11.04.2009

The Wrong Questions

Can bomb attacks and hit squads against real or presumed terrorists bring about progress in the Middle East? Is it true that Arabs and Israelis only understand the language of violence, as many in Tel Aviv are now saying? Did the operation against the Al Kibar complex, which violated international law, bring the Syrian president to his senses, or did it merely encourage him to harden his position?
When faced with brutal enemies on all sides who are all working together to build nuclear bombs for the purpose of wiping it from the earth, should Israel be concerned with "progress in the Middle East" and the self-sacrificial dictates of international law? Or does it have more important things to worry about?

Salon.com is running what appears to be a mostly objective account of a secret Israeli attack on the hidden Al Kibar nuclear facility in Syria in 2007. It reads like a spy novel or an episode of NCIS, and the details are fascinating. Long story short, Mossad did the intelligence work and was "more than convinced that the site posed an existential threat to Israel and that there was evidence of intense cooperation between Syria and North Korea." They sent jets over in the dead of night and blew the hell out of it.

As one would expect from even the best of today's journalists, this report is as interesting for its moral subtext as it is for the journalistic details. Note the quote above where the writers draw the wrong conclusions about the Israeli action. They're operating from the altruistic, UN, internationalist standpoint, and are dismissive of a rational, self-interested motivation for foreign policy and military action.

While describing the nighttime air raid on the nuclear facility, they say,
as is always the case with these strikes, the bombs were far more destructive than necessary. For the Israelis, it made little difference whether a few guards were killed or a larger number of people.
The snide judgment here is obvious, even though by their own account, the facility was in the middle of nowhere, and was a military installation. Of course they want to wipe the damn thing from the map, and take as many people associated with it as possible. "[T]he site posed an existential threat to Israel." Case closed.

Still, the report has a lot of amazing detail, much of it without the editorializing. It describes intelligence operations and successful, TV-show-like assassinations--likely carried out by Mossad--of dangerous terrorists and high-level military operatives. It also discusses the unfortunate situation of Iran, and how much more difficult it will be to destroy its bomb-making facilities.

It's definitely worth a read, so check it out.

5 comments:

Moataz said...

the situation with Iran should have been dealt with a long time ago. Just goes to show you what happens when you lack of principles and can't identify your enemy.

C. August said...

Exactly! Near the very end of the article, there was a passage that I underlined and made a comment in the margin of the printout.

"The Americans -- or the Israelis -- would have to conduct air strikes for several weeks and destroy more than a dozen known nuclear facilities to set back the Iranian nuclear program by more than a few weeks. It would be a far more complex undertaking than the Israelis' past attacks on the Osirak reactor in Iraq and Syria's Al Kibar nuclear plant. And even after such a comprehensive operation, which would expose them to counterattacks, they could not be entirely sure of having wiped out all key elements of the Iranian nuclear program. "

I wrote: "Proof that we waited much too long."

Moataz, I think you're right in both things you say, but the "identify the enemy" thing is secondary. American foreign policy has lacked principle for a very long time, since before WWI. Though much of the Middle Eastern trouble has come since Truman and the crap he introduced.

As I said previously about Truman,

"This crucial error of tying America’s interests to the wellbeing of “free peoples” anywhere on the globe, regardless of whether there was any direct relation to our self-interest or even any complimentary core beliefs (see Vietnam), led America down a path of being an interventionist world policeman against communism, for the sake of battling communism."

Regardless of the particular enemy, the lack of principles is the core problem. Real principles would enable the US to identify an enemy regardless of the particulars. The tragic lack of them makes us incapable of seeing even the most obvious threats.

Moataz said...

yes indeed a lack of principles which seems to be very prevalent these days. Its amazing how many people will smear somebody as dogmatic or "extremist" when they stand on their principles.

regarding your paragraph about Truman it is spot on. I would also add that the US should cut their ties with dictatorships in the middle east especially foreign aid which is deadly aid and just fuels problems even more.

C. August said...

Again, you're dead on. Look at this paragraph near the end of the article that illustrates this perfectly, for anyone actually paying attention:

"President Barack Obama will probably send a US military attaché to Damascus soon, followed by an ambassador. Syria could be removed from the US's list of state sponsors of terrorism, a list which also includes Iran, Cuba and Sudan. The prospect of billions in aid, as well as transfers of high technology, is being held out to Assad. The Syrian president knows that this is probably his only hope to revive his ailing economy in the long term."

BILLIONS in aid, to a brutal, thuggish, dictatorship, simply for the stupid, pragmatic gamesmanship of balance-of-power foreign policy. It's the same tired crap that the US has been dealing since Teddy Roosevelt dragged us into an internationalist strategy, which Wilson pushed to the fore... and it hasn't receded since.

With the Monroe Doctrine to refer to--as the near ideal of a principled, rationally self-interested policy--it's really tragic and shocking to realize that the US has been playing the same silly games that King Louis XIV and the rest of Europe were playing centuries ago, to the same useless effect.

Where the US is now is a testament to the idea that when a nation abandons reason and principle, it reaps what is sows. Not to be melodramatic, but it's the textbook path of Roman collapse. Our current leaders are the Caesars, and the Founders are the ancient Greeks that we barely recall as some sort of hazy ideal that couldn't have been real...

Moataz said...

The Monroe Doctrine is terrific to say the least. I have not come across it before to be quite honest.

Regarding the paragraph you quoted yes that is indeed the problem and its not just Syria but Egypt,Jordan and especially Saudi Arabia. Its very altruistic and destructive.

Those people in foreign policy need an extensive course in principles and reason.