Clueless In The Middle East

by John Rubino on April 1, 2015 ·
Starting with the CIA’s overthrow (and some would say murder) of Iran’s democratically-elected president in the 1950s and continuing through our serial invasions of Iraq and our arming of Al Qaeda and ISIS, American policy in the Middle East has been a textbook case of a superpower with more money than brains, making things vastly worse with every move and counter-move.
Now, at last, people are starting to figure this out. On a recent Daily Show, John Stewart uses some evocative language to illustrate the incoherence of today’s Middle East “policy”.

“The Iran that we’re currently crippling with sanctions and periodically threatening to bomb is now our…I don’t wanna say ally,” Stewart said. “Battle buddy?”
At the same time, America supported a coalition led by Saudi Arabia striking Iranian-backed fighters in another Middle Eastern nation, Yemen.
“Holy shit!” Stewart said. “It took decades of destablizing conflict, but we finally figured out how to wage a proxy war against ourselves.”
Political cartoonists, meanwhile, recognize good material when they see it. A couple of examples, courtesy of Ed Steer’s gold & silver daily:

Now that the US media is catching onto what the rest of the world has known for decades, a few questions:
Is this even legal? Can we just randomly bomb or otherwise intervene in other countries? Ron Paul of course has been saying no forever. And the following from Ajamu Baraka of the Institute for Policy Studies updates the argument for the current war in Yemen:
Another Illegal War in the Middle East

Saudi Arabia has commenced military operations against the Ansarullah fighters of the Houthi movement in Yemen.
The Saudi intervention was not unexpected. Over the last few weeks, there were signs that the United States and the Saudis were preparing the ground for direct military intervention in Yemen in response to the Houthis’ seizing the Yemeni capital of Sana’a last January.
With the fall of al-Anad air base, where the U.S. military and CIA conducted drone warfare in Yemen, and the seige of the port city of Aden, where disposed President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi had fled, it was almost certain that the U.S. would greenlight its client states to intervene.
Saudi Ambassador Adel al-Jubeir cloaked the role of Saudi Arabia within the fictitious context of another grand coalition, this time led by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) — the corrupt collection of authoritarian monarchies allied with the United States and the other Western colonial powers.
Al-Jubeir added that before launching operations in Yemen, all of Saudi Arabia’s allies were consulted. The meaning of that statement is that the U.S. was fully invested in the operation.
Even though the ambassador stressed that Washington was not directly involved in the military component of the assault, CNN reported that an interagency U.S. coordination team was in Saudi Arabia. A U.S. official subsequently confirmed that Washington would be providing logistical and intelligence support for the operation.
The intervention by the Saudis and the GCC continues the international lawlessness that the United States precipitated with its “War on Terror” over the last decade and a half. Violations of the UN Charter and international law modeled by the powerful states of the West has now become normalized, resulting in an overall diminution of international law and morality over the last 15 years.
The double standard and hypocrisy of U.S. support for the Saudi intervention in Yemen, compared to Western and U.S. condemnation of Russia’s regional security concerns in response to the coup in Ukraine, will not be missed by most people.
What exactly do we hope to get for the ~ $2 trillion we’ve spent on recent Middle East wars?
Obviously it’s mostly about oil. But does propping up “friendly” regimes actually affect this market? Can unfriendlies like Iran refuse to sell us oil? Not really. Oil is a fungible commodity, with each barrel of a given type being more or less identical to every other. If sold to, say, China, it enters the global marketplace and affects price and supply in exactly the same way as if it were sold to Germany or the US. In short, if an OPEC country wants to pay its bills it has to sell oil on the global market, which means in effect selling to the US. So while short-term disruptions like the embargoes of the 1970s are possible, they end up hurting the sellers as much as the buyers and can’t be sustained. Our interventions thus end up having virtually no impact on the long-term price of gas for American SUVs.
Meanwhile, for the cost of the past few wars, the US could have put solar panels on every Sun Belt rooftop, electric cars in every garage, and weather stripping on every New England window, obviating the need for imported oil (and for most of the coal that we now get from blowing up Appalachian mountains).
Are we protecting Israel?
One of the interesting things about ISIS, the latest Mortal Enemy to bubble up, is that it doesn’t spend much time or energy combating Zionism. It’s way more focused on stamping out heresy within Islam. In this sense it is reminiscent of 16th century European Catholics and Protestants who took turns burning each other at the stake. So a case can be made that even if Israel didn’t exist, Islam would still need its own Reformation (see There Is No God But God, by Reza Aslan).
And even if our main goal in the Middle East is to protect Israel, simply giving them $2 trillion would do the trick, without all the planes full of coffins and VA hospitals full of young soldiers with missing arms and legs.
The inescapable conclusion is that we have no idea what we’re doing. We’re simply an empire on autopilot, blundering around protecting “interests” that were defined decades ago by long-dead politicians and generals and remain unquestioned in mainstream strategic circles. We’re the Roman empire, in other words, trying to keep the barbarians at bay without the slightest idea how to do it.
Why is this appearing on
Because Rome ended up inflating away its currency in an attempt to pay for its empire, and the US is traveling a very similar road.