Why care about the Middle East?
Jamie Rose/Getty Images News Edward Luttwak literally wrote the book on strategy. So when he talks about war and peace, people listen. As Blake notes in the “Must Read” column to your right, Luttwak argues in the May issue of Britain’s Prospect magazine that, oil aside, the Middle East is a backward and irrelevant place. So ...
Jamie Rose/Getty Images News
Edward Luttwak literally wrote the book on strategy. So when he talks about war and peace, people listen. As Blake notes in the “Must Read” column to your right, Luttwak argues in the May issue of Britain’s Prospect magazine that, oil aside, the Middle East is a backward and irrelevant place. So why not just leave the losers who live there to their own devices? Below are some of Luttwak’s money quotes.
On the Arab-Israeli conflict:
Strategically, the Arab-Israeli conflict has been almost irrelevant since the end of the cold war…. Yes, it would be nice if Israelis and Palestinians could settle their differences, but it would do little or nothing to calm the other conflicts in the middle east from Algeria to Iraq, or to stop Muslim-Hindu violence in Kashmir, Muslim-Christian violence in Indonesia and the Philippines, Muslim-Buddhist violence in Thailand, Muslim-animist violence in Sudan ….
[T]he Mussolini syndrome [that got us into Iraq] is at work over Iran. All the symptoms are present, including tabulated lists of Iran’s warships, despite the fact that most are over 30 years old; of combat aircraft, many of which (F-4s, Mirages, F-5s, F-14s) have not flown in years for lack of spare parts; and of divisions and brigades that are so only in name. There are awed descriptions of the Pasdaran revolutionary guards, inevitably described as “elite,” who do indeed strut around as if they have won many a war, but who have actually fought only one–against Iraq, which they lost. As for Iran’s claim to have defeated Israel by Hizbullah proxy in last year’s affray, the publicity was excellent but the substance went the other way ….
On the Middle East generally:
We devote far too much attention to the middle east, a mostly stagnant region where almost nothing is created in science or the arts–excluding Israel, per capita patent production of countries in the middle east is one fifth that of sub-Saharan Africa. The people of the middle east (only about five per cent of the world’s population) are remarkably unproductive, with a high proportion not in the labour force at all.
There’s little doubt that what’s been happening in East Asia, in India, and in many of the post-Soviet countries over the last decade is much more profound and important than anything that’s happened in the Middle East—with one little caveat. The Middle East seems to produce terrorists. Even if the West withdrew from the region and left it to its own devices, there’s no reason to believe this trend would stop. As long as countries like Saudi Arabia breed guys who feel it necessary to murder large numbers of U.S. civilians, the United States will have to take a strategic interest in the region.
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