Once again, Western bombs are falling on the sand-blown weapons testing range that is north Africa, the Middle East and the landscape of the old Great Game. The area stretching roughly from Morocco to Afghanistan west to east, and Syria to the Persian Gulf north to south — let’s call this region Deathistan — long has been contested. But in the last century, the region has been treated as a plaything by Western capitals.
The United States and United Kingdom, which boast of enlightenment, cause harm when they please in the Deathistan region. Less than a generation ago it amused the United States to encourage Saddam Hussein to slaughter Iranians; then conditions changed, so the United States started killing in Iraq. Right now the United States and NATO are taking lives in Libya and Afghanistan. In these places, U.S. and other Western armed forces in the main behave with high ethics. But their missions are to slay and destroy, and here’s the bottom line: Western meddling in north Africa, the Arab world and the Great Game territories has not worked.
Israel exists: that is the West’s principal achievement in the region, though for a comparatively small number of people. Cheap oil flows. Moscow quit Afghanistan. Otherwise, the last century of attempts by the United States and European powers to manipulate the Deathistan region rarely has come to good.
We’ve sure blown a lot of stuff up. When innocents were killed inside the United States on 9-11, America claimed, with justification, a right of outrage. When innocents are killed by Western action elsewhere — hundreds of thousands have died in Iraq and Afghanistan in the U.S. retaliation for the 3,000 dead of 2001 — the West washes its hands, or issues a press release.
Muammar Gaddafi is an awful dictator. But no one in the Washington or London establishments seemed to care about that even a short time ago. Libyan oil money was moving freely; in 2009, Gaddafi was presented to the world by the New York Times as an op-ed columnist, as a “leader” and sage. Now the West is bombing Libya, without debate in Congress or European parliaments — and over the objections of Turkey, which understands much of the region better than does the West. Though aimed at Gaddafi’s arms, some of the bombs are killing civilians: others, killing military conscripts who have little choice about their fates.