Neocon Hubris and Chaos in the Middle East

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Mark Levine, last seen deftly unmanning David Horowitz on Hannity & Colmes, has a counterintuitive take over at Tomdispatch on the troubles convulsing a certain part of the world. Call it the Chaos Theory of the Middle East. He argues that political and military leaders are especially prone to the illusion that they control events. “[A]nd perhaps the most hubristic version of this illusion is the belief that they can use chaos itself to further their control, to strengthen their situation. Our world today reminds us constantly that you ride that tiger at your peril.” Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon — we don’t lack for reminders.

[W]hen I was in Iraq only a year into the American occupation, among the first things most Iraqis I met, particularly Sunni and Shiite leaders, would bring up were their fears of onrushing factional/sectarian violence and possible civil war and their desire to avoid it at all costs (unless it involved the Kurds, held in disdain because of their close relations with the U.S.). Then they would almost invariably state their belief that the Bush administration was encouraging sectarian differences and tensions in pursuance of a classic imperial strategy of divide and rule — or at least, divide and make sure no one asks you to leave.

[…]

The problem is, in the world of occupational politics, one rarely gets to eat one’s cake and have it too. At some point, the ripples from the chaos you generate, whether purposely or by accident, converge into the kind of perfect wave of horror that you just may not be capable of riding out. Ask Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and the top brass of the Israeli Defense Forces about that. Thanks to Matthew Kalman of the San Francisco Chronicle, we now know that the current Israeli air campaign against, and invasion of, Lebanon had been planned out perhaps two years ago; that, more than a year ago, “a senior Israeli army officer” was giving “off-the-record” PowerPoint presentations about just such a “three-week campaign” to influential figures in Washington; and that Hezbollah’s July 12 capture of Israeli soldiers was the pretext that the government had been waiting for to launch its campaign.

More at Tomdispatch.

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