"The most common characteristic of all police states is intimidation by surveillance. Citizens know they are being watched and overheard. Their mail is being examined. Their homes can be invaded." ~ Vance Packard
The Middle East Sinkhole We Got Sucked Into
It is logical to assume that when a President of the United States tells us we are going to war with another nation, he has, at least in his mind, good reasons for doing so. But the fact that those reasons may be mistakes, inventions, or even deliberate fabrications is not the point of this article.
The point is, that before any President puts 240 million Americans on a war footing that is taking lives, disrupting families, increasing national debt, requiring public surveillance, angering foreign allies, and dividing the nation, he and his staff should study a history of the "enemy" area, its people, customs, politics, religion, and territorial makeup before sending in the troops. If they did, and still made the same mistakes, that's another tragic possibility.
Judging, however, from what is happening (or not happening) in Iraq, all indications are that this administration of neocon One Worlders, for all their intellectual prowess, apparently know less about the Middle East that the average high school student.
And with a President's intention of pushing the "American Way" on more and more Middle East countries, it is quite obvious that this gang of war-happy, killer-hawks needs some Middle East background--if indeed it is not too late to learn it--before biting off any more than this nation can possibly chew.
The first and foremost thing they should know about the Middle East--before rushing us off to conquer any more of it--is that because of its incredibly diverse makeup, it is impossible to really know it, much less "change" it.
The Middle East, linking three continents, or roughly 1/12th of the Earth's land mass, is home to some 200 million people; or approximately 1/20th of the world's population. This vast area of assorted peoples contains at least 22 nations, 17 of which are mostly Arabs, and all with a history of invasions, dispersions, lost civilizations, political upheavals, social unrest, and unwilling intermingling and gross bungling.
Maybe this administration believes that an Arab, is an Arab, is an Arab. Not so. There are Marsh Arabs, Druse Arabs, Bedouin Arabs, Yemen Arabs, Egyptian Arabs, and Moroccan Arabs. And they make up more ethnic groups that you can shake a palm tree at: 24 Indo-European/Iranian, two Caucasic, 18 Turkic, three Afro-Asiatic, and four others of assorted races, customs, traditions and beliefs.
More than half of these disparate groups claim Islam as their religion, and most of them speak Arabic. One thing that all seem to have in common is that they cling tenaciously to the past, and have a cloudy vision of the future. Going by their customs and dress, the Middle East is a potpourri of ethnic, religious, occupational, and national groups. It may well be the world's largest population living in such close proximity which goes out of its way to shun or slam each other. And that is hardly an exaggeration.
From a geographic perspective, the Middle East topography is as varied as its people. In a matter of a few hours, travelers can go from marshlands to mountains, from sand dunes to flat plains, from salty lakes to gravel deserts, and from hill mounds to muddy rivers. You name the topo, it's here.
But the thing that's not here is what is needed most: a natural commodity that we Americans, and much of the rest of the world, take for granted: water.
Water is the magic touch, the key to existence in the arid Middle East. If you doubt that, ask a soldier or Marine in Iraq what he most needs, besides enough ammunition.
Now throw into this garbled mix of diverse land and exclusionary cultures the impact of Islam, with its law code, m'lange of sects, fanatical worshipers, strange rites, and no separation between religion and politics, and you have the makings of a region of people well nigh impossible to conquer, contain, convert, or even communicate with.
But that's not all. The Middle East is awash in political intrigue, ranging from some makeshift republics to absolute and tyrannical monarchies.
And there's more yet. Middle East history vibrates with the ebb and flow of empires: from the early civilizations of Mesopotamia of 3,000 B.C., to the Persia Empire of 1,300 B.C., to the New Roman Empire of 324 A.D., to the Arab Empire of 622 A.D. to the Ottomans, to the Greeks, to the Turks, to European imperialists, and on and on.
It seems that everybody who was anybody in history took their swipe at the Middle East. Some with success, most with abject failure, but all with an eye to conquest. And finally to tie up their share of Black Gold--the Middle East has the largest proven reserves of oil anywhere, nearly 70% of the world's total.
Now, THAT'S really what separates the Middle East from the rest of the world--which, because of our dependence on the slippery stuff makes our untimely and unwarranted attack on Iraq logical, if not condoned; and also makes our "sights" on the rest of the Middle East understandable, if avaricious.
All that considered, you would think that before our dipsey thinkers and dumb doers in the Big House and Pentagon let loose their attack dogs in the Middle East, they would have, at the very least, picked up a grade-school history book and read something about what they were getting our nation into. But no, they apparently did not; so here we are, stuck in this quicksand with no foreseeable way of getting out.
Therefore, may I suggest, that before you gentlemen commit more of our nation and our troops to conquering it, you crack some books on the Middle East and find out the pitfalls of that volatile and dangerous region, which you apparently did not do the first time around.
Nobody has gotten a handle on the Middle East in over 5,000 years. Those who tried are a mere footnote in the book of Fallen Civilizations. Those who are still trying will soon join them.