Sunday, February 14, 2016

Book review and foreign policy thread

So, I just finished reading, "And then all hell broke loose" by Richard Engel. I thought it was an excellent read. As a young rookie, Engel started out in the middle east, and had a front row seat for the next 20 years. He explains a lot of very basic stuff that I think every single American voter should be aware of. Sadly, I don't believe the American voter does have even a basic understand about the current conflicts there, and this is a very big problem. Most of the candidates on the Republican side have basically been offering a simple premise that all we gotta do is kick some ass. I felt that ridiculous before reading this book, and ludicrous after. It addresses nothing at the heart of the matter. Further, it is simply going to get a lot more Americans killed with nothing to show for it.

This is likely review for everyone, but Engel's book lays out several basic truths. Countries like Iran, and Syria are shiite. Saudi and Iraq were Sunni. By taking out Sadam, and by doing it in the way that we did, we simply flipped the power from Sunni's to the Shiites, and that brought obvious punishment and bloody paybacks. The existence of ISIS, like Osama, is a monster of our own making. Zarqawi was the first psychopath to broadcast his barbary, and is essentially the father of ISIS, which would not exist if we did not invade Iraq.

In Libya, we helped topple another Saddam type strong man/butcher/thug by supporting rebels, who have turned out to be more murderous butcher thugs. In Syria, it's basically the opposite of Iraq, wherein Assad is part of the Shiite clan, and the Sunni ISIS is trying to bring him down. We sorta wanted to kinda help the rebels, but instead of supporting the initial groups who were more secular, there now doesn't seem to be anyone trying to overthrow Assad who is not basically ISIS. Except, of course, for the Kurds, who we seem to like, but who are hated by both the Turks, who turned a blind eye to fighters crossing their border to fight for ISIS, and also by Assad. Russia, of course, backs Assad, and while he is another strong man/butcher/thug, there seems to be little gain for us in removing him and leaving behind another disaster.

Strategically, it seems to me there are several very unpalatable truths. The Saudis, our "friends" are Sunni and philosophically in line with ISIS. The Iranians are Shiite, and have the exact same goal that we do, which is to eliminate ISIS. We've helped overthrow Saddam and Ghadafi, and have nothing to show for it and arguably, we are much worse off for having done so. If we fight ISIS, because it is in our interest to do so, we will be doing Iran, Assad and Putin a favor. When I listen to Hillary and the Republicans, I feel like saying, "Give me a fucking break with the thinking you have some kind of answer to this problem". Ultimately, it seems like what is best for us is to have more strong man/butcher/thugs who are more or less secular and rule with an iron fist. When that was in place, there was much more stability than there is now. But nobody is going to say that. If I'm missing something or if someone thinks they have an idea of what to do next, I genuinely would like to hear it. In my opinion, it seems like we have put ourselves in such a bad spot, we are going to have no choice but to have limited engagements with Iran to fight common enemies, namely ISIS. The Saudis, where the hijackers came from, continue to be a bastion for Sunni extremism. What do we do about that?

I liked this book a lot and found it very informative, but also very disturbing.

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