As my muse seems to be awfully slow in coming back from labor day weekend, a quick thought for the day:
If you're really worried about the threat that Muslim religious fanatics pose to Western civilization,
wouldn't the smart move be to develop alternative energy sources and defund the bastards?
After waking up: What brings this thought on is the conclusion of Robert Baer's new book,
"Sleeping with the Devil", on the various ways in which the US government has funded Muslim fundamentalist
loons, in Saudi Arabia (where they pervade the government) and elsewhere.
But he winds up by saying instead that we ought to support strongmen
or send in the military to take over the Saudi oilfields directly:
Counterintuitive as it may seem, Syria offers one way out of the mess. Twenty years ago, Syria was
Saudi Arabia: not in the vast sums of money (it's not a major oil producer), not in the ruling kleptocracy, but as the epicenter of Islamic
terrorism. When I first set foot in Damascus in 1980, I estimated that Hafiz al-Asad would have maybe three or four years before he went under. The
Muslim Brothers owned the street. The mosque schools were teaching jihad, just as the Saudi madrasahs do today. The
mosque public address systems blared out a message of hate and revenge, just as they do in Saudi Arabia today. Lebanon next door was
an arms bazaar: You name it, someone had it. Asad had seized power in a military coup in 1970. What goes around comes around, I figured;
the guy's goint to get strung up on a light pole in downtown Damascus like a lot of other Syrians. Instead, he died in his sleep at age
seventy, wasted by disease but ruler to the end.
We've already been over why: the ruthless assault on the Sunni stronghold at Hama, the way Asad took control of the mosque
schools and killed dissent when it wouldn't shut up, his total control of the armed forces, and so on. Pretty, it wasn't. "Democracy" it
certainly isn't. But Hafiz al-Asad forced a rule of law on the Syrian people, the same rule of law the Al Sa'ud have refused to force on
the Saudis, most notably themselves. When Asad handed the country over to his son, it was as stable a dictatorship as any in the Middle
This is right to the extent that violent suppression of the fundamentalists probably serves our interests better than actually
paying them to do what we think is our dirty work, as we did for years in Afghanistan and elsewhere, never thinking that they
might not stay there forever. (They think they're doing their own dirty work, and getting infidel suckers to pay for it; imagine Lenin
buying rope. But I digress).
And then, he notes the Pentagon endorsement of Chalabi. But moral considerations (and Dubya's rhetoric) aside, Chalabi is oddly cast as that sort of strongman;
he's a convicted embezzler whose life experience is boardroom shenanigans and diplomatic palaver, not hard physical brutality.
A Chalabi regime would be the kind of corrupt, fatally weak tyranny that breeds fundamentalists, and then bows to their overthrow,
like another head of state we installed in a coup, the Shah of Iran. If this is really the kind of policy we want, there used to be a guy
there who was much better at it: Rumbo's old pal, Saddam Hussein...
But consider: the reason that Muslim terrorists from Arabia are more threatening than the even wilder savagery that goes on
in central Africa is that they are better funded, and the funding, as Baer says over and over, is ultimately oil money.
If we found
a way, over a decade or three, to run our economy on something else, the money would, over time, drain away. Which might
be better for everybody, even the Arabs, than propping up the current oil economy by force..
(FWIW, the excerpt I quoted is on page 207; the comment on Chalabi is on page 212).
Correction: I initially misstated Baer's view of Chalabi. So much for blogging while groggy...