Tag Archives: Middle East

Saudi Arabia

28 Mar

I still hear, from time to time, people who think – or claim to think – that we should have attacked Saudi Arabia instead of Iraq. I thought about dealing with this issue in my The Iraq War post, but decided that it didn’t really fit, and that I would deal with it separately.

Yes, a lot of Terrorists come out of Saudi Arabia. No, the Saudi government isn’t really our ally. Nevertheless, we don’t want to get into a war with Saudi Arabia for one very simple reason. If we fight Saudi Arabia we will win, and if we win a fight with the Saudis then Mecca and Medina will be our problems.


The Hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca that every devout Muslim is supposed to make at least once if he can afford to, has to be the biggest annually recurring administrative headache in the world. Now add to that concern the reaction of Islāmic fanatics if we were in control of two of their three Holy Cities. I would rather try to rule Ireland.

This is, in a sense, my core concern with the War on Terrorism; that we not end up responsible for large tracts of intractable Islāmic territory. I don’t want us running the world, or large parts thereof. We would be bad at it, and unhappy doing it. Further, trying would change us in ways that would not be good. And, truth be told, we don’t need to track down the actual 9/11 planners and punish them; their type wouldn’t learn anything from that and will always want to attack people who don’t share their peculiar worldview. We need to persuade the nations that those vermin hide in that it is in their interest to police their own. Invading Saudi Arabia is a measure of absolutely last resort. Nobody would learn anything useful from the exercise because everyone would be focused on Mecca.

Obama and Bush

5 Feb

I don’t think much of President Obama. He strikes me as very much the product of the Liberal Intelligentsia, with few if any redeeming characteristics. The adoration he receives from certain portions of the Left baffles me, and the largely free pass he has gotten from the news media confirms my strong impression that few reporters and fewer editors are worth the oil it will take to fry them in hell.

Contrarily, I rather liked President Bush. He got the hottest of all hot potatoes dropped in his lap, and handled it reasonably well. Most of the Left’s criticism of him struck me as purely partisan, and some of it was frankly deranged. The notion, which got far more attention than it deserved, that he had ordered the World Trade Center blown up as a pretext for going to war depended on an ostentatious ignorance of physics, chemistry, demolitions, and half a dozen other disciplines. Comparisons between Bush and a certain Austrian Corporal were, and still are, ridiculous, as evidenced by the simple fact that the people who made such comparisons did not vanish. As a cynical Frenchman once observed “If you accuse somebody of being a Nazi, and you are not dead one minute later, you have been refuted.”
In reaction to the most effective and brutal attack on U. S. soil since Pearl Harbor, Bush made limited war by limited means for limited ends. He overthrew two notably nasty foreign governments, disrupted much of the Al Qaeda network, and did so for far fewer American deaths than one large Civil War battle. In spite of hysterical charges that he would, or had, he didn’t round up political enemies. He used the vast authority granted him by the Patriot Act sparingly. He put up with a high degree of vilification by his political opponents without making any move to censor them. And when his second term was over, he retired amid the jeers and raspberries of the Left.
By contrast, Obama has done pretty much everything the Left accused Bush of doing, and then some. He seems intent to involve us in every middle eastern piss-up going, while simultaneously failing to actually accomplish anything to our benefit. After boasting that he would preside over the most transparent Administration in history, he has run one of the most opaque. After accusing Bush of being beholden to Big Business, he has shoveled more cash for less result into the coffers of favored businesses than any two other presidents in my lifetime.
I think that the judgment of History is going to be that the Liberal Left, in a fit of unconscious irony, elected a man who was more or less exactly what they accused Bush of being.

The Oil Question

24 Jan

The political arguments over oil drilling go on interminably. They almost amount to a Kabuki Theatre set-piece, they are so predictable. Environmental damage vs dependence of foreign oil; there really isn’t a lot of variation. And what annoys me the most is what nobody seems ready to come out and say.

Our civilization runs on oil. That would be true even if tomorrow we woke up and all our cars had been replaced with magical vehicles that ran on happy thoughts. Oil fuels ships, planes, trains. Oil is the basis of the vast majority of our lubricants, and almost all of our plastics, and many of our fabrics. Nobody who thinks we could live comfortably without plastic is giving the matter any real thought.
Just as importantly; absent an incredible technological breakthrough, our cars are going to run on oil for the foreseeable future. Even supposing that a satisfactory all-electric car could be put into production, the electricity to take up the huge expenditure of energy represented by the driving public simply does not exist. And given the ritual opposition of large segments of the population to the construction of new power plants anywhere, for any reason, it isn’t going to exist soon.
So, anywhere there is oil to be drilled for it will be drilled for, sooner or later. No oil reserves are likely to be left alone forever for environmental reasons. The issue, if anybody had the guts to confront it, is not whether to drill for oil, but when. Is there, on the horizon, technology that will make it measurably safer to drill under certain conditions? Then maybe a delay is justified. But to pretend that we are never going to drill for oil in a certain spot, is a delusion.
Oil is not an unnatural toxin that destroys everything it touches. Before man had any use for it, it simply seeped to the surface in many places, and the environment dealt with it. Yes, a man made spill is many hundreds of thousands of gallons more than the environment normally deal with, but multiple studies have shown that ‘damaged’ beaches left alone recover faster than beaches cleaned with detergent and good intentions.
And then there is the issue of ‘foreign oil’. Depending on sources outside of our control has already caused a great deal of grief. But there are, I think, arguments for continuing to do so. If we use the oil in the middle east before we go after our own oil, then when we have used it up, we can allow the formerly oil-rich Arab states to return to the 16th century, where they apparently prefer to live, and ignore them thereafter. Naturally there would be problems with this strategy, but I find it strange that nobody even talks about it.
Like most hotly argued political/economic issues the pursuit of oil is not disputed in terms of demonstrable facts. This is true of both sides, although I have a personal prejudice that makes me feel that the anti-drilling side is the further divorced from reality. What is wanted is any breath of reason, because if we wait to actually examine the facts until gasoline is $10 a gallon, the decisions will necessarily be hasty and any real environmental or diplomatic concerns are likely to get short shrift.
A time is coming, soon, when it will be absolutely necessary to start drilling for oil and building new electric generators, just to keep warmth and transportation within the reach of the poor. When that time arrives, environmentalists who insist on trotting out the old “no new drilling, no new power plants, no new power lines” mantra are going to get kicked to the side. And at the moment that would be the vast majority of environmentalists. That can’t be good. Concern for the environment should inform our decisions. But it should be realistic concern. We are not, as a people, going to give up personal transportation, or all start riding bicycles.  Maybe an argument can be made that we should, but not an argument that is going to get listened to. We need to have this conversation, on a basis of actual problems and reasonable limits. And we need to have it soon.

A War is Coming

8 Jan

A war is coming.

My first thought when I saw the Twin Towers burning on 9/11/2001 was “I’ve been expecting this for twenty years”. Sixty years of feckless diplomacy; rewarding radicals and punishing moderates, had made it inevitable that some idiot would attack America. I was simply surprised that it had taken so long. I had no great expectations for George Bush, either. I expected that he would be bullied by the likes of Teddy Kennedy into a course of ineffectual letters of protest and U.N. resolutions. I was wrong.
Bush took the best information he could get, went to a thoroughly spooked Congress, and got a blank check. He put together two very well planned operations, and demonstrated to the world that America could take out two well entrenched, heavily armed governments in a matter of weeks. He fought a limited war by limited means for limited ends, and did so very effectively. If he had been one half as effective on the home front, I think it highly likely that the various terrorist organizations would have taken to the hills and be so far out on the fringes of the world that they would have to ship in daylight.
Unfortunately Bush’s enemies at home were more successful. The concatenation of trendy media types, university intellectuals, and political left activists that passes for leadership of the Democrat Party hated (and still hates) Bush. He had had the temerity to object to Al Gore’s fairly crude attempts to steal the 2000 election, for one thing. For another, they were probably afraid that he would use their trendy flirtations with Radical Islam as an excuse to purge the Universities, since that is what they would have done in his place. The idea that he had more important things on his mind than persecuting academic idiots would not have occurred to them.
In consequence the force of the object lessons of Iraq and Afghanistan has been seriously blunted. The world may have had proof that we can occupy pretty much any capitol city other than Beijing in two weeks from a standing start, but they have room to believe that we lack the will to do so. The drumbeat of disunity from our home media combines with sixty years of appeasement of Islamic radicals to ensure that we will be attacked again, and yet again, until something changes.
There are people on the political Right who profess to worry that Islam will bury us if we don’t take action. I seriously doubt it. The Islamic Radicals do not have the power to destroy us. What they do have the power to do is goad us into losing our tempers. For all the drama and tragedy of 9/11, it was largely a failure. Had the crashes taken place two hours later the death tool might well have been ten times what it was. In the decade following 9/11 I often encountered hand-wringing Liberals who declared themselves ashamed that we had “lashed out in unreasoning fear and anger”. They were always faintly offended when I would say we hadn’t done anything of the kind. If we had “lashed out in unreasoning fear and anger” after 9/11, Mecca would not be standing. Should a terrorist attack kill ten times the number that perished on 9/11, unreasoning anger will be a real probability. I don’t think that either the Islamic Radicals or the American Political Left have any appreciation of this. Which is unfortunate, because it puts us on a straight track to trouble.
The Left will keep beating the anti-war drum, no matter who is in office. They can’t help it. Too much of their present political identity is tied up in the Vietnam narrative. So they will cry “give peace a chance” louder or softer, depending on who is in the White House and Congress, but cry it they will. They will do everything they think they can get away with to make it harder to identify and neutralize terrorist threats, whether civil rights are being violated or not. And whatever security apparatus remains when they are done will be far more interested in securing its budget than in finding trouble. So terrorists will slip through. They probably won’t get to anything very crucial, and no planeload of American passengers is going to sit frozen in place while their transport is used as a missile – not again, anyway. But there are places a terrorist cell could infiltrate without too much trouble, and operate for quite some time with little to worry them.
Detroit is the place that keeps coming to my mind. The city has lost a quarter of its population over the space of ten years. It is falling apart, bankrupt, and corrupt. A terrorist cell could operate almost openly without distracting the city from its own troubles. I don’t believe that the kind of people who operate terrorist cells are likely to build an atomic bomb without dying of radiation poisoning. But atomics are not the only way, or even the easiest, to make a huge explosion.
Say that a large fuel-air explosion takes place in central Detroit tomorrow. It wipes out an area of a few hundred meters, and starts fires all over. Immediate deaths, if they were a tenth part of the city populace, would be 70,000, twenty times the death toll of 9/11. And America would not have to be twenty times as outraged, afraid, and angry as we were after 9/11 for the consequences of such an attack to be very grave indeed. The sitting President, whether Democrat or Republican, Liberal or Conservative, would have little choice but to respond with brutal military force. The populace wouldn’t stand for anything else. Americans may look disunited most of the time, but give them a cause, and injury to avenge, and a direction, and they can make life extremely unpleasant for their enemies. Ask the Japanese for references.
Moreover, with the Left’s “Can’t we all just get along” thoroughly discredited, there would be no holding the witch hunts. Bush wasn’t interested in jailing nitwit academics who played Radical Chic games with Palestinian activists to try to persuade themselves that their opinions mattered. Let the terrorists kill even 10,000 Americans at a stroke, and no further such forbearance will be forthcoming. Trendy intellectuals will get slung into prison so hard they bounce, as will anti-war protesters. And requests to see their ACLU lawyers will be answered with the truthful statement “He’s in the next cell.”
The American Military will roar overseas, and sort out the odds and sods in the Middle East in jig time, and not much will be left standing. When the dust clears America will hold Mecca, Medina, and such parts of Jerusalem as Israel doesn’t want, and we will be stuck there for the next fifty years, at a minimum. Likelier still, we will have altered to become the Imperial America the Intellectuals always professed to fear. And we will not be as good at it as the Victorian British, or even the Caesars. Imperialism will not be good for us, and will be an absolute disaster for the Middle East.
It won’t matter materially to me. I’m fifty. If anything the war boom will ensure that my remaining days are filled with pleasant luxury. But the Great Experiment that began with the ratification of the Constitution will be as dead as the Roman Republic was when Caesar rose. My only consolation will be that the people who get it in the neck worst of all will be the ones who were most contemptuous of the Constitution. May God have mercy on their souls. I doubt that we will.