Tuesday, May 20, 2008

"...Virtually all of America's Middle-East problems are worsening as the administration prepares to leave office..."

CSIS's Jon Alterman, here
"It has become impossible to credibly argue that the Bush Administration’s Middle East policies have advanced the national interests of the United States. After shifting enormous resources toward addressing the problems of the region following the events of September 11, 2001, and after cautioning patience through the “birth pangs of democracy,” the results have become clear. On every issue that the administration has prioritized—promoting Arab-Israeli peace, liberating Lebanon from Syrian and Iranian influence, democratizing Egypt, stabilizing Iraq, and containing Iran—America’s foes have grown stronger and its allies have grown weaker. Even more troublingly, virtually all of these problems are worsening as the administration prepares to leave office..."

1 comment:

William deB. Mills said...

One of the many patterns cropping up with disturbing frequency across the Islamic world is a process of burden shifting that is needlessly intensifying local political instability and, as an unintended consequence, enhancing the power of external patrons over local clients. When external patrons gain influence over local actors, a society’s political process is warped to serve the interests of the patrons rather than the society. The numerous clients in the Mideast who knowingly sell their freedom to external patrons in return for help in fighting their domestic battles are playing with fire.

Burden-shifting is a very common but subtle dynamic in human affairs. We are usually rather good at perceiving symptoms and, perhaps unfortunately, quick to identify solutions that have at least some success in addressing those symptoms. This is arguably unfortunate because those “symptomatic solutions” tend to be short-term “solutions” that provide false assurance and thus blind us to the more fundamental solutions that the situation actually requires. Tricked into thinking we have solved the problem once the particular symptom we have noticed takes a temporary turn for the better, we walk away from the underlying problem, which proceeds to worsen.

One example that appears particularly common today in the Islamic world is responding to the poor functioning of the political system by shifting the burden from improving governance to marginalizing the opposition. (For details, see http://shadowedforest.blogspot.com/2008/05/external-patrons-collapse-of-moslem.html.)

This hardline stance may initially reduce instability and the activity of militias but over time is likely to increase those symptoms because it will in practice tend to minimize efforts to resolve the real underlying problem, which is the absence of power-sharing. In brief, the It may be that certain external powers interfering in the internal affairs of various Moslem countries simply cannot comprehend this process; alternatively, the chaos they have provoked may all along have been precisely what they wanted.