Wednesday, January 27, 2010

"A dog knows how to distinguish friends from enemies. So should our policymakers"

From Michael J. Totten's blog, an interview with Lee Smith, the author of "The Strong Horse":

"The fact is that Arab states are weak, and I’m not referring to their inability to provide a better life for their peoples. I mean they can’t defend themselves. The fact they use Al Qaeda to protect them from Iran, and each other, is evidence they are feeble affairs. The Saudis and Egyptians and the rest of the Arabs are waiting on the Israelis to strike the Iranian nuclear program because they can’t do anything about it themselves. As I was saying above, the Arab moment is over, by which I mean the Arabs no longer set the tone and tempo of the region, nor are they even capable of shaping their own destiny. If the Israelis do attack the Iranians, it will reveal for all to see what is quite clearly the case: the major regional nodes now are Israel, Iran and perhaps an ascendant Turkey. That’s who is calling the shots in the Middle East today, not the Arabs.

But that hardly means our role in the region is over. Rather it means that we are more necessary than ever, or the vacuum will be filled by those who do not obviously share our concerns or interests, including the stability of international markets and above all the security and welfare of the American people. The major strategic interest that has kept us in the Middle East, that has made us the undisputed strong horse, is the same as it was 65 years ago—oil, which, after homeland security, is our most vital interest.

That said, now there’s another vital interest in the region for us, to prevent the proliferation of WMD, especially nuclear weapons, but this also includes any systems that these regimes might conveniently misplace only to be recovered by one of the terror outfits they use as assets. The uptick of Islamist violence and terror now coming out of Yemen, some of it washing up on our shores in the form of Major Nidal Hasan and his colleague Umar Faruq Abdelmuttalab, is sufficient evidence that we aren’t going anywhere. Even if the Obama administration truly wants to reduce our regional profile, they are finding that our national security will not permit it.

So how do we carry ourselves in the Middle East? My advice comes from the book’s title: the strong horse not only punishes his enemies, he also rewards and protects his friends, sometimes by punishing their enemies. This is a precept derived from the most basic principle of human relations—to protect those whom you love from harm and to be prepared to do harm to those who would injure them. Bizarrely, these principles are frequently neglected by our policymaking establishment, on both sides of the aisle, a culture that among others has counseled rapprochement, engagement and even comity with those that have made their enmity toward us and our friends and allies clear. Policies that go against the natural course of affairs—warming to enemies and freezing out allies—are destined to fail. Socrates reminds us that a dog knows well enough to distinguish friends from enemies. So should our policymakers. So should the President of the United States." (emphasis added)
The rest of the interview