New strategies for the Mideast following failure in Iraq
(This article has been expanded since it was first posted.)
George Friedman of Stratfor (which stands for strategic forecasting) has an article on the American options in Iraq. The three existing conventional options—stay the course, gradual withdrawal, and quick withdrawal—are all fatally flawed. The Bush policy of staying the course in order to achieve a pro-American government has not succeeded and has zero prospects of achieving success. Gradual withdrawal leaves the remaining U.S. troops more vulnerable during the interim. Rapid withdrawal leads to Iranian takeover of Iraq (however, wouldn’t gradual withdrawal do the same?).
Since all the conventional options lead to failure, the only way to avoid failure, says Friedman, is to change our strategic goal—exactly what VFR has been urging for four years.
His thinking goes like this. The main threat is that Iran will take over Iraq and then threaten Saudi Arabia to the south, with Iran ultimately taking over Saudi Arabia, its oil fields, and even the Hejaz, creating a Shi’ite Arabia. Therefore the goal of the new U.S. strategy must be to prevent Iranian expansion. The way to do this is to withdraw U.S. forces from the heavily populated central areas of Iraq to the vast unpopulated areas in the south near the Saudi border. Our forces will then remain there as a standing obstacle and deterrent to Iranian adventurism.
Friedman’s plan is identical to VFR’s plan in that U.S. troops would be redeployed to an unpopulated area near the Gulf where they can exert strategic influence over the Gulf region and the broader Mideast while eschewing involvement in the internal affairs of the Muslim countries. The main difference between the two plans is that Friedman’s redeployment would be primarily aimed at preventing Iranian dominance or conquest of Saudi Arabia, while the VFR redeployment was aimed at preventing any strategically undesirable outcomes in Iraq. Friedman by contrast concedes Iraq as simply lost. He seems to assume that Iran will take over Iraq proper, including its oil. But isn’t that a huge concession for a strategy the main purpose of which is to contain Iranian expansion?
There is, however, a more profound difference between Friedman’s proposed new strategy and mine. Friedman’s idea is that the U.S. turn defeat into gain by changing our strategic goal from democratizing Iraq into preventing the expansion of Iranian power over Saudi Arabia. My idea is that we turn defeat into gain by changing our strategic goal from democratizing Iraq into preventing the expansion of Islamic power over the non-Muslim world.
As I wrote last month:
Either way, we have to leave Iraq. What must be rejected is leaving Iraq in the Democratic Party’s way, in a way that looks like a defeat, which would encourage our jihadist enemies everywhere. Here, then, is what I propose. We should leave Iraq, while announcing that our former policy of Muslim democratization was a mistake and that our new policy is not to spread democracy to the Muslim world, but to stop and reverse the spread of Muslims to our world. Instead of acting like some pathetically distracted, naive do-gooder, like the James Stewart character in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, we will look like a tough country shedding our liberal illusions about the Muslims and determined to defend our own safety. Instead of being a defeat, such a withdrawal will be part of a radical strategic shift in which we leave our foolish past behind and immeasurably strengthen our own position. (“What we need to do in Iraq,” VFR, July 13, 2007).Now the objection could be raised that my idea does not deal with the more immediate types of threats in the Mideast that Friedman is addressing. In fact, the separationist strategy provides the answer to those questions. Once we understand that our main purpose is not to play the usual power games and manipulate the Muslim world in this way or that way for our supposed advantage, but rather to isolate permanently the Muslim world from our world and thus take away Muslims’ ability to have any effect on us at all, then we will be able to see in their correct proportions such possible strategic threats as an Iranian move against Saudi Arabia. Eliminating the Muslims’ ability to have any effect on us will require that we do the following: end all Muslim immigration into the West; initiate the out-migration of Muslims from the West; destroy any Islamic regime that threatens to acquire nuclear weapons; develop energy independence; and, possibly, for the short term, until such energy independence has been attained, take over Persian Gulf oil fields. Once we have deprived the Muslims of the means to harm us, would it make any difference to us whether Iran dominated or even conquered Saudi Arabia? The political systems and internal power relations of the Islamic countries would henceforth be—as they should be—of no concern to us. All that is of concern to us about Muslims is that they not have the means to threaten or influence us in any way.
It cannot be said often enough: Our purpose is not to save the Muslims. Our purpose is to save ourselves.