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Tilting at Windmills

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January 18, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

REPORT FROM EGYPT....The growing regional hostility in the Middle East between Shia and Sunni has been getting a lot of play lately, and Marc Lynch says it's for real. Here's his report after spending a week in Cairo:

Anti-Shia stuff is really spreading rapidly, and seems to have the Egyptian government's approval (at a minimum). Sensational-looking books about the Shia are all over the bookstands, along with stories in the tabloids and scare-mongering editorials....Even Egyptian TV has been hosting some pretty nasty anti-Shia rhetoric.

....Why all this anti-Shia discourse now? One popular theory is that the Egyptian government, backed by the US, wants to prepare the ground for confrontation with Iran. By this theory, the government is stoking hatred of the Shia as a pre-emptive move to shape the political space in such a way as to make it hard for Iran to appeal to Egyptian (and Arab) public opinion in the event of a war -- and to prevent a repeat of anything like the outpouring of popular support for Hassan Nasrullah last summer.

....Whatever the case, I've seen a lot more anti-Shia discourse than I expected or have ever seen before, and it alarms me.

Read the whole thing for additional observations. Among other things, he reports that "everyone here seems keenly aware that the United States has backed off of democracy promotion." No surprise there.

UPDATE: Of course, "anti-Shia" is more or less synonymous with "anti-Iran." Laura Rozen has more on the subject here.

Kevin Drum 3:11 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (65)

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Comments

The U.S. has "backed off of democracy promotion?" What! I am shocked. Shocked!

Posted by: CT on January 18, 2007 at 3:21 PM | PERMALINK

Juan Cole and Marc Lynch (Abu Aardvark) have both been saying repeatedly that the leadership in Egypt and Saudi Arabia have been trying to stir up anti-Shia sentiment, but it isn't catching on with the general public (who saw the Shia Hezbollah as heroes and questioned why their own leadership hasn't done more for the Palestinians).

Posted by: Joe Buck on January 18, 2007 at 3:23 PM | PERMALINK

you mean freedom really isn't on the march?

Posted by: mudwall jackson on January 18, 2007 at 3:24 PM | PERMALINK

I can't imagine the U.S. government is so worried about *Egyptian* public opinion, in the event of a war with Iran, to be behind this, or that it's even capable of planning this far ahead on such minor matters. And what motive would the Egyptian government have for going along it? It's not as if Cairo is eager for another war in the region, is it? If Cairo is encouraging this, I suspect it's doing so for its own reasons, not at U.S. behest.

Posted by: Ryan on January 18, 2007 at 3:28 PM | PERMALINK

Looks like we're approaching a couple of centuries of Muslim religious wars analagous to the Catholic-Protestant wars in Europe in the 16th-18th centuries.

Lots of horror and unnecessary bloodshed, but followed eventually by determinedly secular societies.

Of course, Phillip of Spain never had to worry about the Low Countries acquiring nukes.

Posted by: Yellow Dog on January 18, 2007 at 3:30 PM | PERMALINK

The Shia-Sunni warfare is the only reason we haven't been booted out of Iraq. That alone is enough reason for the Administration to want to exacerbate the split.

Posted by: Boronx on January 18, 2007 at 3:31 PM | PERMALINK

I don't think that any Muslim on the street ever believed the democracy propmotion rhetoric to begin with. Did any sentient being ever do it?

Posted by: gregor on January 18, 2007 at 3:34 PM | PERMALINK

This seems like good news for the U.S. I would think that the Kevin Drums of the world would be happy if the Bush administration backed off its foolish idealism about democracy promotion, and embraced the tried and true realist tactic of dividing its enemies or potential enemies and getting them to fight each other. No?

Posted by: y81 on January 18, 2007 at 3:39 PM | PERMALINK

Hostility towards the Shi'a began after the Iranian Revolution. Surprisingly, the Iranians never did start Napoleonic wars to spread their revolution, much to the chagrin of many American war hawks I am sure. At the time I did not recognize much of the enmity for Iran was due to Saudi Arabian influence.

I am a little chagrined that even many liberals think the Shi'a are more prone to mass murdering violence than the Sunnis. Historically there is little basis for this fear, while there is much evidence the Sunnis are inherently repressive.

Posted by: Brojo on January 18, 2007 at 3:53 PM | PERMALINK

Don't think for a minute that Dubya isn't itching to strike Iran. Look at his reactionary attitude to the elections, public opinion, and the Iraq study group report.

The only way he can see to preserve his "manhood" is to strike out at something. Unfortunately, he really enjoys playing a game of "Commander in Chief" now and then.

He's already setting up the board and moving pieces around.

Posted by: Ranger Jay on January 18, 2007 at 4:00 PM | PERMALINK

If Cairo is encouraging this, I suspect it's doing so for its own reasons, not at U.S. behest.

Well, of course. The Egyptian gvmt is trying to forestall the massive popular support for Iran from its people once the US/Israel begins to bomb.

Posted by: Disputo on January 18, 2007 at 4:01 PM | PERMALINK


yes strife is bad...

but..

more dead people means more oil for us!

Posted by: bush speech, writing itself on January 18, 2007 at 4:01 PM | PERMALINK

I am a little chagrined that even many liberals think the Shi'a are more prone to mass murdering violence than the Sunnis. Historically there is little basis for this fear, while there is much evidence the Sunnis are inherently repressive.

Well, I can't speak about "many liberals," but I've always thought that in any religious conflict there are inherently repressive people prone to mass murdering violence.

I really don't care which sect is inherently this or which sect is prone to that. I just don't want out boys and girls as sitting ducks in the middle of it all.

Posted by: mmy on January 18, 2007 at 4:03 PM | PERMALINK

I have agonized over rifts within religions.

My own, quakerism, is split between those of us who are less Christocentric than others.

The Sunni/Shia split is not about religion.

True religion transcends violence.

The split is something else.

Posted by: Tom Nichiolson on January 18, 2007 at 4:11 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin: Among other things, he reports that "everyone here seems keenly aware that the United States has backed off of democracy promotion." No surprise there.

Do I understand Kevin to be criticizing himself and other liberals? Or, is this meant to blame Bush (I suppose under the theory that everything is Bush's fault.)

Liberals should be looking in the mirror, on this issue. Bush certainly hasn't backed off democracy promotion. On the contrary, he's willing to lose thousands more lives and see his party go down the drain if that's what it takes to promote democracy in Iraq. It's the anti-Bush critics who are saying that they don't want the US to pay the price.

In light of Kevin's observation, maybe some on this board will acknowledge that there's value to "politics stops at the water's edge." Some might acknowledge that although it's legal to publicly promote an anti-war position, and it may even be appropriate to do so, but it isn't free. The image of a divided America hurts our policy in unanticipated areas, such as Egypt.

Posted by: ex-liberal on January 18, 2007 at 4:14 PM | PERMALINK

The image of a divided America hurts our policy in unanticipated areas, such as Egypt.
Maybe it's not our division, but the bad policies of our idiot President that hurts our image abroad. Sometimes it is Bush's fault.

Posted by: asdfg on January 18, 2007 at 4:21 PM | PERMALINK

Don't tie yourself in knots, ex-lib.

If you mean to call liberals traitors, just spit it out.

Posted by: skip intro on January 18, 2007 at 4:26 PM | PERMALINK

ex-liberal wrote: "Bush certainly hasn't backed off democracy promotion."

That's true, since Bush was never engaged in "democracy promotion" to begin with.

ex-liberal wrote: "The image of a divided America hurts our policy in unanticipated areas"

The "image of a divided America" helps to reassure the world that not all Americans are ignorant, weak-minded, gullible, Bush-bootlicking neo-brownshirt mental slaves who support illegal wars of unprovoked aggression based on lies.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on January 18, 2007 at 4:31 PM | PERMALINK

Tom Nichiolson: The Sunni/Shia split is not about religion.

Not any more, though it used to be. Now it is cultural and social. It is mildly important that Shia have a religious hierarchy, while Sunnis do not. It is more important that in nearly every country where both sects exist, the Sunnis are the upper class and the Shia are lower class. (Syria is an exception.)

It is in some ways like the Huguenot wars of the 16th century, which were fought between adherents of different Christian sects but which were as much class wars as religious wars.

Posted by: anandine on January 18, 2007 at 4:32 PM | PERMALINK

Ex,
I think Kevin was speaking specifically to the U.S. backing off of Mubarak and turning a blind eye toward's his regime's abuses. (there was an article in the NYT last week when Ferragamo Rice was in Cairo).

Posted by: matt on January 18, 2007 at 4:35 PM | PERMALINK
The Egyptian gvmt is trying to forestall the massive popular support for Iran from its people once the US/Israel begins to bomb.

To expand on this: the Egyptian regime wants its own people not to get unruly when the US goes to war against Iran and the Egyptian government sits on its hands.

Posted by: cmdicely on January 18, 2007 at 4:37 PM | PERMALINK

Why am I not surprised?

..."Some Iraqi analysts say the perceived religious conflict seems to have expanded as the occupation has progressed.

"The world must be aware that this US administration is pushing the situation to the black hole of a new religious conflict by giving the green light to their soldiers to attack mosques and arrest clerics whenever they feel like it," Kassim Jabbar, an Iraqi political analyst from Baghdad University told IPS.

"Even people with the highest education standards are wondering why US leaders have not restricted attacks upon religious symbols in our country."...

http://www.antiwar.com/jamail/?articleid=10347

Posted by: Tom Nicholson on January 18, 2007 at 4:46 PM | PERMALINK

Arab culture is strongly tribal; you don't have to scratch an Arab too deeply to find that they just don't trust Iranians, who are not Arabs. The Shia/Sunni split is just another reason not to trust Iranians. The Iraq war upset the power balance in the Middle East. The power balance has shifted in the favor of a non-Arab state.

Posted by: ExBrit on January 18, 2007 at 4:50 PM | PERMALINK

Ex: "On the contrary, he's willing to lose thousands more lives and see his party go down the drain if that's what it takes to promote democracy in Iraq."

Um, see anything wrong with that picture? How can critics of that convoluted position be the main target here?

Posted by: Kenji on January 18, 2007 at 4:51 PM | PERMALINK

On the contrary, he's willing to lose thousands more lives and see his party go down the drain if that's what it takes to promote democracy in Iraq. Posted by: ex-liberal on January 18, 2007 at 4:14 PM

Yea, and a little oil legislation thrown in for good measure is the Iraqi way of thanking us for our help, as Bush said they should? Honest intentions do not need oil, or blood, or reward to lubricate them.

Posted by: Zit on January 18, 2007 at 4:54 PM | PERMALINK

In case anyone didn't know Egypt is now the third largest recipient of us foreign aid. We gave them 1.3 billion in military and 0.6 billion in development aid in 2003. Until recently and since the egypt-israel peace Egypt was solidly #2.

The big three are:
Iraq: 18b in 2004
Israel: 2.7b in 2003
Egypt: 1.9b in 2003

Posted by: jefff on January 18, 2007 at 4:58 PM | PERMALINK

Also note that pre-iraq israel and egypt got something like half of all US foreign aid.

Posted by: jefff on January 18, 2007 at 5:00 PM | PERMALINK

Anti Shia sentiment is about protecting Saudi interests in Iraq.

Remember, Persia has been invaded too many times by angry, molests Sunni warriers. Shism is more of a defensive variant of Islam, created by Persia as a bullwork.


Posted by: Matt on January 18, 2007 at 5:06 PM | PERMALINK

The Iranian revolution is only religious on the surface. It is actually an anti-colonial nationalist movement. It is analogous to the communism of Vietnam. The CIA overthrew the secular nationalist revolution in Iran in the early 1950’s and the Shah was installed as a Western puppet. He opened up Iran’s oil resources to Western oil companies; sadly for the British the Americans forced them to share the wealth as a price for assistance.

Islam is a cultural weapon of national identity and it can have, but often does not, a pan-Middle Eastern appeal. The collapse of secular nationalism in the Middle East by the 1970’s left only the religious anti-colonialists standing.


We are in the middle of an era when nation-states acquire nuclear weapons and wars, like the imperial war in Iraq, between nation-states become a thing of the past. For the simple reason that it makes war and invasion too costly for the benefits gained. Only crazy and self-righteous glory-seekers like those of the Cheney Regency, people who don’t care about costs, would be willing to engage in disastrous confrontation.

Iran is hoping to acquire nuclear weapons to prevent the kind of attack being proposed by the United States. It would of course ‘destabilize’ the region because Saudi Arabia and Turkey and then Greece would acquire these weapons of sovereign security. The powers that want to prevent this course of events have to paint Iran as an aggressor. They must manufacture consent for their oblique concerns.

Posted by: bellumregio on January 18, 2007 at 5:14 PM | PERMALINK

ex-liberal wrote: "On the contrary, he's willing to lose thousands more lives and see his party go down the drain if that's what it takes to promote democracy in Iraq."

Dick Cheney is willing to send any number of young working-class Americans to their deaths in Iraq, willing to murder any number of innocent Iraqi civilians, willing to risk a regional war, willing to wreck the US military and endanger US national security, and willing to run the Republican Party into the ground, if that's what it takes to seize control of Iraq's vast oil reserves for his ultra-rich cronies and financial backers in the US-based multinational oil companies.

He is ruthless and relentless and will continue doing all of that, as long as he can get away with it.

And George W. Bush does and says what Dick Cheney tells him to do and to say.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on January 18, 2007 at 5:19 PM | PERMALINK

Please give me a break, SecularAnimist. If the evil Dr. Fu Man Cheney wanted to control vast amounts of Middle Eastern oil, we could have easily taken over Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.

Anyhow, by the times Cheneyfinger could succeed in his plot to have the US take over Iraq's oil, it would be President Obama and Vice President Barbara Boxer who would reap the rewards.

Posted by: ex-liberal on January 18, 2007 at 5:25 PM | PERMALINK

the United States has backed off of democracy promotion

Somebody should tell that wingnut I read today- (god, it might have even been here!) - that said that "lefties don't believe in democracy for brown people". Apparently Bushie doesn't either, if it comes to derailing a good plan for another war.

Posted by: pdq on January 18, 2007 at 5:31 PM | PERMALINK

The Empires of the 19th century were liberal empires. They were all empires of good intentions. The British, French, Americans and everyone else were bringing civilization and democracy to the benighted peoples of the world. It is the White Man’s Burden. The rhetoric we hear about democracy in the Middle East is nearly to the word the same thing you would read in the London Times 100 years ago minus Christianity. I have quoted Mark Twain’s To the Person Sitting in Darkness (1901) on this a number of times.

Twain's "...the Actual Thing that the Customer Sitting in Darkness buys with his blood and tears and land and liberty." could have been written about Iraq.

The Blessings-of-Civilization Trust, wisely and cautiously administered, is a Daisy. There is more money in it, more territory, more sovereignty, and other kinds of emolument, than there is in any other game that is played. But Christendom has been playing it badly of late years, and must certainly suffer by it, in my opinion. She has been so eager to get every stake that appeared on the green cloth, that the People who Sit in Darkness have noticed it--they have noticed it, and have begun to show alarm. They have become suspicious of the Blessings of Civilization. More--they have begun to examine them. This is not well. The Blessings of Civilization are all right, and a good commercial property; there could not be a better, in a dim light. In the right kind of a light, and at a proper distance, with the goods a little out of focus, they furnish this desirable exhibit to the Gentlemen who Sit in Darkness:

LOVE, LAW AND ORDER,
JUSTICE, LIBERTY,
GENTLENESS, EQUALITY,
CHRISTIANITY, HONORABLE DEALING,
PROTECTION TO THE WEAK, MERCY,
TEMPERANCE, EDUCATION,

--and so on.

There. Is it good? Sir, it is pie. It will bring into camp any idiot that sits in darkness anywhere. But not if we adulterate it. It is proper to be emphatic upon that point. This brand is strictly for Export--apparently. Apparently. Privately and confidentially, it is nothing of the kind. Privately and confidentially, it is merely an outside cover, gay and pretty and attractive, displaying the special patterns of our Civilization which we reserve for Home Consumption, while inside the bale is the Actual Thing that the Customer Sitting in Darkness buys with his blood and tears and land and liberty. That Actual Thing is, indeed, Civilization, but it is only for Export. Is there a difference between the two brands? In some of the details, yes.

Posted by: bellumregio on January 18, 2007 at 5:46 PM | PERMALINK

"If the evil Dr. Fu Man Cheney wanted to control vast amounts of Middle Eastern oil, we could have easily taken over Kuwait and Saudi Arabia."

If the courageous and honorable George W. Bush wanted to promote democracy in the Middle East, we could have easily started with Kuwait and Saudia Arabia.

See, we can play that game too, ex-lib.

Posted by: Dwight on January 18, 2007 at 5:47 PM | PERMALINK

we could have easily taken over Kuwait and Saudi Arabia

We took those countries over back in 1945 or '46. The rulers of these countries have some little power to cut off heads and such, but they are beholden to our military for their political status and wealth. Without it, they would have been Baath'icized or Khomeni'ed by their own people. Many still seem to be ignorant of al-Qeada's reason for being: the US military props up the ruling regime in Saudi Arabia, preventing the excercise of the people's will.

The oil the US military is seizing is not for the American people or their president, but for the oil companies to sell to the highest bidder.

Posted by: Brojo on January 18, 2007 at 5:48 PM | PERMALINK

Sorry, that should be Saudi Arabia.

Posted by: Dwight on January 18, 2007 at 5:51 PM | PERMALINK

ex-liberal wrote: "Please give me a break, SecularAnimist."

Please describe the provisions of the proposed Iraq oil law, and tell us who was responsible for writing it.

Here's a little help.

ex-liberal wrote: "If the evil Dr. Fu Man Cheney wanted to control vast amounts of Middle Eastern oil, we could have easily taken over Kuwait and Saudi Arabia."

Those countries already have US-backed dictatorships in charge, which are already in bed with the US-based multinational oil companies.

ex-liberal wrote: "Anyhow, by the times Cheneyfinger could succeed in his plot to have the US take over Iraq's oil, it would be President Obama and Vice President Barbara Boxer who would reap the rewards."

I don't think it is likely that Obama and Boxer will become the president and vice president of ExxonMobil.

"By 2010 we will need [a further] 50 million barrels a day. The Middle East, with two-thirds of the oil and the lowest cost, is still where the prize lies."

--- Dick Cheney, 1999

Posted by: SecularAnimist on January 18, 2007 at 5:54 PM | PERMALINK

ex-liberal joked: "... the evil Dr. Fu Man Cheney ... Cheneyfinger"

That's pretty good.

I call him Vice President Blofeld.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on January 18, 2007 at 5:57 PM | PERMALINK

This was part of the plan all along.

This is why Negroponte was viceroy in Iraq for a while. It was to set up sectarian death-squads, to take the heat off of US troops, and to engineer a civil war.

Now - whether we leave Iraq or not, Iraq will not be shipping any significant quantities of oil soon. And neither will any of its neighbors who blunder into the conflict.

Oil prices will go up.

ExxonMobilBPAmocoChevronTexaco will reap huge profits.

And working Americans will be too poor to donate significant amounts of funds to candidates who oppose well-funded Republicans, because all of their surplus income will go towards fueling their method of transportation to their jobs.

Posted by: Extradite Rumsfeld on January 18, 2007 at 6:34 PM | PERMALINK

....Why all this anti-Shia discourse now? One popular theory is that the Egyptian government, backed by the US, wants to prepare the ground for confrontation with Iran.

This is not funny because this is the sort of thing that so many in the Muslim world are paranoid about and with a U.S. President like GWB, they are inclined to believe it.

Think about reaping what you sow and meditate on this for a while. Fan the flames of prejudice. You will suffer and your descendents will suffer.

Posted by: little ole jim from red country on January 18, 2007 at 7:03 PM | PERMALINK

from Rozen's article: "For a long time, Americans were beating the nuclear weapons drum, and countries in the region were saying, 'Yeah, yeah, yeah, we hear you, sure, whatever you say,' " he continued. "I think, in the region, while people were concerned about the nuclear issue, what really spooked the Arab regimes was the reaction after Hezbollah's triumph in Lebanon and the popular reaction in their own countries of infatuation with Hezbollah, and Iran's defiance."

goes with what Joe Buck wrote up above.

Posted by: calibantwo on January 18, 2007 at 7:26 PM | PERMALINK

I wonder how long it would take Saudi Arabia and Egypt to create the bomb if they set their minds to it. They'd probably get there through laser enrichment research like the Australians and the South Koreans.

They never really felt threatened by Israel (in terms of territorial expansion). A Shiite Iraq/Iran alliance might be a different story.

Posted by: B on January 18, 2007 at 7:42 PM | PERMALINK

Arab culture is strongly tribal; you don't have to scratch an Arab too deeply to find that they just don't trust Iranians, who are not Arabs. The Shia/Sunni split is just another reason not to trust Iranians. The Iraq war upset the power balance in the Middle East. The power balance has shifted in the favor of a non-Arab state.

Posted by: ExBrit on January 18, 2007 at 4:50 PM | PERMALINK
*************************************************

I'm glad that a number of commentors here at least are aware of the cultural divide between Arabs and Persians that is driving this. Reading Kevin Drum, Laura Rozen and that Aardvark dude you really wouldn't know that at all. Over and over you read that the Iraqi Shiia want to unify with Iran. No they don't - they don't even speak the same language, much less have the same culture.

All the holy places of Shiism are in Iraq. Iraqi clerics see themselves as taking their rightful place at the head of Shiism now that the Sunni boot is off their necks. That agenda doesn't include taking orders from Tehran.

Posted by: Reid Farmer on January 18, 2007 at 8:07 PM | PERMALINK

Fun with ex-liberal:

>"...he's [Bush] willing to lose thousands more lives and see his party go down the drain if that's what it takes to promote democracy in Iraq"

The last thing Bushism ever want's to see is real 'democracy' in Iraq. In a 'free' Iraqi election the population will overwhelmingly vote to support the Palestinian people in their struggle against Zionism. As a matter of fact, that would be the overwhelming result of any 'free' vote in the Middle East.

The above is what Bushism wants to prevent, not encourage. Any talk from Bush to the contrary is NewSpeak.

>"evil Dr. Fu Man Cheney wanted to control vast amounts of Middle Eastern oil, we could have easily taken over Kuwait and Saudi Arabia."

They are his business partners and share the profits. Kuwait as a 'nation' was created for the British Petroleum Company. There is no need to invade.

Posted by: Buford on January 18, 2007 at 9:00 PM | PERMALINK

I find it interesting that so few people are commenting on the most skull-crushingly stupid aspect of this whole deal.

There are US troops currently caught in the crossfire of Sunni/Shiite violence, in which the Shia radicals are our de facto allies. We're sending even more troops into Baghdad and Anbar in hopes of ending the sectarian violence. We'll need the cooperation of the pro-Iranian parties in Maliki's coalition to achieve this goal.

Simultaneously, the crack genius squad is gathering support around the Sunni Arab world to agitate against Shiites and take every possible step to provoke Iran short of actual war.

Short of bombing Mecca, it's difficult to imagine a more thoroughly brain-dead foreign policy.

Posted by: ajl on January 18, 2007 at 9:43 PM | PERMALINK

There may be lots of anti-Shi'a propaganda flying around, but the question is who effective it is. I've been to Egypt twice -- most recently last spring, and while I can't and won't claim to be an expert (I don't even speak Arabic) my general impression is that few Egyptians pay much attention to official propaganda, except to laugh at it. In terms of popular support, I think the Mubarak regime is basically brain dead.

On the other hand, it may be that in this case official propaganda is working in the same direction as popular opinion. (Heaven knows, the regime has gotten a hell of a ride out of popular anti-Semitic and anti-Christian prejudice over the years.)

But if and when the shooting starts, and the line up is the USA and Israel (Big Satan and Little Satan) on one side and Iran on the other, I seriously doubt most Egyptians (or more Sunnis, for that matter) are going to be rooting for the away team.

Posted by: Peter Principle on January 18, 2007 at 10:23 PM | PERMALINK

… Why all this anti-Shia discourse now? One popular theory is that the Egyptian government, backed by the US, wants to prepare the ground for confrontation with Iran.

Others here have mentioned analogies with Medieval Wars and such. It appears much more to me like the days prior to WWI when the assassination slowly inexorably dragged Europe into war.

Egypt and Saudi Arabia are afraid of Sunni's being massacred in Iraq if the U.S. leaves the country to the Shia, and the reality is that both Egypt and Saudi Arabia are likely to intervene if this happens, which could in turn draw Iran in on behalf of the Shia regardless of language differences.

The most terrifying aspect of this is that many of Dubya's religious supporters are believers in the idea that a nuclear war in the Middle East is a necessary precursor to the Return of Christ.

With the ineptness and irrationality of GWB, it's entirely likely that the scenario of bumbling into a new regional conflagration, ala WWI, is not just an accident of the Iraqi invasion, but an intent. To GWB, Iraq is the path to rapture.

Thus my own perception is that those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it, but those who do learn from history are doomed to repeat it in the agony of knowing their impending doom.

Posted by: Michael Martin on January 18, 2007 at 10:36 PM | PERMALINK

Well, this is very troubling. Very informative, as well. My first reaction is - how could one man (George W. Bush), singlehandedly fuck up such a large part of the world? It is truly amazing, when you pause to think about it.

Thanks for an interesting but upsetting link, Kevin. Too bad more bloggers don't get out and actually see the world, like Marc Lynch.

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on January 18, 2007 at 10:47 PM | PERMALINK

If the US left and the Saudis and Egypt were drawn in on the Sunni side that would lead to a fairly quick stalemate with Iran and a stark, and probably stable, division of the country. And probably the Kurds would get totally screwed.

Posted by: cld on January 19, 2007 at 12:49 AM | PERMALINK

I've been pointing this out for awhile, and I don't see why Sunni repressive leaders are any more wholesome other than that they're willing to sell out their people at the whiff of a dollar.

The whole surge is about Iran and Shiite militias...it's obvious to anyone really reading and listening.

Posted by: Jimm on January 19, 2007 at 2:59 AM | PERMALINK

Without cracking down on the Mahdi Army, however, U.S. and Iraqi officials will never persuade Sunnis to rein in their own armed groups.

Sounds to me that Bush is surrendering to the Sunni insurgents.

The Mahdi Army isn't targeting Americans, or the elected government, but retaliating for brutal attacks by the Sunni insurgency against their people.

It sounds to me like Bush is surrendering, or even joining forces with the elements who have been targeting and killing our troops and trying to undermine and overthrow the elected Iraqi government.

I'm proud to be an American today.

Posted by: Jimm on January 19, 2007 at 3:29 AM | PERMALINK

Not.

Posted by: Jimm on January 19, 2007 at 3:31 AM | PERMALINK

Has the US backed off democracy promotion? This survey suggests that many Americans would like to do so. http://hughhewitt.townhall.com/g/8d8912b3-bbab-4b88-a7e5-cca670278cb9

I'm not surprised that many Americans doubt that that Bush's "surge" will succeed in making Iraq into a stable democracy. But, 37% of Americans don't even want it to succeed.

As blogger Hewitt says, "I would love to hear why losing in Iraq would be in the national interest. And I would love to hear the humanitarian justification for leaving Baghdad’s civilians to the tender mercies of the murderous militias and terrorists that stalk that city."

Posted by: ex-liberal on January 19, 2007 at 7:52 AM | PERMALINK

I'm not surprised that many Americans doubt that that Bush's "surge" will succeed in making Iraq into a stable democracy.

And many Americans are, therefore, reluctant to waste irreplaceable American lives and treasure on a futile effort.

"ex-liberal", by contrast, is fine with that -- of course, it isn't his/her/its life or treasure (Bush insists on paying for the war with a tax cut) that's at stake. In this, "ex-liberal" once again espouses the basic neocon position of "let's you and him fight."

As for the crocodile tears of "ex-liberal" and Hewitt -- good Ford, "ex-liberal" cites Hewitt approvingly! -- well, if they're so convinced it's such a crisis, and we need extra troops in order to mitigate it, then I'm sure they'll prove their convictions by joining the Army. Right? Right?

Posted by: Gregory on January 19, 2007 at 8:50 AM | PERMALINK

Gregory --

I agree that there are lots of good reasons for believing that Bush's efforts in Iraq will fail to produce a stable democracy.

However, I have trouble understanding the reasons so many Americans want us to fail in Iraq. Do you want us to fail, Gregory? If so, what are your reasons?

-- Do you hope failure in Iraq will discourage the United States from other military efforts?

-- Do you hate Bush so much that you want him to fail, regardless of the impact on the Iraqi people?

-- Are you convinced that failure is inevitable so that you cannot answer a question about what you "want", since you believe the result is foreordained?

-- Is there some other reason for preferring failure to success?

Posted by: ex-liberal on January 19, 2007 at 9:06 AM | PERMALINK

I have trouble understanding the reasons so many Americans want us to fail in Iraq

I hope Bob read that comment, "ex-liberal", to put to bed any lingering delusion that you are either civil or honest.

It's going to take a lot more than your word or Hewitt's to plant the Dolchstosslegende this time, despite your obvious efforts to do so.

By the way, dolt, you undercut yourself with this:

Are you convinced that failure is inevitable so that you cannot answer a question about what you "want", since you believe the result is foreordained?

Bingo, asswipe. Whatever we "want" in Iraq is pretty much moot thanks to Bush's incompetence. It's to your eternal shame that you nevertheless seek to carry Bush's water, and imply that the realistic assessment of the likely futility of placing more Americans in harm's way -- which you acknowledge, yet! -- is somehow a failing in Bush's critics, rather than Bush.

As far as the Iraqi people, given the disaster Bush created in Iraq, and the likely ineffectiveness of Bush's feeble "surge" that even you conceive, my concern is first and foremost with American lives, not Iraqis (or Israelis, for that matter). How dare you say "why not give it a chance" when you have no skin in the game.

Bottom line, "ex-liberal", you shithead -- and I've said this before -- I defy you to cite for me anyone here who wants American to fail in Iraq. I defy you to find any prominent Democrat who's on record as such. There isn't any such animal -- it's just assholes like you and Hewitt desperate to characterize universal recognition of Bush's failure as traitorous, as per usual.

Fuck you and your insulting, irrelevant question, "ex-liberal." You don't get to excuse Bush's failure by questioning anyone's patriotism. If you've got the goods, put up or shut up.

Posted by: Gregory on January 19, 2007 at 10:01 AM | PERMALINK

I have trouble understanding the reasons so many Americans want us to fail in Iraq. Do you want us to fail

Fuck. You. Being one of the 2% of the people in this country who has inserted skin in the game, I want to step up one more time and tell you to shove that crap up your ass. Sideways. Nobody wants a loss you blithering fool, but it's god-damned inevitable because a petulant little shit-for-brains started something that can't be finished to a good outcome.

I resent the fuck out of you and your soft implications that I am less of an American than you are because I oppose a clusterfuck that could exact as part of the toll the life (lives) of people I care about.

That you are willing to sacrifice the life of my husband's nephew for the political legacy of your failed president tells me all I need to know about you, ex-human.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka Global Citizen) on January 19, 2007 at 10:12 AM | PERMALINK

Speaking only for myself, ex-lib, I don't want us to fail in Iraq. I want us to succeed, but the current situation doesn't look much like success and I don't see how we get to success from here.

If failure is inevitable, I would prefer it come quickly and with as little additional cost as possible. The cost to the people of Iraq will be high, but that was probably going to be true of the post-Saddam process whether it was initiated by us or not.

I'd love to be convinced success is possible. Hasn't happened yet.

Posted by: just sayin on January 19, 2007 at 10:14 AM | PERMALINK

Gregory, you claim no Americans want us to fail in Iraq. Please read the cite. http://hughhewitt.townhall.com/g/8d8912b3-bbab-4b88-a7e5-cca670278cb9

22% of poll respondants said the did not want Bush's plan in Iraq to succeed and another 15% said they didn't know if they wanted it to succeed.

I don't know who the people are who gave these responses. However, if the poll is to be belived, a lot of Americans want us to fail in Iraq.

Posted by: ex-liberal on January 19, 2007 at 10:17 AM | PERMALINK

You will question poll results from those wankers at John's Hopkins, but cite the results of Hugh Hewitt at Town Hall?!?!?!?!? Seriously?!?!?!?!?!?

Lurkers, there you have it. If that doesn't crystallize your choices for you, your cause is as lost as that of ex-liberal.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka Global Citizen) on January 19, 2007 at 10:21 AM | PERMALINK

"ex-liberal", I've already said that your word and Hewitt's isn't worth a bucket of piss in claiming who wants America to succeed. Conflating a recognition of the likely, if not inevitable, failure of Bush's plan with "America's success" is bullshit, and I suspect you know it, toad.

My challenge to you still stands: Cite one commentor here, or one prominent Democrat, on record as wanting America to fail. Put up or shut up.

Posted by: Gregory on January 19, 2007 at 10:25 AM | PERMALINK

Blue Girl/Global, Hewitt was citing the results of a Fox News poll. Of course, Hewitt and "ex-liberal" interpret the results dishonestly, by claiming that not wanting Bush's lame-ass plan to succeed is equivalent to "wanting America to fail." The inherent dishoensty is the false equivalence of conflating Bush's success with America's success.

There's also the dishoensty of reporting the traditional "don't know" category -- reserved for those for demur for any reason, from lack of information to no strong opinion -- as some kind of mental malaise on the subject of success in Iraq.

Hewitt -- who claimed that having an office in New York City, a likely target, made him a warrior on terror, brave just to show up to work -- is throwing red meat to the base with the same old tired claims that Bush's opponents -- who include not a few Republicans -- as traitors. "ex-liberal" shares and endorses this dishonesty.

Posted by: Gregory on January 19, 2007 at 10:36 AM | PERMALINK

Working in NY makes one a warrior on terror?!

Bwahahahahaha.

That is as funny as the 101st keyboarder we used to have here (Joe Schmoe) who claimed he actually did volunteer to 'sign up.' When the details came out we found that he had not enlisted or volunteered to join any of our armed services. No - he had sent his resume to Haliburton and was turned down!

Only in a chickenhawk's mind is working for Haliburton the same as being a soldier in our army.

Posted by: Tripp on January 19, 2007 at 11:06 AM | PERMALINK

Maybe those 22% realize that to bush success is stalling long enough to put the blame on someone else?

Posted by: jefff on January 19, 2007 at 12:46 PM | PERMALINK

Now - whether we leave Iraq or not, Iraq will not be shipping any significant quantities of oil soon. And neither will any of its neighbors who blunder into the conflict. Oil prices will go up.

Completely wrong analysis. Oil conglomerates want stable supplies. Middle Eastern instability translates into oil market instability, and, although oil price hikes ensue, so, too, does a drop in demand. And that, in turn, drags down prices. We're seeing this now, as we did in the 80s and 90s. Big Oil's most dangerous enemy is the newly green western voter -- the one who supports politicians who are apt to create very inconvenient legislation.

Exxon-Mobil would much rather have a 30 year run of comfortable profitability (as is did after WWII) than a boom and bust environment (what it has experienced since the 1970s oil shock). Above all, what it wants is a society increasingly dependent on hydrocarbons. War in the Middle East is the one thing that can undermine that dependence, by giving weight (in the form of financial pain to hundreds of millions of consumers and businesses -- and western governments) to the environmental case against oil.

Posted by: Jasper on January 20, 2007 at 9:25 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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