Pat Buchanan has another reflection on what is happening in the Middle East and Southwest Asia. See "The Vanishing American Footprint." There are some pretty important questions he fails to address in this review.
Even before Sunday’s killing of Osama, Pakistan’s prime minister had reportedly told Hamid Karzai in Kabul to let the Americans leave on schedule in 2014, and let Pakistan and China help him cut his deal with the Taliban. In the long run, this is likely to happen.
U.S. and NATO forces leave, the Taliban returns, and Pakistan moves into the orbit of China, which has far more cash — $3 trillion in foreign currency reserves — and more of a long-term interest in South Asia than a busted United States on the far side of the world.
The “Great Game” will go on in Afghanistan, but without Western players — only Iran, Russia, China, Pakistan and India.
Of course, all 5 of these nations are, or soon will be (in the case of Iran) nuclear armed. The question is, what should the position of the U.S. be going forward? If we play up to India in order to spite the Pakistanis, we will end up antagonizing China, which has been at odds with India for decades, and even went to war with India in 1962. These two nations are major rivals in the world's economy, as well. All of this is complicated by the interest China and India have in Middle East oil. Russia, which has its own oil, is probably chiefly interested in stability on its southern flank and keeping a lid on terrorism.
For obvious strategic reasons, the sooner we can disengage from the Middle East as a source of oil, the better. The main danger to our European allies is that they increasingly face a choice between the Middle East tinderbox and Russian oil, a Scylla/Charybdis navigation problem if there ever was one. In this situation, the Americas are obviously much better off seeking to supply our needs with more local sources.
In the other two critical Islamic nations in the region, Turkey and Egypt, we see a similar unraveling of ties to Washington.
Turkey has been going its own way since she refused George W. Bush permission to use Turkish bases to invade Iraq.
Ankara has become less secular and more Islamic, and begun to highlight her identity as a Middle Eastern nation. She has repaired relations with neighbors America regards as rogue states: Iran and Syria. And she has become the champion of the Gaza Palestinians.
Since Hosni Mubarak’s fall, Egypt has pursued a similar course. Cairo has allowed Iranian warships to transit Suez and is about to re-establish ties to Tehran. She has brokered an agreement uniting Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, and is about to reopen the border crossing between Egypt and Gaza. Israeli anger and American alarm are politely ignored.
Though their population, like Pakistan’s, is anti-American, neither Turkey nor Egypt is openly hostile. Yet both pursue policies that clash with U.S. policy. And this new distance from Washington is being met with the approval of Turks and Egyptians. For the one thing all of the uprisings of the Arab Spring have had in common is a desire of these peoples to be rid of American hegemony.
Indeed, taking inventory after four months of Arab revolts, it is difficult not to declare America a net loser.
Both Turkey and Egypt, because of their millennia-old relationships, have a vested interest in courting Middle Eastern Islamists by supporting Palestinian extremists and further abetting efforts of the latter to align the Arab Middle East solidly against Israel. Undoubtedly, America is a net loser in this conflict, and we stand to lose access to Middle East oil, but this is not quite the existential threat faced by Israel, assuming that some level of sanity can eventually descend upon Washington and our energy policy undergoes a renaissance. The obvious question for Israel is "Can we survive against a united Arab Middle East, aided and abetted by Pakistan, Turkey and Iran?" At the moment, Israel probably enjoys an advantage in nuclear weaponry, but is she prepared to live on high alert for the foreseeable future? At what point will Israel and the U.S. decide that the best defensive choice is either a good offense or a Star Wars defense that actually works?
Even now, Israel is being bombarded by rockets from Gaza that arrived as a result of the Iranian warships that sailed through the Suez Canal, with the permission of the new Egyptian regime. (See "Israel anger at Iran Suez Canal warship move.") In the past, the only way Israel has had available to deal with this threat is ground incursions aimed at taking out the attackers. Unrestrained supplies from Iran could easily invalidate this approach.
We have been repeating the folly of ancient Israel.
For they sow the wind,
and they shall reap the whirlwind.