I was hoping to get away from Iraq but this oddity came up: the GOP wheeling out Henry Kissinger to defend the Middle East in Flames scenario if America throws in the towel. Whether he wrote the piece or just signed it, it’s a sad testimony to the decay of a once fine if unsympathetic mind. La vieillesse est un naufrage, as de Gaulle said of Maréchal Petain.
Here’s HK’s version of MEIF:
The war cannot be ended by military means alone. But neither is it possible to “end” the war by ceding the battlefield, for the radical jihadist challenge knows no frontiers.
An abrupt withdrawal from Iraq will not end the war; it will only redirect it. Within Iraq, the sectarian conflict could assume genocidal proportions; terrorist base areas could re-emerge.
Under the impact of American abdication, Lebanon may slip into domination by Iran’s ally, Hezbollah; a Syria-Israel war or an Israeli strike on Iranian nuclear facilities may become more likely as Israel attempts to break the radical encirclement; Turkey and Iran will probably squeeze Kurdish autonomy; and the Taliban in Afghanistan will gain new impetus.
The substitution of “radical jihadism” for “al Qaeda” or “terrorism” superficially adds a bit of class but really it’s the same ploy. As General Mike Jackson reminds us, your enemies are defined by their goals, not their methods; and just as terrorism is a tactic, so is jihadism a militant mindset linked to different aims. OSL and the Taliban were allies, not soulmates. In particular, when have Shia jihadis ever targeted, like OSL, Western countries? Hezbollah, like Hamas, is entirely focused on Israel. The spectre of a single, multiform Green Threat to the West is a useful Straussian lie for the architects of the GWOT, but I don’t think the old HK would have sunk to peddling it.
The stuff about a war between Israel and Syria is out of a Monty Python sketch of infectious lunacy. Why should the ruthless, secular gang of Alawites who rule in Damascus, the heirs of Hafez Assad who massacred the Muslim Brotherhood in Hama in 1982, choose to start a war with Israel. or vice versa? Hezbollah and Iran will be emboldened in Lebanon by Shia triumph in Iraq – but that’s already largely happened, a sunk cost.
The old HK surfaces in one phrase (my italics):
More efficient regional government leading to substantial decrease in the level of violence, to progress toward the rule of law and to functioning markets could then, over a period of time, give the Iraqi people an opportunity for national reconciliation – especially if no region was strong enough to impose its will on the others by force.
Behind the smokescreen talk of reconciliation within an imaginary “Iraqi people”, he’s endorsing the new and very risky divide-and-rule strategy of arming the Sunnis. It’s the sort of Realpolitik the old HK might have carried off, a wily, dominating diplomat whose credible threats and promises forced attention. Can you see the hapless Ryan Crocker, now without bodyguards, in this role? He can’t even solve the Kirkuk mess, let alone the whole country. Without a coherent political strategy, the move is as likely to increase as to reduce the risk of genocide. Harkis, Meo, anybody?
The second Monty Python moment in the op-ed comes at the end:
The best way for other countries to give effect to their concerns is to participate in the construction of a civil society. The best way for us to foster it is to turn reconstruction step-by-step into a cooperative international effort under multilateral management.
Imagine trying to sell this radioactive waste in Kiev or Delhi or Jakarta. You mean, Mr Striped-Tie, you would like us to send soldiers and engineers to Iraq under American leadership? Under what plan and what guarantees? Before the withdrawal of American forces? Your previous Secretary of State put it well, I think: you broke it, you own it.
At least he recognizes that ultimately you will need a UN umbrella and a regional conference for a settlement and reconstruction. With no Americans anywhere.