19 of 23 people found the following review helpful
Shining the light of common sense on our Mideast policy,
This review is from: Sandstorm: Policy Failure in the Middle East (Hardcover)
I first heard Leon Hadar talk about "Sandstorm" in a lecture he gave in Washington DC on 9 July 2005. He began by quoting from a previous book of his, "Quagmire," which was an eerie experience, in that the excerpts could have been written yesterday. Thus, in the early nineties, Hadar predicted an Arab backlash against U.S. policies in the Middle East unless we acted to change those policies. Of course, nothing was done, and the result is obvious.
From the vantage point of the large power blocs, Hadar's diagnosis and remedy are quite rational, and it is to his credit that he doesn't believe for a moment that the United States will follow his commonsense advice. Churchill once remarked that the United States could always be counted on to do the right thing after it had exhausted all of the alternatives, and our strategy in the Middle East is no exception. Instead of changing our faulty, Cold-War-derived paradigm, which dictates that we shall foolishly try to dominate the region, we shall (says Hadar) eventually be caught up in a "destructive disengagement"--U.S. defeat and withdrawal. Change not by intelligent understanding and action, in other words, but by not being able to win the unwinnable. (What did we really learn from Vietnam, one has to ask.)
Our Mideast paradigm or policy makes no sense, and most Americans seem to be unaware of the fact that if you factor the price of two Gulf wars and a pax americana in the Middle East into the cost of gasoline, the real price at the pump is far in excess of the $2.50 a gallon we are currently paying. As for American policymakers, since they seem to believe that every problem in the world is or should be an American one, we are effectively up the proverbial creeek. Defeat and withdrawal become the only "options."
Empire, says Hadar, thus has its costs, and he is right to call the Democratic version of the American commitment to it "empire lite." (I'm reminded of Gore Vidal's remark that in the United States there is one political party with two right wings.) Empire dictates that we try to control Mideast oil reserves, not so much for ourselves, but so that we can have leverage over Europe and Japan, which get a large fraction of their oil from that region. If we had the brains to get out of the empire business, says Hadar, we would, in effect, turn the Middle East over to the Europeans. Why monitor the Middle East for the E.U.'s benefit, after all? It's *their* oil supply, says the author; let *them* do it. As for Israel, it should join the E.U., not continue to act as a "crusader state" for the United States in the Middle East. Unfortunately, we don't seem to have the brains to cut bait here, or to give up an empire game that is nothing less than a huge hemorrhage.
"Sandstorm" is, in short, an enlightened piece of work, which is a sure-fire guarantee that its recommendations will be ignored. On the level of Kissinger-type power politics, i.e. of Realpolitik, Hadar's solution is the only sensible one for America to pursue.
That being said...Who got left out? Here, Hadar reveals his Israeli background: the Arabs, apparently, are to have no voice in all this. Of course, the author has a point: who, after all, speaks for Arabs and Muslims in the Middle East with a coherent voice that has political clout (outside of Osama)? In my view, at least, the problem will not go away by having the Europeans take over our hegemonic role. Oil supply notwithstanding, why would they want the headache? If they do replace us, the Arab backlash would then fall on *them*. All of which is to say that unless the geopolitical framework shifts from hegemony to self-determination, we are going to be embroiled in Hadar's "quagmire" for many decades to come.