Well, Professor Reynolds beat me to the punch line, but here’s the post I promised last night.
The conventional “wisdom” of the media and punditocracy seems to be the following:
The Middle East is a region of states hostile to us (Iraq and Iran), states indifferent to us (Syria), and states friendly to us (Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the other Gulf States, and Egypt). In order to deal with the hostile states (primarily Iraq) we have to get support of the “friendly states,” particularly Saudi Arabia. This is the famous “coalition” that we had put together in the Gulf War.
But the Saudis are nervous about us being on their territory at all, because this is one of the things that upset Osama, and their own people might not stand for it. In addition, though they’d like to help, they and the other “friendly” states (like Egypt) are upset with us about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (which has nothing to do with the War on Terrorism). So, at a minimum, in order to have them as part of the necessary coalition, we must first resolve the Palestinian problem, or at least reign in our ally, Israel, who is mostly to blame for all the problems over there, and (remember again) this has nothing to do with the War on Terrorism–it’s just a distraction from it.
The War on Terror (you know, the one that has nothing to do with Israel or Palestine) is being waged against us by a (relatively) few fanatics, and they are supported by renegades in those “friendly” countries, and there’s little their governments can do about it, because the people are so righteously angry at us for the Palestinian problem that any attempt to crack down on terror in those nations might result in instability in the region, causing those “friendly” governments to fall, with much worse replacements.
This is the standard template for almost all discussion of the subject, at least in most mainstream news sources.
Now here’s the reality:
The Arab world is at war with us (us being western civilization), and has been since at least the end of World War II. For most of the world, and for most of that time, it has been a low-grade war, with the only active battlefront in Israel, because the Arab states lacked the resources to take it to their real enemy, in Europe and America, other than with pinpricks like the Lockerbie bombing, and the embassy and Marine barracks attacks.
Because they couldn’t successfully wage a conventional war against us, they’ve instead been waging an unconventional one. They have colonized large parts of the world with their ideology, by funding mosques and religious schools (including North America), and taken over the governments of the countries themselves when they could get away with it (e.g., Afghanistan). They have funded terrorists both directly and indirectly, and they have filled their own people with a rage against us, while at the same time oppressing them. Part of this unconventional war was to pretend that it wasn’t happening, with diplomacy and propaganda, paid for by their oil millions. Unfortunately, we’ve been merely swatting them away like mosquitos, instead of recognizing them for the threat they were.
Up until September 11, the main front was in Israel, using hapless maleducated Palestinians as their pawns and proxies. We have to recognize that, as PM Netanyahu says, we and Israel are fighting the same war, against the same nihilistic enemy, and have been for decades. The Intifada is not a separate problem from the War on Terrorism–it is an integral part of it, and always has been, even when we (the U.S.) didn’t realize that we were at war.
But last September, they figured out how to take the war more directly to the enemy, or at least they thought they did. They played, and in fact overplayed their hand, and they can now be recognized for what they are–open enemies of our country. At a minimum, their near-term goal is to prevent us from inhibiting the spreading of their vile beliefs further into lands they consider naturally Wahhabi Islamic. Ultimately, they would like for the entire world to believe as they do, which is why they take the millions we provide them for oil, and fund mosques and madrassas with it, even in the US.
People who say that we have to wait until we straighten out the mess in Israel before we can take on Iraq have it exactly backwards. Taking out Saddam will eliminate the most immediate threat of being attacked with WMD, and it will provide an object lesson to the remaining regimes of what happens when you wage war against civilization. And it will make it much easier to put someone in
charge of the Palestinians who is reasonable and can actually be negotiated with in trust.
But the road to Baghdad may lie through Riyadh. And in fact, though the Administration has been loathe to admit it, they may not be able to ignore the elephant in the living room for much longer–even Cokie Roberts pointed out this morning that the Saudis are rewarding Palestinian Islamakazis, just as Saddam is, though neither she, nor anyone else in the roundtable, discussed the true implications of this.
The current Saudi regime has to go eventually–they are the source, the wellspring, of the Arab war against us. Most of the Al Qaeda’s money came from there, most of the 911 attackers were from there, all of the hatred being preached in the mosques is funded from there. But I suspect that the Administration has been hoping that they can instill a change in Saudi behavior by making an example of Saddam, who has much less support (though still too much) from our European “allies,” and against whom a clear-cut case can be made of being in more-or-less continuous breach of the surrender agreement he signed in 1991.
I think that this is a naive view. Saddam must go, but so must the House of Saud, at least in its current form. If they won’t grant us permission to use their bases for our mission in Iraq, and we require them to save lives, money and time, then we should use them without their permission. They must recognize that we finally recognize that they have been warring with us since at least 1948, and that we are no longer going to tolerate it, and there’s little they can do to prevent it.
If their regime falls as a result, c’est la guerre. It will be a necessary beginning to liberating the people of all of the Arab states from their oppressors. And for those who value “regional stability” over freedom and security, I say, when the status quo is so odious, instability is our friend. We are at war.
[Update at 2:49 PM PDT]
Glenn notes this post, and says that I say “that now they’re ready to take it to a higher level.”
Actually, just to clarify, I don’t think that they were really ready to take it to a higher level–they just accidentally did. Osama got ahead of them, and I don’t think that they realized exactly how ambitious he was.
So now it’s at a higher level, we’ve been tipped off, and they’re not ready for it, so they’re continuing to pretend that it didn’t really happen–it was just that terrorist over there (averting eyes to the ground, whistling, making circles in dirt with toe…).
[Update at 3:01 PM PDT]
I should also add, that I’m not actually proposing going to war with the entire Arab world. We need to use a little jujitsu, and actually work with the few friends that we have there to really splinter it (not a difficult task at all, since they’re always on the verge of doing it to themselves). Probably the best hope is Jordan. We need to cut a deal with King Abdullah that he gets back the Saudi Peninsula, in exchange for use of his territory for strikes on Iraq and Saudi Arabia. Put the Hashemite Kingdom in charge of the holy places, and cut out some territory for a Palestinian state in present-day Jordan (after doing another Black September on the current Palestinian leadership, which Israel has already made a start at). Egypt, hopefully, could be left on the sidelines.
This would be a major step toward an Arab world with which we, and the Israelis, could live.