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« EU: A common policy for the Middle East, before sending troops! | Main | Mark Mazower: Europe should use its leverage to lean on Israel »

One Flew Over the Sparrow's Nest

Le Moineau on Lebanon and USA strategic gaming.


"Le Moineau" (the Sparrow") landed in August on

I found him through a somewhat condescending comment by Juan Cole in his as always well-"Informed Comment" blog on the Middle East. It reads:

Is a serious diplomatic engagement with Iran Washington's next step[?] Well, I shouldn't have thought so. But the aftermath of wars is a time when the unexpected happens.
I followed the link. And found an unusual blog. It is written in the style of a learned scholar (international relations), mixed with elements of style of an administrative policy adviser. The articles are numbered and carry mentions like: "first draft" or "working draft". That is what a civil servant would do, in order to cover himself and his directors against the dangers of, for instance, congressional inquiries. I did so myself, when I worked for the Dutch Government.
But the Sparrow doesn't position himself as an insider. Here is his profile:
Le Moineau

Le Moineau is a concerned citizen who follows international relations keenly and tries to piece together confusing world events using a simple mental model and readily available resources. The articles are a reflection of such an analysis and try to bring some strategic sense to the actions of nations playing the 'great game'.

"Great Game" offers a cue (Wikipedia):
The Great Game is a term, usually attributed to Arthur Conolly, used to describe the rivalry and strategic conflict between the British Empire and the Tsarist Russian Empire for supremacy in Central Asia. The term was later popularized by British novelist Rudyard Kipling in his work, Kim.
Le Moineau is clearly somebody who knows his classics and loves to derive his analyses from a wider historic and strategic framework.

It is no wonder, therefore, that he likes Henry Kissinger, the (still) living embodiment of classic realist international power policies.

And, it must be said, a historic-strategic approach to what happens at this moment in the Middle East produces interesting, and often surprising, insights. Their usefulness is undisputed. They have the invaluable merit to shatter current illusions about the practicability of "regime change" or "value change", "state building" or "community building" from the outside.

The difference between Le Moineau and William Kristol is best illustrated by this:
The last one urged Bush at the outset of the Israeli Lebanon war "to go immediately to Jerusalem" in order to proclaim "the New Middle East" and attack Iran, whereas the former one urges Bush to go immediately to Tehran, in order to "engage" seriously in a strategic alliance and secure the "American energy [oil] compound" against Russia (the great game resurrected, HR!).

The difference is striking, geographically.
But the likeness ("immediately"), too.

Wanting, hoping, imagining that something like engaging in a nuclear war, or in a "renversement des alliances", has to be done "immediately", is very often a warning signal that we have to do with a reductionist "believer".
A reductionist, for he does not acknowledge a possible relevance of analytic instruments outside of his scope. A believer, for he thinks that the stone of wisdom has been for once and for all time been given to mankind by Kristol Senior or Kissinger.

Wit William Kristol, we dealt here, here and here, recently.

To deal with Le Moineau is more agreeable, for sure, for his approach is intelligent, independent and far more realistic. You may join his dreams. It feels like when, as a history student in Amsterdam (1967), I prepared a paper about the role of the "run to Baghdad" between Germany, France, Russia and the UK as a runner-up to the First World War. It was all about diplomatic and small military manoeuvers around the controlling of sea-routes, railway-lines and cynical alliances with local rulers or local rebellions. How France and the UK sabotaged the German railway-line to Baghdad, supporting a Kurdish guerilla round Diyarbakir (1910). How the Russians supported the forerunners of the Muslim Brotherhood in Cairo against the British. Lovely and easy. Like a chessboard.

But the "great game" was also a "Devil's Game".

The cynical "divide-et-impera" policies, as practiced by the British, but also by French, Russians and Germans, led to alliances with evil rulers (the Wahhabi Saudis) and secret societies like the Muslim Brotherhood, with their own, hidden, agenda. In 2005, Robert Dreyfuss of the American Empire Project, wrote a book about the devilish consequences of international power policies as a "game" concept, i.e. not taking into account, that humans are no chesspieces, but that they are liable to be frustrated and that frustrated people are not necessarily less intelligent and wicked as you are. Subtitle: "How the United States helped unleash Fundamentalist Islam". (Amazon Reference)
The Brotherhood, set up at the end of the nineteenth century, was a freemason-like structure, also in its relation to religion. For decades, its policy was: If you cannot beat them, join them. The Brotherhood elites, seeing that, as a middle class, they were unable to get their legitimate share of power, exploited religion (Islam, but it could have been any other religion, and in some cases it has in effect been Christianism) to get a mass following. During a long period and in different shapes in different countries, they allied themselves with any (imperialist) power, that could bring them nearer to control over the state. Until the eighties, this failed every time, for their only power basis were parts of the poor masses, who were in the end not willing or able to carry them to Government. That changed, when (oil) money permitted the establishment of networks of "Islamic Banking". Somehow, the Islamic interdiction of capital-interest was circumvened successfully (Islam can be modernized, if you really want it!) and the Brotherhood-like elites got a huge leverage on power.
Thus, the elites got more and more independent of their mass followings. They can buy them now.
And it permitted global terrorism on a Bin Laden scale.

Le Moineau, however, is constructing his diplomatic manoeuvers, as if history has halted just before November 1956, when Americans and Russians stopped imperiously the Anglo-French war with Israel against Nasser over the Suez Canal.

Then, the Americans did the right thing, assessing the new reality of an independent and irremovable national entity ("cannot be bombed away"). A wisdom, that lamentably was absent when the US condoned the recent Israeli attack on Lebanon.

But Le Moineau thinks, that this NeoCon folly is "marginalized" now, in Washington, as he repeats over and over again. As a rare specimen of a cynic-realistic optimist, he fantasises, that Condi Rice is preparing a US disengagement from Israel, that would have to separate itself from its nuclear bombs. And that Bush is secretly furthering the Iranian nuclear bomb-making, in order to make Israel do that!

As if he is Lawrence of Arabia, in a broad swoop, he also finds some ulterior imperialist designs for the US in the Middle East. An alliance with Iran, could give the US a controlling position over China's and Europe's oil supply. (For his statements about the benefits of an US control of the Middle East oil exports to Europe, see his post Marhsall Plan, Anyone? dated August 7.)

This is a nice example of the Sparrow's handicap. Under the 1947 Marshall Plan, the US financed an "oil tap" for Europe, i.e. a pipeline that runs from the Arabian peninsula to a South Libanese port, passing through the Golan Heights, Syria and Jordan. As a matter of fact, it never had a chance to function. It has been closed for half a century. The benefit of returning the Golan Heights to Syria, would be that this oil outlet would come under US control, so that the US would control again, as during the Marshall Plan aera, Europe's oil provision.
As if 2006 Europe is the same as devastated postwar Europe of 1948!

Concluding: A sparrow cannot fly as an eagle.

But it can make nice nests. In the margin.

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