A Tragedy of Shakespearean Proportion

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Today the U.S. Senate passed the appropriation authorizing the training of Syrian rebels (the so-called “moderates”) to assist us in fighting the ISIS terrorists. This will mark the unfolding of what will become an epic Shakespearean tragedy for this country.

Like the dithering, delusional and irresolute Hamlet, we want to put off and postpone the inevitable recognition of what for us is only a losing proposition. Yet we cling to the hope– in spite of all evidence to the contrary — that might is right; and that in a just world solemn good intentions, a fusillade of air-strikes and a Job-like persistence, will ultimately see United States prevail over the forces of evil that today challenge us everywhere, across the entirety of the Middle East..

We’re like the anguished King Lear — ever hopeful but in complete denial of the real circumstances. But wishful thinking and hopeful prayers will not be enough for us to meet the many challenges facing us in that troubled region. We need to have the courage and the common sense to recognize that the United States will not in the future — in spite of our determined efforts — be the deciding factor in the fractious politics of a region that is critical to the peace and security of the whole world.  It’s more than  a little preposterous, I think, to spend 500 million dollars training 5000 fighting men — who have already been fighting for years, men who already presumably know one end of an AK-47 from the other — to take up our banner against their fellow Arabs.  Does this make sense, or am I missing something?

Rather we need to be thoughtful and realistic in just what our role should be in mediating the disparate ambitions and demands of the various power players in the region. Iran being the chief among them. We need to first recognize, and acknowledge, the real seriousness of the Sunni-Shia divide — the ancient religious antipathies , the bitterness, hatred and suspicion that divides these two rival sects.

It’s hard for us in the mostly Christian West to appreciate the deep and abiding, dogmatic differences that fire the conflicts between these two groups. With our Western sense of democratic compromise we like to think that a resolution to all the problems and trouble should just be a matter of sitting down and negotiating a neat and tidy compromise solution. However, if you’re a young Lebanese boy who watched the brutal rape of his sister by a bunch of sectarian thugs, saw his parents killed in an Israeli bomb attack or his brother become the victim of the sectarian street violence that raged through the civil war torn streets of Beirut — then the issue is much more complicated, and much more personal.  And not something that some dumb-ass politicians in Washington are likely to understand,

And that is basically the problem we face in thinking we can impose our will — no matter how well intentioned — on the fractured Middle East states. Opening up another front and choosing sides in a conflict we don’t really understand, and arming the members of a militia who we don’t know and can’t trust is not really the right course for America in the Middle East.  And we shouldn’t let the scare tactics of the hawks and war-mongers in Washington frighten us.  We need to be on our guard against talk about aluminum tubes, yellow-cake uranium, mushroom clouds  and weapons of mass destruction.

President Obama wants to believe he has a trustworthy coalition — Arab states who will support him — and the members of Congress who voted to pass his resolution want to believe he’s right. But like the delusional Hamlet and the agonizing King Lear, Obama is wrong, and so are the well intentioned but misinformed members of Congress who voted to support his resolution. This is a day to mark on your calendar. For as Roosevelt so famously said: “Today is a day that shall live in infamy”.

The Money Trader

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