The ‘new’ Arab world through the Marx Brothers’ eyes

I have spent nearly all of February traveling around America talking about my biography of Osama bin Laden and what I see as the wisdom of a non-interventionist foreign policy for America. I will always regard this experience as a privilege. For this excursion I wish to thank Oxford University Press and all of those who listened to and then discussed these issues with me in New York, Philadelphia, Boston, Chicago, Portland, Seattle, and Los Angeles.

I am sure I learned more in these exchanges than did my listeners, and I was heartened by the more-than-fair hearing my case for non-intervention received. I especially want to thank the chapters of the World Affairs Council that hosted me so graciously, and to recommend that an extraordinary institution in Portland known as “Powell’s Books” be put on everyone’s visit-before-dying list.

Having almost gotten home, I thought I would quickly comment on the abject failure of logic and rampant Pollyanna-ism that seems to have taken hold of the U.S. and Western media in regard to current affairs in the Arab world. While I plan to write more fully on this from home later this week, I have been struck by the media’s definition of how recent events in the Middle East are “good news for America.” The following ten points are now current on Google News and form the basis for this unadulterated, child-like, and wishing-makes-it-so optimism.

  1. Security in Iraq continues to deteriorate, with one of the country’s biggest oil production facilities being shut down by an attack.
  2. The U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan is still losing, and reports are multiplying that General Petraeus is seeking a new job before the house of cards he and his counter-insurgency experts built collapses.
  3. The Yemeni regime — deemed a “key ally” by the Obama administration — appears to be losing what little control it had of the country.
  4. Mubarak’s regime, which, whatever you think of it, was the strongest and most reliable ally of Washington and Israel in the region has been destroyed, and the transition from Mubarak to a military dictatorship is being billed as the “birth of democracy.”
  5. Much of Libya’s oil production is shut down and domestic gasoline prices in the U.S. are headed for economic-growth killing $4.00 or more per gallon.
  6. President Obama and his fellow NATO and UN interventionists are discussing Libya with “all options” on the table, presumably including neo-colonial combat forces if Qahdafi’s resolve to survive continues to harden and his forces make gains.
  7. Al-Qaeda is irrelevant and history has passed it by, even as its two main goals are on they way to being met — the destruction of the Arab tyrannies and and the fatal weakening of Israel’s security — and its third goal is reaching fruition as President Obama presides over the retreat of U.S. forces from Afghanistan and Iraq with none of Washington’s pre-war goals accomplished.
  8. Egypt’s long-closed border with Gaza is being opened, and Israel’s air force is merrily bombing the Gazans.
  9. A bin-Laden inspired, Saudi student was arrested in Texas last week — without the usual FBI “sting” — for planning attacks on the U.S. energy sector. His motivation: Washington’s intervention in the Muslim world. (NB: There are now thirty-thousand Saudi students in the United States on easy-for-Saudis-to-get student visas.)
  10. Up to 40,000 convicted Islamist militants, insurgents, theorists, and terrorists have been released from Mubarak’s prisons. Unknown numbers also have been released in Tunisia and Libya.

Now, let me frankly admit that I suffer gravely from the continuing impact of a traditional Jesuit education (Canisius College, Buffalo, NY), one that prepares its recipients to face facts as they are found; to deal with the world as it is, not as we want it to be; and to never allow silly, ungrounded hopes to displace logic. Armed with that education, the above ten points seem to me to offer little reason for optimism about U.S. security or economic growth — unless they are used to write the script for a new movie starring the Marx Brothers.

Author: Michael F. Scheuer

Michael F. Scheuer worked at the CIA as an intelligence officer for 22 years. He was the first chief of its Osama bin Laden unit, and helped create its rendition program, which he ran for 40 months. He is an American blogger, historian, foreign policy critic, and political analyst.