"But war, in a good cause, is not the greatest evil which a nation can suffer. War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things: the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks nothing worth a war, is worse. When a people are used as mere human instruments for firing cannon or thrusting bayonets, in the service and for the selfish purposes of a master, such war degrades a people. A war to protect other human beings against tyrannical injustice – a war to give victory to their own ideas of right and good, and which is their own war, carried on for an honest purpose by their free choice – is often the means of their regeneration. A man who has nothing which he is willing to fight for, nothing which he cares more about than he does about his personal safety, is a miserable creature who has no chance of being free, unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself. As long as justice and injustice have not terminated their ever-renewing fight for ascendancy in the affairs of mankind, human beings must be willing, when need is, to do battle for the one against the other."

Sunday, July 16, 2006

A theory on Middle Eastern peace that will never happen

The intensifying violence between Israel and Lebanon has made me wonder, not for the first time, whether there can ever be a lasting solution to the battle between Western democratic societies and the radical Islamic movements that seek to destroy it. In my more pessimistic moods, I think it may be impossible unless we take some extreme steps. But what extreme steps can we take, short of conquering and occupying the entire Middle East? It seems to me there are two fundamental problems when it comes to Islamic terror groups like Hezbollah, Hamas, al Qaeda, etc: the hateful ideology they cling to, and their ability to project that hatred across borders and oceans. Changing the mindset of people like Osama bin Laden and Sheik Nasrallah of Hezbollah will either never happen or take decades to accomplish. Western nations can't wait that long for those type of men to stop sending suicide bombers in their midst and start building tolerant, life-valuing societies. So we need to attack the second problem: their ability to attack us.

We're doing that in many ways already, be it overthrowing the Taliban, freezing financial assets, and the like. There remains one huge area, however, where we actively assist Muslim radicals in hurting us: oil. Every petrodollar we hand to Saudi Arabia or Iran finances those who seek to destroy us. Obviously, we can't stop buying oil, not in the short term. So, in my darker moments, I think we should do the next best thing: take it away from them. Occupy the oil fields, let a "coalition of the willing" or the U.N. dispense it to the nations of the world, or have America annex them outright. I'm not picky about the details, simply the outcome. Take those petrodollars away from the mullahs in Tehran and the mosques in Saudi Arabia, and they lose the ability to extend their nightmarish vision of Islamic conquest across the globe. Oh they'll be mad, but I don't particularly care about their feelings. I care about stopping more 9/11s and keeping nukes out of the hands of madmen. Without oil money, Iran won't be able to finance the likes of Hezbollah and Hamas, provide them with advanced weaponry, or prop up the tottering Syrian regime as a shield against Israel. Saudi Arabian playboys won't be able to fund the vile poison spouted at madrassas that convince otherwise well-to-do men to fly airliners into skyscrapers. Those countries have proven time and again that they use the oil industry to fund the only other industry they're interested in: death. Until they decide to put away their adolescent hatred and grow up, let's deny them the capacity to hurt others with their hate.

It'll never happen, I know. Until we do, though, "blood for oil" will continue to define our relationship with those regimes.


Ammianus Marcellinus said...

I know you're not a global warming kind of guy... but don't you think really, seriously dedicating money and manpower towards making us more energy independent would be a more cost-effective approach then occupying the entire Arab world?

Cincinnatus said...

I'm sure it would be more cost-effective, though I doubt many in Washington could find the stones to do it. With so many options available to free us from dependence on terrorist oil - fully exploiting our own deposits in Alaska and off the Gulf Coast, making our power plants nuclear, forcing car manufacturers to make more fuel-efficient vehicles - you'd think we could find one or two that everyone could agree on. I'd be happy if we found something to replace oil entirely, if we used new technologies to reduce our consumption, or if we just drilled the hell out of earth and swamped the market with so much cheap crude that the mullahs in Tehran couldn't trade a barrel of oil for a candy bar. So many politicians have identified oil dependence as a security issue; so few are willing to do anything about it.