Ralph Peters is provocative as always, as he assesses the future of the Middle East in the wake of Israel’s defeat in Lebanon. The future, as Peters sees it, is troubled but ultimately hopeful. Here are a few excerpts, but you really should read it all:
Within the forces of terror, the balance of power has shifted. Sunni fanatics, such as al Qaeda’s supporters, have suffered severe losses in Afghanistan, Iraq and around the world. Still capable of doing serious damage, they’re nonetheless being eclipsed in importance by state-backed Shia terrorists, with Hezbollah in the lead and Iran providing arms, money, training and strategic depth
* A postmodern terrorist army – Hezbollah’s – just achieved the first terrorist defeat of a powerful state on a conventional battlefield. The strategic echoes will embolden extremists throughout the Middle East and beyond.
* Iraq could fail – if the Iraqis fail themselves. It’s still too early to pack up and leave, but if the people of Iraq will not seize the opportunity we gave them to build the region’s first Arab-majority rule-of-law democracy, it won’t be an American defeat, but another self-inflicted Arab disaster. Iraq is the Arab world’s last chance – and the odds are now 50-50 they’ll throw it away.
* The region’s Sunni- Arab autocracies – on which we have relied, to our great shame – are terrified and unstable. Egypt, the Gulf city-states and even Saudi Arabia expected Israel to make short work of the Shia-Hezbollah problem. Instead, Hezbollah won – and the subjects of those sheiks and kings and eternal presidents have been cheering.
* The “unity of Muslims” confronting the West is history (it was always a bogus, ramshackle affair). Sunni-Arab leaders increasingly grasp that the real threat isn’t from the United States or Israel, but from the explosion of Shia ambitions, prowess, wealth and desire for vengeance. The future of the Middle East could go a number of ways, but we may find ourselves as bemused spectators, while our sworn enemies and phony friends kill each other. Afterward, we’ll pick up the pieces.
* Iraq still could muddle through – but even if it doesn’t, our stock in the region is headed up, not down. The paradox is that a future civil war between Iraq’s Sunnis and Shias makes our military protection more essential than ever to the effete Gulf emirates and the cowardly Saudis. Avoid linear analysis and reflexive predictions of doom for American interests: The Middle East will always do more harm to its natives than it does to foreign powers. Human beings may hate a distant enemy in theory, but they generally prefer to kill their neighbors.
Peters thinks, finally, that the terrorists have finally woken up the West, and revived the West’s “thirst for blood.” “We’re going to win,” Peters writes. I think we’ll win, too, but I’m not so confident that most Westerners have even begun to comprehend the threat from Islamic imperialism, or that they have the moral resources to respond.
UPDATE: For a different and less optimistic take, see Mark Steyn, who worries that we have reverted to a September 10 world in terms of America’s perceived (and real) willingness to defend its interests. Again, you really need to read it all, but I can’t resist this teaser:
But, if you can’t question their patriotism when they want to lose a war, when can you?