Tarheeltalker

NAMESTAN

The World's Toughest NeighborhoodThe above acronym is often used by Joel Rosenberg in his political/religious thrillers which have been quite successful and eerily prophetic. The  letters described a division of the CIA known as North Africa, the Middle East and the stan countries; Pakistan, Afghanistan etc. Fictional or not, the phrase almost epitomizes tough neighborhood in a geopolitical sense.

Look at a map of the area some time and then look at major news headlines from any source of your choosing. While not always the top story, the are seems to carry a weight far beyond its size. This weekend was a real case in point. There  were some major suicide bombings in what was considered a relatively secure part of Iraq. Baghdad was the site of two bombings whose death toll approaches 200 with many more injured. And it may have damaged Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki even more.

Travel a relatively short distance to the west to Jerusalem and what do you discover? Israeli police with stun grenades. Palestinian protesters throwing rocks and who knows what else outside the holiest site in all of Israel, the Temple Mount in the center of Jerusalem. What sparked the clash? Probably no one  knows. David Cohen, Israel’s national police chief laid blame on Muslim extremists. Muslim leaders claimed there were plots  to damage the sites. Israel has controlled the site since 1967 but in a situation that only makes sense in the Middle East allows a Muslim clerical body, the Waqf, to handle day-to-day administration. Tourists and Israelis can only visit at certain times.

And  we have Iran, who virtually lives on the front page. Nukes or not, selling enriched uranium to Russia or not ? Will there be talks? What part will Russia play? That is another Big factor when one looks at Russia’s position geographically versus the Middle East.

One more  factor is of course Afghanistan. It was the site for deadly helicopter crashes  just a few days ago, killing a number of American troops. Will Obama send troops, how many and when? Whose advice is better, Sen Kerry or Gen. McChrystal? Remember that during the campaign,the Afghan war was the one we should be fighting.

It seems that the are is a dominant feature of every president’s foreign policy, from probably Truman through Obama and rightfully so. One thing that is quite easy for us to overlook, given our Western tendency to take a short term view, is that the problems  that are there far predate our involvement; by a long time. No, make that a very long time.

My woeful lack of knowledge and historical perspective point up once again my need for te historical study of  a region whose importance can hardly be overstated. Try these phrases from your long ago study of history: Mesopotamia, Tigris-Euphrates, pyramids; there are many more and there is much history from which to learn.

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October 26, 2009 - Posted by | History, International politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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