US backbone and the middle east (was Re: Le Pen ...)

Elias Sinderson elias@cse.ucsc.edu
Thu, 25 Apr 2002 11:33:55 -0700


Jim, All,

Your question re: our (US) backbone presumes we have one. (Yes, I'm 
saying this to be a little provocative, but think about it for a 
minute.) How many US citizens have died in the military 'engagements' 
(police actions, whatever...) of the past decade? I can't pull out exact 
figures but, since our little tussle with Iraq over Kuwait, it's been 
precious few. Almost as many US casualties due to friendly fire, 
accidents, etc. than 'real' casualties of conflict. Furthermore, the 
duration of the conflicts have been getting steadily shorter with the 
media coverage increasingly sensational and short-lived.

This trend begs the question, then, as to how much resolve (or backbone) 
the American public really has to be involved in a long and possibly 
painful engagement. The US involvement in Vietnam, where we stayed well 
past our welcome (if we ever had it at all) and suffered an 
unconscionable loss of life, largely undermined public support for long, 
drawn out military actions requiring much sacrifice by the average 
American citizen. The general reluctance to see our children die, taxes 
and interest rates go up, let alone rationing of the sort that occurred 
in WWII, favors the heavy handed approach to conflict that we've seen 
dominate the US military agenda over the past decade or so.

Not that it hasn't been effective -- the US military has clearly 'kicked 
some ass' wherever and whenever it was felt necessary in recent times. 
However, it hasn't 'won the hearts and minds' of the rest of the world, 
who increasingly see the US playing the role of global enforcer, whether 
we're asked to or not.

If the US decides to invade Iran or Iraq, which is beginning to look 
more likely with each passing week, it is questionable how much support 
  we would have from the rest of the world. Such action would polarize 
much of the middle east against the US, not just Iran and Iraq. Although 
even without such naked aggression on the part of the US, such an 
alliance is not beyond the scope of reason. Without the Soviet Union 
jockeying against us in the middle east there is a greater chance for a 
sort of plastic unity in the region. In support of this, witness the 
recent middle east congress which produced a proposal for ending the 
Palistinian-Israeli conflict. Witness also the recent strengthening of 
parliamentary relations between Iraq and Iran.

I could be wrong, given that my head has been buried in my own affairs 
for the past month or so, but it seems that media coverage of the 'War 
on Terror' is growing thin. I contend that Americans have little stomach 
for extended conflicts, and even less so if it means sacrificing some 
measure of their precious way of life. Given the above analysis, it is 
reasonable to conclude that public support for an extended conflict with 
Iran/Iraq/Other would be fleeting whence the reality of it hit home. If 
this is the case, it seems extremely likely that the confrontation would 
take the heavy handed approach favored in recent conflicts. The question 
then beciomes whether or not the global community would stand for such 
action?

The situation calls for more analysis (hopefully by someone better 
suited to it than myself), but I trust I've stirred up the pot enough 
for now. I should be working on my thesis anyway...  :-)


Elias



Jim Whitehead wrote:

> It seems to me that just about the only thing that could get Iraq and Iran
> to work together is an attack on either by the US. I imagine resistance
> inside Iraq would be much greater if people felt they were defending their
> homes, as opposed to just defending a looted Kuwait. Plus, they have been
> studying the last war for over ten years.
> 
> Having Iran and Iraq at each other's throats is a cornerstone of stability
> in the Middle East. Working together, they could achieve great mischief.
> It's very conceivable that, working together, they could seize Saudi Arabia,
> Kuwair, and Qatar, and thus have a controlling block in oil.
> 
> Faced with this, the US might actually have to ask for some sacrifices of
> its population to fight a war, in the form of conscription, higher taxes,
> and inflation. How strong is our backbone? I don't know.