We've Always Been at War in WestAsia
It Is Time to Leave the Middle East
“The mistakes of statesmen are not always voluntary. Often they are the necessary consequence of the situation in which they find themselves, with difficulties giving rise to still more difficulties.” - Montesquieu [Considerations on the Causes of the Greatness of the Romans and Their Decline, XVIII]
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The US military has been spread across what we call the Middle East- more properly West Asia- for as long as I can remember. At some point, what we were doing there must have seemed clear. Were we protecting Israel, or guarding our nukes in Turkiye, or taking some side in the Lebanese Civil War? I think they have oil over there. Was it that Saddam did 9/11? I know there was a movie where Alec Guinness was in the desert but it wasn’t Star Wars. Our presence there surely counters the Soviets. What year is it again? Really, who knows what brought us to Arabia and the Levant, who even cares?
In seriousness, the US presence in the Middle East did indeed begin to protect Israel, counter the Soviets, and in a questionable attempt to secure our access to oil. Then, when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait- which is less clear cut than they wanted people to believe but not worth getting into here- the US fought a war to expel him from a protectorate and more importantly to show our status as the guarantor of war and peace in the post-Cold War world order. Then of course there was Iraq 2, which frankly can only be explained through the Ledeen Doctrine, but it certainly worked, people did get the impression that we mean business. One way or another, we’re now in the Middle East based on some vague notion that it helps the world and keeps us safe, though supporting Israel doesn’t make us safer and never has. Since the events of October 7th, our troops have been under attack all over the region by cheap mass-produced missiles and drones. Many, including myself, commented that it was only a matter of time before one of these got through and drew real blood, and so one has.
We first lost two Navy SEALS trying to put a stop to piracy in the Red Sea, and then shortly after that was announced a drone killed 3 US reserve troops serving at a place called “Tower 22” near the convergence of Jordan, Syria, and Iraq. Biden is determined to “respond” to this aggression which they are blaming on Iran with an admitted absence of evidence [which as we learned from Donald Rumsfeld is not the evidence of absence!] and he intends to start some sort of air campaign. The US has about 45,000 troops in easy range of Iran itself and any conflict would put also pit them against an unknown number of hostile militant groups. While we may imagine US bases as fortresses across the region, this is only true of a few large bases in safe places. In reality much of the US presence in the region- most of all in Iraq and Syria- is a fragile archipelago of small stations with exposed and vulnerable troops, many of which have limited anti-missile systems and could potentially be overran by a body of a few hundred men. If this escalates into any sort of serious conflict the US has massive vulnerabilities and nothing to gain through victory. “Everything to lose and nothing to gain,” and people like the flamboyant psychopath Lindsey Graham look at the situation and say, “I’ll take those odds.”
America’s Middle Eastern Raj finds itself in a difficult position, and our fearless leader Joe Biden does not appear capable of more than giving general directions in between naps. Several long-standing pieces of American policy are crumbling at once. I don’t pay much heed to the importance of domestic opposition to Israel, but the overall grift does rely on the idea that they are working towards some sort of peaceful solution, while it is increasingly obvious that Israel is ethnically cleansing the Gaza Strip, will never support West Bank statehood, and that Netanyahu’s embattled government is unlikely to even kiss Biden’s ring for show. Perhaps more importantly, any of the petty despotates across the region whom we pay to be friendly to Israel against the overwhelming will of their subjects could fall at any time. Relative freedom of navigation for people the Anglo-American Empire is not actively victimizing was one of the few genuinely good things for the world about Pax Americana and with the Houthis in Yemen attacking Red Sea shipping the US suffered the humiliation of struggling to put together a coalition for the seemingly simple and virtuous task of securing the safe transit of cargo. The US bombing of an Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces commander, a leader of militias which have been integrated into the military, showed the few who noticed that after more than 20 years the US has not created a government in Baghdad that it doesn’t bomb. Iraq’s democratically elected government wants the US to withdraw, but the US holds their currency reserves because the country remains a vassal, so the US can more or less do what it wants. There were rumors swirling of the US reconciling the “Syrian Democratic Forces” with the Syrian Arab Republic- the Assad Regime, as the war party calls it- and US troops finally exiting that country. Meanwhile, what some call the “Axis of Resistance,” which could broadly be described as a loose network of primarily Shi’a, Iran-aligned paramilitary groups, has spread all over in an era of cheap home-made missiles and suicide drones.
Such was the situation when one of the attacks on US troops, which had been ongoing for almost 4 months, finally hit its target. The drone is said to have followed nearby a friendly drone and thus snuck past the defense systems. Ken Klippenstein pointed out that if the day before we referenced this “Tower 22” the Pentagon would have claimed it didn’t exist, though now it is searchable on Google Maps. Where are the rest of these bases? We don’t know, but locals do. Jordan initially claimed the attack occurred in Syria, then reversed its position. It’s a curious situation. The attack was said to be by the Kataib Hezbollah militia whom the US had previously bombed. The US blamed Iran then admitted they had no evidence of any such thing. Arch-neocon Victoria Nuland assured the world that the US in these countries to stay. Iran said that they don’t control these groups. Idiots said Iran bought the weapon with the $6 million Joe Biden gave Iran, except that 1) that was Iran’s money; 2) it was never released to them; 3) these drones cost like $20k each.
As the US was making plans for some sort of bombing campaign against Iran, the militia then announced they were ending their campaign, to not “cause embarrassment” for the Iraqi government they are part of. It’s almost as if they didn’t expect one to get through and were just irritating the occupation forces, to make them feel crazed like a man who must keep swatting flies. A more conspiratorial view would be that the Victoria Nulands of the world were behind the failure to defend or behind the attack itself in order to create a pretense for a war with Iran. Either way, it’s strange they should get a kill and then step out.
Leo Tolstoy wrote, “Kings are the slaves of history” [War and Peace, III.I.I] and the same can be true of Presidents, if less frequently. It is certainly true of Joe Biden, who is perhaps more accurately the re-animated corpse of history. Trapped in a dying body, moved from place to place on legs that barely walk, talking through lips that barely speak, with black eyes that look but cannot see, what soul the fiend once had seeking escape, his whole being yearning for the wholesome comfort of the chair next to the soft-serve machine in an old folks’ home, America’s President makes for a sad sight. Only our unique historical moment could put such a man in power. A desperate and flailing empire where a ruling class seeks nothing but the continuation of an old order propped up a dying man from a dying era who even in his prime was in no way fit to rule. The country is being ran around by events that would test the best leader and are far past the capabilities of our own Mandarins. Just in this one region we are overextended with the vague goal of simultaneously countering both Iran and its Salafi terrorist enemies in order to protect Israel- though curiously you never see Al Qaeda or ISIS attacking Israel. There is no interest to be served but the one for which we once used the West Balkans- to show we can keep order in a rough neighborhood, except that we can’t. Keeping one sea lane open is testing our capacity while our munitions fall uselessly on the fields of Ukraine and a paper tiger military industrial complex designed to generate profits not to win wars chugs along unable to supply one theater.
Even so, a wounded animal may be at its most dangerous. While it would seem everyone wants to kill an American, at the same time no one wants to kill an American. We may joke about American spending 20 years replacing the Taliban with the Taliban, but while the US may persistently fail at its long-term objectives, it has proven over and over again it is more than capable of destroying your country, causing immense suffering, and ultimately leaving you to rule over the ashes. Alternately, if you’re lucky it will leave you with a mountain of military equipment with which to rule over billions of dollars worth of buildings constructed through crooked contracts. Either way, dropping bombs is one thing this country still does well.
What happens if the Iran hawks get their dream and this lashing out back and forth escalates? For one thing, Netanyahu’s hysterics notwithstanding, it’s true that Iran isn’t that far from getting the bomb if it chooses to- the thing about the situation is that at any time it pursues the enrichment it can get there quite quickly. In an active conflict they would probably take that route. More importantly, the 45,000 sons and daughters of our nation across the region are all within easy range of both Iran’s missiles and the myriad of militant groups with unknown weapons, locations, and capabilities. Iran is quite a bit different than Iraq and America is not the same country it was in 2002. For one thing, Iran is far bigger and more populous than Iraq. More importantly, despite what you hear, Iran is not a tinpot dictatorship and there is at least a decent amount of public buy-in to the system. It is participatory in a way that Iraq’s government under Saddam wasn’t- the elections aren’t “free” but clearly have some real competition and an impact on policy. What’s more, beyond being able to rile the public up against the “great and little Satans” of America and Israel, there is the problem that Israelis go around propping up the pretender to the throne of Persia with naked cynicism, making it very easy to tell the Iranian public they are at risk of returning to the hated rule of the Shahs. Technology is also different than it was 20 years ago, and defense is at a greater advantage to offense, as we have seen from both sides of the Russia-Ukraine war. If the US were ever to gain air control over Iran- a big “if”- it would be tenuous at best as our planes were shot at from every side. This is all before a ground invasion. This is before militant groups across the “Shi’a Crescent” try to storm our little bases and outposts potentially giving us 100 Benghazis. This is assuming that uprisings don’t overthrow our satraps in countries like Jordan or Kuwait and open up a new world of problems. In horror, I turn away from imagining Russia or China becoming involved in the defense of their dear friends the Persians. It seems everything we do helps Iran, why should this be different?
And what if we should win? What if Iran folds? What if it is the proverbial “cakewalk.” I suppose then, that like Iraq, we would no longer have a regime in Tehran capable of suppressing Salafi terrorism. We would perhaps send our sons and daughters to watch over some monarch we have safeguarded and placed on the throne. We would pour our money into rebuilding an upper middle-income country we had just destroyed at great expense. We would stretch our troops over an ever-larger region, expanding the American archipelago, always waiting for the next day that some militant group should attack. Devoid of purpose, our troops dreary pawns pouring ever more blood into the insatiable desert sands, the public at home would occasionally look up confusedly and wonder why an American had died in Iran, but they would mostly try to continue their lives in a country with as little purpose domestically as it has abroad. Bit by bit, we would run through our munitions as we fought to find a way to control an empire that only Alexander in the flesh could hold together, but this time far from looting Persia’s treasury all the wealth would flow out from ours, as we wore our crown of thorns and blood rolled down our head blinding our eyes to the brightness of the desolation we had made and called peace.
This is the best case scenario of what war with Iran would bring. That is what victory would look like. At least perhaps we could pump their oil wells dry as our rulers beat their chests and turned their faces red screaming that we must stop destroying the Earth by driving our cars. To quote Tucker Carlson, the most prominent demagogue of our era except the once and perhaps future chief, the people who want war with Iran are fucking lunatics:
This political class and the leading luminaries of the war party should be put in a maximum security nursing home in the desert that they can war over the brambles and the tumble weeds, looking upon swarms of ants and thinking what might be if only humans were the same. But what is Biden to do? Controlled by handlers, living in a dementia dreamscape where it is 1991, pushed by everyone who has his ear to launch missiles across the region, he is himself but a pawn The war party and commentariat are out for blood. A wise man once said “the future of mankind is Max Boot stamped across the opinion page for all eternity” and it is this which is more likely to control our politics. Plus, it’s an election year. No one, most of all Biden’s controllers, would want to bear the weight of a course besides dropping bombs. What would voters think if our illustrious rulers prioritized the safety of our troops over death and destruction?
How can we stop them? A principled young Senator named Joe Biden suggested in the past that a President should be impeached if he attacks Iran without Congressional approval, perhaps he still believes that and would lead the impeachment effort:
Most likely, we will get some form of conflict with Iran, setting this region further aflame. A troubled land which for us does nothing, but which we’ve staked our reputation on controlling. In the book War at the Top of the World, Eric Margolis speaks to a Pakistani officer serving on the Siachen Glacier- a conflict over something never inhabited where most deaths were from the altitude- and he told the author that India and Pakistan hate each other so much that this is the piece of hell they fight over. We have turned West Asia into the piece of hell we fight over, but who are we fighting, and for that matter, who do we hate?
What is the alternative to war with Iran? Leave. Call it quits. Come home. Shut the bases down. Israel is a grown up it can solve its own problems, or not, either way it is long past time we stop enabling a country that is little more than our drug addicted child. Our real sons and daughters can be at home enjoying the blessings of peace and raising their own families and tending to their estates instead of killing and dying in what has become an accursed sandbox we play in just to say we’re saving people who don’t want our saving. It’s not like anyone believes this reduces terrorism. We are an oil exporter, so we don’t need that. The world has changed a great deal since we first sent our sons and daughters to West Asia. It has changed to one where they are in grievous danger but serve as little more than hostages to draw us into a war we shouldn’t fight and quite possibly wouldn’t win. It is time to come home, America. One way or another, the American Raj is on its way out. We need to exit, and hopefully before we’re pursued by a bear. Enough blood and treasure have disappeared into those sands.
Biden says he is preparing “multiple actions,” do you think any of them will be getting out? Of course not. We’ve always been at war in WestAsia. That may be an homage to Orwell, but at least as far as I personally can remember, it is close to being literally true.
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