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Bad pennies

Back in the good old days of the Cold War, when the world teetered on the brink of nuclear armageddon, one of the biggest disagreements between the Left and the Right in this country was how to reconcile the black-and-white contrasts of the West and the Soviet Bloc with the grays of nations that were not part of either. The left argued that such nations should be judged strictly on their own merits, other considerations set aside. The right said that we must never lose sight of the big picture, and we should be willing to overlook or tolerate a certain level of human rights abuses and oppression in the name of checking the far greater evil of communism.

It was never adequately resolved, and to be blunt I don't think there is a one-size-fits-all solution. In some cases, principle should have reigned; in others, pragmatism was the right move. It's a virtually impossible call, and it can take years or decades to see which was the right solution.

Iran springs to mind. For years, we backed the Shah under the "he's a son of a bitch, but he's our son of a bitch" theory. Then, when his health started failing and he turned to us for help, the pendulum had swung the other way and the tactics he had used to suppress dissenters were used against him -- and he fell from power.

The dissenters swept in, and promptly instituted an Islamist state that has spent nearly three decades inflicting death, carnage, chaos, and terror on the rest of the world.

That led us to backing Iran's main rival in the region, Iraq, and we bolstered Saddam Hussein in the hopes that his secular thuggism would check Iran's religious thuggism and keep them from bringing more of the Middle East a theocratic tyranny.

At that time, it seemed the right thing to do. I agree with it, as Saddam -- as bad as he was -- managed to keep Iran from expanding. Right up until he himself decided on a little expansionism towards Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, at which point he lost his protective value and became a threat in and of himself.

I bring this up now because I think I might be seeing the beginnings of another "he's our son of a bitch, but he's our son of a bitch" situation -- and I think we need to strongly consider if we really want to go there again.

In the Palestinian Territories, two terrorist groups (who double as political parties) are fighting for control. Hamas holds power in the Gaza Strip, while Fatah still holds sway on the West Bank. Many of the people (ironically enough, the political heirs of the Cold War-era idealists) are calling for the US to back Fatah strongly against Hamas, on the theory that as bad as Fatah is, they are not as bad as Hamas -- we can at least deal with the kleptocratic thugs, whereas Hamas is a hardline militant Islamist group that has no interest whatsoever in talking.

On the other hand, there's the notion that "even if you win the rat race, you're still a rat." A moderate terrorist is a bit of an oxymoron, and Fatah only looks good when compared with Hamas.

I hate peas. I think they're gross and disgusting, and haven't eaten them in decades. But if I was given a choice between a plate of peas and a plate of broken glass and was ordered to eat one of them, I'd dive right into the peas and finish them off without a moment's hesitation.

I think that any rush to embrace Fatah -- even as a check against Hamas -- would be a mistake. As malignant as Hamas is, I think that to back their rivals unreservedly could lead to much, much worse consequences down the road.

My solution is no solution. At least, not yet.

First up, Hamas needs to be isolated. Israel and Egypt are already taking steps towards sealing off the Gaza Strip, to keep the violence bottled up. But we should not be eager to back Fatah. For one, their own survival is still in doubt. For another, their own history -- as part of the Palestinian Liberation Organization -- is one marked with drug dealing, terrorism, and death.

I think this is an excellent opportunity to step back and let events unfold on their own for a bit. Let Hamas stew in their own fetid juices in Gaza for a while, and let the West Bank shake itself out for a bit. Right now the terrorists are, for the most part, killing other terrorists, and I don't see any great moral imperative to interrupt them.

When they get bored with that, then -- and only then -- should we look into re-establishing relations and getting involved with their internecine squabbles.


Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Bad pennies:

» Bill's Bites linked with 2007.06.16 Israel/Palistan Roundup

Comments (22)

Squeeze the savages financi... (Below threshold)

Squeeze the savages financially and no matter who "wins" when they go after the Jews ... Support Israel in killing them all ...
Win, win ...

I agree JT. Let them kill e... (Below threshold)

I agree JT. Let them kill each other for awhile. Thin the herd. While the terrorists die in Iraq, the Gaza strip and the West Bank,many american and jewish lives will be spared.

How can anyone hate peas? My gross out veggie is lima beans. ww

I agree JT. Let them stew i... (Below threshold)

I agree JT. Let them stew in their own killing fields for a while.

No money, no support, no arms, and absolutely no peas.

Peas are healthy for you - ... (Below threshold)

Peas are healthy for you - and i agree that those peas killing each other off right now are healthy for the US....

Unfortunately -- as Jay poi... (Below threshold)

Unfortunately -- as Jay pointed out -- it sometimes takes decades for these situations to work themselves out, and only then can historians say we were "right" or "wrong" in our choices. In the here-and-now, making the "right" choice is simply a guess.

Of course that doesn't stop liberals and conservatives with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight from blaming each other for all the "wrong" choices made in the past.

Iran shares a border with Turkmenistan, which was a state of the USSR. We considered Iran, with its oil riches and warm water port, to be a prime target for Soviet invasion; it was important to make Iran into a strong ally. At the time, the reasoning was understandable. It was the "right" thing to do.

And then under the leadership of Jimmy Carter, the "right" thing was to denounce the Shah as a tyrant, partly in the hopes of winning peace with the Soviets, and partly in the hopes that a "religious" Iranian government would be peaceable and also would avoid entanglements with the secularist/athiest USSR.

Different viewpoints, different strategies. Unfortunately Carter's "peace" strategy has brought about far more warfare than our old Cold War strategy. An interesting paradox, to be sure.

"it was important to mak... (Below threshold)

"it was important to make Iran into a strong ally. At the time, the reasoning was understandable. It was the "right" thing to do."

Yep, it was important for the world's greatest denocracy to use its CIA to overthrow a democratic government (PM Mossadeq) in 1953 to install a tyrant w/ a terrorist secret police (SAVAK) to show the world what an exemplar of democratic choice was the US.

That's not an issue of "hindsight" being 20/20. It's an issue that makes a farce out of our trumpeted "values" and demonstrates to the world tht we are hypocrites and it invites othernations to act similarly in their own selfish interests.

Any nation of decency does not require hindsight to make reputable & honorable choices...if indeed it is an honorable nation to the core.

Get over your asinine CDS and stop excusing American hypocrisy.

Phoenix you need a job in t... (Below threshold)

Phoenix you need a job in the state department.

You've been blessed with 20/20 hindsight.

"It's an issue that makes a... (Below threshold)

"It's an issue that makes a farce out of our trumpeted "values"" -Phoenix

"Values" such as attempting to save innocent lives and to protect smaller countries from larger, more powerful countries and stopping Saddams half brothers from raping and maiming innocent school girls, etc., etc., etc....

Seems things are in Hamas' ... (Below threshold)

Seems things are in Hamas' favor. It may not be long before Hamas is more or less in complete control and then focuses on Israel. When it does, it will get under the table support to keep going.

Let's explore "Values" a li... (Below threshold)

Let's explore "Values" a little deeper, shall we Phoenix, but wrt liberalism.

Abortion "values", redistribution of wealth "values", disertion of the South Vietnamese/Cambodians "values", turn a blind eye to terrorism "values", welfare state "values", marriage is between any two biological entities "values", etc.....put down the Noam Chomsky reader and do your own thinking.

"Right now the terrorist... (Below threshold)

"Right now the terrorists are, for the most part, killing other terrorists, and I don't see any great moral imperative to interrupt them."


I like peas and lima beans, especially with chopped onions and butter...and a little garlic.

Totally agree to let the ch... (Below threshold)

Totally agree to let the champions of terrorist violence kill each other as much as possible. But like a plane in a holding pattern - one way or another it will soon end. The winner (whatever name they have) will be a puppet of Iran because Iran will make it possible for them to win. Then what? Will Europe ever join us in making certain that Iran does not annihilate Israel? Will it be the UN or NATO that finally does the right thing? Or will the US, once again, have to alone be the saving force? Bottom line: the Islamo-Fascist fundamentalists must be stopped for the sake of civilization and world peace. gc

Trivia: some say the... (Below threshold)

Trivia: some say the piano arrangement in the Beatles' Lady Madonna was lifted from a '50s jazz classic - "Bad Penny Blues" by Humphrey Lyttleton.

Personally, I'm not so sure.

I think JT is right, to ach... (Below threshold)

I think JT is right, to achieve Whirled Peas we need to let the terrorists do our work for us, for as long as they are willing to take on the job of killing other terrorists. Then we can blast those that remain, if they won't have peas any other way.

I see on Drudge a picture of peaseful Arabs fleeing Gaza to Israel, illustrating the irony of the Islamofacist complaint with the Jews, for any of them to live normal lives they must seek refuge with the practioners of the real religion of peas, the people they are taught to hate. So, again, I agree let the evil ones stew in their own hatred and let them kill each other as long as their violence stays in Gaza.

One is tempted to say they ... (Below threshold)

One is tempted to say they both should lose, but that's how we got in this situation in the first
place. Phoenix, the fact that Mossadegh was a populist demagogue, who espoused the then popular idea of nationalization (half a century of
experience in every spot from Venezuela to Nigeria should have dissabused us of that notion who ended up only supported by the Tudeh (Iranian
communists) escapes you. A broad coalition supported Reza Pahlevi's return to power, his regime's subsequent corruption, anfd his flawed
"White Revolution" of land reform did as much to earn him emnity of his people. Whether Savak is appreciably different from the various General
Intelligence Directorates "Mukharabat" in Jordan,
Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Egypt is an open question.

Now as to the actual issue; backing Fatah (which includes the suicide bomber prone Al Aqsa Martyr's
Brigade, is a losing cause, as was the backing of
the Somali war council, this spring, to jihadist
elements. The ideal would be if a surrogate like
Ethiopia, could direct an operation against the
jihadi elements and restore a viable regime. The
problem of course, is that Egypt is the best possible proxy, and if they haven't done anything
about their former province of Sudan, there not
going to do anything about Gaza. Of course, it was
the likes of Cairo's MB Al Azhar graduates like
the late Sheik Yassin and Sheik Quaradwi that we have this problem in the first place.

The Bible tells us that "a ... (Below threshold)

The Bible tells us that "a tree is known by the fruit that it bears." This is all the same rotten fruit, Fatah and Hamas in Gaza or Shia and Sunni in Iraq, from the same rotten Islamic tree.

Expect nothing more!

Yea, narciso, with only one... (Below threshold)

Yea, narciso, with only one 'c'.

Have I ever found narciso wrong on anything? Not to my knowledge.

Mossadegh was about to give the Russkies a warm water port. Mahan would not have approved.

Hey rational, they're just ... (Below threshold)

Hey rational, they're just another sect of Abraham, whose God is unnecessarily violent.

Maybe I should say unnatura... (Below threshold)

Maybe I should say unnaturally violent.

It's kinda nice that Putin ... (Below threshold)

It's kinda nice that Putin doesn't control the Straits of Hormuz, today.

If he did, the Kurds would ... (Below threshold)

If he did, the Kurds would probably be a vanished people. And Saladin was a Kurd.

I think it'd be pretty cool... (Below threshold)

I think it'd be pretty cool for Kurdistan to be the salvation of Palestine. Their oil underlies Sunni land, and their ethic could be adopted by the Palestinians. There is sympathy for an oppressed people, too. Oppressed by their putative co-religious, I mean.






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