By Alan Caruba
“Peace in the Middle East” is the banner on the top of the page on White House.gov devoted to that part of the world. I went there to get some information on where the President will be visiting next week. Peace? It's not going to happen any time soon.
He will visit Israel, the “West Bank” (conquered by Israel after it was attacked during one of the many wars intended to “drive the Jews into the sea”), Kuwait, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt.
The United States has troops in Iraq and in Afghanistan. (I’m guessing Bush will put Iraq on the itinerary as a “surprise” visit to the troops.) Peace would be especially nice in both these places, but we aren’t going to be conducting military operations or be a military presence in both nations for a very long time. Those who think otherwise just don’t understand the nature of the region.
Following Bush41’s Iraq invasion to liberate Kuwait, we had to wait through eight feckless years of the Clinton administration before going back to remove Saddam. Put simply, the man was a threat to everyone. Saddam had previously fought to a stalemate with Iran for eight years.
People wonder why the Iranians want a nuclear bomb. They tend to forget that most of Iran’s “neighbors” have nukes, i.e., India, Pakistan, China, and Russia. That’s a neighborhood where it’s probably a good idea to have one.
Much will be made of the President’s visit to Israel and there will be a lot of talk about getting the Israelis to sit down with the Palestinians. At present, the only Palestinians who will talk to them are those nominally governed by the PLO’s Abbas. By contrast, in Gaza all Hamas wants to do is fire more rockets into Israel. When Israel’s PM,Olmert, let it be known that some areas of Israel in which Palestinians live might be put under PLO governance, the locals were horrified at the thought of losing Israeli citizenship and privileges.
The fact is that the Israelis have been sitting down with the Palestinians for decades and have nothing to show for it. In the so-called Palestinian territories, it’s a civil war accompanied by poverty and the distinction of being the world’s oldest group of hapless refugees.
Bush will bring the Israelis and Palestinians no closer together to peace than all of his predecessors. If the leaders in the Middle East were to lose Israel as a way to distract their people from their own excesses and oppression, they might actually have to improve the local economy (assuming it was not entirely dependent on oil.)
There are some places in the Middle East that Bush will not be visiting. Turkey won’t get a visit, nor will Syria. Lebanon, which Syria still covets, is a governmental basket case. Yemen and Oman will get a pass. Jordan, which is practically a U.S. protectorate, will not get a visit either.
It is instructive, therefore, that the nations being visited, with the exception of Israel, are all oil producers. Even Egypt is trying to develop its oil reserves. So maybe this trip has more to do with the price of a barrel of oil than “Peace in the Middle East.”
And maybe the topic of security—the kind only the United States can provide—will be discussed as well. By removing Saddam from the scene, the U.S. has done the whole of the Middle East a very big favor and it would be very nice if they would show some appreciation.
Here’s my advice. Any candidate for President who says he will pull out U.S. troops and leave the region to its own devices is a moron. From the days of President Thomas Jefferson when the Barbary pirates were attacking American merchant ships to 9-11, Arabs have forced the United States to use its military power to get some measure of peace. In both WWI and WWII, they backed the bad guys.
Our dependence on oil, shared by the rest of the industrialized and developing world, will ensure that we will be there unto your grandchildren’s generation. Ignore the nonsense that will pass for policy chatter, oaths of eternal friendship, and anything else aired during and after the President’s trip.
1. Keep your eye on the price of a barrel of oil.
2. Pay attention to the official chatter coming out of Iran, Syria, and Turkey.
3. If I were a holy warrior employed by al Qaeda right now, I’d find another line of work.