Sometimes it is tempting even for us little people to propose solutions to big problems. What follows is a modest suggestion for untying the Gordian knot of political stalemate in today’s Middle East.
ISIS, albeit unintentionally, may have provided the world with its first authentic opportunity for lasting peace in the Middle East, but only if America seizes the moment. What is needed to get Arabs, Israelis, Turks, Kurds, and Persians to discuss common action is a broad existential threat. ISIS provides that. So why do the imperiled nations resist coming together to save themselves, and in turn, each other?
When a bullied child is protected by his big brother, he has little incentive to figure out how to defend himself. When that protection is withdrawn, the probability that he will learn to attend to his interests grows in proportion to the size of the threat. If Middle Eastern rulers are to pursue the common purpose of defeating ISIS, the U.S. must make clear that they are, as of a near-term date certain, on their own. Within six weeks of giving notice we must follow that declaration by withdrawing both American air power and advisers from the Middle East. Please stop laughing, pick yourself up off the floor and continue reading. For all its novelty, there are promising aspects to this approach.
Initially, none of the Middle Eastern countries whose adulthood we have stunted for so long will accept our new policy. America should incentivize them by halting all aid to and severing diplomatic relations with ISIS-threatened countries which refuse to participate in discussing the formation of a defensive coalition. Still with me?
Because several of these countries are awash in petroleum, they have the wherewithal to buy whatever training and armaments they need (from the U.S., of course) to assure victory. These purchases will have the added benefit of appealing to the marketing arm of the American military-industrial complex.
Such an approach will address the deep concern of the American public over involvement in yet another Middle Eastern war. It will end the century-long practice of sacrificing American lives in conflicts where our interests were not primary but our participation was. Apart from intelligence support, no other American involvement should be considered.
Besides providing a compelling motive for the coalition to bury their battle axes – the ones coated with each other’s DNA — and cooperate, this will have the added benefit of ending our Faustian bargain of assisting Syria’s Assad while attempting to degrade ISIS. It will eliminate the high cost America incurs for backing Israel and opposing Arabs. It will compel Middle Eastern nations to adopt a form of détente that recognizes each other’s right to exist. It will force nations that have not previously held face-to-face discussions to deal openly with one another.
If consistently applied, it may even hasten the end to America’s role as the world’s policeman. It could set a shining moral example for how to deal with international problems in the future. Moreover, it may well lead to a lasting Middle East peace as the nations in that region come to appreciate their coalition partners’ national interests.
Unquestionably, the harshest opposition to such a policy will come from Israel and the pro-Israel lobby in America. In response, both should be required to submit their own ideas for defeating ISIS using only the capabilities of those countries whose interests are most at risk.
If you oppose my approach, please put forth your own plan for America to resign from its role as the world’s babysitter. This administration and this Congress seem not to have one. Their comfort with unworkable, CYA approaches means that our tax dollars will continue to be jettisoned into international drainage ditches, along with the lives of our youth.
Where we have gone astray is in misusing the Pentagon to pursue our economic interests. Its legitimate purpose is national defense.
The writer lives in Pawleys Island.