lake once again.  Nazi Germany launched World War II in 1939 by an armored assault on Poland with tactical air support.  Poland resisted with horse cavalry.  And lost.  Imperial Japan attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941 to destroy American naval power in the Pacific.  They did a lot of damage.  But the American carriers, their prime objective, were at sea.  They would eventually meet those carriers later at the Battle of Midway.  Where they would lose four of their best carriers and many of their best aviators.  This tipped the balance of power in the Pacific to the Americans.

America was ill-prepared for war.  But American industry, the Arsenal of Democracy, ramped up and built the planes, tanks, guns, rifles and ships that would win the war.   It would come with a heavy price tag.  Global wars typically do.  Had there been a balance of power that would have checked the territorial ambitions of the aggressor nations, it would have been a different story.  Of course, having the power is one thing.  How you use it is another. 

France had more tanks than Germany before the outbreak of hostilities.  But the Nazis quickly overran France.  Why?  Doctrine.  France’s doctrine was to hide behind the security of the Maginot Line.  It was a defensive-only strategy.  She developed no armored doctrine.  The lesson they learned from World War I was that armies killed themselves attacking fixed defenses.  Germany, too, learned that lesson.  So their doctrine called for going around fixed defenses with fast-moving armor spearheads with tactical air support (i.e., blitzkrieg).  Formidable though the Maginot Line was, it could not attack.  And if the Nazis didn’t attack it, it did nothing but concentrate men and firepower away from the battle.

WHEN WE PULLED out of South Vietnam, we agreed to use American air power if North Vietnam violated the terms of the treaty ending that war.  Watergate changed all of that.  Even though JFK got us into Vietnam, it became Nixon’s war.  And a vindictive Congress wouldn’t have anything more to do with it.  The North tested the American will.  Saw that there was none.   Attacked.  And overran South Vietnam.  The message was clear to tyrants.  America will quit in the long run.  Especially after a large loss of life.

Other ‘retreats’ would reinforce this perception.  Especially in the Arab world.  The withdrawal from Lebanon after the bombing of the Marines’ barracks.  The withdrawal from Somalia after the Somalis dragged dead American troops through the streets of Mogadishu.  The Arab world even saw the victory in Desert Storm as a retreat.  The anti-American Arab world said that our invasion was about oil.  That what we really wanted was to topple Saddam Hussein and take his oil.  It was just another Christian Crusade into holy Islamic lands.  When we didn’t do that, the Arab world saw it as another American retreat.  That America didn’t have the will to endure a bloody battle to conquer Iraq. 

So some in the Arab world would test America.  Al Qaeda.  Headed by Osama bin Laden.  They started small and became more daring.  World Trade Center bombing.  Tanzanian Embassy bombing.  Kenyan Embassy bombing.  Khobar Towers bombing.  The USS Cole attack.  And they paid little for these attacks.  America didn’t fight back.  But their luck ran out on September 11, 2001.  Because America finally fought back.

PUBLIC ENEMY NUMBER one, Osama bin Laden, belonged to the conservative Sunni sect of Islam called Wahhabi.  They have a large following in Saudi Arabia.  The Wahhabi have a delicate relationship with the Saudi Royal family.  They disapprove of the Western displays of wealth in the House of Saud. 

Al-Qaeda was a shadowy enemy.  We confronted them in the mountains of Afghanistan where the Taliban gave them a safe sanctuary.  We attacked.  Knocked the Taliban from power.  Drove al-Qaeda underground.  But we could not stop their funding.

Wahhabi money from Saudi Arabia financed 9/11.  And the money continued to flow.  The Saudis would not intervene on behalf of America.  They feared any crackdown on the Wahhabi could unleash a civil war.  So America needed leverage to get Saudi cooperation.  And they found it in an old nemesis, Saddam Hussein. 

A Sunni minority ruled Iraq.  The Saudis did not like Saddam Hussein.  However, they liked the balance of power he offered to Iran.  Iran was Shiite.  As much as the Saudis did not like Saddam, they disliked Shiite Iran more.  This was the American lever.

After some diplomatic gymnastics, the invasion of Iraq was set.  The Saudis thought we were bluffing.  They didn’t believe we would invade Iraq.  Never in a million years.  If we didn’t do it in Desert Storm when we had the force in place to do it and didn’t, there was no way the Americans would amass another coalition and redeploy forces to the region again.  Especially because America doesn’t like long, drawn out, bloody wars.  Which an invasion of Iraq would surely be.

They asked us to remove our forces from the Saudi bases.  We did.  Now they were getting nervous.  That was the political game.  Make some noise to show the Arab world you weren’t an American toady.  But, secretly, you want those American forces to remain.  That American presence did provide security.  And stability.  After the invasion of Kuwait, it sure looked like Saudi Arabia would be next.  It was only that large American force in the desert that changed that inevitability. 

The Americans invaded.  And conquered.  Now the Saudis had a vested interest in helping the Americans.  They needed them to be successful in Iraq.  To contain Iran.  The lever worked.  The Saudis stemmed the flow of Wahhabi money to al-Qaeda.  The invasion of Iraq proved to be one of the most effective battles in the war on terrorism.  

HISTORY HAS SHOWN that a balance of power can lead to peace.  It has also shown that a superpower can enforce a larger peace.  But it also has shown that there is good and bad when it comes to power.  The Romans could be cruel, but so were most in that time.  The road to empire, after all, started out simply as a quest to provide a buffer between Rome and the hostile barbarians on her borders.  Rome, then, expanded in pursuit of peace.  (Initially, at least.)  And then used her power to maintain peace.

Many view Great Britain as the successor to the Roman Empire.  And many view America as the successor to the British Empire.  These powers share many things (rule of law, an advanced civilization, political stability, etc.).  Perhaps the greatest, though, is a powerful military.  And how it was/is used.  As a powerful deterrent to an aggressor nation.  To protect trade routes.  To maintain peace.  Malign these empires/nations all you will, but the greatest periods of world peace were due to their military power.  And their will to use that military power.  Expensive as that was.  Is.

So, yes, wars are costly.  Peace, too.  Sometimes, though, we must fight wars.  But we can avoid a lot of them.  By a peace-time military force that acts as a deterrent.  Because there are bad guys out there.  Who only respect one thing.  And it isn’t diplomacy.  Often the only thing preventing them from waging a cruel war of conquest is a potent military and a willing leader to use it.  If a tyrant knows he will face a military consequence for acting, he may not act.  When he knows that consequence will be devastating, he will not act.  But if he knows a nation hasn’t the military power or the will to use military power, he will act.  Just as Hitler did.  As Mussolini did.  As Tojo did.  And as Osama bin Laden did.

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