In 2004, awaiting a vote in the newly liberated Iraq, their first democratic vote ever, I wrote my first published essay, “Prospects for Democracy in the Middle East” – a 5500 word opus, and a pro-Iraq War website published it. (I think I have the only printed copy.) It was pretty popular and received a lot of comments. One lady even said she cried.
The war was already won, and since I didn’t care about the military aspects of the 2003 Iraq War, and even less about the politics, other than Saddam Hussein was a pretty reprehensible guy, and we could have finished the job after we’d run him out of Kuwait in ’91, but didn’t, I would continue going back and forth to the Balkans, where I made several connections to both Iraq and Syria.
I was more interested in whether Arab culture could ever entertain democratic principles as proved by our American experiment, and went on to describe what it would take for that to happen in Iraq; in short; a 30-year occupation, where, as in Japan and Germany after WWII, we had total control for about 7-years, allowing democratic institutions to sink in. (Seems Japan turned out better than Germany. Who knew in ’45?)
I knew about the Ba’ath parties in both Iraq and Syria, but not a lot. Everybody knew about Saddam Hussein because of the Gulf War, but before that there was the Iraq-Iran War, 1980-88, whose carnage the world watched from afar. Gas was used by both sides (Hint: WMD’s). Over a million died.
Reagan invoked his “don’t choose between two bad guys” policy, just as he did in the first Syria-Muslim Brotherhood civil war, also in the ’80s.
I knew that Syria supported terrorism against Israel. One of my friends in Bulgaria had been the chef for the Bulgarian premier, Todor Zhivkov, and had visited Damascus several times with his boss during the reign of Hafez al-Assad, Bashar’s dad. He offered to obtain for me a Bulgarian passport to travel there, which was easy to obtain in those days.
In Bulgaria, I got different accounts of both Syria and Saddam than those one gets in the American press. A student of Islam and Middle Eastern cultures from my college days (I had a minor in ME Studies) I was interested in their culture more than their politics. That was the basis for my 2004 piece on democracy in the Middle East.
I also had good friends, Sunni Arabs from Lebanon, who owned small businesses in Bulgaria. By way of rubbing my nose in Bush’s victory in Iraq, they introduced me to some refugee families from Iraq, all Christians. “See, under Saddam these people could live good lives in Iraq. But Bush gave the country to the Shiites. Now they are refugees.”
I couldn’t argue. Bush’s master plan to bring real, bottom-up democratic institutions to Iraq were doomed from the beginning. And he wanted it done in less than 3 years, while far advanced industrial societies (Japan, Germany) required at least seven.
Overall I knew more about Syria than I did Iraq, and their respective history going back to the end of World War I when the Ottoman Empire was broken up.
Hafez al-Assad was a typical “authoritarian” despot, who, much like banana republic dictators, took his cut of every transaction in the country, but he also controlled all the major sources of revenue. The typical authoritarian, he left people alone if they left his power alone. But against enemies who tried to topple him, he was ruthless.
Assad was also an inveterate hater of Israel, and became a major pass thru for terror money, principally to Hezbollah in Lebanon. Both Syria and Iraq were at the top of the original list of State Sponsors of Terrorism.
In the late 1970s, the Muslim Brotherhood, a “totalitarian” Islamist group that goes back to Hitler, began a civil war in Syria, ending in 1982 when Assad killed over 10,000 citizens of the city of Hama in east central Syria. My only recollection of that civil war at the time was that the Reagan Administration did not intervene.That was when I learned of the Reagan doctrine that decided it was best not to try to intervene in a war between two bad guys, especially when one might prove to be much badder than the other.
I first wrote about the Muslim Brotherhood in 2013, “When Pride Shakes Hands With Fascism” where I said that John McCain was actually irrelevant if we can only keep him from causing history to occur.
By 2016, just after the election, but before Trump’s inauguration, I followed up that John McCain was possibly going to cause some bad history to happen anyway, identifying who I considered the major bad guys in Syria, Al Qaeda, ISIS, and Muslim Brotherhood-Turkey. Bashar al-Assad was at the bottom of the heap, not top.
Remember, neocons were originally former liberals, just tough in international affairs. Bill Kristol’s dad was one of those early neocons. And in keeping with their Democrat liberal souls, they saw everything in the Middle East in terms of a geo-political outcome, but are largely indifferent whether that sweet little lady with black ink on her finger from election day in January, 2005, actually did have the franchise to go out and pick a better “mafia” as Russian small biznezz people once dreamed during their 1-year foray into hope.
Like the modern Left, of which Obama, Hillary and their foreign policy were elites-in-full, who gave us Arab Spring, inspired the current MB civil war in Syria, and refused Khaddafi an honorable retreat from Libya, as they refused Ambassador Stevens and those defenders at Benghazi, not knowing help would never come, neocons do not want the human element to interfere with their grand plans.
So, let’s see just what celebrations are in store for the Neocons and their policy achievements in the Middle east today:
- Jan 2020 will mark the 15th anniversary of democracy in Iraq.
Will there be a public ceremony? Anywhere in Iraq? Will any US official who contributed to Iraqi democracy attend; Bush, Obama?
If for nothing more to than to lay a wreath on its grave?
For you see, Iraq, while a government that has a seat at the United Nations, it is a total satrapy of the Islamic Republic of Iran. A province that takes orders from Tehran.
2. Iran is one of the really, really bad guys in the Middle East, but their strength grew instead of diminished during the reign of the neocons.
Who will stand up and take a bow for that? Anyone?
Of course, that Iran is much closer to being a nuclear power today than they were when George W Bush was president… is thanks to Barack Obama and a whole host of allies among our friends in Europe. Still George W Bush didn’t do anything about it when it was obvious needed to be done but wouldn’t.
(We know things today we didn’t know in 2008 about proposed world alignments still yet to be revealed.)
History is still unfolding, but I’m just at a loss to know where the bragging rights for neoconism are found?
Already Donald Trump is being lumped in with the presidents who really did sell the Kurds out with indifference when the Kurd’s establishment of a homeland got in the way of a geo-political map they’d drawn it up back in Washington.
I don’t think Trump will do that, and I think one of the really bad, bad guys in the region, Recep Erdogan of Turkey, will be very unwise to think Trump is cut from the same linen cloth as his predecessors.