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  • House of Saud

    I recently finished watching a 2-hour Frontline documentary on Saudi Arabia and its relations with the U.S. The more I learn about Saudi Arabian history, the more it seems to me that the timeline and history of these relationships almost serve to decypher both U.S. foriegn policy in the middle east as well as Iranian hostility and the rise of Bin Laden's crusade of radical Islam. The more I look at the details, the more much of this begins to make sense in terms of chronology. Moreso, looking at the people involved - the Oil companies, the Presidents, the Saudi royals and dissidents - the picture begins to become quite clear: terrorism in the name of Islamic jihad will not cease until the triangular conflict of culture between Saudi Arabia, Israel and Iran is resolved.* Within this triangle exist two distinct flashpoints - Israel's existence (as a Jewish state), and Saudi Arabia's westernization under royal rule. The U.S. clearly wants (and needs) both of these two continue and prosper. Iran and radical Islam clearly do not. These two fields are polarizing more and more each day.

    Looking at the rather tumultuous history of the region in general and knowing that tribal warfare has existed for centuries and has only recently (in the last half-century) been carried out to a global scale makes me think that this conflict will carry on for generations to come - so long that I begin to think that we should be thinking of catalysts - that the score must be settled sooner rather than later - while avoiding an all-out global conflict in which all industrialized nations are forced to take sides.

    * I realize I am leaving out Syria - a middle-man, Lebanon - without a backbone, and Iraq - a shifting state. These are all current and relevant factors, but not nearly as gravitational as Iran, Saudi Arabia and Israel. Many other countries are directly or indirectly tied in. The U.S. and the rest of the industrialized world whether alone or as part of the U.N. play a major part, however these forces cannot resolve this intense regional conflict - they can (and do) influence it in a large way.

    Just a few of my thoughts on this Monday - curious to see if anyone else has been thinking about the same things. The current Israeli conflict certainly interests me, however I don't see much room for debate there. Israel has every right to finally demolish Hezbollah, and apparently is going about doing just that. Too bad they will not be able to demolish the link to Iran - because they'll be fighting that for years to come. It is a pity for the civilians located there (on both sides of the border), but whoever assumed life on the Lebanese border would be peaceful was gravely mistaken.

  • #2
    Re: House of Saud

    Originally posted by AMosely
    Looking at the rather tumultuous history of the region in general and knowing that tribal warfare has existed for centuries and has only recently (in the last half-century) been carried out to a global scale makes me think that this conflict will carry on for generations to come - so long that I begin to think that we should be thinking of catalysts - that the score must be settled sooner rather than later - while avoiding an all-out global conflict in which all industrialized nations are forced to take sides.
    This is exactly the kind of thinking that got us into Iraq - precipitate a regional change by sparking a limited conflict, then attempt to prevent that conflict from escalating out of control. Remember the Wave of Democracy™ that was supposed to sweep the region?

    It's also reminiscient of the Eurpoean intellectual concept of the "Good War" that pervaded some influential circles at the dawn of the 20th century. The idea that a cleansing battle would decisively alter the balance of power in favor of your respective ideology (in that case, the Bolsheviks vs. capitalism). As we have discovered time and again, the moral or logical justification of war routinely fails to foresee (or willingly ignores) the catastophic outcomes possible when you unleash the machine. In the case of the middle east, you have the real problem that any "catalyst" to a "decisive" conflict carries the possibility of a nuclear exchange or equally horrific outcome. Therefore the goal should be not a "win" for your chosen side, but a peaceful coexistence of all parties.
    In game handle: Steel Scion
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    • #3
      Re: House of Saud

      Originally posted by Steeler
      Therefore the goal should be not a "win" for your chosen side, but a peaceful coexistence of all parties.
      As a radical Islamist, I will accept your proposal of peaceful coexistence as long as I can kill you and all the other infidels in your family. Are we agreed?

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      • #4
        Re: House of Saud

        Originally posted by AMosely
        Looking at the rather tumultuous history of the region in general and knowing that tribal warfare has existed for centuries and has only recently (in the last half-century) been carried out to a global scale makes me think that this conflict will carry on for generations to come...
        400 years ago, one would have said the same thing regarding religious conflict in Europe.

        80 years ago, one would have said the same thing regarding imperial conflict.

        20 years ago, one would have said the same thing regarding communist vs. capitalist conflict.

        15 years ago, one would have said the same thing regarding the Balkans.

        Nowadays it's fashionable to say such things about the Israeli-Arab conflict(s) and, apparently, about inter-arab and western-arab conflict as well. I don't buy any of it.
        A policy of freedom for the individual is the only truly progressive policy. -F.A. Hayek

        "$250,000 a year won't get me to Central Park West."

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        • #5
          Re: House of Saud

          Originally posted by Steeler
          I begin to think that we should be thinking of catalysts - that the score must be settled sooner rather than later - while avoiding an all-out global conflict in which all industrialized nations are forced to take sides.
          Affirmative, General LeMay!
          A policy of freedom for the individual is the only truly progressive policy. -F.A. Hayek

          "$250,000 a year won't get me to Central Park West."

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          • #6
            Re: House of Saud

            Originally posted by Steeler
            In the case of the middle east, you have the real problem that any "catalyst" to a "decisive" conflict carries the possibility of a nuclear exchange or equally horrific outcome. Therefore the goal should be not a "win" for your chosen side, but a peaceful coexistence of all parties.
            I completely agree, but I'm starting to think that peaceful coexistence is impossible as long as Iran and radical groups are vowing to a) destroy Israel or b) kill off westernization in Saudi Arabia (or any other middle east country). Right now, directly engaging either one of those two will immediately get you bombed. So we are left with what we have today - proxy wars and global terrorism. Neither one accomplishes anything but media attention, self-serving propaganda and civilian deaths.

            Peaceful coexistence can only exist if all parties accept each other's right to exist. Iran will not stop funding Hezbollah and Hamas until Israel is destroyed. Bin Laden will not stop waging war against western civilization until western ties and influence in the middle east are destroyed. These are not paths to peace - not even breadcrumbs to peace. From the western point of view, would the U.S. be willing to regonize a fundamentalist Islamic state? We have fought them in the past, staged coups, funded revolutions, even assinated figureheads. Would we support the creation of such a state under conditions of peace?

            I believe that pre-9/11 U.S. policy towards these problems was that of containment - in other words, do not search for a catalyst. Post-9/11, we have shifted to a more offensive mindset and are now grappling with several catalysts, intentional or not - Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon. Will more chaos lead to cataclysmic change, world war, or perpetual chaos?

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            • #7
              Re: House of Saud

              Originally posted by AMosely
              I completely agree, but I'm starting to think that peaceful coexistence is impossible as long as Iran and radical groups are vowing to a) destroy Israel or b) kill off westernization in Saudi Arabia (or any other middle east country). Right now, directly engaging either one of those two will immediately get you bombed. So we are left with what we have today - proxy wars and global terrorism. Neither one accomplishes anything but media attention, self-serving propaganda and civilian deaths.

              Peaceful coexistence can only exist if all parties accept each other's right to exist. Iran will not stop funding Hezbollah and Hamas until Israel is destroyed. Bin Laden will not stop waging war against western civilization until western ties and influence in the middle east are destroyed. These are not paths to peace - not even breadcrumbs to peace. From the western point of view, would the U.S. be willing to regonize a fundamentalist Islamic state? We have fought them in the past, staged coups, funded revolutions, even assinated figureheads. Would we support the creation of such a state under conditions of peace?

              I believe that pre-9/11 U.S. policy towards these problems was that of containment - in other words, do not search for a catalyst. Post-9/11, we have shifted to a more offensive mindset and are now grappling with several catalysts, intentional or not - Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon. Will more chaos lead to cataclysmic change, world war, or perpetual chaos?
              YES!!!

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              • #8
                Re: House of Saud

                Originally posted by AMosely
                I completely agree, but I'm starting to think that peaceful coexistence is impossible as long as Iran and radical groups are vowing to a) destroy Israel or b) kill off westernization in Saudi Arabia (or any other middle east country). Right now, directly engaging either one of those two will immediately get you bombed. So we are left with what we have today - proxy wars and global terrorism. Neither one accomplishes anything but media attention, self-serving propaganda and civilian deaths.

                Peaceful coexistence can only exist if all parties accept each other's right to exist. Iran will not stop funding Hezbollah and Hamas until Israel is destroyed.
                Once you decide that the enemy is intractable and coexistence is impossible, that becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. We are not at an "us-or-them" stage of conflict, mainly because "them" consists of several wildly divergent groups with varying interests. Remember that in addition to the cycles of violence we have also seen periods of relative peace. There have been overtures to reform in Iran, Lebanon, Palestine, and elsewhere, and there are clearly elements that want a lasting stability. Much of that reform is dependent on internal struggles and politics, but can be supported or trumped by international forces. Given the stakes involved, I think it important that we continue to search for that combination of factors that can a) reduce the influence of extremism, b) promote regional and global cooperation, and c) raise the bar of prosperity for the people in that part of the world.

                As Tybalt brought up, many people said we would only end the Cold War by exchanging missiles with the Soviets. But how did it end? Reagan, a huge hawk, made an appeal for conciliation, Gorbachev was receptive, Bush 41 took nukes out of the picture, and the whole Soviet structure came loose at the seams. While the repercussions of those events are still unfolding, the direct threat of conflict is past.
                In game handle: Steel Scion
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                • #9
                  Re: House of Saud

                  Gorbachev wasn't receptive because Reagan was being so nice, he was receptive because the Soviet Union had already lost the arms race Reagan started. If you think Reagan hugged the war out of Gorby I think you're missing the point.

                  And I don't think we've made the decision that the enemy is intractible and that our mutual existence isn't possible. I think they've made that decision. I don't believe, for example, that Israel has a policy of attempting to eradicate a nation or people from the face of the earth, but several organizations around them have as their policy wiping Israel off the face of the earth.

                  Is it Israel's fault that Iran threatens to eliminate Israel? Is it Israel's fault that Hamas won't modify its charter? Is it our fault that radical Islam won't stop attacking western targets? Who are you preaching to?

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                  • #10
                    Re: House of Saud

                    Originally posted by leejo
                    Gorbachev wasn't receptive because Reagan was being so nice, he was receptive because the Soviet Union had already lost the arms race Reagan started. If you think Reagan hugged the war out of Gorby I think you're missing the point.

                    And I don't think we've made the decision that the enemy is intractible and that our mutual existence isn't possible. I think they've made that decision. I don't believe, for example, that Israel has a policy of attempting to eradicate a nation or people from the face of the earth, but several organizations around them have as their policy wiping Israel off the face of the earth.

                    Is it Israel's fault that Iran threatens to eliminate Israel? Is it Israel's fault that Hamas won't modify its charter? Is it our fault that radical Islam won't stop attacking western targets? Who are you preaching to?
                    Dammit, you were copying off of my paper! ;) I was gonna post almost exactly the same points as your first two paragraphs make.

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                    • #11
                      Re: House of Saud

                      I'm not preaching and I'm not hugging, so spare me the condescending attitude.

                      My point is that extremists (be they Islamic, Israeli, Baathist, or otherwise) are not the only players in this. And as soon the policy makers of any country start to see all the others as extremists in throes to eliminationist rhetoric, then you throw any hope of peace out the window. So long as you have standing governments with something to gain through peace, you have the capacity for it.

                      If am asked to direct my comments (to preach) to any particular group on this, I would ask those looking for the "peace on the other side of war" to cool their jets and allow diplomacy to continue its slow, often frustrating work.
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                      • #12
                        Re: House of Saud

                        I didn't mean to seem condescending, but I do think you either mischaracterized or misunderstand the means by which Reagan ended the cold war, and I do think your points come across, to me at least, as preachy. For example: as soon the policy makers of any country start to see all the others as extremists in throes to eliminationist rhetoric, then you throw any hope of peace out the window.

                        Furthermore, I have no idea what you're saying here in terms of translating this wannabe aphorism into a course of action. When the President of Iran pledges, repeatedly, to wipe Israel off the face of the earth, isn't it fair to see him as an extremist? Isn't he "in the throes" of "eliminationist" rhetoric? What does it take? Why can't we simply take folks at their word when they say they want to kill us?

                        This, too, sounded preachy to me:
                        Once you decide that the enemy is intractable and coexistence is impossible, that becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. We are not at an "us-or-them" stage of conflict, mainly because "them" consists of several wildly divergent groups with varying interests. Remember that in addition to the cycles of violence we have also seen periods of relative peace.
                        It's also untrue. The periods of relative peace you discuss. What is relative? And how long is a period? The "peace" you seek seems a lot more like restrained hatred to me. H-Hour lived there for a year during a time of peace. I don't want to speak for H, but I certainly wouldn't characterize the environment he described as fertile ground for peace to spring up.

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                        • #13
                          Re: House of Saud

                          Anyone know where I might be able to view that episode???


                          thanks,

                          Chappie

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                          • #14
                            Re: House of Saud

                            Let's not get into Reagan and the Cold War. It's distracting to the current subject and historians still disagree on how to interpret those events.

                            As for Iran, I'm not advocating a particular policy, but I am concerned about the growing attitude that war is inevitable. Just a few years ago we were celebrating President Khatami's moves toward internationalism and openness. Now, after the Guradian Council tilted the last election, we're forced to decry Ahmadinejad's belligerence and religious conservatism (an election made possible, in part, by our own belligerence in the region). Neither men in their capacity as president hold all the keys to Iranian policy, as it is still set by the Council. And despite the rhetoric, thousands of Arab companies and individuals do business with Israel and the west every day. Clearly, there is still a massive conflict within Iran and the wider Arab world.

                            Which is a better state of affairs? Restrained hatred that never quite erupts into violence, or regional warfare that costs the lives of hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions? If we start a catalyst with the intent of "settling the score," that's what we'll most likely get. And in the end I don't think we'll have a lasting peace because of it, just more generations of bloodshed. Violence begets violence, as they say.
                            In game handle: Steel Scion
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                            • #15
                              Re: House of Saud

                              I don't think that we're trying to settle scores so much as targeting the sources that foment and sustain violence in the middle east and export that violence to the rest of the world. I think that we have attempted to constrain those "sources" for a long time and that policy has neither won us respect for our restraint nor bought us the safety we need.

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