On the ten year anniversary of the Iraq invasion the violence in Iraq was devastating. I supported the invasion when it occurred but developed serious concerns over strategy, tactics and whether Islam would overwhelm secularism. The anchor that held me was possibilities. The potential importance of a democratic Iraq and the message it could send to the rest of the Middle East. A democratic Iraq represented the potential for a bulwark against the rise of radical Islamism; a democratic system that the Middle East had never truly seen.
I am, however, left with the fear that the powers that be, current or future, will look to Iraq and decide they have learned sufficient lessons concerning nation building. My fear is that nation building will be tried again. If so, it will fail again.
The Iraqi population was the most literate population in the Middle East, oppressed by a violent tyrant, ruled by a religious minority; denied basic human rights and rudimentary legal protections. And yet, ten years later Iraq is still a question mark. Iranian influence is clear, anti American sentiment pronounced. Sectarian violence is an all too regular occurrence and politics that allows for throwing your opposition in jail; typically Middle Eastern.
The final result in Iraq is in the future, but the symptoms of that future are cause for concern.
Iraq, also, sees an uncertain future in the region. How long of in what configuration will the Saudi Royal Family hold on? Is a fully radicalized Egypt in the region’s future? Will Iran cross the red line with Nuclear weapons? Turkey has been moving away from the West and toward Islamic dominated rule for a decade and still has access to NATO. East Africa is an Islamist mess. The Gulf States are dancing on the head of a pin.
Decadent Dubai remains untouched by Islamist violence. How is that? Iconic buildings, Capitalism and infidels everywhere! The rhetorical answer is money, lots of it; likely the biggest protection racket in history! Nothing else makes sense in context.
Afghanistan is and has always been tribal. Us, the Russians back to Alexander the Great, tribal then and it will be tribal after we leave. It’s the only thing that Afghans know that works from their point of view. Afghanistan will, after we leave, be essentially the same as it was when we got there; it won’t take long.
We, of course, make things worse. What threats justify fighter jets and tanks for the Egyptian Army? It’s a simple question. Given the history of the region over the past 60 years, it occurs to me that Egypt was invaded once as a preemptive strike to eliminate a planned invasion of Israel. Egypt on the other hand has participated in invasions only against Israel. None of Egypt’s neighbors have either the capability or inclination to threaten Egypt.
Anwar Sadat was murdered by an Army Officer who was a member of the Muslim Brotherhood for the act of making peace with Israel. Brotherhood control of Egypt is, for the moment, irrefutable. Reports of the Army being infused with Brotherhood devotees is no secret. The infusion will solidify Brotherhood control of the Military and fully politicize it. The momentum will build to take another shot at Israel.
Ten years later, it is undeniable that the Middle East is a more dangerous place than ever. While the final answer is not upon us it is difficult to find reasons for optimism or the justification for nation building.