Sunday, July 29, 2007

Bad Idea

In my estimation, American foreign policy over the years has been little more than a series of remarkably short-sighted marriages (and divorces) of convenience. But, like Liz Taylor, the US never seems to tire of trips to the altar, and never seems to learn the lessons of past relationships gone sour.

The latest courtship comes in the form of a reported deal to supply arms to Saudi Arabia and its Gulf neighbours (Qatar, UAE, Kuwait, Bahrain and Oman) to the tune of 20 billion dollars. These arms would include advanced weapons such as satellite-guided bombs, and upgraded equipment for the Air Force and Navy.

The reason for such generosity is of course that George W Bush is becoming increasingly worried about the dominance of Iran in a destabilized region. That Bush himself is in large part the cause of the region's instability seems of little consequence to the blistering dunderheads who run the show. The solution, they have decided, is to dump more weapons into the other Gulf states. The Israelis, who are naturally alarmed by this prospect, are being assuaged by a 30.5 billion dollar arms package of their own. Keeping up with the Joneses and all.

The dangers of fomenting an arms race in the Middle East should be apparent to even the most inebriated of casual observers. To be sure, the Americans have tread on such dangerous ground before. It didn't work with these guys. Or with this guy. But hey, who's to say it won't work this time? After all, Iran is a menace and a threat to the Gulf, right?

As a columnist from the Malaysia Star observes,
More cruel dictators have happily and profitably supported US interests, with US assistance, than threatened them. Only when they become too independent, like Panama’s Noriega and Iraq’s Saddam, do they have to be “taken out”.
Would any US presidential contender end this policy of nurturing, in former president Harry Truman’s phrase, “our bastards”? That would make a real difference from existing policy, and energise US diplomacy

Marriages of convenience may be bad ideas, but they have the advantage of, convenient. At least in the short term. And so it's likely we will have to endure more such trips down the aisle. Weddings always make me cry.

Update: For another interesting look at lessons not learned, check out this post.