Friday, March 25, 2011

Middle East Foreign Policy

I would not have voted to authorize the “wars” in Afghanistan, Iraq, or Libya. I was opposed to all three military interventions from the start, although, in the cases of Afghanistan and Iraq, I cannot say that at such a young age I was aware of precisely why our reasons for doing so were either unjust or illegal.

Legality of War

The difference between a war and a police action is that in a war, the armed forces of at least two sovereign states are committing state-sanctioned violence against one another. Congress has not formally declared war since Pearl Harbor.

According to the War Powers Resolution of 1973, in response to a “national emergency created by attack upon the United States, its territories or possessions, or its armed forces” the president has the power to act unilaterally in committing armed forces to military action, but must notify Congress within forty-eight hours. The resolution also stipulates that, unless Congress authorizes the use of military force or declares war within sixty days of committing armed forces, armed forces may not remain after sixty days, and the chief executive has an additional thirty days to disengage.

However, the War Powers Resolution only applies to national emergencies created by attacks upon the United States. The sovereign governments of Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya did not attack the United States; neither the Taliban in Afghanistan, Hussein’s Ba’ath Party regime in Iraq, nor Gadhafi’s regime in Libya purposely attacked the United States or its territories or possessions, at least not in a completely overt manner that was not in response to some unjust action committed by the United States. I will explain this one country at a time.

Being that no direct attack on the military or land of the United States occurred in the cases of either of these three countries, former president George W. Bush and President Barack Obama acted – or are acting – in manners that were – or are – unconstitutional, as well as in violation of the War Powers Resolution, when they ordered attacks against those three countries. Therefore, I believe that impeachment of either or both of these presidents would have been – or would be – appropriate, legal, constitutional, and within the jurisdiction of Congress.


 In the case of Libya, it can rightfully be argued that Colonel Muammar Gadhafi has caused the deaths of Americans, as Gadhafi’s former justice minister claimed about a month ago that Gadhafi personally ordered the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, which killed nearly 270 people, two-thirds of them Americans. Admittedly, that happened nearly twenty-five years ago, so President Reagan was most likely unaware that Gadhafi may have been behind the bombing, even though Gadhafi had possibly sponsored a hijacking in Pakistan two years earlier.

Nevertheless, I do not believe the airplane which was allegedly bombed on Gadhafi’s orders in 1988 qualified as a possession of the United States – as it was a commercial plane heading from Germany to England to the U.S., as opposed to U.S. military aircraft – and so, I do not believe the War Powers Resolution applies in any case in which a U.S. president – past, present, or future – would be justified in claiming that action against Libya – even if the goal were to kill Gadhafi – qualifies as a response to an emergency situation resulting from an attack on the United States.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says that an international panel could potentially seek to convict Colonel Gadhafi of the Pan Am Flight 103 bombing in order to provide closure for the families of the victims. This may explain why so many U.S. officials are now claiming that our intention is not to kill Gadhafi. Our officials are also saying that the U.S. is not playing a leading role in the enforcement of the No-Fly Zone, but we are deploying the vast majority of the missiles, and permitting Britain to bomb Gadhafi’s headquarters.

The main reason which American officials are providing for enforcing the No-Fly Zone against Libya is that we would like to help the opposition against Gadhafi, which has been losing ground against him rapidly. Former Bush administration White House Chief of Staff Karl Rove even characterized the opposition as intent on establishing a democracy. That’s the major problem with our intervention in Libya; the U.S. is taking a side in a civil war in which we do not know whom we are supporting, nor what its goals are.

As in the case of Egypt, no doubt at least some of the Libyan opposition – or those sympathetic to it – support establishing democracy, but there is also a distinct possibility that many want to bring about a Sunni Islamic republic which would be more religiously orthodox than Gadhafi’s faction. It is also possible, as Gadhafi has repeatedly claimed, that some among the opposition have military and financial ties to – or at least sympathy with - Osama bin Laden and / or al-Qaeda.

The situation in Libya represents a sea change in American Middle East foreign policy. Usually the United States finds a Middle Eastern dictator it likes, then funds and arms him, and later invades his country. This time, Gadhafi started off as an enemy of the United States; and then, during the Bush administration, Libya was removed from the list of sponsors of state terrorism, and we began funding him; and now, rather than invading his country outright, we are “enabling” the enforcement of a No-Fly Zone against Libya.

It is difficult to judge what to do about Libya. With President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton repeatedly saying, “the time for Gadhafi to leave is now”, it is very puzzling why they desired to allocate taxpayer money to continue to fund him just a month ago and did not ask him to resign once the Obama administration transitioned into the White House.

While many argue that President Obama should have asked for congressional approval for the U.S. role in enforcing of the No-Fly Zone before he went to the headquarters of the United Nations, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and the League of Arab States, it appears that, since Libya has not attacked us, congressional approval does not even apply to this situation. That would mean that President Obama’s actions are clearly illegal and unconstitutional, and he should be impeached whether congress votes to “authorize” the intervention by late May or not.

If we’re agreed that Gadhafi and his supporters are enemies of the United States – even though they have not attacked its citizens in over twenty years – and if we’re also agreed that we should take Gadhafi at his word that some of those armed Libyans who are trying to oust him are in fact al-Qaeda - or people who have sympathy with al-Qaeda – then I have no problem letting Gadhafi and his heavily-armed opposition destroy each other, and allowing the U.S. stand by while a coalition of European states foolishly take sides, to their own potential future diplomatic and military detriment. Only if any of those European states were directly attacked by Libya in the future would it be remotely appropriate that the U.S. should seek international authorization to defend the victims against Libya, in accordance with our N.A.T.O. obligation to assist them.


In the case of Iraq, to speak to the issue of whether Hussein’s Iraq ever attacked the United States, I believe the United States had a desire to provoke Iraq into military action in order to justify armed conflict. During the Clinton administration, the U.S. Air Force would intentionally occupy Iraqi air space, and some American military officials hoped Iraq would shoot one of the planes down, which would be presented in the media as an attack, obscuring the fact that we had no reason to occupy their air space to begin with. Also, during the Clinton administration, the U.S. sent hundreds of C.I.A. agents to meet with Saddam Hussein, but they were kidnapped and forced to choose between their own deaths and the deaths of their families. All were murdered by Iraqis. There was even a failed coup against Hussein in 1996 in which the C.I.A. was involved. What all this means is that Iraq did kill Americans, but that violence was provoked, and the military operation which could be characterized as retaliation for those events was not timely in the least.

I believe the U.S. should pull its armed forces out of Iraq as quickly as that task can be safely performed. I also believe we should not leave any permanent military bases there. But, being that the role which the U.S. played in the ‘liberation’ of Iraq can never be undone, the U.S. should continue to play an important diplomatic role in Iraq’s affairs.

I think the U.S. should engage the Iraqis – as well as the governments of Syria, Turkey, Armenia, and Iran – to commence a dialogue that could result in those countries putting into place legal mechanisms whereby the Kurdish minorities in each of them may eventually hold a referendum which would allow them to peacefully declare and establish an independent Kurdish state. I think this would help to fan the flame of ethnic tension in Northern Iraq.

To further the goal of decreased ethnic tension, I also desire that the U.S. – without the use of coercion or threats – encourage the new Iraqi government to adopt a decentralizationist model for their government, affording local communities as much self-governance as is reasonable, in order to lessen the likelihood that a high-stakes federalist paradigm could undermine Sunni confidence in and fidelity to the government, which now affords more rights to Shi’ites than did the Hussein regime.


In the case of Afghanistan, a little background is required. The Taliban was formed in the mid-1990s as a split off of the more opium-tolerant Mujahideen, which the C.I.A. trained, armed, and funded against the Soviets during the Reagan administration. I don’t believe we should engage in proxy wars or strengthen groups of warriors against sovereign governments, because there can be dire consequences. We should certainly never do it again, and we should also be careful when we fund and arm sovereign nations and help train their soldiers.

Afghanistan’s opium makes up nearly half of the worldwide opium trade, and there are even rumors that Osama bin Laden himself earns money off of the drug trade, in addition to his family’s oil wealth. I believe that the U.S. runs the risk of further and more drawn-out involvement in Afghanistan, now that it has been discovered that the country has wealth in mineral and oil deposits.

I do not desire that the U.S. continue to express solidarity with the CIA-backed Afghanistani President Hamid Karzai, whose brother has been accused of not only being paid by the CIA, but also of being involved in the drug trade. The U.S. claims it invaded Afghanistan because the Taliban had contact with Osama bin Laden and refused to turn him over, but I believe one important reason for the invasion was that the Taliban was cracking down on the production of opium in the several years prior to 9/11. However, this would seem to be contradicted by rumors that the opium trade is a major source of funding for the Taliban.

Some of President Obama’s critics are calling the conflict in Afghanistan “Obama’s war of choice”, being that Obama Democrats view that conflict as more popular and legitimate than the conflict in Iraq. As in the case of Iraq, I desire neither that the president commit any more troops to Afghanistan, nor that the U.S. leave any permanent military bases there, and I would vote to pull U.S. armed forces out of Afghanistan as quickly as that task can be safely performed. We should also cease Predator-drone strikes on Pakistani targets, and leave those tasks up to the relatively new government of Pakistan which has replaced that country’s military dictatorship.

General Middle East Policy

Saudi Arabia, Iran, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, and Iraq are among the top 15 national producers of oil, and Libya and Afghanistan produce some oil as well. In the lead-up to Operation Iraqi Freedom, it was repeated that oil wealth would help pay for the costs of military intervention. Bill Clinton’s air strikes on Baghdad were, in part, retaliations for Saddam Hussein’s desire to sell oil to the U.S. through Europe – rather than directly to us – which cost the U.S. money due to rates of currency exchange.

I don’t believe the U.S. should continue this policy of engaging in trade wars over commodities that are highly valuable, and thus, prone to causing conflicts. The U.S. obviously still has some desire to both protect its own economic interests, as well as contain international socialism, whether it be Marxist-Stalinist or Islamic-communitarian in character. I believe that neither of these goals can be achieved through colluding with the governments of foreign nations to intervene in the economy without causing the occasional international military conflict.

 If the U.S. desires to keep practicing Wilsonianism – that is, ‘making the world safe for democracy’ – while continuing to look after its own economic interests, as well as undermining regimes which are destructive to human liberty; trade wars, military strikes, regime-change, and nation-building are not the way to go; nor is training, arming, and funding dangerous groups of warriors within those countries.

We should replace the “stick” approach with the “carrot’ approach”; that is, we should trade with businesses and people in foreign nations, so that they may learn to appreciate the economic liberty which our economic policy affords them, leading them to identify with us ideologically against the regimes which plunder their wealth through taxes.

That way, they may reap the benefits of the free market, and allocate their wealth in whatever way they might. If they choose to use that wealth to destroy their oppressors, so be it; the United States has no place intervening and taking sides in civil wars. Once the free market is enabled, and communal autonomy is secured; legitimate, localistic participatory democracies will have the opportunity to flourish in order to balance the interests of the earners of wealth with the egalitarian interests of the community without the specter of needless monolithic, bureaucratic, federalistic, centralizationist, sovereign, nation-state government incursion into their affairs.

Iran and Israel

Another part of the question of Iraq and Afghanistan is Iran. I believe that, in truth, the United States has practically no legitimate reason to be militarily involved in Afghanistan, that our establishment of military bases there is primarily intended to serve as a launching pad – as a compliment to Iraq – for a future invasion of Iran, and that part of the reason the U.S. is in Iraq is to protect Israel from Iran, and to direct Iraqi oil to Israel.

 Israel is the other missing piece of Middle East foreign policy. Osama bin Laden, in his alleged ‘admission’ to complicity in the September 11th attacks, stated that the attacks occurred because the U.S. has military bases on the Arabian Peninsula, and because it supports the State of Israel. I believe that these two reasons are among the most important causes of the recent inflammation of Muslim antipathy towards the United States.

 In accordance with what was, until about a century ago, the law of the Ottoman Empire, as well as what is the law of the Old Testament, Jewish and Muslim communities are to be as autonomous as possible, with no modern, sovereign, nationalistic, statist entities subverting the law of G-d to the authority of mankind. Furthermore, there is not to be sovereign government among the Jews until the rabbinic court of religious law called the Sanhedrin has been fully established, and the Jewish Messiah has arrived and been identified.

 I believe there is only one hope to cooling tensions between the United States and the Islamic and Jewish international communities, and that a two-state solution in Israel-Palestine is not that hope. That’s why, as a condition of any and all negotiations between the U.S. and Israel, I would vote that the U.S. require the State of Israel to set a deadline for its own peaceable de-establishment. I think this is the only way that members of the three major Abrahamic faiths have a chance to live in peace with one another in observance of the laws of their own religions.

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