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National Interests
Posted by: Jon Henke on Tuesday, December 13, 2005

One of the central problems in the Global War on Terror is the ineluctable disparity between US national interests and those of the nations with which we must deal. The national interests of Saudi Arabia, Iran, Syria, et al, are simply inimical to our own. The result of this disparity is that cooperation must be forced or bought at almost every step. Certainly, Saudi Arabia will cooperate in combating Al Qaeda—they share our national interest in stopping them, at least within Saudi Arabia—but they have little incentive to quell the radical Islamism and the oppressive conditions that breeds terrorism.

Short of outright war, our options are limited. We can
  • Bribe them to see things our way (e.g., Turkey, Egypt), or...

  • Negotiate and Compromise (e.g., Pakistan, Saudi Arabia)

These options, unfortunately, assume that national interests are inalterable; that the only way to achieve our objectives are through bribery and compromise. That's an awfully tight straitjacket to adopt in an assymetrical war.

However, one of the central rationale's of the Bush Doctrine is to "create a balance of power that favors human freedom". This assumes a third option for coping with inimical national interests: if you can't change the regime, change their interests.

Witness the new priorities of the Islamic world...
Leaders of more than 50 Islamic countries at a summit in Mecca called by Saudi Arabia's ruler, King Abdullah, adopted an ambitious plan to combat extremism and poverty throughout the Muslim world yesterday.

The summit was prompted by an admission that Muslim societies had fallen into a deep malaise. "The Islamic nation is in a crisis," the leaders said in a final statement. "We need decisive action to fight deviant ideas because they are the justification of terrorism. There is a need to confront deviant ideology wherever it appears, including in school curriculums. Islam is the religion of diversity and tolerance."

The plan seeks to address what many see as the root causes of terrorism by "aggressively" confronting extremist rhetoric, including fatwas by unqualified clerics, promoting dialogue with other religions and fostering economic development in the poorer Muslim countries.
It's notable that Saudi ruler King Abdullah is leading the movement, and even making unusually blunt statements such as the admission that an "endemic problem currently exists in the Islamic world", and that Islamic leaders need to "stop 'sitting as helpless observers' but to join the fight against international terrorism."

It's also notable that he plans to use windfalls from high oil profits to fund this, that he plans to focus on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with the goal of ultimate recognition of both a Palestinian and Israeli state, and that King Abdullah is regarded as a very credible figure in the Mid-East.

It's also notable that this OIC conference cites the Iraq war...
The document also lamented the inability of Muslims to prevent the invasion of Iraq "or in the aftermath to influence the peace"...
This is rather clear evidence that the war in Iraq has reoriented the national interests of some Islamic countries in a much more US-friendly direction. On the other hand, there's also the Iranian race for nuclear weapons, which might be an example of national interests being reoriented in the wrong direction as a result of the War in Iraq.

I'm not a fan of ex post facto rationalizations for the war in Iraq—all of the necessary rationales were explained prior to the war and things like the "flypaper strategy" are just silly—but I think that this development can reasonably be described as a positive outcome of the War in Iraq, and directly related to the long-standing determination to "use our power to spread democratic principles".

MORE:

In the LA Times, Gary Rosen helpfully points out that we've had lots of help convincing the Islamic world from the Jihadists, who "have lost considerable ground in the struggle for Arab 'hearts and minds.'"
Whether the United States will succeed in helping to establish a more liberal, pluralistic Iraq remains to be seen. But if nothing else, the conflict there has served a useful, clarifying purpose — revealing the jihadists as nihilistic spoilers opposed to the aspirations of most of the Muslim world. In a fight likely to last for decades, that may be the most consequential "blowback" of all.
 
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Comments
A moment of silence, please, for MK and her fellow whiners. One more good thing coming out of the war in Iraq. One more development to be poo-poo’ed. Yes, we know, MK, this will never work either. We won’t hear from you for a few days. You will need the time to assiduously look up material for your explanations as to why it will never work, it is ill-conceived, it is not even true, it is just a move to control oil, etc. Sigh.
 
Written By: notherbob2
URL: http://
Are we willing to bribe Egypt to give the Muslim Brotherhood a fair election? Are we willing to let Al Qaeda have a major say in a Saudi Democracy? What if Sadr wins in Iraq? There are some big risks (adn big rewards) here.

One thing we have learned from the Weimar republic is that democracies do not guarantee good outcomes. Their interests may not coincide after free elections anymore than they did before. We would have to learn to be very sensitive to the Arab street to have any chance of getting your average Ossama to support moderate, pro US governments. I’m not sure our current leadership would listen to them.



 
Written By: cindy bravo
URL: http://
I agree these are positive developments, and I agree with most of your statements, however:

"all of the necessary rationales were explained prior to the war and things like the "flypaper strategy" are just silly"

I don’t see how the concept of Iraq being flypaper for Islamists is silly. While I’d rather no one in the Islamic world was motivated to attack anyone anywhere to further Islamism, that clearly isn’t the world we’re in. If people of that ilk are driven to go to Iraq to die, I see that as a positive compared to their being motivated later—acting as sleepers—and blowing up innocents in a more surprising circumstance.

Yours, TDP, ml, msl, & pfpp
 
Written By: Tom Perkins
URL: http://
I don’t see how the concept of Iraq being flypaper for Islamists is silly.
As a tactical response to existing conditions, it’s fine. But it was never the "strategy", nor would such a strategy be terribly useful. Aside from the open question of whether you’re attracting existing terrorists or creating new ones, there’s the inescapable fact that "drawing terrorists to fight in Iraq" is in direct opposition to our interest in pacifying Iraq and establishing a sustainable democracy there.

Also, it just wasn’t a part of the pre-war rationale. It’s an ex post facto rationalization.
 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://www.QandO.net
Jon, the "Flypaper Strategy" assumes that the number of Islamo-"terrorists" is finite.

Do you think that America is "making" more terrorists, or are we steadily reducing their numbers?
-Steve
 
Written By: Steve
URL: http://
A moment of silence, please, for MK and her fellow whiners. One more good thing coming out of the war in Iraq. One more development to be poo-poo’ed. Yes, we know, MK, this will never work either. We won’t hear from you for a few days. You will need the time to assiduously look up material for your explanations as to why it will never work, it is ill-conceived, it is not even true, it is just a move to control oil, etc. Sigh.
Oh Notherbob, you have it all figured out.

As for the summit - great. But it’s all just words. Worse, it leads well meaning but ultimately naive folks like notherbob to believe that the King Abdullahs of the world aren’t just playing us for fools.

King Abdullah is part of the problem - not the solution. From NRO May 7, 2005:

Before boarding his flight to Crawford to meet with President Bush Monday, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Abdullah presided over the arrest of 40 Pakistani Christians on Friday. Their crime? The Pakistanis were caught praying in a private home in the capital Riyadh in violation of the state’s strictly enforced religious law that bans all non-Muslim worship.

As the State Department has determined, there is no religious freedom in Saudi Arabia and everyone there, Muslim or not, must obey the rules of the extreme sharia of the kingdom’s established religion, the Wahhabi interpretation of Islam. The Saudi state indoctrinates its nationals from an early age in the Wahhabi ideology of zero tolerance for the “other.” Government textbooks and publications teach that it is a religious obligation for Muslims to hate Christians and Jews and warn against imitating, befriending, or helping them in any way, or taking part in their festivities and celebrations. The state teaches a Nazi-like hatred for Jews, treats the forged Protocols of the Elders of Zion as historical fact, and avows that the Muslim’s duty is to eliminate the state of Israel.

Though the persecution of the Pakistani Christians is a dramatic example, they and the other non-Muslims among the quarter of the kingdom’s population who are foreign workers are not the only ones to suffer from the denial of religious freedom. Saudi Arabia’s nationals, by law Muslim, find that a broad range of their freedoms are limited because of the state’s monopoly on religious expresssion.

For example, Muslims who follow the Sufi and Shiite traditions are viewed as heretical dissidents and viciously condemned and discriminated against by the state. Regarding those who convert out of Islam, the Saudi ministry of Islamic affairs explicitly asserts in publications Freedom House has acquired, they “should be killed.” Muslims who object to even particular tenets of Wahhabism, such as advocates of greater religious tolerance, also are viewed as the “other” and condemned as “infidels.” Under Saudi law, such “blasphemers” and “apostates” from Islam can be sentenced to death.

Political reformers, too, are crushed on religious grounds. Three Saudi professors have now languished for over a year in prison after proposing that the country adopt a written constitution. Among other charges, their terminology was denounced as un-Islamic or “Western.” State publications condemn democracy itself as un-Islamic. They instill contempt for America because the United States is ruled by “infidel” legislated law, rather than Wahhabi-style Islamic law.

A direct consequence of there being no religious freedom is that every Saudi woman is forced by the state to conform to Wahhabi religious edicts restricting dress, transportation, movement, due-process rights, and the ability to participate in civic life.

The expansion of civil and political freedoms in the kingdom, therefore, hinges on religious freedom.

Since the 9/11 terrorist attacks — and the discovery that two thirds of the hijackers were Saudis — Saudi state ideology has become a matter of U.S. national security. As bad as it is that Wahhabism is Saudi Arabia’s state religion, even worse is that it is the Saudi government’s aim to propagate it and have it replace traditional and moderate interpretations of Islam worldwide, including within the United States. Earlier this year, Freedom House’s Center for Religious Freedom released a report based on a year-long study of the radically intolerant Wahhabi ideology contained in documents spread, published, or otherwise generated by the government of Saudi Arabia and found in the United States.
Someday you will grow up notherbob - but for now, hang on to your innocence. It is a gift.
 
Written By: mkultra
URL: http://
mk:

Governments often have to deal with the unsavory and the nasty. It’s what governments are charged with doing.

Far less clear is why universities should be doing that sort of thing. Indeed, by the universities’ line of reasoning in the Solomon case, this would seem to suggest that they welcome the POV espoused by Prince Alwaleed?

And since, as universities and liberals have never tired of telling us, they are populated by liberals b/c conservatives are too money-grubbing and too stupid to go and work and teach there, what can we say about liberals’ opposition to the tenets espoused by Prince Alwaleed and Abdullah?
 
Written By: Lurking Observer
URL: http://
“You will need the time to assiduously look up material for your explanations…”
By Golly, when one is proven wrong, one should quickly and voluntarily [and briefly] admit it. Judging by the decidedly off-topic material you present, you were rather obviously not assiduous and you certainly did not take several days. In my defense, you did poo-poo (perhaps in both senses of the word). I almost claimed here that I was right that you said that this will never work either; but another look disclosed your high compliment:

“As for the summit – great.”
 
Written By: notherbob2
URL: http://
By Golly, when one is proven wrong, one should quickly and voluntarily [and briefly] admit it
Oh notherbob, why break with tradition now?
 
Written By: mkultra
URL: http://
Give it up MK.

Notherbob has presented as damming evidence the result of a conference of unaccountable dictators. He probably also believed every press statement issued by every Comintern World Congress. He probably stated as fact crap about the Workers party in Omostia or whatever winning free and fair elections. And that the Communist block was truly working for the benefit of all the common people. He probably still has a poster of Nicolai Khruschev above the dining table. Once an apologist for dictators always an apologist.

He sure seems to have swallowed the Full Hit of this conference they are working for the elimination of poverty and advacement of civil rights- yeah right. It is unbelievable that any of these deeply unpopular despots is going to open up and reform.
 
Written By: Unaha-closp
URL: http://
“Notherbob has presented as damming evidence…He sure seems to have swallowed the Full Hit of this conference”
But, all I said was: “One more good thing…”

I guess my enthusiastic presentation is like “Bush lied”; pretty much in the eye of the beholder. And, of course, any logically thinking person knows who in this exchange is more apt to have believed the Comintern. Well, I guess I can see what has set off your uncontrollable mouth-frothing. How could anyone ever have anything even slightly good to say about “unaccountable dictators”, accountability being the sine qua non of governance? Couple that with the Iraq war context and it is guaranteed to stimulate the overreaction we have all just witnessed. Get a latte and re-read some old Krugman columns in the NYT, that will calm you down.
 
Written By: notherbob2
URL: http://

 
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