An Israeli’s Realistic Assessment of American Middle East Policy Failures

by Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad, Ph.D., Minaret of Freedom Institute www.minaret.org

Today Leon Hadar was at the CATO Institute promoting his book Sandstorm: Policy Failure in the Middle East. Commentators suggested that “quagmire” was a more appropriate term than sandstorm giving that sandstorms blow over fairly quickly while our involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan just goes on and on.

Hadar noted how much higher the price of gasoline is than we realize given that the costs of policies like the war in Iraq are not listed on the pump but are hidden in our tax bills. He argued that in reality we are more dependent on South American oil than Middle East oil, yet no one seems to be concerned about that.

Hadar suggested that under Bush I and Clinton I we had a cost-free hegemony, while we now have a competition of imperial visions: the outright called to empire of the neoconservatives versus belonging for an imperialism-lite by the establishment liberals.

Hadar called for a “consortium of power,” a northern alliance (in his rather curiously chosen phrase) harking back to the Congress of Vienna. Some attendees challenged what seemed to be a suggestion that Europe become more interventionist. Hadar responded that he was not calling for a return to European imperialism, but simply acknowledging that Europe, being closer to the Middle East, than America has some real interests there.

I especially appreciated his analogy of the Middle East to a kaleidoscope in which any intervention brings about a completely new configuration dominated by unintended consequences. Applying this analogy to the Bush administration’s rejection of an immediate cease-fire in Lebanon, one imagines trying to remove a small green fleck (Hisbullah) from the kaleidoscope’s field of view and in consequence ending up with a flaming red blob (al-Qaida) at the center.

We have seen this movie before, Hadar opined, saying that the neocons are trying to provide a Wilsonian soundtrack to “Lawrence of Arabia.” He placed responsibility for the rise of a pro-Iranian Shi`a regime in Iraq and the Hamas victory in the Palestinian elections squarely on the policy decisions of the Bush administration.

Hadar dismissed the suggestion that the enforcement of U.N. Resolution 1559 (requiring the disarmament of Hisbullah) would have prevented the present outbreak of violence in Lebanon, by comparing it a claim that the enforcement of the Kellogg-Briand Pact of the League of Nations (which effectively banned warfare) would have prevented World War II. Things that are unenforceable, he suggested, are better off not being passed.

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