Friday, 19 December 2014

As a public service: unveiling a pattern that the bright young things seem to have missed

I’m going to explain this very carefully and slowly, so even the bright young things at the Pentagon and the Foreign Office can get it.

Iran is a really, really dangerous country. So dangerous, in fact, that we had to make sure that it didn’t get a democratically elected leader. When it tried with Mohammad Mosaddegh, back in the 50s (yep, this story goes that far back, at least), we in the West overthrew him.

So Iran got the Shah, and that was fine and dandy until in 1979 he got overthrown in turn and replaced by the awful Ayatollahs. Who were even worse than Mossadegh.

In our consternation, we turned for help to our good friend Saddam Hussein (yep, he was a good friend then), who was really running a fairly decent dictatorship in Iraq, only torturing opponents; he would later demonstrate moderation by not using poison gas on too many civilians.

We gave him lots of nice weapons to fight Iran with, which he did for eight years. At the end of that time, since it was clear that neither side was actually going to win, they decided to call it a scoreless draw and went home.

Tasteful tribute to the war dead in Iran
But then Saddam had a lot of nice American toys to play with and a bit of a taste for war (just like the Americans, as it happens. And the Brits. And the French. And the Israelis. Most of the good guys, in fact). He was pretty sure he could count on his good friends, so he invaded Kuwait.

Sadly, for some in the US this was crossing a bit of a line. So we went to war against him. We got him out of Kuwait, but not out of power. We needed something else

That wasn’t a problem. We invented some stuff about weapons of mass destruction, and to back up our point, we rediscovered the poison gassing of his civilians, and decided that maybe it wasn’t that acceptable after all. We got Tony Blair to go on TV and look honest while spinning lies, and back we went to war to get rid of Saddam Hussein.

Sadly, with him gone, we found Al Qaida trying to take power in iraq.

Another quick rethink was in order. We decided to back a government in Baghdad backed by Iranians (remember them?) and between us and our new friends, the friends of Iran, we saw Al Qaida out of the picture.

But we barely had time to draw breath before ISIS, even worse than Al Qaida, were out there torturing and beheading thousands of civilians to say nothing – and this is really serious – even a handful of Western citizens. So who did we turn to?

Why, we called on Al Qaida for help. Of course. We had some Al Qaida guys call some ISIS guys they knew to see if they could perhaps save Peter Kassig, an American hostage, and stop being really beastly any more, at least to Westerners.

Sadly, we cocked up. We didn’t tell the Jordanians that the Al Qaida guy in Jordan was a friend, unlike the Al Qaida guys who were enemies, so they arrested him and he’s locked up to this day. ISIS duly murdered Peter Kassig and things went on getting worse.

Now there is in all these events something that we students of matters historical like to call a “pattern”. In case those bright young things mentioned above are struggling to grasp it, I’ll spell it out.

It works like this. Every time we find an enemy, we knock him off his perch. Unfortunately, he’s usually replaced by someone even worse. To deal with that character, we often have to turn to the very people we were fighting against before.

Now it’s hard to imagine anyone much worse than ISIS. They seem pretty much the pits. But we shouldn’t underestimate Western ingenuity. If we really set our minds to it, we can probably conjure up something still more horrific than ISIS, and then have to turn to ISIS for help to deal with it.

Given their track record to date, would anyone doubt their ability to pull the trick off? And make us nostalgic for ISIS? As we seem to have been forced to become for Al Qaida? For Iran? Even for Saddam Hussein in his time?

If only we’d thought of that before ousting Mossadegh.

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