The Middle East Tar-baby
By Alan Caruba
Now when I think of the Middle East, I recall the Uncle Remus story of the tar-baby. Brer Rabbit created it as a trick on Brer Fox who was always pursuing him. The thing about the tar-baby was, if you whacked it, it stuck to you. And as you pushed against it to get free, you just got more stuck.
The Middle East has always been a kind of tar-baby for whoever invaded it. There are historians who suggest that the fall of the Roman Empire was hastened by its many efforts to subdue the Jews of Israel. There was the famous siege of Masada and then, after 70 AD, Hadrian exiled the surviving Jews.
Most settled in Persia where they set about creating the Talmud, the huge volume of opinion concerning all things Jewish. Historians think the Romans were so weakened by their efforts to deal with the Jews they were more vulnerable to the barbarian tribes that invaded and finished off the Empire. They, in turn, would be conquered by Christianity, a religion that, not surprisingly, came out of the Middle East.
An interesting side note about the Talmud. More than seventy-five percent of its vast text comes to no single conclusion on any question raised for the great sages to answer. You get to read all their responses and then choose your own. This is very different from Islam where the Koran and its commentary, the Hadith, answer all questions. For a Muslim, itís either in the Koran or the local imam who will provide the answer.
The only answer seventh century Islam does not have is how to function in modern times. This does not deter the many Muslims who write me with their answer. They want me to become a Muslim. That is their answer to everything.
That is why, when Iraqis began to march in the streets calling for an Islamic government and for US troops to leave, I realized that America had grabbed hold of the Middle East tar-baby. No nation functioning with an Islamic government (Iran and Saudi Arabia comes to mind) has any grasp of human rights and all regard repression as the primary governmental function.
Are the Iraqis truly ďfreeĒ now that we have ďliberatedĒ them? Will their next government guarantee them the rights that Americans take for granted? And, having invaded Iraq and ďfreedĒ it in less than a month, how long before we feel we must also invade Syria? Or havenít you noticed the White House turn up the volume on this topic?
None of this, however, addresses why we really invaded Afghanistan and Iraq. Forget about liberation. Forget about oil. Forget about nation building. The might and power of the United States reached out into Afghanistan and Iraq to provide provocateurs around the world with a demonstration of what we could do and would do if Americans were attacked again on our own sovereign soil.
It was an exercise in power because, if power is not used, it really doesnít exist and it really cannot protect any nation or anyone. This is why a man who has a gun is a lot better off if attacked than one who does not. Power can, of course, be a deterrent. Our power protected us during the Cold War with the Soviet Union, but that nation was not run by madmen.
This is why the Middle East differs and why it required a show of power. The Taliban, an influx of Saudis mostly, had to be driven out of Afghanistan in order to hand it back to the mix of little warlords who have always run that throwback to the Middle Ages. Iran is run by a small clique of power-crazed ayatollahs. Libya is run by an egomaniac. Virtually every nation in Africa has some petty, evil despot running the show. In the Far East, another lunatic running North Korea needed an object lesson in personal annihilation.
So, here we are, poised as the greatest military and economic power in the world. And we are stuck in the Middle East, trying to deal with religious fanatics; not unlike the ancient Romans were.
In another religion-based conflict, we hope that Pakistan and India donít nuke each other.
The whole of China is run by a new Mandarin class of Communists.
Weíre sending troops to the Philippines to help preserve what passes for a democratic government there.
South America has big financial and other problems.
The French and Germans dislike us and even the British populace werenít that keen on joining us in Iraq.
Neither Canada to the north, nor Mexico to the south, had a kind word for our action in Iraq. Neither gives a damn about the integrity of our borders with them.
Some forty-three or more nations did express support, however. Those nations now free of the domination of the former Soviet Union understood the stakes, having begun to enjoy the blessings of freedom. And thank you Spain and Australia.
Finally, thereís the United Nations, irresolute, corrupt, disdainful of our naÔve belief in human rights and self-government, and intent on imposing itself on the whole world as a huge bureaucratic global government.
So our troops now are in the Middle East and like the Roman Empire we maintain others around the world. Most nations these days wonít spend anything on their own armies and, when they do use them, it is mostly to keep their own people in line.
Then thereís that shadowy thing called al Qaeda. Itís not a nation. Itís a fanatical Islamic religious movement that hates us, the Israelis, the Saudi royal family, and who knows who else, equally. Theyíve shown their talent for wreaking havoc in places as far apart from one another as the islands of Bali and Manhattan.
Like reading the Talmud, you can supply any answer you want to the problem. Itís the Jews, itís the oil, itís the evil multi-national corporations, itís eating meat, itís SUVs, itís Hollywood. Itís all of these things. Itís none of these things. But that old tar-baby just keeps sticking to us no matter what we do to free ourselves.
About the Author
Federal Observer contributor Alan Caruba writes a weekly column, "Warning Signs", that is posted on the Internet site of The National Anxiety Center, a clearinghouse for information about scare campaigns designed to influence public policy and opinion. A collection of his commentaries has been published by Merril Press.
Copyright, 2003, Alan Caruba
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