Top U.S. General: Saudi Time Is Near.
General Wesley Clark, former top NATO Commander as a four-star U.S. Army general, in this penetrating CNN opinion article, is the first U.S. analyst to seriously call out the duplicitous regime in Saudi Arabia. Clark is correct: Mecca and Medina are the first and foremost prizes for any fanatical Islamic insurgency. The monarchy in Saudi Arabia (that is, that region of Arabia owned and operated by the House of Saud) is due for a major comeuppance. General Clark misses the boat by a good artillery mile when he suggests it is time for the Saudis to cross their borders at last, and attack the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS/L). Let's examine General Clark's analysis, but first let's look at terminology, the first-line tool of analysis.
Nomenclature. Let's begin with who is calling whom what. Western tradition refers to Southwest Asia as the(1) Middle East, which is, like all such muddled-thinking terms, relative to the Eurocentric world view, which in my opinion is just about at an end after a 500 year global hegemony. The new global hegemony shaping up is one of vastly powerful, multi-tentacled international corporations, many of whom have operating budgets larger than those of many nations; in that world, nationalism as we know it (think World War I, for example, and compare the borderless European Union) is moribund; and rising powers (BRIC) will not conquer with fleets or armies, but with branch offices and overseas banks.
Another passé term is (2) Orient, which is a Western synonym for the (3) Far East, another relativist termthe Land of the Rising Sun (from Latin orire, to rise, and oriens, rising). Likewise, the words (4) Iraq and (5) Saudi Arabia refer to artificial nation-states created by French, British, and U.S. oil interests after the dismemberment of the Ottoman Turkish empire following the Axis defeat in World War I.
It could well be argued that the back of European global strength was broken by the Lumpenproletariat wars for the soul of Europe, waged at the heart of the 20th Century between the surviving old monarchial order (led by the British monarchy, losing its India empire and en route to total imperial dissolution) versus the new, transitional tyrannies of charismatic terrorists like Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini, and a host of even more horrific smaller carbon copies in places like Croatia and Serbia.
New hardly describes these regimes, which the world had already fully realized with the Terror of the French Revolution's first decade, 1789 onward, leading to the imperial pretensions of the megalomaniacal tyrant Napoleon Bonaparte, whose adventures also cost millions of needless deaths. In fact, modern democracy à la U.S. Constitution of 1787 is a close, purposeful imitation of the ancient Roman Republic, whose final century before the onset of the 500 year tyranny of Octavian and his successors is already, 2,000 years ago, a harbinger of modern trends. One should never tire of pointing out that the U.S. Framers faced a world that had not seen a functioning democracy in nearly 2,000 years (counting the anarchies of the late Roman Republic). Most contemporaries did not think democracy was possible, and rule by ordinary people (the demos, Breughel's half drunk, half mad, stupid peasants) terrified many an intellectual or aristocrat in Europe. The U.S. Framers were Classically educated men at a period just before yet another backward looking Renaissance (the age of Byron and of the Hellenic struggle for independence). By a remarkable coincidence, 1776 marks the year when Edward Gibbon published the first volume of his Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, while 1789 (the year Rhode Island became the 13th and last state to ratify the U.S. Constitution) marked the publication of his sixth and final volume. So the age of U.S. ascendancy was literally framed by the story of democracy's ancient demise. The Framers must have been all so very conscious of history as they sought workable and salutary compromises in a steamy hall in Philadelphia during the summer of 1787. The modern U.S., and world more broadly, is in grave danger of forgetting the lessons of 46 B.C. and 1787 C.E.
With the ongoing collapse of the 500 year Eurocentric, Christiancentric hegemony of the West, the world is undergoing an enormous transitional turmoil. The events occurring in Mesopotamia, the Levant, and parts of Africa are predictable subcurrents of the larger tide. We can expect to see a new world order centered on powerful, global corporate executive decision locations in places like Delhi, Rio, Shanghai, and Lagos. this is not the New World Odor (in caps) so orgasmically and drunkenly anticipated in the paranoid, exhausted pseudo-puritanical nihilism associated with Bush 41. U.S. corporations (lately of a growing international, non-U.S. investor base, so there goes your sovereignty) own 99% of the media, as well as the republican 'party' and such cultural circus venues (free bread and wine) as the NRA and the NASCAR cultus. These snow-blinded U.S. Trailermensch hordes pose a grave danger to democracy, manipulated by their corporate owners. That too plays into the millennial transition to a world corporate hegemony based on money and fatuous slogans for the uneducated, who outnumber those capable of critical thinking. Thus, in the light of history, much of this is what the Germans would call ein abgekartetes Spiel (a rigged game).
I will need to continue my dissection of the good General Clark's analysis, but I close for today with the observation that Saudi Arabia, being a creation of the West, cannot be any less of a distraction than Western (U.S., European, even U.N.) boots on the ground. The observation a reasonable person would have made in regard to Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, and other failed imperial gestures, is that inserting imperial legions into local wars only creates an observer effect, meaning that the local sit back and let the invaders rage in all of their self-righteous slogans, bleed their working class kids to death, and allow their corporate hegemons (Cheney, Bush) to rake in yet more zillions of dollars. It's called war profiteering. We see it in every war, no matter how far back in history you go. When the intruders (crusaders, what have we) are bled white and exhausted, they leave and the locals pick up where they left off. Lots of hapless locals have been killed, but the warlords and chieftains resume their own game as if nothing had happened. The Saudis are a cowardly, venal lot whose primary game has always been survival. Their primary strategy is not one or courage or breathless genius, but covertly undermining and simultaneously playing all their rivals, allies, and neutrals against each other.
The U.S. has been complicit in this process, arming the Saudis at the same time as the Israelis and Egyptians, so that the profiteers have become even more fabulously wealthy (the United States is the world's weapons factory, by a factor such that we have a larger war economy than the entire rest of the world combined). So again, General Clark seems to nurture the same reflexive, and wrong, Western-centric idea that there are 'nations' in Southwestern Asia, and these 'nations' (Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the Emirates, Qatar, and so on) can be made to behave like orderly cricket teams and do manly face-offs rather than behave like savage tribesmen (which we all are, in various sorts of feathers, face paint, and other decorations, while walking or marching with strangely regimented gaits and shouting slogans of the moment, or beating drums; manipulated from our capitals or chieftains). There is a timeless malodor of Hitler, Stalin, Milosevic, Bush, Napoleon, and Caesar about the whole proposition. The only real question is: who will be the Orwellian and Kafkaesque (or perhaps nameless, faceless CEO types) of the new world malodor? Presumably there must be Reaganesque and 43ish front men (clowns or hood ornaments) to persuade the hoi polloi to lynch intelligent people (e.g., as Pol Pot's running dogs did all over Cambodia in the day, for crimes like wearing eye glasses or having a pen in one's shirt pocket, since of the hated intelligentsia that Stupid People gladly rub out on behalf of their owners, in return for beer and cheer at the sacred bowling alley, to the strident pronouncements of a Big Brother or a Rush Limburg).
No, General Clark, the Saudis are nothing. They are a pack of camel herders who seized Mecca and Medina with the help of British and French diplomats, at the direction of U.S. oil interests. The Saudis represent the next wave of Western puppets to disappear from Arabia, now that the Cold War Soviet client puppets (Ghadafi, Saddam, early Nasser) are gone or (Assad) on the ropes and fighting with champagne bubbles for a grasp of reality, much less survival. The outcome in the region will depend on the natives of that region, and it will be very messy before it becomes at all pretty. The long national suicide of the Palestinians, manipulated first by Arafat and later by Hamas to be culturally insane, is a reasonable barometer of the future in that region. The region matters to the world only as long as the world depends on its oil. When the world becomes independent of Arab oil, the region can go back to slumbering with the pyramids whose origins had already been forgotten by the time, in the 4th Century BCE, Alexander the Great's and Ptolemy's soldiers camped by the Nile. I'll have more to say on all this as we wait for the next 9/11, courtesy Vanished Flight 777and the West appears to be slumbering soundly, speaking of pyramids.
Pancakes. There is a story, which I learned in some History or Classical Greek class at the University of Connecticut half a century ago, that the Hellenic and Macedonian troops, camping by the Nile around 330 BCE or so, looked into the distance and (many miles away) saw the tips of the pyramids sticking out of the sand. The huge stone structures belonged to a culture millennia gone already, and the local Egyptians of the time had no idea what they were (or it was a secret, and they weren't telling the ferengi). The story goes that the soldiers carried with them a kind of dry meal that was handy to make instant pancakes with on the march. You simply took out a handful of this meal, rubbed it between your hands to mix it with a little water, and threw the resulting mush on the red-hot stones surrounding your campfire. The way they landed, they had a sort of hat shape with a point sticking up. The resulting pancakes, which probably smelled great, were called pyramidoi, which sort of means 'fire cakes'. These pancakes had a characteristic, upward pointing shape that reminded the soldiers of those looming structures in the distant, bluish airso those became known for evermore as pyramids, or pancakes. Leave it to the G.I.s of any era to come up with expressions like mox nix and parlayvoo (emphasis on 'lay'). Then again, there is always an official story, and then there is the (we suppose) real story told by grunts who have no reason to lie.
The World Malodor. The Fertile Crescent in twenty years will look as different from today's Muddled Yeast as it does today from the Ottoman empire of a century ago. I often have a feeling that the more intelligent locals look back on the Crusader Kingdoms of the 12th and 13th Centuries, and are simply biding their time until today's unwanted guests are gone again. Then again, the French can recall the Islamic invasions of the 8th and 10th Centuries (respectively via Spain and Italy); while the Spaniards recall five centuries of Islamic rule ending in 1492; and the Viennese should certainly remember Turkey's last vicious assaults on their city walls in 1529 and 1683 (the last being just 331 years ago, a mere yesterday in the long annals of history). The tides of conquest, pretension, and vanity ebb and flow. Humans forget history as soon as it passes and the Next Big Thing is happening. It will be interesting to see who rules Mesopotamia in twenty or two hundred years. A good bet is that all foreigners will once again be gone, for a time at least, and the people who have been there for millennia will still be there. It is the cradle of civilization, after all, and the primordial crossroads of humankind crossing out of Africa into Asia and that western swelling (subcontinent) of Asia known as Europe. Sobering afterthought: the new nation of Kazakhstan is larger than all of Europe.
Parting Shot: A Final Point on Nomenclature, 'America' or 'Amerika'. A true bellwether of U.S. national delusionism ("we are the best," "we are the chosen ones," "nobody is smarter than we are," etc.) is the propensity of U.S. citizens (and a buffaloed world) to refer to us as "America" and "Americans." The logical fact, evident to a thoughtful child, is that everyone in the New World (relative term again; not a Bushism) is American, be he or she from Patagonia, Brazil, Mexico, the southern tier of Canada, or Nunavut. A person who refers to U.S. people as 'Americans' is by evident definition not a thinking person. The real significance of this misnomer is to highlight the fact that not only is the West delusional about its former imperial subjects around the world, but the West is delusional about its own identity. I will have a lot more (shocking) things to say about this. The Germans, at least, or their intellectual press as opposed to their blue collar tabloids, Axel Springer-style, Rupert Murdoch classist, will fussily refer to U.S. people as U.S.-Amerikaner rather than simply Amerikaner. I only wish the Founders/Framers had thought to call us something easier on the tongue, like Turkeybergers or Freedomvilleans (Free Dumb Fries?). Where was Ben Franklin when we needed him? Oh yes, nobody wanted to name the turkey our national bird when he suggested as much. He probably had a smart name for us (Columbians as opposed to Colombians?), but nobody listened.
Copyright © 2014 by John T. Cullen. All Rights Reserved.