Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Obama Has Nothing Whatsoever To Do With Iraq

Everybody wants to tell President Obama what to do about Iraq.  Meantime the American people think less well this week of his foreign policy ability than they used to, according to a new poll, probably because of Iraq falling apart.


It's all nonsense.  Nothing Obama does about Iraq is going to make much difference in that country.  The one thing he might do that would be effective is put a dictator back in power, a "strong man" who will hold that country together by force of terror.  And that's something Obama isn't going to do.  Because then George W might come back too!

Iraq is going to do what Iraq is going to do. Chiefly it will continue to be the playground or, more accurately, the killing ground of what we today call "factions" but what Lawrence of Arabia would have called "tribes".  The media insist there's a three-way split in Iraq:  Kurd, Shitte, Sunni. It's not that simple.  The warring factions of the desert of old were not organized into such super-blocs.  They were tribal.  Thus today, even within the Sunni or Shiite there are multiple "factions".  These are the tribes of old.  And even as I write, the Shiite are dividing in Iraq just when they should (we think) unite in keeping out some Sunni from Syria.

Throughout the desert lands of the Arabs and Persians and throughout Africa, Europeans carved "nation states" into existence so they could have tidy little packages of governance.  It was ridiculous and arrogant, yoking together traditional enemies.   And it left us with eventual things like the Tutsi and Hutu horror.  It is still playing out in the fighting within African "nations".  Each of two or more tribes fights to secure control of an artificially created state.  Much the same thing is playing out on the sands of Araby.

Think of Lawrence of Arabia, desperately luring the Saudi tribes into cooperating to fight the Turks by offering gold.  No sense of "nation" there.  Just "me, my guys, my family, my tribe and my oasis and whatever we can pick up as the spoils of war."  Actually a very practical organization of reality in a culture dependent mostly on horses and camels for getting around.  When you live in a small world, a tribe makes great sense.

Of course, it's fun not only to fight the neighboring tribes but also  to fight that other religion that's so like yours but not quite.  Ask the Protestants and Catholics of Northern Ireland.  There may be only one God for Muslims, but there are various sub-religions among Muslims, the two chief ones going back to the time of Mohammed himself, if I understand correctly.  The two sides of that ancient quarrel recently made a bloody time of it in the war between Iraq and Iran after the Gulf War.  At that time it was possible to forget tribal and go national because strong dictators said that's how it was going to be. 

I have spent many years working with the Native American tribes.  I know whereof I speak as regards tribal people.  Historically the Native Americans would not pull together against the whites because the ones they should have been uniting with were their old enemies.  Four hundred years after Columbus came barging in and when I was trying to be of use to them, the Native Americans were still not pulling together on the oars.  I thought I'd go crazy, but they had the right to do things the way they thought best.  We won our battles  -  big ones, in fact  -  but probably we could have done so much more.  It just wasn't for me to say. 

Iraq is going to do what Iraq is going to do.  Obama has already done what needs to be done by us in Iraq.  And that is to get ourselves the hell out of there.  We are no longer the prisoner of Arab oil.  There is no longer any reason for us to be prisoner of Arab tribalism.

Good job, Mr. President. You pulled our troops out and say there will be no boots on the ground in Iraq.  That's great for us and clears the way for Iraq to figure out what Iraq has to figure out.  Contrary to what the Euro-American always thinks, we don't know what's best for "our little brown brother," as Teddy Roosevelt would call these people whom we  -  in our supposed wisdom  -  keep deciding we can "control". 

Control?  Have an effect?  Nation-building?  It's enough to make a cat laugh.  If people weren't dying….  


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