In an op-ed in today’s New York Times, Reuel Marc Gerecht of the American Enterprise Institute claims that “An Iraq War Won’t Destabilize the Mideast.” He argues that Hosni Mubarak of Egypt has so thoroughly co-opted religious leaders that there is no threat to from raging mobs in the street angry over American bellicosity. And Saudi Arabia is sound as a pound, too. The maligned Shi’ites of the eastern provinces “aren’t going to riot on behalf of Saddam Hussein, who has brutally oppressed his own Shiite majority.” Tellingly, though:
“Saudi militancy is mainly financial and expressed through proxies. The Saudis held a telethon to support Palestinian militants. They spend millions of dollars to support organizations that spread hatred of the United States and Israel. Yet they have not once rioted in significant numbers for the Palestinians or against the royal family’s American protectors. This is as true for the fundamentalist heartland in the Najd region as it is for the more cosmopolitan Hijaz. Remember, Osama bin Laden stands out among both rich and poor because he is a Saudi who actually did something himself.”
This is supposed to reassure me? Forgive me my skepticism. While the House of Saud may not fall to Islamists in the wake of a U.S. invasion of Iraq, I infer from Gerecht’s statement that militants and financiers will step up their efforts to fund people like bin Laden. That makes me feel so much better, thanks. And just because Saddam has oppressed his Shi’ite minority, that doesn’t mean the United States will be seen in a favorable light. While the Saudi Shi’ites may not like Saddam, they like America even less.
He then goes on to reassure his readers that Turkey and Jordan aren’t in threat of revolution from angry Islamists. Well, who the hell thought they were? I mean, this is a strawman argument if there ever was one.
Left out of this mix is Pakistan, which in my opinion is the closest to falling to Islamists of any of the United States’ allies in its war on whoever the hell pisses it off next. President Pervez Musharraf’s candidate for prime minister, Zafarullah Khan Jamali of Baluchistan province, won in Paliament by a one-vote whisker in a contest in which the rigging was only thinly disguised. And radical Islamist candidates won big in October’s parliamentary elections. The country is ready to fall at any moment — and they’ve got nukes.
Gerecht’s column is no doubt part of a public relations campaign to reassure people here and abroad that things are under control. But his attempts are undermined, for me, by his ties to the American Enterprise Institute, a noted right-wing think tank peopled with with conservative cognoscenti with deep ties to the Bush Administration. Lynne Cheney, the veep’s wife, is one of its scholars, along with Robert Bork, Newt Gingrich, Jean Kirkpatrick and (drum roll, please) Richard Perle, the bombastic hawk who’s been itching to invade Iraq since before Bush ever got into office.
War is never anything but unsettling and destabilizing. And certainly don’t believe a new war with Iraq will leave the sands of the Middle East undisturbed.