The Leavenworth Way of War

History Discussion at CGSC

A Very Complex Part of the World

The Middle East endured an increasingly violent 20th Century.  The first decade of the 21st Century does not bode well for a significant change to the pattern.
In the western part of the region Israel is still embroiled in the occupied territories while at the same time enmeshed in a struggle with Hezbollah to the north.
Lebanon continues to spin into deeper and deeper political disfunctionality –aided by the flight of its most productive citizens, the meddling of Syria and the influence of Hezbollah.
Syria continues to provoke instability east and west into Iraq and Lebanon, while pursuing a long term strategy whose end is the destruction of Israel, through a variety of means (mostly proxy allies such as Hamas and Hezbollah), and including among its ways nuclear weapons.
Speaking of nuclear weapons.  This has become the obvious strategic goal of Iran.  It does not appear that the international community and the United States have any realistic way of stopping (maybe slowing down but not stopping) them from achieving that goal.  What will be the impact of a nuclear armed Iran?  The obvious target is Israel, but are the Arab nations of the Persian Gulf potential targets (of at least nuclear blackmail) as well?  A nuclear armed Iran is almost as much of a strategic challenge to Iraq and Saudi Arabia as they are to Israel.
In Iraq a new democratic government is attempting to establish itself?  But what really are its chances of survival given the historic track record of parliamentary style government in the region?  The question is how much direct U.S. intervention is necessary and for how long to over-come the challenges of ethic competition, religious animosity, corruption, and terrorism.
With traditional uncertainty and animosity still dominating much of the regional politics, the major power that seems to continue to remain generally aloft from the vagaries of region is Saudi Arabia.  Saudi Arabia, because of its apparent stability, could be the solid foundation for political progress forward.  However, some argue that Saudi Arabia’s stability is imagined.  This argument maintains that SA’s religious conservatism make it the most vulnerable to extremist ideologies such as Al Qaida.  The question will be, can Saudi Arabia remain an island of stability in the region as it has been for almost a century?
The other major leader in the Arab world, Egypt, also appears to be a reliable ally of the U.S., at peace with Israel, and able to contribute to political progress in the region.  However, the Muslim Brotherhood, staunch supporters of Hamas in Gaza, is a strong social and political force in Egypt.  So, as one looks out into future decades, Egypt too has the challenges of carefully balancing its domestic political, religious, and social policies in favor of stable government.  Any domestic political mistakes or miscalculations can result in turmoil which would quickly effect the entire volatile  regional political balance.
In the arena of balancing domestic politics, a challenge for all countries in the region, one of the most carefully balanced is the Kingdom of Jordan.  King Abdullah must continue to balance monarchy, Islam, modernity, the peace treaty he has with Israel, and the influence of various outside factors on his domestic politics.
The last, and possibly the most important, player in the region is Israel.  Arguably, Israel has never been more challenged and less predictable than it is right now.  Israel perceives significant military threats from Hamas, Hezbollah, and Syria.  It also has publically identified a nuclear armed Iran as the major threat to the survival of Israel.  The traditional alliance between the U.S. and Israel may be at its weakest point in recent history and the current Israeli government, led by the Lekud party, may be one of the most aggressive in recent history. 
Israel, for at least the last 75 years, has been the pivotal nation in the region around which all other political issues revolve.  Does it still play that role or are Arab or Persian players more important?  How important is the role of the Al Qaida in the region?  Are they, or other non-nation state organizations more important than the existing traditional governments?










May 30, 2009 Posted by | A652 | , , , , , , , | 23 Comments