Two generations of anti-Israeli rule in Syria could be coming to an end. America’s gambit in Libya to steadily weaken Colonel Moammar Gadaffi and his autocratic family from inside the country to coalesce domestic democratic opposition and political culture with the help of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) as in Afghanistan is being carried over to Syria.
At a time when the economies of United States and Europe are teetering on the brink of a second recession because the world’s two largest economic regions, each with an output of about $15 trillion and together constituting about 45% of the global gross domestic product (GDP), the context of the reform of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) is a de ja vu for both.
The United States and Europe had both experienced prolonged war, abroad for America (after Pearl Harbor in 1941) and at home for Europe, and the economic calamity of prosperity in the 1920s after World War I followed by a depression in the United States in the 1930s, and hyperinflation in Germany and war in Europe.
Memories of this geopolitical transformation from 1914 through 1945, a period of about 3 decades, are still fresh after a century. From presidents Woodrow Wilson to Harry Truman, America’s rise to power was at the expense of the mistakes of European and Asian colonial powers and autocracies in Europe and Asia and in the rest of the world. World War II had changed all that. The next phase from 1946 through 1989, a period of 4 decades, had ended the ideological bifurcation of the planet, whatever the merits of Truman’s decision to leave Stalin’s Soviet Union alone in 1945 without finishing the job in Europe after the rise of communism since the October Revolution of 1917.
George Walker Bush had posited after September 11, 2001 that the next two generations, from 2001-2036 in statistical terms, could be consumed by America at war to end the root causes of terrorism around the world, their primary residence being the conflicts in MENA between the interests of the former Cold War superpowers, US energy dependence on the region and the religious politics of stabilization of Israel since World War II.
It is decision time for the United States (US) and the European Union (EU) if they wish to commit themselves to transforming MENA as it appears to be the case thus far in Afghanistan, Libya and Syria, where NATO has or is willing to intervene with ground forces. NATO involvement, loosely as a coalition of the willing in Iraq and more coherently in Afghanistan and Libya has, however, always been tentative, at the will of the majority of European countries to stay or leave the war zone should a consensus not be reached in the consensus-driven NATO, putting the burden on US forces to finish the job. The United Kingdom had similarly exited Iraq before former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown lost the election to David Cameron.
Bush 43’s administration had thus committed itself to the quasi-unilateralism of US military intervention in the pursuit of America’s interests abroad just as it did in World War II. The domestic political dynamic of American military interventions abroad for Bush 43 was to shift the big-government legacy of FDR and Truman to the small but strong government legacy of Alexander Hamilton, Ronald Reagan-George H.W. Bush and himself, an aspiration Obama could thwart if he takes over the transformation of MENA to root the evolution of democratic forces in the region to safeguard his political party’s imprint on American politics.
If Obama does not see Syria in the above light, the United States could turn into a defeated has-been in the musical chairs of geopolitics, dragged in by Europe into ever-expanding conflict zones in MENA, shunned in Afghanistan, Pakistan and South Asia, and isolated by the rest of the world as Eurasia converges, diminishing any prospects in the American interest.
Such an emerging outcome of obfuscated muddling in MENA could mean the impeachment of Barack Hussein Obama in a domestic environment of deep economic uncertainty and war fatigue since 2002. The American people need a better explanation for intergenerational commitment to worldly sacrifices than the slippery slope of human rights to prolonged foreign wars.
The United States, in this diplomatic dance of national and regional interests and the transition of the former Soviet bloc and China to a new market-Marxist authoritarian system of political-economic governance to perhaps, by mid-century, result in a Franco-German form of left-of-center democratic system, faces two options: (a) Do what FDR and Truman have done and commit to transform MENA with American hyperpower through necessary wars no matter the risks to the reputation of the United States after Iraq. This is a very feasible option to recover the US economy, especially because of the support of the peoples of these countries and of the UN and Europe, or (b) Adopt a policy of gradualism to finish the wars in Afghanistan and Libya to leave Syria and its regional implications for nuclear Iran and the newly stabilizing democratic Iraq to the Russians in exchange for Russia’s accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the end of missile defense in Europe.