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The Mess They Made: The Middle East after Iraq

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There is a new book from the rarely wrong Gwynne Dyer
The Mess They Made: The Middle East after Iraq - Book Reviews - Books
WAR, QUIPPED Ambrose Bierce, is God's way of teaching Americans geography. In The Mess They Made, the British journalist and historian Gwynne Dyer details the broad-ranging education the Bush administration is receiving from Iraq.

His Coalition Provisional Authority relied on fresh-faced Republican activists chosen for loyalty to George Bush rather than any discernible talent or experience: wags claimed CPA stood for "Children Playing Adults".

The supposed reconstruction involved the frenzied distribution of vast quantities of cash, with a staggering 363 tonnes of $100 bills flown to Baghdad.

"It is likely," says Dyer, "that more money was stolen in the first year of the occupation of Iraq than Mobutu Sese Seko managed to steal in 32 years of looting the Congo."

International terrorism did not begin with 9/11: statistically, attacks actually peaked between 1985 and 1988. In the past, Arab militants were secular and leftist; after the collapse of communism, they became Islamist, offering "a juiced-up, populist, extreme form of the religion that offers simple answers to the questions of the disoriented and the dispossessed". Interventions such as the Iraq war give jihadist rants against crusaders a certain credibility. Ten years ago, few believed al-Qaeda's prophecies of religious war. Today, bin Laden's apocalypse unfolds nightly in the news footage from Baghdad.

Most importantly, Dyer convincingly argues a contention rarely heard in English-language discussions of the Middle East: namely, that the best thing the West can do for the Arab world is leave it the hell alone.
ONE way to keep people committed to a war is to tell them the skies will fall if they quit and go home.

Coalition leaders George W. Bush, Tony Blair and John Howard have pushed that line on Iraq for years.

Nevertheless, the war in Iraq is clearly lost, on the ground and in the court of American public opinion, and the pullout will probably begin about 10 minutes after the new US president is inaugurated in January 2009.

The American withdrawal will not stop with Iraq.

Iran is going to be the new great power in the region and the little Arab oil sheikdoms on the opposite side of the Gulf will probably close down the US bases on their soil in order to keep Iran sweet.

That will terrify the regimes in Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, which depend heavily on US backing and are not tremendously popular with their own people.

But we could be talking about the Muslim Brotherhood gaining power in Egypt, or even about the Islamic Republic of Arabia.

But whichever way they jump, it's unlikely to harm the West. Even if a major oil-exporting country should fall under Islamist rule, so what?

Iran may call the US the Great Satan, but it sells every barrel of oil it can pump.

The big loser, strategically speaking, is Israel because some of the Arab governments around it may be replaced by Islamist regimes that have no interest in peace treaties.

The Palestinians are giving up hope of a negotiated peace and shifting their support to the rejectionists of Hamas.

Even the unquestioning and unlimited support of the US is eroding as the American public grows impatient with all things Middle Eastern.

Israel faces no risk of military defeat, but the next 20 years will probably be a lot harder.

Iraq could just break up into three pieces: Kurds, Shia Arabs and Sunni Arabs, but that is far from certain.

One of the two wars raging in the country, the Sunni Arab insurgency against foreign forces, will end automatically when they pull out.

The other war between Sunni and Shia Arabs may continue and it could even get worse.

Islamist terrorism will almost certainly die down once Western troops leave the Middle East. The conviction that the West was waging a war against Islam, however mistaken, was the main driving force behind the attacks in Bali, Madrid and London.

The invasion of Iraq was America's biggest foreign policy blunder since Vietnam, but just as then, the consequences for the West of US military defeat in Iraq are likely to be less than people expect.

Five years from now, the oil will still be flowing, terrorism will be a minor nuisance and America's reputation will have recovered.

Unless, of course, the Bush administration decides to attack Iran. Then the heavens really would fall.
Iraq war to fade away | Herald Sun
I wonder why he's not "smugger"....
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Isn't Gwynne Dyer a Canadian journalist?

Nice quotation from Ambrose Bierce, btw.
Isn't Gwynne Dyer a Canadian journalist?

Nice quotation from Ambrose Bierce, btw.
He's been living in the UK for the longest time...
but yes a Canuck.
Dyer is a tad portly and as such I expect SINC to discount Dyer's analysis
Dyer is a tad portly and as such I expect SINC to discount Dyer's analysis
Given that Dyer is usually right in his predictions, anything to discredit him I guess.
I'm sure that SINC would love to hear what he thinks about "Harper's big war adventure".
Dyer is a tad portly and as such I expect SINC to discount Dyer's analysis
Having met Dyer on two occasions and hiring him to write for two of the dailies of which I was publisher, I discount nothing Gwynne writes. He is a fine Canadian journalist, although I do not always agree with his positions.
I met Dyer in the early 90's. I had asked him some questions about Russia (after the fall) continuing to develop the former USSR's "blue water" navy, and the implications that would have on how Russia would conduct foreign policy. His observation that the former USSR navy was essentially being scraped into razor blades was bang on.

I got him to autograph his book. He is very bright and one on one very accommodating and polite. Later that evening when he was speaking in front of a larger audience he predicted that in the future conflicts would revolve around resources. His argument was that as standards of living increase in India and China that conflict between those economies and our own would dominate the world stage.

This is where I learned a valuable lesson in public humility. I proposed (in front of about 450 people) that he was wrong and that other cultures would not want our standard of living, I asked him why would he think that? His response was that "they just do". Not being happy with his response I blurted out "What do people in rural India want with a refrigerator?" to which the entire audience roared with laughter aim at me and my seemingly stupid comment.

I've had a lot of time since then to think about this exchange. I'm still convinced that we are both partially correct. What I failed to ad to my statement about the fridge was "what do people in rural India want with a refrigerator, when there is no power for it and no food to cool". To my point Western products and goods are only valuable in the context of our economy. What is interesting is that where we see the conflict between economies is not the East vs. West, but the Mid East vs West, where the Middle East is rejecting a Western style economy because our style of economy is so completely wrapped around our culture.

That all being said, his observations ArtistSeries pulled out are bang on. All US involvement is doing is adding fuel to the fire. Economics is economics and when all is said and done even Islamist states like Iran will sell their oil to whoever will buy it.
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