War, Oil, Terrorism and Practical Strategy
With rhetoric and idealisms stripped away, what kinds of logic are visible in American actions in the middle east? Let us try to quiet our emotions for a short time, and look at this with clear eyes
For a military planner, the first order of strategy is to hit the enemy on his own ground. This is fundamental, because battles on enemy soil are cheaper. The total cost of the Iraq war so far is around $65 billion. The cost of the September 11 attack is over $100 billion. One must total direct costs, lives, airliners, buildings, cleanup, reconstruction, lost revenue, and lost business during the airline shutdown period, as well as later bankruptcies and lost taxes from all of it. If one attack of the size of September 11 is pushed back only 5 years, the cost of the Iraq war is justified. In fighting terrorists, it is important to keep them so busy protecting themselves that they cannot act. This is fundamental strategy. As one element of this, the war in Iraq fits.
Some argue that Iraq was not proven an enemy. However, the USA has been in shooting war for the last 7 years with Iraq. Iraq has advantages for a military planner, primarily that it is excellent terrain for modern mechanized warfare, unlike Afghanistan. Iraq also had an unpopular leader. It is extremely well mapped, familiar terrain, and war plans with all of their details were already developed. And last, Iraq has enough resources to possibly pay for the war completely by lowering energy prices in the USA. Thus, in a choice of targets, Iraq makes sense.
Looking at the underlying situation with Wahabbist terrorism, the primary nations that fund and export it are Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. Iran and the Pasdaran have conducted terrorist operations against American military targets outside of the USA for a long time. However, the Pasdaran and the Wahabbis are deadly enemies, since one is Shia, the other Sunni. Only "under the shade of the Koran" can they make common cause against infidels, and they do that badly. It is very difficult for a nation like the USA to take action against formal allies such as Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. Small, pesky nations like Syria, Lebanon, and "Palestine", are to a great extent run from outside. Many terrorist leaders come from Egypt, such as Arafat and Al Zawahiri, but Egypt has a formally good relationship with the USA.
However, all of the middle eastern nations have allowed religious extremists to take over education of the children for most of the last 40 years. These extremists have done so with a vengeance, and now dominate the thought-landscape. The only thing that one can compare this education to is that of Nazi ideology, and if anything, what Nazi's taught their children was more benign. Children are taught to read on a diet of instructions to kill infidels. That instruction covers Jews specially, but for those Russians who think this is as far as it goes, that is a large mistake. The instruction covers all infidels.
So, in that situation, what is the USA to do? The USA can take the Clinton idea, and try to ignore the terrorists, while putting more energy into FBI and CIA defense. The USA could, as Clinton did, try to "buy them off" by throwing them a bone as happened in Kosovo, when Clinton came to the aid of the KLA, an Al Qaeda backed organization. As long as targets were military and out of the country, such experiments were politically tenable. Under Bush, a decision was made was to send a message. The message to the other leaders of the Middle East is clear. Control your extremists, or we will take you down, Mr. Leader. This strategy of the USA is a very dangerous one, because a reaction is also what the Islamist extremists wanted. Once shooting starts, each person needs to take a side. With incomplete, or poor execution, the USA will be in a worse situation than before. That probability is not small. That danger is higher because of the hubris of the Bush administration thinking that it could use less than perfect intelligence to justify the war, and following it up by a policy of supplying too few troops to control the country.
The strong opposition voice to the Iraq war out of the Arab world was brought spoken by Al Jazeeera. Anyone who looks at this should realize that this was, and still is, due to the split between Shia and Sunni. In Afghanistan, during the time of the Taliban, the Wahabbis committed genocide on Shia Muslims there. One should realize that the great objection of the Sunni world to the Iraq war is that Sunni domination of Shia over Iraq would end. The concern is not humanitarian in the least. It is purely about power and control of resources such as oil under minority Sunni control.
Rebuilding these countries, from a purely military point of view, is problematic. Aside from being expensive, countries like Afghanistan, or even Iraq, are filled with guerilla fighters. There is also another strange item. Humanitarians like to say that the USA must rebuild and give the people a way out of poverty, then they will be peaceful. In non-Muslim countries, this is generally true. But the actual statistics in the Islamic world say the opposite. The leaders and the effective fighters have all come from the developed nations such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia. The poor countries do not produce such people. Poor countries produce the boys and men for rag-tag armies, but not the strategists, nor those who run global terrorist networks.
Russia, USA and the Middle East
What I think is that Russians should be very cautious about applauding if the USA gets into trouble in Afghanistan or Iraq. I can well understand the motivation of Russians, some still angry about the USA policy of support for Jihad in Afghanistan that helped bring down the USSR. It is a fact that USA Afghanistan policy was instrumental in creating the current threat against the USA as well. However, the madrassas educational system of the extremists was created decades before. One can well laugh and say that the USA is lying in the bed it made for itself. But it is not just the USA that this Islamist threat is against. If one follows the reports of the last 10 years, it is clear that some cunning thought has gone into attacking Russia, and that Russia has suffered much more from these extremists than the USA has. Most of the attack on Russia has not been of the dramatic kind. A major element of this attack is the supplying of high quality opiates at low cost during the reign of the Taliban in Afghanistan.
There is evidence that links the routing of heroin into Russia with Wahabbist planners of jihad. Statistics say that this plan has worked, and worked well. It has killed and debilitated a large number of young Russian men in the prime of their lives. One rather clear piece of correlative evidence is that for some years, high quality drugs that could have been sold at a considerably higher price elsewhere were sent into Russia, and Siberia. One should not think this is simply an accident. An excellent strategy for weakening a nation this was. Slower than guns, but twice as effective.
Although to describe each strategy relative to oil, from each player's perspective and how the strategic game could be played is far beyond the scope of an article such as this, I will touch on some basics. There are Russian concerns about the USA being in the back yard of Russia making war, mixed with Russia’s own designs on Middle Eastern and Caucasian oilfields. Some of those designs come from the oligarchs, and some of those oligarchs would do anything at all, including betray the future of the Russian people, for a large short term gain. Some of those designs are strictly pragmatic, from the view of the Kremlin, to allow Russia to continue to rise economically, and to allow the Kremlin to collect more revenue. Some of these strategic games can win by dramatically lowering oil production from the middle east to raise the price of Russian oil, and others can win by dominating oil production in the middle east. The strategy most beneficial to the Russian people wins long term by carefully extending the life of Russian oil production into the future, after Middle Eastern oil has dropped, and collecting revenue from Middle Eastern oil while it his here. The Iraq war conflicts with part of one long term oil domination strategy that the Kremlin appears to have tried to pursue. However, there are other ways to make that work.
There are many players in this game, and I have only spoken of some of the major motivations here. I think that it is necessary at this time for Russians to realize that in the modern world, the means are at hand for Wahabbis and other extremists to defeat the West and Russia due to the progression of modern technology. Islamists already believe, in their own propaganda, that they defeated Communism in Afghanistan. The present situation is not something to ignore anymore. They have the motive, it is founded in the Koran’s statement to "subjugate utterly" the infidels, and sooner or later they will find the combination of weapons that will let them win, or do truly terrible damage. I think that Russians should realize this and understand that regardless of past conflicts with the USA, at this time, the USA is acting as shock troops, which is likely to save Russian lives.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and are not necessarily shared by PRAVDA.Ru.