How to win frenemies and influence regime change
By Shamus McConomy
Eight words can describe our foreign policy follies since the beginning of the Cold War: “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.” Without any degree of vetting, U.S. policy makers have cozied up to organizations, leaders, or countries willing to take up arms against those we dislike. We propped up the Shah of Iran because he proposed stability for western interests, which gave way to the Ayatollah Khomeini’s revolution. As retribution for the Iranian revolution we supported Saddam Hussein in his war against Iran believing any enemy of Khomeini is a friend of ours. The U.S. also famously supported the Mujahideen in Afghanistan when they were fighting the Russians. The Mujahideen later became the Taliban, which fostered al-Qaeda. For crying out loud I do more due diligence accepting friend requests on Facebook than our government does in arming and supporting regimes.
Our latest attempt to make new “Frenemies” is in Libya, where we decided to take sides in a civil war. Humanitarian benefits aside, reports of the Muslim Brotherhood and al-Qaeda interspersed among the rebels leave me skeptical of the wisdom in choosing sides. If humanitarian rationalization is a precursor to being involved in armed conflicts, there are many other countries that come to mind and we don’t have the resources to be the world’s police force. Name one? Ok, the Sudan.
American foreign policy makers exhibit the persona of the neighborhood cat woman. You know, the spinster that lives alone with her 20 cats and is desperate for companionship. Hey, maybe this latest posting on Match.com could lead to a promising relationship:
“Rag tag group of freedom fighters fed up with dictator is seeking a no fly zone and close air support. Enjoys fighting against sworn enemies of the U.S. and capturing oil rich cities. Turn-ons include cruise missiles and laser guided bombs. Turn offs include non-theocratic governments and women who reveal their ankles. Not willing to rush into a long-term commitment. Let’s just see where this relationships can take me….oops…us.”
We assume these Libyan fighters are putting their lives on the line to rid the world of Gaddafi and establish democracy in the middle east. Perhaps they will see the U.S. insiginia on our planes and be forever in our debt (just like Osama bin Laden). We’d like to believe this because our cats don’t give us the satisfaction an oil rich middle eastern democracy could. However, history has proven repeatedly that our Frenemies turn out to be just as much of a source of instability as the last guy. If the reports of al-Qeada’s involvement turn out to be true, can we really treat this conflict as an organic fight for freedom. Are we helping the Libyan version of George Washington or are we assisting the al-Qeada version of George Jefferson? Is al-Qeada attempting to “move on up” from hole-in-the-wall Afghanistan to a “dee-lux” oil rich country on the Mediterranean? If they get control of the vast oil revenues, would al-Qaeda bling up its jihad?
In time this action in Libya may turn out to be justified, but where does that leave Yemen, Syria, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia or even the pro-democracy protestors in Iran. We are actively involved in bombing a country for the same conditions that exists in these other countries sans the U.N. resolution and the thumbs up from the Arab League. Also, it just so happens we like the repressive regimes in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain (they let us park our military stuff there). We don’t have much strategic use for Yemen or Syria. Lastly, Iran may or may not have the capability to launch a nuclear weapon against Israel, which sounds like an incentive for nuclear proliferation (right North Korea?).
So here we are launching air strikes against Gaddafi with a strategic plan that may or may not include regime change. A “war” unilaterally begun by a President that, while campaigning, held a particular disdain for executive overreaching. As our military bravely carries out the mission conceived by our historically short-sided and misbegotten foreign policy makers, I have one question to ask. If the rebels are successful, will we be waging war against them in 20 years? With friends like these who needs enemies.
Shamus McConomy is a resident of the Tampa Bay Area where he has spent his career as a lender to small and medium sized businesses. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Finance from the University of South Florida and an M.B.A. from the University of Tampa. E-mail him at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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