Looking at the way the events of the past few days have transformed, it’s interesting to see the discourse of the Obama administration shift. There is no doubt that President Obama is one of the most isolationists of American leaders. In my opinion, this is not due to his thinking that America is weak and needs to “lead from behind”, but merely his attempt to toe the populist line. The American public is fatigued by wars. The past decade has largely been consumed by two unpopular wars that resulted in trillions of debt, thousands of Americans killed, hundreds of thousand marines suffering from PTSD, and a veteran’s affairs department clogged with bottlenecks. To top this, the country is still suffering from a global recession, or even as the most optimistic of all economists say “on the pathway to recovery”. So it’s safe to say that America has other things on its plate.
When the Arab spring started, the world for a brief minute held its breath in expectation as it seemed that the deluge of popular uprising would engulf the entire region and leave behind the lasting fertile grounds of peace and democracy. Unfortunately, this is a very simplistic view. The Arab uprising is not and will not be like the revolutions the western society has studied. Here are the reasons.
The Arabs hate each other: As much as we in America like to think of the Arabs as a monolith, they are perhaps the most fragmented and divided of all people. There are Sunnis, Shias, Bathis, Alawites, Mahdi’s, Salafis, Wahhabis, Moderates, Catholics, Coptic, and an endless subset of groups that somehow occupy the same communal space. These groups have historically hated each other and if anyone has any doubt about this, I recommend studying about the original caliphate and the subsequent rise and fall of it. There is a fundamental strain of un-secularism that stretches the entire region. Quick example, Saudi Arabia has been one of the quietest nations of all in this bloody uprising. And as much as we like to think of them as an ideal Arab nation (they are in fact a very close ally to the US), the nation itself is very fragmented. There are entire cities that do not allow anyone except Sunnis to enter. The highway leading into Mecca actually has an exit sign about twenty minutes away from the city center that tells you to refrain from entering if you are anyone except a traditional Muslim. Further checkpoints will ensure that all the adventurous travelers get the point. This is not your average city. Similar intolerance is shown for minority sects like Mehdi’s, ahmedis etc. Their subsequent mosques need to disguise themselves as traditional mosques and the followers need to meet in secret. Now for those who argue that Saudi Arabia is an extreme society, then Iran is perhaps the next example. The Iranian regime is an Islamic fundamentalist government. But little does the west know that they are primarily a “Shia” society. Sunni Muslims and other Muslim groups are not awarded the same rights as the majority. This uprising is really a struggle for independence between the majorities and the minorities. It is not a civil war in the truest sense where the fight is for land, resources etc. It is a civil war for identity, where the battle is for the survival of thought and their ideals.
Terrorists love war:No even the most casual observer, it’s pretty apparent that Al Qaeda has been decimated. They were at their peak during the reign of Mullah Omar and Osama Bin Laden and the US along with its allies was instrumental in defeating them. However, that did not kill extremism. Extremism can’t be eradicated by war. You would have to kill a whole lot of people if you want to do that. Extremism stems not from a religious point of view, but fundamentally a desire to gain political importance. Since Al Qaeda broke up, many smaller groups like Al Shabaad, Tahreeq e Islam, Islamic Mujahedeen etc. continue to operate in smaller groups in the Arab and African peninsula. They now are a disjointed, somewhat disconnected group that likes to bomb random places which many in the world don’t even hear about. These groups hope that one of these events will cause a tremor large enough to start a war. This would give their “fight” legitimacy and they would craft any subsequent war as a western battle on Islam and then use that as a rallying cry to recruit more terrorists. A western war is perhaps the surest recruiting tool for an extremist holy war.
The US has its own problems: The era of the US dictating its terms to the world is over. It is done, and to those neo-cons who love the idea of the American might, they need to face reality. The US is in deep trouble. The fundamentals of the economy appear strong. Unemployment is at 7.5%, the Dow is at its all-time high and home prices are up… but these are all baked. This is a consequence of the Federal Govt. Quantitative Easing policy, where they continue to pump a seemingly endless supply of money into the markets thereby artificially inflating it with the hopes that this would lead to an actual improvement. It’s the same concept of “fake it till you make it”. This misguided policy has led to the rise of the 1% and exploded the gains of only those investment analysts who play the market. The majority of the country, the 78% of the US that continues to live paycheck to paycheck is struggling. Discretionary income is down and people are spending only if they have it. To throw a war onto the Americans, even if it’s a casual war, with a coalition of the sorority sisters (US, UK and France) will spend billions, Money that the country doesn’t have.
The World is so over the US: Most importantly… It is too late for the US and the west to insert itself into the Arab spring. The Arab spring is perhaps the stupidest term. Its perhaps meant to signify the “spring” of joy and democracy where decades of winter gives rise to the fruits of spring, one which take root deep inside and spread through the region. As explained earlier, this is far departed from the reality of the situation on the group. What’s happening in the Arab world is more like the Arab Winter (Or really Arab Summer more appropriately). Where the long misery of violence will continue and has continued for decades until it naturally comes to a fruition point in which there is either a unifying force, or further fragmentation and division. When John Kerry started talking about the morality of the chemical weapons, and the US leaders started to flaunt their chest for “doing the right thing”, these are all code words. The strategy is to NOT engage in a real war. The strategy is to bomb in a limited capacity, with the intention of reprimanding Assad and in a sense scaring him. It’s too late for that. The bombs will not change a thing. 100K people have died and will continue to die, some by the Govt. forces, and some by the opposition fighters. The US campaign will not hand over victory to any side, but will further stoke violence. White house press secretary said today, that “regime change is not on the agenda”. Well of course not. That would mean an actual war, with both sides being IN IT with actual repercussions. The US wants to play the hero, be the defender of innocents, when in reality; they have lost the right to do this, within the nation and beyond. To the American, the Govt. is guilty of spying on its own citizens, of usurping endless power and mishandling the finances of the nation. To the rest of the world, the US is guilty of always being late to their struggles. The Palestinian-Israeli conflict continues 50 years after it started, the war in Africa continues in Somalia, Mali and many others. The world has outgrown the US, has gotten over it like a high school sweetheart. And like every lost romance, there is no point in calling them back unless you want to commit for a lifetime.