The Easier, Softer Way

Juan Cole theorizes that the war in Lebanon is simply the first second act in an elaborate remaking of the Middle East.

Here’s a sample:

It may be that that hawks are thinking this way: Destroy Lebanon, and destroy Hizbullah, and you reduce Iran’s strategic depth. Destroy the Iranian nuclear program and you leave it helpless and vulnerable to having done to it what the Israelis did to Lebanon. You leave it vulnerable to regime change, and a dragooning of Iran back into the US sphere of influence, denying it to China and assuring its 500 tcf of natural gas to US corporations. You also politically reorient the entire Gulf, with both Saddam and Khamenei gone, toward the United States. Voila, you avoid peak oil problems in the US until a technological fix can be found, and you avoid a situation where China and India have special access to Iran and the Gulf.

I don’t know if this is true or not. It sounds plausible, but then again, the theory that the Israelis simply overreacted, that Olmert was too insecure domestically vis-a-vis Bibi Netanyahu and that Halutz was too enamoured of “transformation” is also quite plausible. It still nags, however, that they would just utterly wreck all of Lebanon, even the Christian parts. (Not that Christian life is any less valuable than Muslim, just the alignment of politics of the region.) Either option is plausible and the former is a bit more elaborate . . . but you know what they say about the truth and fiction, right?

Regardless, this graf from Juan poses a stark choice that is very real, whether you have a conspiratorial bent or not:

If the theory is even remotely correct, then global warming is not the only danger in continuing to rely so heavily on hydrocarbons for energy. Green energy–wind, sun, geothermal– is all around us and does not require any wars to obtain it. Indeed, if we had spent as much on alternative energy research as we have already spent on the Iraq War, we’d be much closer to affordable solar. A choice lies ahead: hydrocarbons, a 20 foot rise in sea level, and a praetorian state. Or we could go green and maybe keep our republic and tame militarism.

The choice is ours. We’re supposed to be the leaders, a people of vision with the courage to make it happen. When are we going to start doing so, instead of taking the easier, softer way?

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Sean Paul Kelley

Traveler of the (real) Silk Road, scholar and historian, photographer and writer - founder of The Agonist.

13 CommentsLeave a comment

  • It is about oil and money. That is also what America is about, oil and money. It is not about the plight of the poor pitiful Jews, nor the plight of the Palestinians, nor Democracy and Freedom and all those warm fuzzy ideologies.

  • …on internal dynamics. I think a lot of what we’re seeing is because this thing’s gotten going very incrementally – and the Olmert politics would figure in this. In some ways I think the Israelis are ending up going further, and potentially much further, than they originally intended. As I read the coverage of this thing, it seems like what we’re looking at is something that started off as a large scale planned pre-emptive with a smaller ground component than has ended up happening, largely due to the fact that the strategic air campaign hasn’t had the desired results. Now they’ve managed to hook themselves on the central petard of strategic air – what happens when, after having gone in and pounded the hell out of the target set, the enemy doesn’t obligingly fold? I have a feeling that a significant portion of what we’re seeing now is them hitting stuff mainly because they feel that they have to hit something, given that the enemy is still out there, not because the targets are thought to be particularly significant. Much of what we’re seeing is narrowly tactical rather than strategic and it’s also more likely to generate civilian casualties. As I read it, the goal of this thing was much more limited and was definitely not conceived as an element of any ornate master plan to remake the entire near east.

    The US certainly must view this as a good means of reducing Iranian strategic depth, and to some extent it is (and I think the Israelis must share this view, though it’s likely not quite so central to their immediate calculus), though it’s unlikely to strip off as much capability as many might think it will if the Iranians refuse to buckle, though I think unconventional gambits are now more expensive for them.

    “We declared war on terror, it’s not even a noun, so, good luck. After we defeat it, I’m sure we’ll take on that bastard ennui.” – Jon Stewart.

  • what is keeping them from refusing to finance our adventurism? What is keeping the rest of the world from selling off dollars and bankrupting us?

    sure they will feel the sting, but which is worse for them, less energy, or blowback from US collapse?

    Most Chinese and most Indians are already living at poverty level, do you think they’ll care? Especially not the Chinese who are communist anyway. Not to mention those that have poor more destabilized populations who hate the US already.

    the rich and powerful rulers ought to be the ones afraid, very afraid of this whole scenario. There are billions with a B of poor and radicalized people in the world at this moment.

    as you say SP: truth…fiction etc. what i say is that the world is a strange, wonderful and unpredictable place and things we could not have thought would happen have, all the time. Like the horrible parallel universe we are living in now.

    If this were 1700, they’d be saying: “Since civilization began, slavery has existed. It’s human nature.” I would have believed it. If 1800: “Women will never vote. They are not born rational”. I would have believed it.
    2006: Make war irrelevant

  • I would guess the goal for the current war in Libanon is as simple as provoking a casus belli for a war with Syria.

    With a good enough casus belli, Syria can be attacked in a war that might not include Iran (or if Iran activates it’s alliance with Syria, will be fought with full european support).

    With Syria in hand, there will only be 1 “axis of evil” member left in the ME, and more importantly, the US will have a viable supply route to Iraq if things heat up vs. Iran(Attacking Iran from Iraq with supply throught Ormuz is IMHO a non-starter). Most importantly, it provides good access to Kurdistan, which is on the easiest path to Tehran. Kurdistan will also provide an excellent source of reliable and willing manpower for those missions that require a little extra dying, sacrifice, and,uh, willingness to do etically challenging ops.

  • of the cold war. Binary logic divided people into good and bad. Communism was bad, democracy was good.

    The world isn’t black and white, it’s millions of shades of gray.

    There are pundits who attempt to simplify issues into being black and white and there is propaganda that somewhat succeeds, but for the most part, people resist and make decisions based on many factors. China, India, Iran aren’t bad and neither is America, Russia or Israel. Policies vary with time and administrations. Hopefully this one’s time is up in 2008, preferably sooner 2006 would suit most of the world’s population just fine.

    Oil is but one factor in the Middle East. Money is another, add influence in the region, religion, sovereignty, politics, state borders, etc., etc.

  • I doubt a change in Middle East is controllable and suitable for political engineering.

    I believe that others believe otherwise. And cause problems bacause of their beliefs.

    — Happy fishing in ocean of noise!

  • but if peak oil is anytime between now and 5 years from now, it’s game over for the U.S. We’ve waited too long to do anything. Without Iran’s oil and gas (especially the gas) the U.S. economy cannot continue as before; the fact that getting them is impossible cannot be faced.

  • If you state your intention/wish/goal is war publicly, then the casus belli won’t be so belli, now will it?

    State clearly and loudly that you don’t want war, then do whatever it takes to provoke the other side into an attack/escalation. Expect Israel to slowly wiggle into the Beka Valley with more and more troops, taking a more and more agressive stance. By slowly boiling the frog, Syria will look bad when it finally reacts, because Israel will provide no “shocking” event that will make it easy for Syria to say “enough is enough”.

    Eventually Syria will realise it’s being boiled in a kettle, and will either fold 100% to Israel/US demands or enter the frey.

  • See the well-written and utterly optimistic essay entitled “Some Convenient Truths” in the current Atlantic by Gregg Esterbrook, who states in his second paragraph…

    Here’s a different way of thinking about the greenhouse effect: that action to prevent runaway global warming may prove cheap, practical, effective, and totally consistent with economic growth. Which makes a body wonder: Why is such environmental optimism absent from American political debate?

    This essay is well worth getting a subscription, grabbing a newstand copy, or reading your friend’s Atlantic. Really.

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