Pick Up Sticks

Remember the Domino Theory? For all you young’uns who weren’t paying attention back then, this was a Cold War proposition that if one country in a region fell to the Communists (black hats), then perforce the rest of the region would be lost to the Free World (white hats). Thus, in a world sharply divided into the First, Second and Third worlds, various policies evolved to meet what seemed an unchanging delineation of powers.

American foreign policy evolved as the post-War period was followed by the election of President Eisenhower and his selection of John Foster Dulles as Secretary of State. It was Dulles who gave us the idea of falling dominoes, one which posited that should enough dominoes collapse, so would the West.

And then with Kennedy came brinksmanship, followed by Nixon’s and Kissinger’s détente. And, of course, arching over all this was MAD — Mutually Assured Destruction. The only real players in MAD were the US and the USSR. China didn’t count, at least not initially. There were occasional flare-ups and occasional crises — Cuba being one, and before that, the Hungarian rebellion, just to recall two.

In all of this, our posture was mainly defensive. The fact that we went into Vietnam to aid France, based on our ideas about that domino theory, is irrelevant to our subsequent humiliation. It was our first military defeat and it was an inside job. We left millions to die because no one could stand up to the mandarins at home. We dropped those dominoes and high-tailed it out of there, beaten by sneering men with printing presses.

And our posture didn’t improve. Through the Carter Iranian hostage cringe, and the bombing of the Marine barracks in Lebanon — which went unpunished by President Reagan — we continued to do nothing. The times changed, the enemy changed, but we didn’t. Despite the fall of the Berlin Wall and the break-up of the Soviet Union the paradigm remained the same. Thus, we could say with a straight face that we had arrived at “the end of history.” What more was there to be done?

The Middle East? Except for the occasional crisis like Suez in 1956 or the Six Day War in 1967, it could safely be ignored. Algeria’s blood bath wasn’t even on our map. And the eight year Iran-Iraq mutual massacre? Who paid attention? Overt attention, anyway. As long as the oil flowed…

And then along came Saddam. His moves on Kuwait allowed what a number of Arab states, particularly Saudi Arabia, wanted: an alliance that would put him in his place. It almost succeeded, except that the US, still in defensive mode, stopped short of invading Baghdad and removing Saddam. We were still in the old paradigm and General Colin Powell blinked. As we had in Vietnam, we unconscionably left behind thousands to meet their cruel fate at the hands of a psychopath.

Did George H.W. Bush lose the election for this premature withdrawal or for his tax increase? Analysts often point to the latter, but it could as easily have been his failure to take out Saddam, or our country’s prior collusion with Iraq in providing various weapons and assistance. Could his defeat have been the harbinger of America’s wake-up call?

If so, President Clinton quickly hit the snooze button. A missile lobbed here, a wringing of hands there, a deploring of genocide wherever. The 1993 WTC bombing was ignored. The USS Cole? Unfortunate lack of security. The on-going Israeli-Palestinian war? Thick applications of Peace Accords. Clinton’s posture wasn’t defensive so much as it was supine.

A strong defense cannot beat a crazed, total-annihilation offense. The Israelis know that. Had they not been constrained by the conventional wisdom of the world’s leaders, they would have disarmed the terrorist groups in their bailiwick a long, long time ago. But they are too small to go it alone.

If the terrorists hadn’t practiced overkill with the 9/11 spectacle we might still be sleeping. As Pastorius notes in a recent comment on another post at Gates of Vienna, the beat went on and on, and we did nothing. In no particular order, he lists a few of the outrages and the often outrageously blind excuses responses:

     Let’s look at some other Islamic murders, and attempted murders, the motivations for which the media has attempted to cloud:
1) Sirhan Sirhan, a Palestinian Muslim killed Bobby Kennedy.
2) Mehmet Ali Agca, a Turkish man, attempted to murder Pope John Paul II.
3) The 1999 crash of EgyptAir 990, killing 217 – by a co-pilot not supposed to be near the aircraft’s controls at that time who repeated 11 times “I rely on God” as he wrenched the plane down – went unexplained by the National Transportation Safety Board.
4) The 1990 murder of Rabbi Meir Kahane by the Islamist El Sayyid Nosair was initially ascribed by the police to “a prescription drug for or consistent with depression.”
5) The 2002 purposeful crash of a small plane into a Tampa high-rise by bin Laden-sympathizer Charles Bishara Bishop went unexplained; the family chimed in by blaming the acne drug Accutane.
6) The 2003 murder and near-decapitation in Houston of an Israeli by a former Saudi friend who had newly become an Islamist found the police unable to discern “any evidence” that the crime had anything to do with religion.
7) The 1993 attack on foreign guests dining at the Semiramis Hotel in Cairo, killing five, accompanied by the Islamist cry “Allahu Akbar,” inspired the Egyptian government to dismiss the killer as insane.
8) The 2000 attack on a bus of visibly Jewish schoolchildren near Paris by a hammer-wielding North African yelling “You’re not in Tel-Aviv!” prompted police to describe the assault as the result of a traffic incident.
9) The 2003 fire that gutted the Merkaz HaTorah Jewish secondary school in a Paris suburb, requiring 100 firefighters to douse the flames, was described by the French minister of the interior as being merely of “criminal origin.”
10) The 2004 murder of a Hasidic Jew with no criminal record as he walked an Antwerp street near a predominantly Muslim area left the Belgian authorities stumped: “There are no signs that racism was involved.”
The list really goes on and on and on.
And then, of course, we have the efforts of WND writer Jack Cashill to get the NTSA to pay attention to the witnesses of the TWA Flight 800 crash in the ocean off NYC. Over 100 witnesses testified seeing a light ascending towards the plane just before it exploded. The NTSA discounted the eyewitness testimony, and instead said the light they said they saw ascending was, in reality, descending.
You see, because we common citizens don’t seem to know which way is up, and which way is down.

September 11th changed things for America. Or maybe it made our fractures more apparent. The debacle was so overwhelming the center disintegrated in the ruins. And the domino theory from decades ago? As dead as those who had invented and named it.

President Bush has called this war on Islamofascism by various names. I call it Pick-Up Sticks. You pick off the easiest ones first — Afghanistan out there on its own, carrots and sticks to Pakistan. Meanwhile, Libya got up from the pile and walked over to the sticks already lying down. Saudi Arabia buried itself more deeply in the pile still in play. Now, three years into Iraq, we seem about ready to remove that stick to the captured pile. Things will continue to be messy, but it will be Iraq’s mess in the not-too-distant future. Lebanon is shakily balanced, on Syria and Israel. Meanwhile, Syria is trying to roll slowly off the pile and into the corner. It’s hard to say if it can be picked off without disturbing the others.

And then there’s Iran. The gold-plated stick in the game. The one we came to get. The one for which Iraq was merely “the key,” according to Wretchard:

     And diplomacy will continue, not because it has any prospect of success, but from want of an alternative. Iran knows better than anyone that Israel lacks the ability and the US probably lacks the will to mount a regime change. In this context diplomacy acquires a different significance. It’s playing for time, hoping that the regime in Teheran will slip up somehow and provide an opportunity for effective action. That slip-up, if it occurs, can only be induced by taking Iran to the brink.
The unknown factor in all of this is the extent to which US assets in Iraq have been useful in penetrating Iran. It is well known that Iran has been sending agents into Iraq; it is also well known that intelligence operations are two-way streets. I have long believed that the US went into Iraq hoping to find the key to Iran. We’ll find out when we try to turn the lock.

Diplomacy? Intel operations? Just other names for the same game: pick-up sticks.

13 thoughts on “Pick Up Sticks

  1. The “terrorists by proxy” who live in Saudi Arabia enjoying their oil wealth, will not be impressed by the west’s resolve until the pieces representing Iran and Syria are removed from the board. Once that occurs, they will understand that the world has truly changed, and their fantasized jihad will have to wait for a few more generations.

    If the two terror states, Iran and Syria, are to be swept from the board, it will be done over the strident objections of Europe–the group of nations with the most to lose by allowing the status quo to proceed.

    Without Iran and Syria, the terrorists will lack the type of state support that they must have in order to build a credible threat. North Korea would be even more isolated and exposed, with fewer friends and customers. China would have fewer cats’ paws, to create mischief for the competition.

  2. [i]American foreign policy evolved as the post-War period was followed by the election of President Eisenhower and his selection of John Foster Dulles as Secretary of State. It was Dulles who gave us the idea of falling dominoes, one which posited that should enough dominoes collapse, so would the West.[/i]
    Just as a historical note, it seems to me Dulles’ “domino theory” was a reaction to Khrushchev’s post-Bandung emphasis on expanding communist efforts to the previously ignored and vulnerable “Third World”–something Stalin was generally to Eurocentric to bother with, Korea being a somewhat opportunistic exception in his last years.

    Khrushchev correctly reasoned that the Third World was a more appropriate and favorable battleground than Western Europe, what seems to have at least partially tripped up his strategy (and that of subsequent Soviet leaders) was the emergence of Communist China from Stalin’s shadow and the willingness of the US to expend blood and treasure in the Third World. Later on that was enhanced by Soviet internal decrepitude and a less outwardly aggressive Chinese posture.

    During the first part of the Vietnam War the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese were largely supplied by the Chinese; that declined after 1966 as the Chinese became consumed by their own Cultural Revolution and the Russians took up the slack. After 1975 Vietnam was a Soviet satellite until 1991. After 1991 China began to subsidize Vietnam, primarily to reduce tensions in its already somewhat restive southern border provinces.

    Just an aside….

  3. Seeing as you put my comment on Page 1, I had better acknowledge my indebtedness to Mr. Daniel Pipes for seven of the points on that list.

    I don’t want to be called a plagiarist like Joe Biden.


  4. On 9/11, right after watching the planes hit the twin towers and seeing people jumping to their deaths, my anger was at our government. My anger only increased the more I remember the years and events that had already taken place, the obvious warning signs that were missed and the obvious appeasement and backpatting that had been going on for years. Don’t get me wrong, I hated the terrorists for sure. But, my anger was caused by this overwhelming feeling that the people here in America were expendable. This feeling that the government that was suppose to be in the position of protecting us, had failed. That what was most important to them was themselves and not us “little people”. Unfortunately for us “little people” is the fact that we are the actual one’s who are in physical danger. The government is protected. When President Bush stood up and took the fight to Saddam, I felt proud of our government for the first time in many, many years. Not only was he going to free millions of people who were being tortured and killed for far too long, finally had the guts to do something about one of the people who supported terrorists. I saw in his eyes a determination I had only seen once, on television. FDR after Pearl Harbor. Our country, our people have been victimized and threatened for many, many years. We just never knew it. I stopped being a Democrat after 9/11.

  5. Considering the observation, (and Alito will be appointed, unfortunately not over Teddy Kennedy’s dead body) , in a previous post, I’m surprised to hear you talking about item #1 almost as if it were a bad thing.

  6. Point one needs excision:

    1) Sirhan Sirhan, a Palestinian Muslim killed Bobby Kennedy.

    Sirhan Sirhan was a Palestinian Christian — unless he’s recently ‘reverted’ to Islam.

    Jeffery Hodges

    * * *

  7. I like the ‘pick-up-stix’ analogy. I suspect I will plagiarize it in the future. Meanwhile, while we try to peel off the sticks from the rubble, we are fighting a multifront war with ‘liberalism’, a hostile Europe, and an increasingly belligerent Mexico.

  8. Pastorius, it’s hardly your fault since every list like this that I’ve seen has Sirhan Sirhan as a Muslim.

    About a year ago, Michelle Malkin listed him as a Muslim. I sent her an email to notify her of the error, but she must have overlooked it.

    But let’s try to spread this around so that we’re not accused of inflating the numbers. It’s very important to be accurate on such things.

    Jeffery Hodges

    * * *

  9. If you look up exactly what the pilot who crashed the Egypt Air flight was saying, barely audibly, as he dove the aircraft in the sea, “Tawakalna Ala Allah.” – “I put my trust in God” or “In God We Trust.”

    Getting ready to die, or something else ? From 25 to 25 February 1991, units of US VII Corps destroyed a division of the Iraqi Republican Guard northwest of Kuwait City, southwest of Basra — the “Tawakalna Ala Allah” Mechanized Division of the Iraqi Republican Guard. The “TAA” was probably the best division in the Iraqi Army, and probably the best combat unit that a modern Arab army has ever fielded.

    It’s probably nothing, but I find that deluded pilot’s use of the phrase interesting.

    That’s one interpretation anyway. Here’s an interesting little tidbit:

  10. I disagree with sgt mike that 1812 was “lost.” A draw perhaps, but not a loss. It could have been a loss had the UK wished to press matters (even after New Orleans, which followed the peace). A minor loss of some islands near Canada which were disputed anyway,but an end to British harassment of US outposts in the old Northwest. More respect for American flag vessels by the British.

    The British definitely held the military and naval initiative at the war’s end, but their trade was being ruined by the privateers, and they needed peace for financial reasons, if nothing else.

    One intriguing “what if” — had the war dragged on a bit longer, even another few months, the British situation upon Napoleon I’s return to power in 1815 would have been immeasurablyl complicated. Wellington would have been short certainly one, and possibly two brigades of good redcoat infantry when Waterloo came up. More importantly, the naval and financial picture would have made contesting Napoleon’s return to power much more difficult politically.

    Yes, I know, wildly off topic, but I’ve had a beer and am on a roll.

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