Tuesday, August 29, 2006


“Let us admit it fairly, as a business people should, We have had no end of a lesson: it will do us no end of good….We have forty million reasons for failure, but not a single excuse. So the more we work and the less we talk the better results we shall get-We have had an Imperial lesson; it may make us an Empire yet!”
Rudyard Kipling, “The Lesson”. 1900.

Whether, the Iraq imbroglio will make Americans “Imperial minded”, in the Kipling sense is to be seriously doubted. And, while a short time past (Do you remember? How short a time that was!), it was rather common, for commentators such as Niall Ferguson, Max Boot, and Robert Kaplan, to argue that the (then) successes of American forces in Afghanistan and Iraq, showed the path of the future American Empire, now of course the chief object of American policy in the case of the latter is the very Vietnamese one of “Peace with Honor”, which is rapidly turning to be one of “a decent Interval”. Before the inevitable ‘collapse’?

I for one, do not agree that a ‘collapse’ is inevitable, yet, in Iraq. However, It does appear that such may be the likely conclusion, if events continue as they have been going. As the military commentator, Anthony Cordesman, in a recent paper on “Iraqi Force Development” (see www.csis.org), shows the admittedly real growth in Iraqi troop strength in terms of men under arms, has been quite unable to put a halt to the violence, both of the ‘insurgent’ and, the ‘sectarian’ variety. With the latter, now resulting in more deaths in both the capital Baghdad and, elsewhere in the country. American attempts to stop the escalating violence by means of temporary reinforcement of troops in Baghdad, Ramadi (a Sunni, insurgent stronghold) and elsewhere (in the case of the former ‘Operation Forward Together’), and elsewhere appears to have all the effectiveness of applying band aids in an effort to cope with a raging fever.

What, then are the true alternatives, for American policy in Iraq? These can be framed along three (3) lines:
One, withdrawal scenario. This scenario which has been recently put forth by various commentators, and American politicians (the best of which is probably Kevin Drum, see blog in: www.washingtonmonthly.com). In essence it argues for announcing `a la ‘Urbi et Orbi’, to all the Iraqi factions: Sunni, Shiite and Kurds, and the many others as well, that, come what may, American forces will, on day X withdraws from the country. The thinking behind this option is that only by facing the prospect of out and out civil war, will all or most of the contending factions, agree to ‘compromise’, and cobble together some type of ‘solution’. At first blush, this proposal appears to have the logic of a ‘clean break’, of ‘radical surgery’, behind it. And, yet when carefully looked at, this ‘solution’ appears to be an example of a ‘cure’ which is far worse than the disease that it aims to remedy. The requisite examples from history, are not very reassuring, id est, the British announcement of the end of the Raj, in 1947 in the Indian Sub-continent, and their almost simultaneous announcement, of the end of the Mandate in Palestine. In both cases of course, the run-up to the deadline featured growing amounts of communal violence, which of course, escalated still further, once the ‘date’ in question had passed. In the case of Iraq, it will be reasonable to assume that the following will likely to happen once: all of the parties will increase their levels of violence, and in particular, to secure strong points, in Baghdad and elsewhere to be able to triumph quickly, once the Americans withdraw from the country. In the Kurdish region, this will involve a short but sharp bloodbath in the cities of Mosul and Kirkuk, with the Kurds ousting the Sunni Arabs from both cities, in order to fully control the oil fields in the vicinity. Whether or not, Turkey would standby and, allow the Kurdish regional government to in essence form a de facto independent Kurdistan, is unknowable at this time. In the south of the country, around Basra, and heading north, Shiites would gradually, and bloodily assume complete control. Persia, would pump in, both money and perhaps even ‘volunteers’, to assist Shiites militias in the fighting. In the west of the country, bordering on Saudi Arabia and Jordan, Sunni insurgents would attempt, to set-up their own statelet, no doubt receiving both men and assistance from the neighboring Sunni Arab regimes. Although, in absence of a major effort, of direct military intervention by any of them, the inevitable result will be an Shiite Iraq, allied with, Persia. Of course to reach this ‘goal’, there will be a large number of innocent dead, beforehand. As per the query: was the goal that originally motivated American policy back in 2003, that gentle reader is something which you can just as well answer as I…

So, the ‘withdrawal’ scheme, appears to be, from the standpoint of American policy, not entirely a happy one. What of the second scenario which has been floating around in ‘think tank’ world? That would consist of something which can be labeled ‘decentralization’ strategy, Leslie Gelb of the Council of Foreign Relations being the earliest and best know backer of this scheme (see the July/August issue of the periodical Foreign Affairs). In essence, this strategy would tack onto the existing tendency of Iraqis towards separatism, and just codify it, in a legal and constitutional way. The north of the country would see A Kurdish federation, which would be all but independent of Iraq, and, which be a bastion of American power and influence (presumably American forces would remain in this region, even after they withdrew from the rest of Iraq). The west of the country, would see a Sunni regional government, which would soon, no doubt become a hotbed of Sunni extremist forces, either homegrown or foreign. As the poorest and weakest of the three pegs, now forming the country, there would appear to be little in the way incentives, for this region to co-operate with the other two segments of the country. Lack of oil resources in particular will be a sore point. And, while it can be argued that it is precisely the lack therein, which should make the Sunni’s co-operate, if the recent past is any predictor, ‘sweet reason’, does not appear to be the basis of much of Sunni Arab political activity or motivation in Iraq.

In the southern portion of the country, a Shiite regional government, would also tend to become a hotbed of potential extremist activity, as well as a centre of Persian Influence. Both military and diplomatic. In fact, as the Americans will be to the Kurds, so the Persians will be to Shiites around Basra in the south. And, while under such a scheme, Baghdad, would be nominally, an ‘independent’ centre, it is more than likely, that it will also become part and parcel of the Shiite portion of the country. Under Persian prompting, and, no doubt assistance, it is not unlikely that the Shiites will attempt to re-centralize the country, `a la the Baath party model, with the Shiite parties of the UIA, merely substituting for the former. Again, as it the first ‘alternative’, the short-term, much less the long-term prospects for American interests in Iraq, under this scenario do not look very bright indeed.

Another ‘alternative’ bandied about, is merely ‘staying the course’, and attempting through a mixture of involving other regional players (the Sunni Arab countries, Persia), the UN, the EU, to pressure the three parties in Iraq to agree to work out some type of acceptable framework for all the parties to agree to (the leading proponent of this thesis is probably the American academic, Larry Diamond, see the July/August issue of Foreign Affairs). Why the EU, the UN, or indeed the regional actors, all of whom have their own axes to grind, and, all of whom, presumably have already indicated to their Iraqi protégés, what they would like them to do, could at this late date, ‘solve’ via some sort of regional conference, Iraq’s tottering state, is less than clear. If the USA, with 135,000 troops under command, and one of its better ambassador’s, cannot manage to pacify the situation, why should the finger waving of some UN or EU figures do much better? Do they command more respect by virtue of how they wave their fingers?

The final, alternative, which I will not describe in depth here, because it is not realistic, either from an Iraqi or American (domestic) perspective is flood the country with troops (250,000, 350,000, 500,000?), and, drown the insurgency and the sectarians in blood (Iraqi blood of course). Aside from a few dimwitted Ideologues like Christopher Hitchens, and, his ilk, no one either advocates the above policy. Not even former proponents like Senator John McCain. As the British say, its ‘by sale date’, has effectively passed as practical policy and politics.

So gentle reader, where do we go from here?

Iraq, is currently a mess of semi-historical proportions. A dysfunctional country, made more so, by American dreams of ‘Democratization’, and “demonstration projects”, in the Near East. Well those dreams have turned into a veritable nightmare. For both Iraqis and Americans, much more for the former of course. “What is to be done?” First, let us cross out, those alternatives, which are much more problematic both in the Iraqi and the regional context. These would include: setting a timetable for withdrawal, now, without any agreement by the warring parties, much less the insurgents about running the country. The end result of such a move by the USA, would be twofold as we saw above: increased violence, by all sides, and an out and out civil war, which would be won, by Persian backed parties, who would (at least temporarily) open the flood gates to Persian influence in the country; the de-centralization strategy, would have the same pitfalls, of course. With the only saving grace, is that at least American forces will remain in the Kurdish area, thus at the very least, not completely losing all hopes of influence in the country. Of course, with either of these scenarios, American influence in the region as a whole, will decline drastically. It will be seen, that Persia, will be the big winner, from the American destruction of the Hussein regime. Something already posited by various commentators (see the Chatham House study: “Iran, its Neighbors, and the Regional Crises” @ www.chathamhouse.org.uk). In this atmosphere, to simply ‘scuttle’, and withdraw prematurely would be to ensure that the USA, and the West in general would reap the whirlwind both in Iraq proper and in the region as a whole.

In essence, the only sensible strategy at this time, to ‘stay the course’. Not in the hope that Iraq can be salvaged, and made into a plausible or even a semi-plausible Democratic society. Or even a civil, semi-normal society. The demons which are currently afflicting Iraqi society are deep-rooted, and some American placebo will not effect a cure anytime soon. Perhaps, if Bush et al., had not been in charge of things circa the fall of 2002, then indeed, things might have been different. Although, it is much more likely that the time for a strategy of ‘overthrow’ of Hussein was in 1991- 1992, and not 2003. But, that is an academic exercise for another occasion. The only advantage of this particular course, is that it will allow the USA, and its (remaining) allies, to position themselves for a ‘decent interval’, before withdrawing most troops in say 2009 or 2010. What one may ask will occur by then? Two things: one, further bloodshed, of Iraqis killing each other, allow its horrible effect to work on the Iraqi psyche. Just as the Lebanese Civil War ended with mutual exhaustion, so, will the current conflict in Iraq. In absence of flooding the country with American troops, there is no other plausible scenario to an end to this ongoing conflict. Sad but true. Second, the presence of American forces, will enable the conflict to remain in bounds, and not to spark off, a wider, regional conflict involving outside powers. Additionally, the mere presence of a (limited) number of American boots on the ground, will at the very least, give the lie, to the idea that Persia and things Persian is the wave of the future in both Iraq and in the region as a whole. The complete withdrawal of American forces, or a decentralization strategy, would have, as we have seen above, the upshot of not only confirming the existing level of Persian influence, but, potentially radically increasing it. And, while Persia does need to be accommodated diplomatically, that can only be done, from a ‘position of strength’ (to quote Dean Acheson), rather than one of weakness. And, it is concerning the question of ‘what to do about Persia’, that we shall deal presently in our next contribution.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

The Dialectics of Defeat

"If the ruling class has not been capable of fulfilling its function, one should speak not of merit but demerit-in other words, of immaturity and intrinsic weakness. Did they at least attain the end which they set themselves? They said that they were aiming at the creation of a modern state in Italy and they in fact created a Bastard."
Antonio Gramsci, Selections from the Prison Notebooks.

"Above and beyond toppling the regime of Saddam Hussein and dismantling its deadly weapons, the driving motivation of a new American endeavor in Iraq and in neighboring Arab lands should be modernizing the Arab world."
Fouad Ajami, "Iraq and the Arabs Future", Foreign Affairs, February 2003.

"We shall struggle for the return of the hostages Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, a total cease-fire, the deployment of the Lebanese army in all of south Lebanon and the removal of Hezbollah from the region."
Prime Minister Ehud Omert, Speech to the Knesset, 17 July, Associated Press.

"We need to put Hezbollah out of business."
General Ido Nehushtan, Israeli General Staff, 17 July, Associated Press.

With the passage of one week, it is now possible to see a bit more clearly over the smoke and debris of the battlefield in South Lebanon and, indeed the Near East as a whole. A few things now seem evidently clear about the situation. First, that Hezbollah and its patrons in Damascus and Persia, have won, a massive political, psychological and diplomatic victory in the region. Think of the Tet Offensive, as a similar example from the recent past. Against both every expectation, and, historical precedent, Hezbollah, essentially, fought the Israeli war machine to a draw. For the first time, since the start of the Arab-Israeli conflict, the IDF, failed to destroy an Arab military force quickly and easily. The fact that the same Israeli army, which reached Beirut back in 1982, in seven days, was unable to conquer ten kilometers of border area, has put paid to the myth of the invincibility of the IDF. Something which in essence has been drummed into the heads of every Arab, and every Arab regime, since the Six Day War, has been smashed into a thousand pieces.

Second, the converse of the above victory, is the fact that Israel, and, its only ally the USA, have suffered an unmitigated diplomatic and political defeat. As has the USA's Sunni Arab allies in Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, all of whom were looking forward to seeing Hezbollah grounded into dust, by the IDF. And, all of whom verbally attacked both Hezbollah, for adventurism, for commencing the Lebanese war with Israel. The recent events in Lebanon can now also be said to have put the quietus, on the Bush regime's efforts to "transform" and "democratize" the Near and Middle East. Without getting into a debate as to the rationality or not, of such ambitions, all one can now say, is that such grand ambitions, which were quite held by many, both inside and, outside the American administration, at the start of the Iraq war, has now been most definitely laid to rest by the Israeli military failure in Lebanon.

The crowning example of the changed situation on the ground in the region was the 'victory' speech, given on the 15th of August, by the Syrian President, Bashar Assad, in Damascus. Assad fils, loudly and clearly proclaimed that the just concluded conflict was a victory over Israel and Washington, for Hezbollah, and its patrons in Damascus and Teheran. He also clearly stated his ambition to overthrow the current, pro-Western, anti-Syrian, government in Beirut, and, replace it with, a regime more amenable to Damascus wishes. But, what was most extraordinary, was the complete and utter dismissal of the current American government by Assad:

"This is an administration that adopts the principal of pre-emptive war that is absolutely contradictory to the principle of peace. Consequently, we don't expect peace soon or in the foreseeable future". 15 August, Associated Press.

So, Assad's regime, which for almost three years has been under fairly constant and intense American pressure, now feels fully confident, that the tables have turned; that it is the USA, and its Sunni Arab allies in the region (also lambasted by Assad), who are now under the gun. Rather than being able to look forward to regime change in Damascus, following the 'Cedar Revolution', in Lebanon last year, it now seems, that official Washington is trying to force itself to possibly swallow the humiliation of actually talking diplomatically to Damascus. Something which Bush fils, speech on the same day as Assad's, seems to indicate is not going to happen very quickly or easily. To reinforce the above narrative of events, is the announcement on Friday that the now embattled, Omert Cabinet, has now withdrawn indefinitely, its proposed West Bank 'disengagement' plan. While it could be argued that in the longue duree, this action will benefit both Israel and the Palestinians as a whole, in the immediate circumstances, it is just more evidence of the disarray, in the Western camp, following the defeat in Lebanon. And, of course Washington is now completely denuded of even the tatters of any type of Arab-Israeli peace plan or indeed a policy. And, of course, further east, in Iraq, the all but overt civil war between the Shiites and the Sunnis, goes on. The efforts of the American forces to contain the sectarian violence and chaos looking more and more futile, if indeed not hopeless. The pro-Hezbollah demonstrations in Baghdad, as well as the comments by the Iraqi Prime Minister, putting paid to any idea, that whatever regime may eventually, emerge in Baghdad, will necessarily adopt a pro-American, and or anti-Persian line diplomatically. A very important consideration, in light of the fact that with the threat of sanctions against Teheran, being considered by the United Nations Security Council at the end of this month, the attitude of the 'government' in Baghdad (if one may call it in fact such a thing) will soon assume great importance.

The historical 'lessons' that one may derive from the events of the last three years in the Near and Middle East, which the Lebanon War, is the final part is that by aiming to transform the region, in a mistaken assumption, that this would reduce if not eliminate the breeding grounds of terrorism, in point of fact has had the opposite effect. Like its Israeli partner, Washington by commencing, but not winning the war in Iraq, has opened up, asectarianbox of chaos, Muslim extremism, sectarianism, and terrorism, in not only Iraq, but now also in other areas of the region as well. With Hamas in the Palestinian areas, Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, and, even in Syria to a small degree, it seems that the beneficiaries of American policy are the very forces that US policy aims to hobble if not destroy. And, perhaps most importantly, what has been wrought by the American policy of 'overthrow' in Iraq has been the massive growth in Persian influence in the region. Fueled both by increased oil revenues, and, a heady sense that the Americans have overshot themselves in Iraq and the region as a whole, the Mullah's regime in Teheran, now seem themselves as being the driver's seat. With their proteges in Lebanon winning a major political victory, Teheran has even more reason to feel that things are moving in their direction. The 'demonstration project', that unofficial advisers to the Bush regime, such as Foud Ajami back in 2002-2003, hoped that the 'new Iraq' would become for the region as a whole has shown itself to be an utter and complete failure. Now, it is merely a matter of (in the words of the military expert Anthony Cordesman):

"the US may hav[ing] to think in terms of 5,000 American lives and more than $800 billion, five year plans, and only 50-50 odds of success at best".

And, that only to just salvage the situation in Iraq and Afghanistan. With the (now perhaps defunct) exception of the 'Cedar Revolution', in Lebanon, none of the hoped for, benefits that the Bush team posited back in 2002-2003, has come to pass. What has come to pass, we have already seen above. None of it is very pretty. Much of it, could have been avoided. So, you might ask that eternal Russian question: 'what is to be done'? That is something dear reader, that we will attempt to essay, in our next contribution, and, many more after that. If of course time and events allow.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Now down to Business!

The papers report that the USA, France and the UK, have agreed on a draft Security Council resolution, which attempts to garner through diplomacy, what Israeli military action, has failed to obtain, id est, the removal of Hezbollah from south of the Litani river, and, the creation of a cordon sanitaire on the Lebanese side of the border. Not surprisingly, the FT online reports that the Lebanese government, has rejected the self-same draft resolution, as “fundamentally one-sided and failed to take into account its own proposals for a resolution of the conflict”. Or as an Israeli source noted in the same article, the Franco-American proposal, is “too good for Israel to be accepted by Hezbollah”. So, dear reader, we (the world that is) are back to square one. The fighting will continue in Lebanon, and, rockets will continue to rain down on northern Israel (as of today, 11 killed by one such rocket). At this point, three and half, weeks into this conflict, may well inquire: ‘to what end’?

Without being privy to any ‘secrets of state’, either in Tel Aviv or Washington DC, it seems fairly clear at this point, that the origins of the current conflict, lie in the following sequence of events: a Hezbollah, which has been anxious about its, role in a post-Syrian, Lebanon, where its legitimacy as a ‘resistance force’, was being openly questioned, and, where international pressure, to have it demilitarized, was ongoing; a Syrian-Iranian axis, worried about both American-led pressure on both regimes, and, eager to push back, against such pressure, by causing as much strife in the region, but, in as indirect fashion, as possible; a new Israeli cabinet, in which both the PM, and, the Defence Minister, were new comers to their respective portfolios, indeed, to any portfolio which involved military affairs of any kind. And, being buffeted by the ongoing (albeit mostly Israeli caused, au fond), strife in the Gaza Strip. Strife which calls into question the nominal raison d’etre, of the government, id est, withdrawing some West Bank settlements behind the Sharon inspired, ‘security’ wall; finally, an American government whose hopes (admittedly always a bit of a chimera…) for a ‘democratic transformation’, of the Near and Middle East, were running into the ground, as the both the Gaza chaos, the election of a Hamas government, and Iraqi imbroglio, drags onwards, seemingly never ending. On the 12th of July, Hezbollah crosses the Lebanese-Israeli border and kills seven Israeli soldiers, and captures two. Proclaiming that they wish to exchange the captured two, for both Lebanese and Palestinian prisoners held by Israel. The last time that this had happened was in 2004, and, at that time, Israel readily exchanged 400 prisoners for a much, much smaller number of Israelis being held. Why the different response this time? It would appear that on the Israeli side, that the calculation was made, that through the use of massive airpower, on Hezbollah’s facilities in both southern Lebanon and, in the Shiite portions of South Beirut, that one) Hezbollah’s military infrastructure would be massively damaged if not completely destroyed, opening the way to both neutralizing what was seen (rightly so in fact) as a Syrian, and, more importantly Iranian proxy, which could be activated at anytime, by Teheran. An especially Consideration, in view of the deadlocked nuclear arms discussions between Iran and the Western Powers; two) that the destruction of Hezbollah would securely Anchor Lebanon in the Western camp, in the aftermath of the withdrawal of Syrian Troops a short time earlier. An, added bonus, would be that a short and sharp military victory, would greatly enhance the statures of both Olmert (the PM) and Peretz (the Defence Minister).

Now, both numbers one and two above, would of course greatly appeal to the Bush Regime, and, especially its more Israeli aligned officials (Elliot Abrams, et al.). Both, could be seen as definitive elements if the forward march of ‘Democracy’ in the region (by weakening Syria and strengthening the Lebanese government), and, at the same time, it would prepare the ground, for any military action, in the future against Iran. Il va sans doubte, that Tel Aviv, gave the word that the operation would be of the ‘short cleansing thunder storm’ variety (to quote Bethman-Hollweg in July 1914). Such an operation, if true, could even be swallowed and tolerated by the American aligned, Sunni Arab regimes, in the region. All suspicious of Shiite Hezbollah in any case, both because of its confessional nature, and, of course for its Iranian origins and ties.

Unfortunately, the promised ‘thunder storm’, did not work as advertised. Instead of a short and sharp military campaign, to oust Hezbollah, from thirty to forty kilometers north of the border, the Israeli military, in a bad parody of American military practice, decided that raining missiles on innocent civilians, in regions which had no discernable Hezbollah ties, was the better part of valor. Sad but true, the IDF of yore, its glory days are definitely over. It has become an Americanized, overly technical, military organization, which has all the finesse of a steam roller. As we speak, it still appears that perhaps only 7-10 kilometers of land, north of the border have been cleared of Hezbollah. With pockets of resistance still in evidence. This from an army which defeated the combined force of Syria, Egypt, and Jordan in 1967, in Seven Days…. Be that as it may, the original purpose from the American perspective has been completely overturned. Whatever legitimacy Israel possessed, in the eyes of world opinion, in the initial phase of the operation, has been definitively squandered. Now, even the Sunni Arab, pro-American regimes, have been forced to rhetorically mouth words of support for Hezbollah’s efforts. And, of course, by failing to smash Hezbollah as advertised, the latter has reached the heights of popularity in the Arab and Muslim world. Now, faute de mieux, Washington, after the near debacle of Rice’s initial ‘peace mission’, is now attempting to salvage the situation, via a delicate pas de deux, with France and the UK, in the Security Council. As we saw, the draft resolution, would have given by the USA and Israel, much of what they wanted. If not quite all that was hoped for initially. Hence, the almost inevitable Hezbollah and even Lebanese government rejection. Notwithstanding the fact, that the latter is for the most part pro-American, and, anti-Syrian in nature. With the rejection, gentle reader, where do we ‘go from here’, you might well ask? That is something that I will tackle in my next contribution to these pages.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

“An introduction by way of an apology”

Here we go again, another, yes, another blog, springing up on the internet’! Yes, I do confess to being the author of a new such monstrosity. And, I also confess that my motives are as self-serving as any other’s: I desire to bring to the attention of my fellow human beings, my thoughts, about world events, or at the very least my attempts at ‘thinking’ about world events. In doing so, I make no great claims for any special gnosis of the world. I have not explored the hillsides of Afghanistan, in the company of the Northern Alliance, nor crossed the jungles of Burma and Thailand, with the anti-government hill tribes, nor watched the steady accumulation of corpses mount in the Central African Republic; I have not hobnobbed with Papal prelates, nor have I ever served in any nation’s diplomatic service, not even that institution which claims to serve as such in this country. I am not an ex-Central Intelligence Agency agent, nor even an ex-Committee for State Security agent.

No, unfortunately, I have not done, any of the above, nor make any claims to. My only claim to fame, my calling card, is the fact, that after a lifetime (I am all of 43 years of age) of reading and writing (some of which was used to write a doctoral dissertation on Anglo-Amerian relations in the Cold War), I can claim to have arrived at some basic ideas as how the world works, or does not. Admittedly, my perspective has been clouded by perhaps reading too many diplomatic demarches, written either fifty, one hundred, if not two hundred years ago. I do think however, that diplomatists of times past (admittedly entirely a club of ‘dead, white, upper class males’, but so be it!), do in many cases have something to tell us, in our benighted age. Yes, I state loudly and clearly, for the record that the doings, of such eminences as Graf Nesselrode, Furst von Bismark, le comte de Talleyrand, Knyiaz Gorchakov, Lord Salisbury, or our recently departed George Frost Kennan, have more to teach us, than what type of sweater (Burberry’s?) the current British Prime Minister purchased for the American President’s birthday. Or other such banalities of recent vintage, which readily spring to mind. The past of course, never pre-determines anything, nor does it usually repeat itself. What it does tend to do, is to rule out options, force events, trends, et cetera, into certain currents, and, not that of others. A very good example of which is that while the stupidity, hubris and cretinism of Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, et al., made the prospect of Iraq, ever becoming an ‘Arab Style Democracy with an Arab Style Market economy’ (Kenneth Pollack, “The Gathering Storm”), ever so much less likely, It is probably the case, that sans the missteps of the American occupation, that Pollack’s hopes of 2002, were unlikely to be realized in any case. The result was not ordained, but, it could very well be argued, that it was to a good degree, pre- determined. By history, geography, and demographics. A case if you like of ‘post hoc ergo propter hoc’. However, I do not want to make the claim that the past or history, diplomatic or otherwise, is destiny. Far from it. As the British neo-Hegelian Philosopher Michael Oakshott, once put it:

“For the historian, for whom the past is dead and irreproachable, the past is feminine. He loves it as a mistress, of whom he never tires, and whom he never expects to talk sense [my emphasis]”.

So, dear pious reader, cher ami, cher ennemi (to paraphrase Baudelaire), do not expect me to be some sort of seer, or prophet. I make no such claims or presumptions. And, in any case, the internet, and television are full of individuals making such ridiculous claims. My only claim is to attempt, on a weekly basis, to convey to you, my own opinion, based upon my knowledge of the past, as to how things might or might not progress, or in certain cases regress. As time, that invariable marker of success or failure on God’s earth, marches ever onwards.