29 September 2014

Arm the Shi’ites

We are now in the middle of another war in Iraq. We are bombing Daesh, a monster of our own creation, courtesy Bush in 2003, inside of two states, both of which have failed on account of the actions of our government. Unlike with the last several engagements of our government around the globe which were blatantly and obviously bad ideas, I felt much more conflicted about the current one. Daesh is monstrous, far more so than anything else we’ve seen so far in the Middle East, descending to depths of barbarity that have practically the entire rest of the Muslim world up in arms in outrage. They are carrying out ethnic cleansing primarily against Shi’ites and Christians. The regime of Saddam Hussein looks by comparison like a veritable paragon of human rights. At the same time, though, our own government’s intentions are far from pure or humanitarian – not only does this intervention smell a bit like a ruse for taking out Assad rather than Daesh at the behest of big oil, but it’s becoming clear that we have no real exit strategy, as before, and no real measure of potential success. So how do we get out of this mess?

The first thing to do would be to actually get out of it as soon as possible. The only actors that can stop Daesh dead in its tracks in the long run, are actual states with non-negotiable game-theoretic interests in keeping the region stable. It is empirically demonstrable that we, the United States, do not qualify. Our actual national interests (as distinguished from our commercial interests and the personal interests of our statesmen – though we do have a distressing tendency to confuse the three) are very far removed from the Fertile Crescent. But the actual states which are actually interested in eliminating Daesh are, most obviously, Syria and Iraq – but also Iran, which has a firm and overriding interest in keeping Iraq’s majority-Shi’ite population secure and free of persecution within its own borders.

Unfortunately, apart from Armenia there are no other states in the Middle East, North Africa or Central Asia which actively take the part of the Christian minorities under the greatest threat from Daesh. But there are Shi’ite polities. And as demonstrated by their actions over the past thirty years, these Shi’ite policies have in the past been far friendlier to Christian concerns – or at the very least neglectful, whether benignly or not – than have the Wahhabist Sunni ones.

Israel may not like it. But Israel has been getting progressively cosier with Qatar and Saudi Arabia in recent years – both of which countries are or harbour financial supporters of Daesh. All told, they are more of a hindrance than a help where Daesh is concerned, so we ought to do the right thing and tell the Israelis to take a hike. We need to re-evaluate our friendships and enmities in the region in order to more effectively ‘lead from behind’ (a good idea, if President Obama would take care to actually abide by it). And we need to arm the Shi’ites wherever they are. They have the most to lose to Daesh from a geopolitical standpoint, not to mention a humanitarian one.

Ultimately, we can’t stop the barbaric and genocidal criminal racket that is Daesh. And we shouldn’t be trying. That job rightfully belongs to the sovereign states of Iran, Iraq and Syria. Rather than hindering them or backstabbing them, we should give them every fighting chance they need, and more.

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