Thursday, June 10, 2004

Middle East Goalposts

The Belmont Club has a useful analysis of the situation in Saudi Arabia. The concluding paragraph asks some crucial questions in defining the war on Terror:

Offering up the objective of more United Nations legitimacy or adopting an "exit strategy" in Iraq, as the Democrats have done, does not amount to a strategy. But neither does the open-ended formula of bringing freedom to the Middle East constitute an actionable agenda. It may be a guide to action, but what is needed is a set of intermediate goalposts against which progress can be measured. Some of these might be:

  1. The desired end state in Saudi Arabia: whether or not this includes the survival of the House of Saud or its total overthrow;
  2. The fate of the regime in Damascus;
  3. Whether or not the United States is committed to overthrowing the Mullahs in Iran and the question of what is to replace them;
  4. How far America will tolerate inaction by Iraq security forces before acting unilaterally;
  5. The future of the America's alliance with France and Germany;
  6. The American commitment to the United Nations.

Each of these hard questions must be weighed according to its contribution to the final goal of breaking the back of international terrorism. Somewhere in that maze, if it exists, is a ladder to victory. Leading the horse to drink presumes that we know what purpose watering them serves; what paths we will travel. Answering these questions will be a heuristic process, one that moves towards progressively better solutions. Finding ourselves in the place we first began is equivalent to defeat. Whether we are further along in Saudi Arabia in May 2004 than on November 2003 is one of the indicators of whether we are winning or losing. But someone has to keep score.

I would add a 7th item: What America's stance will be toward states outside the Middle East which attempt to establish an Islamic hegemony, such as Sudan, Nigeria and Indonesia. These countries not only support terror, they represent a growing threat to liberty in their own right. The difficulty, of course, is that America's officially secular and pluralistic policies do not readily adapt to taking a hostile ideology that masquerades as a religion into account.

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