Quarta-feira, 7 de Novembro de 2007

From Berlin to Baghdad

  Paulo Casaca

1. The end of the beginning

The convenient beginning is the end, the famous "end of history" of Francis Fukuyama, the convenient end being the beginning, the real beginning of a new era of democracy, tolerance, respect and freedom.

The crumbling of the Soviet regime surprised the vast majority of the observers and experts that had to struggle to find a convenient explanation for the sudden end of the longest war ever fought without a single shot (that is, in the main battle field).

Some saw the wisdom in Ronald Reagan tough stance, some others on the long containment policy (trying to forget how disastrously it failed in Southeast Asia, Africa and the Middle East) and Mr. Fukuyama decided to amuse himself using the philosophical Hegelian dialectics of Marxism to explain the failure of its own creation.

Somehow, what can only be read as an act of humour, became the most significant masterpiece on the "post - Berlin wall" doctrine, and most in the West decided to believe in the charade that made the advent of democracy so dead certain as the socialism and communism had been in the historic determinism of the Hegel-Marx cocktail (whose main cook was actually Stalin).

So democracy was to rule everywhere, if you would just allow the forces of history to carry out their job.

Right from the start, democracy had indeed a no-go area: the Greater Middle-East. There, Gulf oil than whatever else, Palestinian interests were thought to be defended by curbing Israel, not by assuring democracy and the rule of law, and the Iranian regime got a sudden boost by the threat posed by the invasion of Kuwait by Saddam Hussein.

Nearly two decades after the beginning of the disintegration of the Soviet Empire, democracy actually flourished in places where it had old roots, like in Central Europe, in Chile and other parts of Latin America, it got a nice try in Lebanon with the Cedars Revolution, succeeded spectacularly in Taiwan and South Korea, countries that experienced a phenomenal development in the previous decades, was confirmed in India and found in Brazil a new geopolitical centre, but failed in most of the rest of the World.

Still, the conventional wisdom goes with the historic determinist logic, and nowhere else is this more obvious than in China, where it was assumed that one just had to wait for the average Chinese to get sufficiently rich for the totalitarian state to fall like the old skin of a snake.

In the mean time the possibility of this wealth becoming the motor not only of dictatorship in China but in the rest of the World was never considered. Recent events confirming China as one of the champions of World dictatorships from Burma to Zimbabwe are an evidence of how wealth did indeed become the driving force for dictatorship rather than the reverse.

2. The Iraqi disaster on the making

The so-called neo-conservatives were the ones that diverged from this common wisdom and dared to say that if you want democracy you have to fight for it, and their vision gained a new momentum with September eleven.

Otherwise, with the fall of the Twin Towers, the conventional wisdom of the Middle-East as a no-democracy area also crumbled and the American Giant decided to take matters into its own hands.

So, at this stage, it is important to clarify that I fully subscribe to two of the basic points that emerged in the consensus of that time behind the intervention on Iraq:

1. The Great Middle-East is the present crucial battle ground;

2. Democracy is as good a recipe for the Greater Middle-East as it is for everywhere else.

Furthermore, for some time, I assumed that the Western leadership would understand that Islamic fanaticism was the main issue and, therefore, the intervention in Iraq could be seen as nothing else than as an intermediate step to challenge fanaticism in the region, starting by Iran.

I wrongly assumed that after the 1991 experience, when the advancing American army, looking back, found flags showing Khomeini's portrait, it was common knowledge that the Iraqi operation had to face confront from the start.

Besides that, there were clever and pro-Western Iraqis that had explained the possible ways forward for an Iraqi intervention, such as Adnan Al-Pachachi and Ayad Allawi.

They understood that the Baathist ideology had crumbled, Iraq had been decades before perhaps the most advanced country in the Middle-East (with better economic, social and even political indicators than my own country, Portugal) and it became a disaster with Saddam.

If not a fully-fledged democracy, it would be possible to establish an authoritarian but benign state over there, which would not threat his neighbours, would give a better life to its citizens and could become a platform to face the fanatic beasts.

To do so, you did not need much, as they correctly assessed that the Tikrit clan was ever more isolated and the bulk of Iraq would feel relieved to get read of Saddam Hussein. However, the danger posed by the Iranian led Iraqi forces was the main question that had to be correctly managed.

US departments that have been often accused of being responsible for the major blunders of the country's foreign policy, like the CIA, were backing this perspective, so one could face the future with some optimism, I thought.

That was not to be!

Sensible people were sent to the gutter, adventurers with conspicuous relations with the Iranian theocracy were sent in; the first ever modern terrorist group, created as a special department of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards (the Superior Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq) was given space to occupy most of Iraq. One just had to read the existing literature on terrorism to find out about the terrorist credentials of this organisation.

If this was not enough, the post-invasion managed to be much worse. Iranian demands were rapidly and consistently fulfilled, from bombing and killing of its opponents in Iraq; to dismantle the Iraqi State (beginning with the Armed forces and the police); to classify Tribes as "back warded"; and to lavishly subsidise religious structures.

The West promised democracy, but instead, it imposed an Islamic Revolution in Iraq. The autopsy of this blunder is yet to be made, but some sketchy traits are already clear.

Going through recent bibliography about the Iraqi specifically or the US and the UK in relation with the Iraqi operation, one gets an image of a leadership deeply ignorant, incompetent and hooked on action at any price.

This is certainly the fundamental factor to explain how things turned out so badly, but it is not enough.

To find out the real dimensions of the problem, the UK may be a better playground, as the UK leadership can be taken to suffer less of these three diseases. "Occupational hazards" from Rory Stewart is a first hand account of a top civil servant acting as Governor and assistant Governor in two Southern Iraqi provinces in 2003/2004. It shows how the UK actively backed the Iranian occupation of the country, for which the author does not feel any remorse anyway.

It is my conviction that only a large Iranian penetration in the main decision centres of the West can explain what happened.

In other words, for understanding the dimension and reason why of the disaster, one has to assume that, besides the now jailed former Congressman Bob Ney, there are other people in the central structures of power (power in the political, media and civil society dimensions) acting on behalf of the Iranian regime.

Actually, how can we understand that the official policy of the US is still to back Mr. Maliki as Prime-Minister of Iraq after all the evidence he gave that he obeys to Iranian interests?

One can doubt the reports that show him, already in 1983, as the master minder of his party terrorist attacks against the US Embassy in Kuwait, but one cannot ignore the reality that US Generals are witnessing and transmitting from Iraq.

In fact, the US policy is leaning for both two bad options: a military strike on Iran, sponsored by the Defence structure, and the continued appeasement policy, sponsored by the bulk of the rest of the World together with a big chunk of US diplomacy.

3. The third option

The main danger is the Iranian theocracy. The appeasement partisans, the very same that, in the State Department, refused to classify Al Qaeda as a terrorist organisation in 1997 when it was decisive to do so, now says that the US should concentrate on fighting Al Qaeda and not fighting Iran.

This is not taking into account that - both before and after the Taliban interlude - Al Qaeda has been working in Tandem with the Iranian regime, and it has no other strategic perspective than the Iranian theocracy perspective.

Saudi Arabia is the first target of Al Qaeda and it is ludicrous to confuse both of them. Actually, Saudi Arabia promotion of jihadism took place, to a large extent, as a way to compete with Iran as the leading force in Islamic Orthodoxy.

For Saudi Arabia this battle is lost, and it is the survival of the regime that is at stake, not at the hands of the democratic forces, unfortunately, but at the hands of the Iranian stooges.

The situation might change if the Taliban proxies take hold of Pakistan, but we are not there yet.

So, after understanding the geography of the problem, it is also fundamental to understand its nature: it is indeed Islamic fanaticism, a phenomenon that has ideologically survived for a long time and that shows a new and unexpected strength, especially because it has a powerful, developed and skilled country behind it.

A military solution to the problem is certainly even more elusive than it was in Iraq, and we have to come to terms with a reality where a containment policy is the best solution, containment that should start by reversing the existing policy on the Iranian opposition, should continue with smart sanctions - diplomatic to start with - should centre on its eviction from his present number one expansion territory: Iraq, closely followed by the other countries where it is installing itself: Palestine, Lebanon and Syria.

Iraq is a possibility, if we just stop supporting the enemies of democracy, if we assist those who want to keep Iraq together, if we find an intelligent solution to come about Kurdistan, if we involve the Arab League and the Arab Iraqi neighbours, if Europe gets fully engaged, and if the US concentrates on dealing with the Iranian theocracy threat.

Then, we must find a strategy to promote democracy everywhere, with the Greater Middle-East as a top priority. What we learned up to now is that it is much easier to do so when there are democratic traditions, when there is development and a certain level of living standards, but we have to go further than reciting the obvious.

For now, I think it is necessary to bear in mind that democracy does not become a reality just because you hope so and it does not work either just by military means, but we need still to go a long way to have a proper adapted strategy to address the issue.

Brussels, 2007-10-17

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publicado por nx às 22:17
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