Friday, August 11, 2006

The Gingrich Who Stole the Debate

A very important editorial today from former Speaker Newt on what he calls World War III

I don't agree with much of it, but it is cogent, succint, and forceful. I also think it is a brilliant tactical move and sugests to me Newt essentially is in the front runner position for the Republican nomination for '08--Condi isn't going to run; McCain lost the base on immigration. I think Newt is waiting in the wings, playing the populist card as he did in the Republican Congressional Takeover of '94. I don't think he's a dark horse anymore, we'll see.

It also points to the some of the key differences between, I think, between Matthew and I.

The Former Speaker begins by citing Richard Holbrooke's op-ed yesterday on the possibility of violence of 13 countries in the world. The US, India, and Israel plus 10 other Middle East/Southwest Asian countries. Those 10, not surprisingly all being in what Barnett calls "The Gap"--i..e countries outside the modern political-economic order.

Newt cites this as proof of hs assertion of a rising World War III. [Other people consider the Cold War WWIII, so call this one WWIV, whatever you get the point].

Holbrooke spoke of strategic talks with Iran, something I (following Barnett) have called for repeatedly. Here Newt attacks. Gingrich writes:

In fact an Iran armed with nuclear weapons is a mortal threat to American, Israeli and European cities. If a nonnuclear Iran is prepared to finance, arm and train Hezbollah, sustain a war against Israel from southern Lebanon and, in Holbrooke's own words, "support actions against U.S. forces in Iraq," then what would a nuclear Iran be likely to do? Remember, Iranian officials were present at North Korea's missile launches on our Fourth of July, and it is noteworthy that Venezuela's anti-American dictator, Hugo Chávez, has visited Iran five times.

The answer to which I believe is that Iran, becoming a member of the nuclear club and finally being recognized as the regional powerhouse it is, would fall under the umbrellas of MAD--Mutually Assured Destruction. From both the US and Israel. So, if others have considered me too peace-niky, there it is. The bargain I've written about (here) is based solely on the defense of MAD.

No country that has entered the nuclear club, whether "legally" or "illegally" (however nuclear weapon legality works), has broken this un-spoken rule. The US used nuclear weaopns on Japan prior to any other country having that capacity.

If Iran got what it wants (recognition, security, bomb) and we got what we want from them (trade, co-option, stand down with Israel) you think the Iranians are stupid enough to jeopardize all that by hanging out any longer with Chavez or Kim Il-Nutso?

Iran is fomenting turmoil through Hezbollah bc they know we want to overthrow them. The only thing holding us back from that is our military bogged down in Iraq. The Iranians correctly see the UN sanction as a buy-time move to hold them in place til we can bomb them later. Or if Gingrich is president by '08, then. Rather than wait to be pre-empted they wisely pre-empt the pre-empters. Bog Israel down in Lebanon, support death squads in Iraq, share secrets/info. with North Korea, talk oil embargos with Hugo, use populist anti-imperial language to incite the Arab/Muslim/3rd World, and behind close doors get friendly with China, playing the anti-Japanese card.

And if you haven't noticed, their best coup yet, the Shia have taken over the Palestinian struggle, further marginalizing Saudi Arabia/Egypt--through support for Hamas and Hezbollah's "victory" with Israel.

Of course it's much easier to say that they are just a bunch of fanatics. It's harder to admit the truth--they are playing a genius-level political game, making us look like bitches.

Newt's answer does not require such thinking. He writes:

Nevertheless, Holbrooke has set the stage for an important national debate that goes well beyond such awful possibilities as Sept. 11-style airliner plots. It's a debate about whether we are in danger of losing one or more U.S. cities, whether the world faces the possibility of a second Holocaust should Iran use nuclear or biological weapons against Israel, and whether a nuclear Iran would dominate the Persian Gulf and the world's energy supplies. This is the most important debate of our time. It rivals both Winston Churchill's argument in the 1930s over the nature of Hitler and the Nazis and Harry Truman's argument in the 1940s about the emerging Soviet empire.

And again:

This failure to understand the nature of the threat is captured in Holbrooke's assertion that diplomacy can lead to "finding a stable and secure solution that protects Israel." If Iran gets nuclear weapons, there will be no diplomacy capable of protecting Israel. If Iran continues to fund and equip Hezbollah, there will be no stability or security for Israel. Diplomacy cannot substitute for victory against an opponent who openly states that he wants to eliminate you from the face of the earth.

World Wars can't happen without Hitlers. So Ahmadinejad is a our new Hitler. He did call for wiping Israel off the map, right? Referring to current threats from that part of the world as "Islamo-fascist" seals the deal on that.

Islamo-fascism is not an incorrect notion, so much as a way overblown one. Fascism, Japan militarism, and Soviet Communism all sought to overthrow liberal democracy in the 20th century.

And there are various forms of "Islamic" governance put forth to varying degrees that seeks to overthrow the liberal democratic order (call it red/blue versus orange). And some of these groups have totalitarian tendencies, some virulently so. Therefore, the West does have to defend the liberal democratic order against totalitarianism, as it did against both fascism and communism.

There is some good background on connetions between Nazi Germany and the Middle East from Ray at openintegral here. Also the first (and probably best) I recall suggesting a fascist-totalitarian connection to certain forms of sharia is from Walter Laquer (written in 1997; I read that in high school!!!). Also some back and forth on the scholarly debate around Islamo-fascism here.

The Germans recall, are seen from the Middle Eastern perspective, as the guys who kicked out the British, French, and Russians (the real bad guys). anti-Semitism is absolutely pervasive in the Arab world, anotehr byproduct of the Nazi connection.

So there are points to be made there; I don't want to give the impression that those aren't serious considerations or should be taken too lightly.

HOWEVER, and this a huge however in my book, the analogy starts to break down in fundamental ways, compromising any strategic thinking predicated on said analogy.

It fails to distinguish between the state and non-state players. Consider the different groups at play: Seek an Islamic sty le Caliphate from Spain to the Philippines. Is never goin to happen. After initial losses in the Afghanistan War, are re-constituted and re-strengthening in Waziristan province of Pakistan/Afghanistan. The area is become Talibanized and al-Qaeda will likely use this outlying province as a new base for attacks (British plot connection with Pakistan?)

2. Iran. The Shia Khomenei Revolution failed. The government now seeks only to survive through realpolitik. Now about Shia Power, not Shia Religious Revolution.

3.Hezbollah. Said to control a state-within-a-state in S.lebanon. Not a simply stoogee of Iran as proclaimed in the press. Better thought of as an Israel to the "US-like" Iran. Deep alliance, the bigger brother funds the military of the other, and they support each other, but not a dictated from above to below relationship---i.e. Hezbollah might have gone ahead with this plan without Iran's blessing and Iran is worried about losing Hezbollah as a shield against Israel.

4. Various groups that seek to install sharia--Islamic law. Examples:

--Revolutionary groups in Jordan, Algeria, Indonesia, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia.
--Arab Sudan gov't, Northern Nigeria.
--Hamas, Muslm Brotherhood

Massive differences between these groups. Do they seek to use violence to install sharia or parliamentary measures, or use parliamentary measures to gain power then dissolve parliament? Do they believe in votes or not?

Are they moderate or not?

If violent, do they seek to fight firstly within their own countries (near-enemy jihadis) or against US/Israel (far-enemy bin Laden)?

So who are we in this World War with? Iran I suppose.

Imagine another scenario.

MAD with Iran, undercutting support for Hezbollah. A devolution in Iraq allowing us to withdraw to Kurdistan or wherever. Iraq as the new Yugoslavia, with Kurds like Croats (pro-West, quickly integrated), Shia like Macedonians/Albanians (more slowly but integration occurring), and the Sunni Anbar as new Serbs (no integration, lost in narrative of victimhood).

Those troops freed up to focus on al-Qaeda like, non-integratable groups and reconstruction, institution building.

Leaving only splintered groups in different diverse countries seeking Islamic governance, some a proto-modern form of Islamic governance. The playing field shifting more to sub-Saharan Africa and less to the Middle East for the US.

Then is it a World War? Is there some united Fascist, Axis Front to fight? Or rather related but dis-jointed efforts and further weakening of the Islamic front through fragmentation?

Not a quick success for sure, but over-time I am more hopeful in that scenario. I think the current Iranian regime opens within 10-15 years. Southern Lebanon becoming a new Kurdistan. The Israelis finally settling their borders, leaving the Palestinians to deal with themelves, if they ever will.

The biggest danger, I fear, lurks from the future of the Sunni Arab regimes. I think Iran can be brought in and S.Lebanon transformed, but for the rest I don't know. Our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have freed up Iran to be the power to be there now.

But lost in the shuffle around anti-Iran is a new connection with the Sunni dictators that thsi whole venture over there was supposed to be about. There is nothing inherently incompatible between Islamic-themed law and modernity. A modern (or proto-modern) Islam that is. And really a question, as we see, for the Sunni--again see Noah Feldman's Islamic Democracy.

It took the US almost 150-170 years to really get a fully develpoed modern system, one that is currently dys-functional in many ways nevertheless. These Islamic governance groups that will come to power are not going to be saints or master politicians overnight. but there are differences and some groups will do much better than others, but by simply labeling them all in a fascist category, we only create that reality, driving what are otherwise disparate groups together under strain.

We need to use that leverage to keep the tension focused on themselves and not continue to give too many opportunities (some are inevitable) for that anger to be projected onto us.

In the end, Iran is not Nazi Germany because Iran does nto want to take over the world. It wants regional influence sure. Even pre-eminence among Muslims. But the signs piont to them wanting to stop there--that was never the case with Hitler.


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