Tags: US | Middle East | Soviet | military

Containment, Not Confrontation, Key to Middle East

By    |   Wednesday, 24 July 2013 07:40 AM

While comparisons between the Cold War and the War on Terrorism are bound to have some flaws and limitations, there are numerous valuable lessons the U.S. victory in the former has for the latter.

First and foremost is to recognize that it was a U.S. victory — not a victory for the West or for our coalition of European allies. Quite the opposite: The European states went wobbly on numerous occasions — ballistic missiles were a classic example.

Similarly, a victory in the War on Terrorism will require exclusive U.S. resolve. We should not count on the help and sustained support of any other nation, least of all the supine EU states that are brought to their knees on a regular basis by riots and no-go zones in their larger cities.

Second, we should expect substantial but erratic progress. The Korean War, the Hungarian uprising in 1956, the draw in Vietnam, the capture of Gary Powers — all were crises and upsets at the time, but did not alter the general march toward liberty, openness and market-based representative governments in the former Soviet Bloc.

Similarly, we see reversals in Syria, Egypt and Pakistan. What should be our response?

In three words: patience, firmness and containment.

Patience: it takes time for a representative government to take hold. Don't forget these are societies that have discouraged and frowned upon individual initiative for decades, if not centuries. It will take time for entrepreneurs and leaders to emerge and for dissidents to be respected, rather than assassinated.

Firmness: The United States (and the West, on a good day) has legitimate economic, military and political interests in this part of the world and elsewhere. We have every right — I dare use the word obligation — to make sure these interests are respected and acknowledged. The safety and integrity of American investments, citizens and values must be part of the common discourse throughout this region.

Finally, containment. One of the key factors in preventing the spread of Communism was that the Soviet Union was hedged in, militarily and economically, by a ring of countries and cold-water ports. The former were hostile to its expansion, the latter vulnerable to blockage.

The Middle East is exactly the same. Israel to the west, India to the east and Russia to the north have neither desire to emulate the Middle Eastern kingdom style of politics, nor their petro-based welfare states. The latter model will collapse under its own weight, if we give it enough time to do so.

Some suggest this process is already under way. As the world becomes less dependent upon oil from the region, the one-legged stool upon which the areas rulers and terrorist cells rest will be kicked out from under them.

In the meantime, the Red Sea, Straits of Hormuz, Eastern Mediterranean and Arabian Sea confine the region by water. A few mountains (Caucasus and Himalayas, anyone?) and Russia confine it to the north.

It should not require U.S. boots on the ground in order for this process to reach its inevitable conclusion, any more than U.S. boots had to enter Russia or Eastern Europe in order for their systems to collapse.

U.S. troops were close at hand, should the need arise. But all we really need to do is wait for the United States and the West to win the economic and moral footrace with Middle East Islamic fascism.

True, from time to time we may need military action in response to specific threats and actions (Boston, for example). But our technological superiority, evident in drone technology and other innovations soon to hit the battlefield, will minimize costs and reduce collateral damage.

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While comparisons between the Cold War and the War on Terrorism are bound to have some flaws and limitations, there are numerous valuable lessons the U.S. victory in the former has for the latter.
US,Middle East,Soviet,military
Wednesday, 24 July 2013 07:40 AM
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