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 (2000-Pres) Current Day Military talk (No Partisan Politics)    
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brian grafton
Victoria, BC, Canada
top 10
E-9 Sergeant Major
Moderator


Posts: 1314

Question... .
Posted on: 3/2/2017 5:15:00 PM
Having a beer with a friend yesterday, who asked me: "What would the middle east look like if there was a rapid staged withdrawal of all allied (including Russian) forces? And who would take the lead role in local policing?"

I don't think he was considering surrogacy such as we had during the Cold War, but I have trouble separating the supply of armaments from leading nation support. That leaves Israel as one of the strongest nations militarily, I would think, but without a hope of attempting to keep the peace. Would it therefore be Saudi Arabia and Iran, as leaders of Sunni and Shiite sects, who would vie for control?

Cheers
Brian G
---------------
"We have met the enemy, and he is us." Walt Kelly.

"The Best Things in Life Aren't Things" Bumper sticker.

BWilson

top 5
E-9 Cmd Sgt Major


Posts: 3322

Re: Question... .
Posted on: 3/3/2017 2:27:39 AM
Brian,

 The "problem" with the question is that there are so very many factions. Broadly, it would be a Sunni and Shiite struggle for influence and control on many geographic fronts, with Israel as a third party. Countries like Egypt could behave pragmatically and back any given party for a period of time. I think, though, any "actions" would be more a case of axe-grinding than "policing".

 In a sense, both the Soviets and U.S. tried to equip and motivate the Egyptians to become the "responsible Arab military power" of the region, during the Cold War. It didn't really take, though, because the Egyptians have no real desire to be involved in constant conflict with their neighbors; they have even lost a lot of desire to confront Israel. New generations growing up may change that situation, of course. One result of the Soviet and U.S. military assistance is that it transformed the Egyptian forces from being very poor into an improved force that is at the least capable of defending Egypt against any regional peers.

Cheers

BW
---------------
With occasional, fatigued glances at life's rear-view mirror from the other side of time.

Society's righteous paranoia lows profoundly. -- random wisdom of a computer

Michigan Dave
Muskegon, Michigan, MI, USA
top 5
E-9 Cmd Sgt Major


Posts: 2773

Re: Question... .
Posted on: 3/3/2017 6:24:36 AM

Quote:
Having a beer with a friend yesterday, who asked me: "What would the middle east look like if there was a rapid staged withdrawal of all allied (including Russian) forces? And who would take the lead role in local policing?"

I don't think he was considering surrogacy such as we had during the Cold War, but I have trouble separating the supply of armaments from leading nation support. That leaves Israel as one of the strongest nations militarily, I would think, but without a hope of attempting to keep the peace. Would it therefore be Saudi Arabia and Iran, as leaders of Sunni and Shiite sects, who would vie for control?

Cheers
Brian G
--brian grafton





Hi Brian,

That's the million dollar question, and it's why the Middle East has been such a powder keg!?

Scary,
MD
---------------
"The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract."

Riaindevoy
Geelong, Australia
top 10
E-9 Sergeant Major


Posts: 1075

Re: Question... .
Posted on: 3/3/2017 3:02:51 PM
Another question is do we care?

Unconventional oil sources are reducing western reliance on Mid East oil, if we added the cost of wars onto the price of fuel then these sources would look even better.
---------------
Vegetarian: the ancient tribal word for the villiage idiot; who was too stupid to hunt, fish and ride!

brian grafton
Victoria, BC, Canada
top 10
E-9 Sergeant Major
Moderator


Posts: 1314

Re: Question... .
Posted on: 3/3/2017 5:28:55 PM
Bill, I agree. But in the past (and we could argue this in a long scale, going back to the 1950s, or back into the post Iran-hostage period, or back into the post Cold War Second Gulf War) those same factions were present, and yet major powers or coalitions felt they had a right to be there.

Egypt was, I agree, set up to be a player. But let's be honest: that was not because of the innate honesty and goodness of Egyptians but because a small item called the Suez Canal. I think Anwar Sadat and Menachem Begin deserved their joint Nobel award for their efforts to ease tensions in the Middle East, just as I agree that, as you say,
Quote:
It didn't really take, though, because the Egyptians have no real desire to be involved in constant conflict with their neighbors; they have even lost a lot of desire to confront Israel.
.
Sorry, Bill, but do you say that with a "shame on Egypt" sense? Kind of a "We set them up to be powerful, and all they want is to live in peace"? Maybe Egypt learned something from its time as a partner in the UAR to realize that there was more to life than Israeli genocide? IMHO, the steps taken by Egypt after the death of Nasser brought a country out of one world and into another.

Yemen, of course, was also a pawn between the USSR and the US, and continues to be at war under different forces to this day. Southern entrance to the Red Sea, of course: just look at where Britain created fortresses or cities for provisioning and support of fleet actions, and you know the area is or has been critical. In Yemen's case, the various civil wars have been underway since 1948 or so, about the time Britain lost interest in a "quick route" from India to the UK. IIUC, Yemen has gained nothing from it's 70 years of strife.

Cheers
Brian G




---------------
"We have met the enemy, and he is us." Walt Kelly.

"The Best Things in Life Aren't Things" Bumper sticker.

brian grafton
Victoria, BC, Canada
top 10
E-9 Sergeant Major
Moderator


Posts: 1314

Re: Question... .
Posted on: 3/3/2017 5:39:10 PM
Hey, MD.

I agree it's a million dollar question. I'm not nearly as convinced that we know
Quote:
why the Middle East has been such a powder keg!
That's why my friend's question is so interesting. Is the current state of the Middle East a natural result of different values existing in a relatively small space (rather like Catholicism and Protestantism in 16th century Europe), or is it a somewhat contrived explosion of values in a rather contrived space, where no country is truly naturally defined?

Cheers
Brian G
---------------
"We have met the enemy, and he is us." Walt Kelly.

"The Best Things in Life Aren't Things" Bumper sticker.

brian grafton
Victoria, BC, Canada
top 10
E-9 Sergeant Major
Moderator


Posts: 1314

Re: Question... .
Posted on: 3/3/2017 6:20:48 PM
Riain, very interesting comment. Particularly the use of the term "we", given my question was about what "they" might do.

Europe has been messing with the Middle East since the first of the Crusades, after all, for one reason or another. And often, we've had our asses kicked.

So might a fair part of this thread might question exactly when Christian nations decided that Islamic nations were too weak to govern themselves advantageously? Is that a fair point to raise concerning this question? Or should we stick to the relative present, which – I would argue – would begin with the battle against the Ottoman Empire during WW1. That was, IIUC, not a battle for oil but for Imperial control.

I agree with your
Quote:
Unconventional oil sources are reducing western reliance on Mid East oil, if we added the cost of wars onto the price of fuel then these sources would look even better.If I had any intterest in
But I don't think it has anything to do with the question I posted.

If we find unconventional oil sources which lessen our concern about who controls the Middle East, I see that as positive in some ways. If we are suddenly concerned about the cost:benefit ratio of subsequent wars when we have helped keep such wars alive, I find that a rather surprising concern by most leading countries, since wars can never be seen as successful economically. Wars drain resources, lives, and often national respect. Unless we are prepared to admit we lost the war under question (which, of course, we just may have done). a mockery of all the values we've stood by as we made life impossible through hosts of Middle Eastern lands.



---------------
"We have met the enemy, and he is us." Walt Kelly.

"The Best Things in Life Aren't Things" Bumper sticker.

BWilson

top 5
E-9 Cmd Sgt Major


Posts: 3322

Re: Question... .
Posted on: 3/4/2017 2:01:09 AM
Sorry, Bill, but do you say that with a "shame on Egypt" sense?

 No, it was an observation.

Cheers

BW
---------------
With occasional, fatigued glances at life's rear-view mirror from the other side of time.

Society's righteous paranoia lows profoundly. -- random wisdom of a computer

kaii
Edinburgh, UK
top 10
E-9 Sergeant Major


Posts: 1884

Re: Question... .
Posted on: 3/4/2017 2:36:47 PM

Quote:

which – I would argue – would begin with the battle against the Ottoman Empire during WW1.

--brian grafton


I would go even a bit further back, to Napoleons invasion of Egypt in 1798 and the following humbling of the local rulers at the time which seriously dented Islamic self image, and in some ways put the last nail in the coffin for islamic historic pride.

The islamic world has been, and still is, stuck in a similar situation to Japan pre-1850, where the main drivers for change are coming from the outside rather than inside the countries/communities. Japan made a decision, albeit under threat of violence, to open up, study and copy Western (military} ways, and managed to re-emerge as a new force at par with the outside powers when they beat the Russians at Tshushima in 1904.

The islamic world has not managed to take this step and are still stuck in societies that lack constitutional awareness, are under steady pressure from outside powers to reform, and are stuck with a self image of greatness that is no longer the case.
A brief look at economic indicators, for instance, confirms this, as the Islamic world is the worst performing region in the last 100 years - even Sub-Saharan Africa has caught up and moved ahead.


Very little of the chaos in the region is directly caused by the West as such, and much more of the blame is to find in lack of internal drivers to reform. Religion plays a big part,of course, with Shia vs Sunni and more specifically different branches within these main religious directions. The religious grip on these societies, which as you point out Brian, si similar to Europe in the 15-1600's, mean there is little internal drive to reform societies and constitutions and even the Arab Spring was initiated from outside pressures like Internet.

What would happen if the West would pull out completely?

hard to say, of course, but I think Iraq and Syria would collapse relatively quickly, creating a "Greater Iran" type structure all the way to the Med at Lebanon. The main Sunni players, Egypt, Saudi and probably Turkey would form a bond to counter this. The Kurds would, as always be screwed.

Which side would emerge dominant in the longer run depends on which side would be able to build a credible constitutional structure first - my money would initially be on Iran, but it is hard to call if we assume no outside influence or meddling.
---------------
A fool and his money are soon elected.

Riaindevoy
Geelong, Australia
top 10
E-9 Sergeant Major


Posts: 1075

Re: Question... .
Posted on: 3/4/2017 3:32:53 PM

Quote:
........................Very little of the chaos in the region is directly caused by the West as such, and much more of the blame is to find in lack of internal drivers to reform. ............................
--kaii


This is pretty much my belief as well.

Decolonisation occurred over 50 years ago, even longer in many places and the Cold War ended a generation ago. These independent states have been doing their own thing for 2 or 3 generations; fighting their own wars amongst themselves, causing global oil shocks for political purposes and overthrowing secular governments in favour of theocracies. At some point the west is going to have to stop taking so much of the blame for the mess the Mid East is in.
---------------
Vegetarian: the ancient tribal word for the villiage idiot; who was too stupid to hunt, fish and ride!

scoucer
Berlin, Germany
top 5
E-9 Cmd Sgt Major
Posts: 1924

Re: Question... .
Posted on: 3/5/2017 9:31:26 PM

Quote:
Hey, MD.

I agree it's a million dollar question. I'm not nearly as convinced that we know
Quote:
why the Middle East has been such a powder keg!
That's why my friend's question is so interesting. Is the current state of the Middle East a natural result of different values existing in a relatively small space (rather like Catholicism and Protestantism in 16th century Europe), or is it a somewhat contrived explosion of values in a rather contrived space, where no country is truly naturally defined? Cheers Brian G--brian grafton


I have come to view the Middle East in this perspective especially after reading "Europes´Tragedy by Peter H. Wilson" a superb history of the Thirty Years War.

Rather than being a religious war, the causes were largely dynastical, heated up by the radicals on both sides (Calvinists and Jesuits ). What were primarily local conflicts, were extrapolated as superpowers financed surrogates in order to weaken economic imperial rivals. Britain and France financing Sweden in order to put pressure on Habsburg Spain, Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth financing Habsburg Austria in order to weaken Sweden as just two examples. Similarly, as the war progressed, the leaders of mercenary armies could accrue more power than the authorities who employed them as it was only by joining the armies that survival could be guaranteed as civil gouvernment collapsed.

Trevor
---------------
`Hey don´t the wars come easy and don´t the peace come hard`- Buffy Sainte-Marie

Some swim with the stream. Some swim against the stream. Me - I´m stuck somewhere in the woods and can´t even find the stupid stream.

James W.
Ballina, Australia
top 15
E-8 Master Sergeant


Posts: 674

Re: Question... .
Posted on: 3/6/2017 2:48:36 AM
AFAIR, one of Erdogan's aims is to reclaim the religious/geopolitical title of leader of the 'Caliphate' as 'Emir/Pasha' of Turkey,
formerly officially relinquished by Mustafa Kemal 'Ataturk', as part of his western secularization program...

That Daesh-ISIS also claim that 'title'- is a bit of a contentious matter..

The collapse of the Ottoman Empire & subsequent redrawing of the map by 'Versailles' - without proper regard to longstanding cultural/religious differences/enmities has been spawning bitter outcomes - just on a bigger scale recently, as the same process in ex-Yugoslavia a couple of decades ago,
( if not as bad as 1938-46 doings, in Europe).

brian grafton
Victoria, BC, Canada
top 10
E-9 Sergeant Major
Moderator


Posts: 1314

Re: Question... .
Posted on: 3/12/2017 9:25:31 PM
Kai, some interesting issues. Thank you.

Some times I am pretty slow, and comparisons between Japan and the Islamic world is a point of proof. It's simply not something I considered. And to be honest, I see as many differences as similarities between Japan and Islamic nations. Japan is a country; Islam is a faith. Japan chose to close itself off; Islam expanded rather dramatically through a host of countries.

I feel the same way about your economic commentary. To some extent, economic expansion in Arabic nations of the middle east has been weak. As an aside, this has been one of the (rather nonsensical) arguments for western support of Israel: the Jews made something of the land while the Arabs didn't. But I'm not convinced that Iran is economically weak because of Islam so much as it is weak because since 1979 it has been facing economic sanctions for having the temerity to suggest there was a different way to success than the two models being foisted on Iran: capitalism, or communism. And I'm not convinced that Indonesia can seen as an economic disaster point, though that is where at least a plurality of Muslims reside. For a lot of reasons, Islam and Arab have been linked both culturally and religiously, just as Catholicism and Italy (or Ireland) have been linked. I think we make a mistake when we assume Islam is governed by Arabic values. Same would apply to Catholicism.

I tend to agree with your comments re Iraq and Syria, and I would expect to see Persian expansion to the west. Which I think raises a serious question: is there a pragmatic side to Shia? Could Iran (or an Iran without that name) function effectively in a secular world? I think so, which I sense most folks simply refuse to believe. I can't say it would be probable, but might it be possible that as Persians claimed (or reclaimed) much of the northern territory considered the Middle East they would recognize and accept the existence of not just the Kurds but even a semi-autonomous state of Kurdistan?

Gonna stop here. I'm getting into ramblin' mode!

Cheers
Brian G

---------------
"We have met the enemy, and he is us." Walt Kelly.

"The Best Things in Life Aren't Things" Bumper sticker.

John R. Price
Wilkes-Barre, PA, USA
top 20
E-7 Sgt First Class
Posts: 472

Re: Question... .
Posted on: 3/12/2017 9:52:20 PM
Kaii,

But if the West pulls out and stops buying the oil how can the region survive economically and really produce enough food for the majority of the population? Isn't both industry and food production capability seriously lacking?
---------------
A battle long forgotten by our country in a war never understood by our country.
"to satisfy our endless needs and justify our bloody deeds, in the name of destiny and in the name of God"


kaii
Edinburgh, UK
top 10
E-9 Sergeant Major


Posts: 1884

Re: Question... .
Posted on: 3/12/2017 11:16:12 PM

Quote:
Kaii,

But if the West pulls out and stops buying the oil how can the region survive economically and really produce enough food for the majority of the population? Isn't both industry and food production capability seriously lacking?
--John R. Price


That is correct in my judgement too John, a Western pull-out would need to include some form of free access to Western markets to stimulate growth and development, in order to build sustainable economies there over time.
However, my main point was really that "we" can not enact changes in the region - any reform and development must come from within the region, or at the very least from a conscious decision to accept the need for modernisation - like Japan in 1850. The problem in the region today is really that the acceptance for the need for change is still lacking.


Whether industrial capacity and food production is lacking depends a bit on whether one sees the region as a whole, or look at different areas within the region. Countries like Iran, probably Pakistan, are more or less self sufficient, and do have an industrial base and a fairly skilled work force. Other countries, I would think Saudi Arabia and the gulf states, will struggle to be self sufficient in food. An interesting element is that countries like Egypt were self sufficient in food production in the 60's and 70's but have lagged behind partly because the farming technology has not kept up with population growth.

It is tempting to speculate whether the West stopping to buy oil would speed up this regional constitutional process (basically because the current states would collapse) but in all likelyhood the result would be more war and perhaps new factions would come to power once the House of Saud etc falls. It is a tight rope walk and I frankly don't have a fix-it-all solution. Much easier to point to things that will not work.

---------------
A fool and his money are soon elected.

kaii
Edinburgh, UK
top 10
E-9 Sergeant Major


Posts: 1884

Re: Question... .
Posted on: 3/12/2017 11:45:36 PM

Quote:
Kai, some interesting issues. Thank you.

Some times I am pretty slow, and comparisons between Japan and the Islamic world is a point of proof. It's simply not something I considered. And to be honest, I see as many differences as similarities between Japan and Islamic nations. Japan is a country; Islam is a faith. Japan chose to close itself off; Islam expanded rather dramatically through a host of countries.


I agree that the comparison may seem far fetched. My point is mainly that both Japan and much of the Middle east were stuck in a situation where the pressure to change/reform/modernise came from the outside rather than the inside. A lot of this was religiously driven, where both considered themselves "morally and religiously' superior to the West, but were clearly militarily and economically weaker. Japan chose to accept this and emerged at the other end like a great power in 1905, the Middle East have not managed, and my theory is that the lack of constitutional drivers in the regional sunni islam is a major factor. The societies are stuck in a self image of moral and religious superiority that is wrong, and where it is far easier to blame the West for lack of progress , than to face the needed modernisation.


Quote:

I feel the same way about your economic commentary. To some extent, economic expansion in Arabic nations of the middle east has been weak. As an aside, this has been one of the (rather nonsensical) arguments for western support of Israel: the Jews made something of the land while the Arabs didn't. But I'm not convinced that Iran is economically weak because of Islam so much as it is weak because since 1979 it has been facing economic sanctions for having the temerity to suggest there was a different way to success than the two models being foisted on Iran: capitalism, or communism. And I'm not convinced that Indonesia can seen as an economic disaster point, though that is where at least a plurality of Muslims reside. For a lot of reasons, Islam and Arab have been linked both culturally and religiously, just as Catholicism and Italy (or Ireland) have been linked. I think we make a mistake when we assume Islam is governed by Arabic values. Same would apply to Catholicism.


Agreed, islam, or Arabic islam if you like, is not the only factor holding back modernisation and development of the region, but it is a major factor. Arab tribalism is also a major cause, and is perhaps also the key reason why Arabic islam has not gone through the constitutional modernisation that islam in Indonesia, Malaysia or for that matter the Ottoma Empire, which have allowed these states to emerge as relatively modern states in their time. "Islam" is, of course not equal to "islam", and whilst the Arab countries tend to have chosen interpretations that are conservative, backward looking, and damaging for modern statehood, other countries have chosen interpretations of islam that are more suitable to the modern day world.

I remember having a discussion with a colleague once about whether protestantism and protestant work ethic is the key reason why Northern Europe has been economically more successful than Southern Europe. It is a hollow discussion without bringing in other factors like societal structures, how merit based societies are, corruption etc, but still an interesting discussion on cultural and religious values and their impact on economics.


Quote:


I tend to agree with your comments re Iraq and Syria, and I would expect to see Persian expansion to the west. Which I think raises a serious question: is there a pragmatic side to Shia? Could Iran (or an Iran without that name) function effectively in a secular world? I think so, which I sense most folks simply refuse to believe. I can't say it would be probable, but might it be possible that as Persians claimed (or reclaimed) much of the northern territory considered the Middle East they would recognize and accept the existence of not just the Kurds but even a semi-autonomous state of Kurdistan?



I actually agree with you regarding Iran, Brian - the sanctions are one key reason why they are struggling, but still the Iranian economy is actually not doing that badly with a GDP Per capita simliar to that of India, and there are lost of innovative companies there that would do well if they were allowed access to markets.

Iran is far more secular than most people believe, remembering the Ayatollah etc, today Iran's daily affairs are essentially run by a (relatively) secular government. In many ways the West has chosen the wrong allies in the region - Iran would be a more natural ally, but politically that is difficult now of course.

There are elements of Shia interpretations of islam that are more suitable to a modern world than Arabic Sunni interpretations of islam, certainly.

Iran, with Hezbollah would be strong enough to fairly quickly take control of Iraq and Syria, I believe, and could perhaps even be persuaded to accept a Kurdish puppet state to secure the border areas with Turkey. Perhaps more critically, contrary to what most people believe, Iran is not hard coded into attacking Israel and could probably reach a settlement to the benefit of both states.There are religious nutcases in Iran, sure, and I am not relishing the idea of an Iranian atomic bomb, but to be honest I am more concerned with Pakistan having the bomb.

The Saudis and the Gulf states rely on money and buying mercenaries to fight their wars and without western support would relatively quickly be forced to take a step down in the regional power game. The wild cards are Turkey and Egypt I suppose, both capable to stand up to Iran.



---------------
A fool and his money are soon elected.

 (2000-Pres) Current Day Military talk (No Partisan Politics)    
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