Third time lucky ?

So, it seems, we are signed up for our third Iraq war in 20-odd years. Obviously, this isn’t because the last two turned out brilliantly. So, what is the reasoning here? More precisely, given that Australia’s policy is just to follow the US without question, what is the reasoning of the world leaders, most importantly Obama, who are pushing this war? There seem to be two main points here

* ISIS/ISIL are barbaric terrorists who behead hostages. That’s a good reason for trying to capture and try those responsible, and perhaps for trying to kill them if that’s not possible. But there’s nothing special about this particular group. There are plenty of barbaric terrorists out there. And one of our leading allies in the fight, Saudi Arabia, routinely beheads people for such crimes as apostasy and “sorcery”. None of this justifies a war that is going to cost tens of billions of dollars (Australia alone looks to be up for several billion, assuming a long war) and an unknowable, but potentially large, number of lives.

* ISIS/ISIL threaten to take over large non-Sunni areas of Iraq and undertake ethnic/religious cleansing. That threat looked like a significant a month or two ago. But some limited air support for Kurdish and Shia militias appears to have turned the tide. As far as I can tell, ISIS/ISIL are now confined to Sunni areas where they have a fair degree of popular support. Changing that will be a costly and bloody business.

I expect most readers here will agree with me, and don’t plan to argue about with those who haven’t learned from the past. But I would like a pointer to any serious analysis making the case for a new war.

139 thoughts on “Third time lucky ?

  1. @John Quiggin

    I agree that there is no significant opposition among rural Sunni’s against the IS in Syria or Iraq, some tribe have tried to flex muscles but were quickly changed their minds.

    There is significant opposition in major cities like Aleppo, Damascus, Baghdad, even Riyadh;
    but that has to do with the rural-urban divide and old hostilities between urban centres and the tribal rural areas. IS mainly controls rural Bedouin areas.

    While I don’t anticipate serious opposition in IS held towns like al-Raqqa, Dier al-Zour (both in Syria) and any other town in Iraq aside from Mosul. The question of Mosul bugs me, why don’t we see effective opposition to the IS there? It’s as big as Brisbane, but perhaps has a rural attitude.

    Now in case of war, you will be even more correct. there is no question that IS will get support from the urban Moslem brotherhood (there was an article on this in the leftist al-akhbar today but unfortunately it’s in Arabic).

  2. Rabee, maybe there is no opposition in Mosul because the suicide bombings have stopped, a whole bunch of people were murdered, and everyone (male) has gone back to their lives? Maybe the opposition will start when the airstrikes recommence…

    Jack, interesting article about Anbar – is there any evidence of success though? The news I read still has ISIS in charge of the Fallujah dam (which they used to flood upland areas), still fighting for Haditha dam and not yet driven out. Maybe those Lions of Anbar aren’t so special after all. And the “enemy of my enemy is my friend” routine is hardly a revelation in the middle east, is it? ISIS are a product of the misapplication of that idea by Assad, and have themselves used it in Syria (where they are letting other rebels and islamists slog it out with the govt in Damascus while they capture easier towns and gather economic strength) and in Iraq (where they pick off tribes one by one and use tribes that don’t support them as examples for the rest). It’s not a tactic for the faint-hearted or short-sighted, is it?

    And it’s definitely not mainly foreigners who are involved in the “propaganda of the deed.” There are a lot more evil deeds being committed by ISIS than just the beheading of 3 foreigners by a British guy.

  3. The fact that people are so obsessed with the Middle East indicates how much their attention is driven by media coverage which in turn is directed by the elite’s agenda. How much attention was and is paid to the Second Congo War and its aftermath? I mean by the public at large and by the self-selected blog commentariat here?

    Varying estimates exist, but it seems there were about 2.7–5.4 million excess deaths (1998–present) and 350,000 plus violent deaths (1998–2001) in the Congo. Where was all the debate and concern about this conflict? Another important ongoing conflict in global terms is the Mexican Drug War with 150,000 plus accumulative fatalities since 2006. Where are the calls to go in and end this conflict?

    So all this concern about the M.E. conflict(s) is a combination of faux humanitarian concern and media hysteria whipped up an elite with its own hidden agenda. I have to conclude this because nobody seems to give a fig for all these other conflicts.

    It’s a case of sheeple only worrying about what the mainstream media tells them to worry about. And it’s all about the big bugaboo of terrorism. The odds of a terrorist killing you are miniscule. Here are the top 6 dangers for Americans (and Australia would not be much different).

    #1: Heart disease
    Odds of dying: 1 in 6

    #2: Cancer
    Odds of dying: 1 in 7

    #3: Stroke
    Odds of dying: 1 in 28

    #4: All types of land vehicle accidents
    Odds of dying: 1 in 85

    #5: Intentional self harm
    Odds of dying: 1 in 115

    #6: Accidental poisoning and drug overdose
    Odds of dying: 1 in 139

    Considering number 5 and also mentioning bad driving’s contribution to 4 and the contribution careless stupidity to 6, it’s amazing but true that you are more dangerous to yourself by many orders of magnitude than any terrorist is to you.

    Note, the numbered list goes down to;

    #25: Exposure to excessive natural cold
    Odds of dying: 1 in 7,399

    Death by terrorism does not appear on this list. That’s because its likelihood is much, much, much further down. You are “40 thousand times more likely to die crossing the street than in a terrorist attack on a commercial airliner.” is one example.

  4. And pray tell, do all the people who want an intervention vs. ISIL also want an intervention, or another intervention, in;

    (a) The Mexican Drug War.
    (b) The Syrian War.
    (c) South Sudan
    (d) Iraqi Insurgency
    (e) Israel-Gaza Conflict
    (f) Afghanistan
    (g) S o m a l i a
    (h) Nigeria
    (i) Libya
    (j) NW Pakistan
    (k) Central African Republic
    (l) Ukraine

    and if not, why not?

    Why are you obsessed with the one conflict the mainstream media tells you to be obsessed with and ignore all this rest? Could it be because you are easily manipulated and unable to research and think for yourself? It is exactly that.

  5. @Ikonoclast
    I think the Ukraine conflict is potentially much more of a danger to global stability (whatever that term means). Given that it’s a far more complex problem and that any conflict may involve large number of essentially white people being killed it is not surprising that the powers that be would rather head off to the land of the browns for a bit of post-colonial chest beating and back slapping. Of course that doesn’t change the fact that the forces at play in the game of brinksmanship that is the Ukrainian crisis are powerful and have a momentum that would be difficult to deflect once they start to move in a certain direction. The ISIL situation is a sideshow. I’m reading A.J.P Taylor’s ‘The Origins of the Second World War’ coincidentally.

  6. It’s interesting isn’t it that in the era of so-called “globalism” all the political running is being made by local national secessionists, from the Scots to the Suunis. Pat Buchanan notes the grand unifying principle at work here:

    Yet it is not only in Scotland where peoples are deciding that what separates them is more important than what unites them. Secessionism is ablaze all over the world.

    All those straight lines on Middle East maps drawn up by Sykes and Picot are being erased. The Syria and Iraq we have known will never be the same again, as the Shia-Sunni divide deepens and the Kurds of Iraq, Turkey, Syria and Iran come together.

    Ever the cold-eyed-realist-but-warm-hearted idealist, he asks the critical question of the Scots:

    As for the Scots, not to worry if Goldman Sachs is bearish on secession. When you enter the polling booths, just ask yourselves:

    What would Braveheart do?

  7. Fran @106, I don’t disagree. I’m just making the point that from the point of view of most of the governments supporting intervention, the strengthening of the PKK is, if not an unforeseen consequence, certainly an unintended and unwelcome one.

  8. @Ikonoclast
    ” The fact that people are so obsessed with the Middle East ” etc,. I agree . It’s frustrating that truth and logic dont play a bigger role in these affairs .I end up feeling like something has been done to us, and wanting to turn away from the world -but of course the doers would be happy with that.

  9. @Ikonoclast

    I doubt whether anyone will answer you.

    I do not remember any calls to intervene when the Tutsi’s and Hutus were massacring each other and similar shocking videos emerged.

  10. @Jack Strocchi
    Your criticism of the “War for Oil” slogan if interpreted to mean “US invasion to secure cheap oil supplies for itself and its allies”, seems quite valid but is, to my knowledge, a strawman. “War for Oil” refers to war for control of oil *revenues* in the following two senses:

    1) Precisely your point, denying oil revenue to people you don’t like.
    2) Increasing the oil revenues for people you do like by driving the price up. The Big Oil movement that holds such sway in the Republican party and is accused of driving US foreign police in Iraq only wants to see the oil price go up, not down. The spot price of oil bottomed out in 2002 at around $20.00 a barrel. By July 3rd, 2008, the spot price of oil had reached a peak of $145.31 a barrel. This upward trend tracks the progress of the war. There is a bubble of record high profits by oil companies between late 2003 and 2008. Record oil profits track the war, not the peace. This was at least partly due to instability in the middle east, and to some extent increased demand by the US war machine. Furthermore, this in turn has had no small part in helping to establish unconventional oil boom within the US itself, which is now be the largest oil producer in the world.

    I agree that it would be pretty dubious to claim that the Iraq war was an overall benefit to US national economic interests. But, to my knowledge, the “War for Oil” accusation is about the economic interests of private american energy (and military contracting) companies and these outcomes have been indisputably and spectacularly benefited by the Iraq war.

  11. Tim Macknay #14

    Turns out the Scots were listening to Goldman Sachs after all.

    I can’t say I’m surprised. Of course I expected the Scots to blink, back in February 2014:

    I am betting the NO vote wins, the Scots are alot less bolshie these days, perhaps because they eat too many Mars bars fried in batter. They will draw back from the brink and take the safe option. After all it was the Bank of England/UK Treasury that more or less bailed out the Royal Bank of Scotland. I can’t see the gnomes of Frankfurt being quite so accommodating. If there are any takers to my bet I would be grateful if Pr Q holds bets in escrow on the condition that I donate my winnings to his next Iron-Man charity.

    There were not takers. Wise choice!

    But the NO vote was less resounding than I expected, which was > 60%. There are powerful centrifugal forces at work, ethnic & economic, that are not well appreciated by metropolitan elites. Oligarchs would like to be a bigger fish in smaller ponds. West Australia I’m looking at you.

    For the umpteenth time I asked God to bless the wisdom of our Founding Fathers who made our constitution into an almost perfect instrument of bureaucratic rectitude and then had the wisdom and foresight to make it next to impossible to change.

    This centrifugal tendency is not something that should be welcomed. It adds to the general drift towards anomie. And it lays the way open for the econocidal forces of AI to scuttle any hopes of progressive Henry Georgist redistribution.

    In less than one human lifetime most states will be relying on mineral royalties realty rent to scrape by. Some nations will try to cherry pick the best parts of a jurisdiction and secede leaving the bulk of the country to eke out a living on hard-scrabble.

    The fate of the Suunis is a cautionary tale.

  12. Jack, you’re derailing the thread. This stuff about Scotland belongs in message boards or sandpits. In addition, a new rule specially for you: no further comments reporting the correctness of your past predictions.

  13. faustusnotes # 19 said:

    Jack Strocchi, I just watched “Clanging of Swords IV”. Whoever you were cheering in Anbar a month ago, they’re either dead now or converted.

    There are plenty more where they came from.

    Its an impressive video (warning: graphic imagery), great production values. I especially liked the Allah-eye view with drone cam.Not really crazy about the script though. The stabbing of the passports was highly significant, indicating that this movement regards existing borders as illegitimate.

    However a slew of drive-bys does not a Caliphate make. My prediction is that ISIS will burn out, just as the Tea Party burned out, probably within the next 3-4 years. Ideological fire-works are like that, they produce a plenty of sparks early on but the next day you just see a lot of burnt-out shells with nothing much to show for all the excitement.

    The combination of renewed Anbar-based Suuni resistance, a more accommodating policy by the Shiite-dominated central government and US allied intelligence and air power will prove to have more endurance and, more importantly, superior fire power. Plus it is able to pay the bills.

    The Middle East has, ever since God was a boy, been a place where clan- and sect-based militias loved to duke it out. Twas’ ever thus. ISIS is just another young punk trying to make its name. And like most young punks it will come to grief.

    T. E. Lawrence:

    So long as the Arabs fight tribe against tribe, so long will they be a little people, a silly people – greedy, barbarous, and cruel,

    [emphasis added on the conditional clause, to avoid the charge of cultural insensitivity]

    Pan-Arabism Islamism is doomed due to inherent sectarianism, foreign irritants and it inability to get the urban middle class on-side, critical for getting any kind of successful state formation. Pan-Arab nationalism peaked with the formation of the United Arab Republic in 1958. This Baathist party movement which at least had the virtue of mobilizing large segments of the more or less secular urban middle class. Plus it had the active support of the Soviet Union. Plus the financial security of OPEC.

    And yet it failed.

    So yeah, third time lucky. And fourth. And fifth, and so on ad infinitum. Every day in the Middle East politics is ground hog day.

  14. There is no doubt some ongoing low level of intent to perpetrate T-ism in or on Australia. I don’t think that that backround level has changed recently. What has changed is that Phoney Rabbit and his cronies have deliberately amped up the T-alert levels to create a false sense of alarm. The reasons include that it supports the rhetoric that a new insurgent band in the M.E. is suddenly the greatest danger to Western civilization since the Visigoths sacked Rome. Also, the intent is to look important, strong and active on the domestic and international stage with the G20 summit coming up. The final, ultimate reason is that Phoney Rabbit wants to use this concocted apparent danger to improve his poll ratings.

    To this end, no doubt the orders went to the intelligence services to “check for any chatter” that would justify raising the T-alert. The request would have been couched in such a way that it was known to mean “find some chatter” no matter how trivial this chatter was or even concoct the evidence in-house. It’s easy enough in a totally clandestine organisation to find what you want to find or find what you have been ordered to find. As Phoney Rabbit announced then announced, they “found some chatter”.

    The heavy-handed, militarised police raids that followed have produced little to nothing in the way of real evidence so far. Of course, it’s just possible there is a real threat somewhere, but much more likely there is nothing and this is all a manufactured alert. Phoney Rabbit is risking provoking serious sectarian tensions in Australia with his highly irresponsible approach.

    The ABC tells us: “Counter-terrorism raids: AFP used extraordinary powers for first time to detain people without charge.”

    The ABC also reports: “Some Muslim Australians say this week’s raids were being exaggerated to justify expanding police and intelligence powers.”

    It’s not just Muslim Australians saying this. Many other Australians are thinking and saying the same thing. It’s clear the underlying agenda is to increase the powers of our developing Corporate police state along the lines of the US model.

  15. The first four minutes or so is very impressive propaganda, isn’t it? Did you watch past the drive bys? There are tribal meetings in Anbar where the members of the awakening admit to error and pledge allegiance. Later on they have explicit footage of finding the leaders of the awakening and murdering them in their homes. Their facility with IEDs is also going to make a return of US ground troops controversial.

    I agree with you that they probably won’t last, though I observe that they are setting out to break the “so long as” clause in your Lawrence quote (they unite tribes under one state!) My concern is the damage they will do on the way to burnout, especially in Syria.

  16. @Jack Strocchi

    I suppose if you went back in time and observed England’s “Wars of the Roses” period you would say what Lawrence said. “So long as the English fight tribe against tribe, so long will they be a little people, a silly people – greedy, barbarous, and cruel.” Then you would go on to remove the “so long” from the prediction and say;

    “Pan-Britainism is doomed due to inherent sectarianism, foreign irritants and the inability to get the landed gentry on-side, critical for getting any kind of successful state formation. And so the British fail and will keep on failing to unite the Kingdom. Every day in Britain is groundhog day.”

    This is all rather ironic and I won’t mention Scotland once. Sotto voce:- “I mentioned Scotland once but I think I got away with it.”

  17. While I think the show of police and para-military power was something out of an action movie, the call for people to inflict pain on others here in Australia is a major concern. There is a world of difference b/n people spinning a story about what they’d like to do but would never actually do, and people pursuing a purposeful strategy of using this particular terrorist action as a means of galvanising locals into “us” and “them”. I certainly think it important to detect and catch people planning any form of criminal act which is aimed at destabilising Australian society; on the other hand, we seem to go to war in the Middle East at the drop of a hat, and only the first Bush Sr war accomplished its core aim, namely to get Iraq troops out of Kuwait. Whether you agree with the Kuwait conflict or not, at least Bush Sr had the smarts to leave Hussein contained but in power, rather than risk a power vacuum imploding into tribalism and sectarian dimensions. Now that the genie is well and truly out of that bottle, it is a big leap of faith to think we can accomplish anything positive in the region, should we engage in military actions of any sort. Given the fact that Islam is front and centre of the current war in the ME, is it really a smart idea to get embroiled in a direct military confrontation at this moment? Unless we are willing to go there with a complete joint force, with direct engagement of the ISIL fighters at the source (ie Syrian territory), there is virtually no hope of winning militarily.

  18. In my opinion Abbott is trying to re-do what worked for Howard, along the lines that Ikon suggested.

    But in much the same way that it eventually failed Howard with the legendary Chaser’s APEC stunt, it will fail Abbott.

    Hopefully that will come sooner rather than later. Tonight some bozo on a Tiger flight from Melbourne to the Gold Coast dobbed in a fellow passenger for terrrrsm behavior.

    This guy was making some doodles in a notebook commenting on the absurdity of the terrrr fear-mongering. The AFP hauled him off and interrogated him.

    I’m sad that any of my fellow Australians are so dumb, but as I say – this could also be that “Chaser” moment. A kind of “Emperor has no Clothes” mass awakening and rejection of the manufactured illusion.

  19. faustusnote @ #22 said:

    The first four minutes or so is very impressive propaganda, isn’t it? Did you watch past the drive bys? There are tribal meetings in Anbar where the members of the awakening admit to error and pledge allegiance. Later on they have explicit footage of finding the leaders of the awakening and murdering them in their homes. Their facility with IEDs is also going to make a return of US ground troops controversial.

    I think some of the IED footage is pretty old, a sort of compilation album of Al Quaeda’s greatest hits. ISIS will have trouble applying the same tactics to the US which has greatly improved counter-IED tactics and in any case will not have a large infantry footprint.

    faustusnote said:

    I agree with you that they probably won’t last, though I observe that they are setting out to break the “so long as” clause in your Lawrence quote (they unite tribes under one state!) My concern is the damage they will do on the way to burnout, especially in Syria.

    But that’s the point of my Lawrence quote and the potted history of Baathist pan-Arabism: Middle East Arabs struggle to get out of their tribal rut and into a national groove, Turkish and Iranian exceptions prove the rule. Everywhere else in the region it is tribal vendettas, turbocharged by sectarian fury, that splits and splatters their constructive potential.

    That’s because tribal divisions between regions are essentially micro-races, massively amplified by extremely vigilant sexual selection, comparable to the valley tribal differentiation in PNG and Afghanistan. The sectarian factor is obviously critical in regulating reproductive practices.

    Here is a list of modern Middle Eastern conflicts. Note the number and intensity of conflicts in the “post-modern era” from 1975 onwards, when the confluence of tribe & sect really started to fizzle & crackle. Starting with the Lebanese Civil War of course.

    The combination of Muslim Brotherhood ideology and Saudi Arabian better-the-hotheads-inside-the-tent-pissing-out jihadist funding has spread like wildfire over the region. It’s been a recipe for chaos in every country but the one doing the exporting.

    ISIS will not overcome this because messianic theology of jihadism is not adequate to paper over the tribal cracks. Likewise the messianic ideology of communism was not adequate to paper over national cracks. The secession urge of Russian ethnics in post-communist Ukraine is an example. “Blood is thicker than ideology”, as Dr Knopfelmacher used to say.

    Of course political actors operating under ideological delusions can do an awful lot of damage in the process. The bloody history of 20th century history is testament to that fact. But lest we forget that tribal politics has always been more destructive than national or ideological conflict over the long term, as Hobbes perceived in his masterpiece.

    A middle sized nation with a middle class citizenry is a good compromise between ethnology and ideology.

    No doubt the arbitrary drawing of national boundaries by imperial bureaucrats did not help matters much. But plenty of peoples have inherited crooked timber in their state and don’t make a great song and dance of it. Thank God Australia is a state with natural boundaries, “girt by sea”. Let’s keep it that way.

  20. The reason that the supposedly anti-Western ISIS has been able to grab so much of Syria is that over 170,000 Syrians have died since March 2011 at the hands of foreign terrorists armed and paid for by the United States, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey and their allies. In spite of the terrible toll and the destruction The Syrian Army is still winning because they have the support of the Syrian people. This is confirmed by a href=”http://candobetter.net/node/3888″>press conference (includes 52 minute video) of 20 June 2014. In that press conference four observers verified that the Syrian Presidential elections of 7 June in which Bashar al-Assad won overwhelming support of Syrian people, both at home and abroad, were conducted fairly.

    One reason Syrians are fighting so hard is they have witnessed, since 1990, the scale of the crimes committed against neighbouring Iraq as a result of (1) two illegal invasions in which Australia participated and (2) illegal sanctions in which Australia also participated. The sanctions deprived sick Iraqi children of medicine and starving Iraqi children of food. The death toll was at least many hundreds of thousands. One estimate puts it as high as 3.3 million. One of may who has testified to the criminality of these wars and sanctions is former United States Attorney-general Ramsey Clark.

  21. Link was not properly formatted in the previous copy of this post. My apologies. Please delete, Professor Quiggin

    The reason that the supposedly anti-Western ISIS has been able to grab so much of Syria is that over 170,000 Syrians have died since March 2011 at the hands of foreign terrorists armed and paid for by the United States, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey and their allies. In spite of the terrible toll and the destruction The Syrian Army is still winning because they have the support of the Syrian people. This is confirmed by a press conference (includes 52 minute video) of 20 June 2014. In that press conference four observers verified that the Syrian Presidential elections of 7 June in which Bashar al-Assad won overwhelming support of Syrian people, both at home and abroad, were conducted fairly.

    One reason Syrians are fighting so hard is they have witnessed, since 1990, the scale of the crimes committed against neighbouring Iraq as a result of (1) two illegal invasions in which Australia participated and (2) illegal sanctions in which Australia also participated. The sanctions deprived sick Iraqi children of medicine and starving Iraqi children of food. The death toll was at least many hundreds of thousands. One estimate puts it as high as 3.3 million. One of may who has testified to the criminality of these wars and sanctions is former United States Attorney-general Ramsey Clark.

  22. I think there’s a lot wrong with your analysis, Jack. Let’s start here (my emphasis added):

    ISIS will not overcome this because messianic theology of jihadism is not adequate to paper over the tribal cracks. Likewise the messianic ideology of communism was not adequate to paper over national cracks. The secession urge of Russian ethnics in post-communist Ukraine is an example. “Blood is thicker than ideology”, as Dr Knopfelmacher used to say.

    Your second point (that I have bolded) contradicts your previous sentence about communism. And 75 years is a long time. If Islamic State are around for 75 years, they’ll do an awful lot of damage. I also think you underestimate the power of brutality here: ISIS are not papering over the cracks with just Jihadism, but with brutality. Isn’t that how every other middle eastern leader has done it? How else could minority Sunnis rule majority Shia in Iraq for so long?

    You then say

    Middle East Arabs struggle to get out of their tribal rut and into a national groove

    but this is obviously not true. Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Oman and Egypt have all done perfectly well. And what about the extraordinary unity shown by Palestinians during the first Intifada? In every case where a “tribal” conflict has exploded, it has had some external actor intervening to destabilize the situation: Israel in Lebanon (actively fomenting christian-muslim divides!), us in Syria, us in Iraq. The upheavals in Egypt had nothing to do with tribalism and showed that blood is not, in fact, thicker than ideology – a fact about the muslim brotherhood that the Saudis find quite terrifying.

    I would say that the modern history of the ME is one of tribal divisions being exarcebated and accentuated by outside forces in order to stave off ideological unity, which in Iraq would have occurred along communist lines, and in Egypt/Palestine/Saudi Arabia through the Muslim Brotherhood. Turkey and Iran have united disparate groups through the application of ideology connected to the state, as did Iraq for a long time. This is exactly what ISIS is doing: they aren’t uniting only through religion, but through a vision of a state that unites all tribes and gives them a common identity.

    The challenge for ISIS is to carry this off while being uniquely brutal. I don’t think they can do this, but it’s also possible that they are not actually very brutal in settled Sunni areas, in which case their access to oil, the construction of ordinary functions of a state (e.g. a trading economy, welfare system, regular army) and continued expansion is going to make them very appealing. And because ordinary Iraqis are exhausted by the tribal conflict and the predations of al Qaeda, they may be successful despite their brutality. Remember: one key point of difference between ISIS and al Qaeda was over suicide bombings. ISIS reject the use of suicide bombs against muslim civilians and consider their use to be cowardly. They want military victories, not civilian terror. For many citizens in Iraq, this is a huge boon.

    (Also, ISIS describe their split differently to the western media – the way they tell it they won a spiritual and political debate with al Qaeda and they rejected al Qaeda, not the other way around).

    I think like many people of your political persuasion, you exaggerate the role of tribalism in the middle east, and exaggerate the extent to which ordinary people give a toss about that stuff. After 11 years of war and chaos, most people in Iraq just want peace. If ISIS bring them that, at the cost of a few beheadings and a bit of communal violence against people who aren’t like us I think they might be inclined to accept it. And how many people are going to have the energy to fight it? Who is gonna die in a ditch usurping a state that they consider to be no more or less valid than the last pack of brutal bastards who passed through?

  23. There are plenty of reasons for the West to ignore ISIS/ISIL.

    (1) They are not in our region.
    (2) Thay are not a credible country or force on a global scale.
    (3) If they become a country they will be a weak country*.
    (4) It is the business of Middle East peoples to sort out the Middle East.

    *Note: They will be encircled by Turkey, a rump Syria, a rump Iraq, Iran, Kurds, Israel, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. They will have no credible manufacturing base and no raw materials apart from oil.

  24. Copied from original article of 18 Sep 2014 by Tony Cartalucci:

    As Australia, United States invade Iraq, threaten Syria … Terronoia Theatre Presents: Staged ISIS Attacks

    The FBI has foiled yet another entirely fabricated terror threat of its own creation, with missing mechanisms in two firearms provided to a potential terrorist being the only thing that prevented this latest case of entrapment from going “live.”

    A Rochester man, Mufid A. Elfgeeh, is accused by the FBI of attempting to provide material support to ISIS (undercover FBI agents), attempting to kill US soldiers, and possession of firearms and silencers (provided to him by the FBI). The FBI’s own official press release stated (emphasis added):

    According to court records, Elfgeeh attempted to provide material support to ISIS in the form of personnel, namely three individuals, two of whom were cooperating with the FBI. Elfgeeh attempted to assist all three individuals in traveling to Syria to join and fight on behalf of ISIS. Elfgeeh also plotted to shoot and kill members of the United States military who had returned from Iraq. As part of the plan to kill soldiers, Elfgeeh purchased two handguns equipped with firearm silencers and ammunition from a confidential source. The handguns were made inoperable by the FBI before the confidential source gave them to Elfgeeh.

  25. faustusnote @ #29 said:

    Your second point (that I have bolded) contradicts your previous sentence about communism.

    No, you are out on a limb, chopping logic. My general point is that “rationalism in politics…the politics of the book” ((Oakeshott) will always fail, since it is an ideological implant rather than ethnological growth. The specific analogy I picked to illustrate this point was the post-OPEC disintegration of ideological grafts throughout Eurasia: Soviet communism in nationalist “Slavia” and Baathist nationalism in tribalist “Arabia”.

    In both cases centrifugal ethnic forces having been getting the upper hand over centripetal civic forces. (Obviously the Slavs have a scaled up and superior political culture to the Arabs, they established nationalism.) In both cases secessionist movements are being financed and organized by plutocratic forces seeking minerals & energy control. Scotland looks like a similar case.

    Wahhabist Islamism, the new ideological kid on the block, is literally “the politics of the book”, in this case the Quran. My prediction is that Wahabbist jihad will be even less successful than Baathist nationalism in papering over the tribal cracks. It is sectarian and regressive whereas nation state formation requires a secular and progressive middle class

    faustusnote said:

    but this is obviously not true. Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Oman and Egypt have all done perfectly well. And what about the extraordinary unity shown by Palestinians during the first Intifada?

    Huh? Your shopping list of successful Arab “nations” plus $2.50 would get you a cup of coffee. But no cigar. The whole history of post OPEC Mesopotamia is the collapse of Baathist secular nationalism and the resurgence of Wahabist sectarian tribalism. A regression from modernist to pre-modernist forms of social organization, probably based on the fact that backward provincial hicks want to retrieve their oil wells oases frim corrupt metropolitan elites.

    Your poster children of Arab nationalism – Iraq, Syria and Palestine – are still in the middle of bitter civil wars that are based on tribal & sectarian differences. The Palestinaians are onto their third Intifada now and seem to be even more divided between Fatah nationalism and Hamas sectarianism. The very opposite of getting into a “national groove” and doing “perfectly well”.

    faustusnote said:

    The upheavals in Egypt had nothing to do with tribalism and showed that blood is not, in fact, thicker than ideology – a fact about the muslim brotherhood that the Saudis find quite terrifying.

    I didn’t say the “upheavals in Egypt” were based on “tribalism”. I said that the Mesopotamia’s chronic inability to master state formation had a tribalist basis. The Big Three Middle Eastern states – Turkey, Iran & Egypt – reject Arab sectarian tribalism and have all at one stage or another followed the Kemalist model of reclaiming imperial glory through military-led secular nationalism.

    But they have not controlled sectarianism, such as Muslim Brotherhood or Khomenism. Islamist theology in the Middle East seems to play the role of communist ideology used to play in the West. That is, a seductive blind alley.

    Even though Egypt is a member of the Arab league it’s elites are not really on-side with Arabic Islamism. So they will reject pan-Islamic ideology in favour of Egyptian ethnic nationalism. It’s pretty hard to miss those pyramids sitting in ones office in Cairo. Solidarity with Hamas is a poor substitute.

    Unfortunately the Egyptian elites are having difficulty making Egyptian nationalism work, due to corrupt military nepotism. The Muslim Brotherhood masses are sick of living off the scaps thrown from the Mubaraks family table.

    Iran and Turkey face a similar conflict between modernising pragmatism and sectarian principle. See the fate of the Shah. But Islamism is a cure worse than the disease. See the fate of the Ayatollahs.

    This just shows that the World-Historic dialectic between ethnology and ideology is having the devil of a time reaching a satisfying synthesis. Civic Ideology works, if at all, only as a complement with ethnic solidarity. Think “the Great Patriotic War”.

    That leaves Saudi Arabia and Oman in your list. Saudi is the paradigmatic model of a Gulf client state which is built on tribal loyalty, mobilised by sectarian theology, financed by hydrocarbon plutocracy and protected by the Anglo-American military. Other examples are Kuwait, Dubai, Oman, Qatar, Emirates etc.

    None of these pseudo-states even remotely resemble a nation with secular constitution and a dominant middle class. The ruling sheiks/sultans spend half their time whoring, shopping and boozing to London, where they launder their petrodollars in the SW1 property market. Most of the domestic hard yards are done by exploited and oppressed guest worker proletariat. You will never build a nation out of that.

    And I notice some significant absences from your list, notably Lebanon, Libya and Tunisia, early risers in the so-called Arab Spring. Many liberals attempted to subsume these uprisings into a kind of post-Cold War narrative of democratic Color Revolutions. One does not here much about them these days. In reality the Arab Spring is just the same old, same old Arab Street running amok. Provincial unrest led by rebellious tribes against corrupt metropolitan rule. Net particularly democratic and definitely not a proper nationalist uprising as instanced by, say, Soldiarity.

    faustusnote said:

    I would say that the modern history of the ME is one of tribal divisions being exarcebated and accentuated by outside forces in order to stave off ideological unity

    Ah, the old imperial divide-and-rule theory. Well, you would say that wouldn’t you. This theory denies agency to the hapless natives in the face of the Great Gaming sahibs. Once upon a time, there was some truth in that. But really, the West has well and truly lost the imperial Machiavellisn art. Do you see any statesmen of the calibre of Talleyrand, Castlereagh, Metternich, Bismark or even Kissinger? The cupboards bare.

    The US is really not up to the Great Game. During WWII The US was drawn into the Middle East to prevent the Nazis & then Soviets from grabbing the Prize. The US actively thwarted Anglo-Franco intervention in Suez. And it was quite happy to give its blessing to the Baathist experiment with the United Arab Republic, as a constraint on communism.

    Recently it has intervened in the ME to protect Israel. But if you believe that this is the reason Arabs are always at each other’s throats then you would believe anything. Indeed the one thing that gives the Middle East some kind of “ideological unity” is the paradigmatic “outside force”, namely Israel. Nearly All Islamic peoples agree that the Zionist entity should be dissolved.

    If you want to see what’s queering the ME political pitch you need not cast a paranoid eye about for sinister “outside forces”. The malevolent hand of the Saudis, in the form of the sleek Prince Bandaar, is right in front of our noses, It was the spoiler of Baathism, the swing state in OPEC, the financier of Wahhabist jihadism. The Saudis have pushed the sectarian djinni out of its bottle. But so far it has worked out just fine for them.

    faustusnote said:

    I think like many people of your political persuasion, you exaggerate the role of tribalism in the middle east, and exaggerate the extent to which ordinary people give a toss about that stuff. After 11 years of war and chaos, most people in Iraq just want peace. If ISIS bring them that, at the cost of a few beheadings and a bit of communal violence against people who aren’t like us I think they might be inclined to accept it.

    I don’t have any “political persuasion”, I just want to get the facts. According to Darwinian theory, the “role of tribalism” is default in human nature. It takes a Hobbesian leviathan to overcome our innate mafioso tendencies. “Ordinary people” may not “give a toss about” who rules. But, as Steve Sailer said, “in a Middle East insurrection, you don’t count noses, you count balls.” That’s why the Taliban took over Afghanistan. But all that did was encourage Al Quaeda to take over the Taliban. You see how this Alpha-male will-to-power deal works in the state of nature?

    The one glint of silver lining in the dark clouds of Middle Eastern upheaval is Algeria. Back in June 2007 I suggested that the most likely path to progress for Middle Eastern Arabs was a massive Alpha-male bloodbath followed by a female emancipation, sort of Edward Luttwak “Give War a Chance” meets Germaine Greer “you go, girl” scenario:

    Probably most of the sectarian Alpha-males in Algeria have been killed or are in shell-shock after two generation of internecine warfare. So the women are picking up the pieces. Same thing happened in Germany and Japan after the wars.

    I have no firm prediction whether this will happen in Mesopotamia. It’s a long shot, but worth a bet.

  26. Ikonoklast, today ISIS released 46 Turkish hostages, including the Turkish consul in Mosul, “without conditions,” and the Turkish govt claimed to have concluded no deals with them. The same day, Turkey opened the border and 60000 Kurdish refugees crossed. Far from “encircling” ISIS, Turkey are standing off, taking their refugees. Why? Because they want ISIS to exerminate the PKK, leaving vulnerable Kurdish civilians begging their past oppressor for protection. Dreams of Kurdish separatism are dying a bloody death in Syria and Iraq. Meanwhile, rather than being encircled by Syria as you suggest, ISIS are taking land north of Aleppo, further encircling Syria’s second city.

    Yesterday ISIS simultaneously launched two raids in Baghdad: one on a prison, the other on the HQ of the Badr militia. They failed to liberate prisoners, but they killed scores of people. The US tactic of degrading and destroying them is apparently not enough to stop them launching raids inside Baghdad’s capital.

    There is talk of beheadings and genocide in Kurdish areas that they are invading. At the very least they are engaging in ethnic cleansing of the same kind as we saw in Yugoslavia. But to you it’s no one else’s business?

    Jack, your comment is a mess of self-contradictory assertions, leavened with pop psychology and misused “Darwinian theory.” I don’t find it convincing.

  27. faustusnote @ # 35 said:

    Jack, your comment is a mess of self-contradictory assertions, leavened with pop psychology and misused “Darwinian theory.” I don’t find it convincing.

    The regions intractable problems are, for the most part, of its own makings. Since it is a critical geo-economic region it is inevitable, although regrettable, that some outside agency occasionally step in and try to impose some order on the chaos. It’s just a pity that the US is more willing than able to do the job properly.

    I can’t see this cycle ending anytime soon. When a cultural region repeatedly shows the same patterns of behaviour over a long time we can reasonably expect that Darwinian naturalism, rather than Boasian culturaliam, should play a larger role in the explanation of things. This goes doubly for a region like the Middle East where sexual selection savagely reinforces natural selection. This is not “pop psychology”, it’s Darwinism 101.

    The fact that I noticed that the Middle East has a variety of dysfunctional state formations – tribalism in Arab Mesopotamia, corrupt military nepotism in non-Arab ex-imperial states and Wahabbist ideology in Gulf client statelets – is not “a mess of self-contradictions”, it’s a critical difference. It pays to notice these things.

    Someone who thinks that “Iraq, Syria and Egypt…are doing perfectly well”, that one Intifada means that “Palestinians…show extraordinary unity”, that Saudi Arabia might find its featured export of Wahabbist sectarianism is actually a “quite terrifying” bug and who DOESNT see that tribal ethnicity ultimately trumps civil ideology, that the “outside force” of Israel is actually the greatest promoter of Islamic “ideological unity” is very unlikely to find the evidence of his own ‘lying eyes “convincing”. Twerp.

  28. “I can’t see this cycle ending anytime soon. When a cultural region repeatedly shows the same patterns of behaviour over a long time we can reasonably expect that Darwinian naturalism, rather than Boasian culturaliam, should play a larger role in the explanation of things. This goes doubly for a region like the Middle East where sexual selection savagely reinforces natural selection. This is not “pop psychology”, it’s Darwinism 101.”

    Um, this is actually racist and orientalist – and most likely in violation of the comments policy.

  29. Going back to the original question: will this time work better?. Depends. Mainly on whether US policy can stop trying to do three things at once, none whole-heartedly, and can accept some basic facts about the region. So probably not. Worth re-capping:

    – in 1980 the US did nothing to restrain Saddam’s attack on Iran. Then when that backfired, it went into panic mode and enlisted as Saddam’s ally against Iran (escorting tankers, providing intelligence and munitions, backing Iraq in the UN). When Saddam went into Kuwait, the US had little choice but to intervene. But stopping short of Baghdad and then refusing aid to the inevitable Shia and Kurd uprisings left Iraq crippled – neither able to recover, nor to reconstitute itself as a Shia/Kurdish majority state – no doubt for fear of how such a reconfiguration would affect US interests and influence. The result was several hundred thousand dead Iraqis and the destruction by neglect of what modernisation Saddam had managed. Iraq was, in effect, in limbo – not a sustainable position for a state. The Bush II idiocy had the inevitable effect of bringing the Shia and Kurds into power in Baghdad, both with Iranian backing, and pushing the Sunni out. The Sunni backlash – against both the US and the Shia – cemented Shia control of Baghdad. The US response was to bribe the Sunni into temporary quiet and run (again, it had little choice in the latter – nobody wanted it to stay).

    The Syrian war, Maliki’s mismanagement, the US legacy and Sunni ideological and financial backing from the Gulf states has now produced IS. As Faustus notes, IS is violent, ideologically uncompromising and intent on re-assserting Sunni dominance. If it wins Baghdad or Kirkuk, there will be a bloodbath. So, again, little choice but to intervene. But, as in 1982, 1991 and 2003, intervention means accepting a Shia/Kurdish Iraq, and probably an Allawi/Christian Syria, both backed by Iran, in the teeth of Saudi/GCC/Israeli preferences. It means going to Tehran and working out a modus vivendi there. Is the US capable of such a shift, in the face of such opposition? Probably not. But its current policy works to produce this result regardless. the issue will be whether it follows through or again tries for some unworkable compromise. How many times can you fall between two stools?

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