Edward Luttwak — a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and author of many best-selling high concept treatments of war, strategy, and the international economy — is a turbo-charged intellect wrapped in the garb of a John Le Carre-esque spy. I always feel like I’m learning secrets from him.
I run into him in the most unusual places — whether it is an Okinawa kenjinkai culture and sake-tasting evening or hanging out with Cuban, German, French, Israeli, and Polish intelligence officials — along with Richard Perle — in Caen, France — where Eddie Luttwak was there not for the company but to get his itch for Caen’s shellfish scratched. He is a brilliant conceptualizer who sees through problems and twists and flips the component pieces in ways that reveal important realities. His “process” often makes his listeners squirm.
I think Luttwak has quite important insights into our mess in the Middle East, and I’m inviting TWN readers to a meeting I’m chairing with him tomorrow, Thursday, in Washington, DC at the New America Foundation — 1630 Connecticut Avenue, NW, 7th Floor — from noon til 2:00 p.m. If you would like to attend, just zap me an email at email@example.com.
His topic is “What to Do About I-rak and I-ran? How New Divisions in the Middle East offer the U.S. an Opportunity to Regain Influence in the Region.”
Just for fun, here are the first two paragraphs and last two paragraphs of two articles that Luttwak has recently published — one on Iraq and one on Iran:
To Help Iraq, Let it Fend for Itself
New York Times, 6 February 2007
The sooner President Bush can get his extra troops for a “surge” in Iraq, the sooner he will be able to announce that all American troops are coming home because of the inevitable failure of the Iraqi government to “live up to its side of the bargain.” In fact, in the run-up to the surge proposal, it is unlikely that there was any real two-sided bargaining before Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki was induced to issue promises — particularly in terms of government troops taking on Shiite militias — that he cannot possibly fulfill. Mr. Maliki, it seems, simply agreed to whatever was asked of him, to humor the White House and retain American support for a little while longer.
For the Iraqi Army and police to disarm the Shiite militias, the prime minister would have to be a veritable Stalin or at least a Saddam Hussein, able to terrorize Iraqi soldiers and policemen into obedience. Mr. Maliki, of course, has no such authority over Iraqi soldiers or police officers; indeed he has little authority over his own 39-person cabinet, whose members mostly represent sectarian parties with militias of their own. . .
. . .Were the United States to disenage, both Arab Sunnis and Shiites would have to take responsiblity for their own security (as the Kurds have been doing all along). Where these three groups are not naturally separated by geography, they would be forced to find ways to stabilize relations with each other. That would most likely involve violence as well as talks, and some forcing of civilians from their homes. But all this is happening already, and there is no saying which ethno-religious group would be most favored by a reduction of the United States footprint.
One reason for optimism on that score is that the violence itself has been separating previously mixed populations, reducing motives and opportunities for further attacks. That is how civil wars can burn themselves out. In any case, it is time for the Iraqis to make their own history.
And another piece this week that focuses on Iran:
Wall Street Journal, 27 February 2007
Almost everyone in Washington agrees that Iran is the big winner in the Middle East power competition, and the U.S. the big loser. Instead of the irremediably hostile Taliban, Iran now has a friendly Afghan government on its eastern border. Rather than having to face Saddam Hussein’s regime, Iran has nothing to fear from an Iraqi government dominated by friends and obedient clients, many of whom lived as protected exiles in Iran for 20 years or more.
Having crushed Tehran’s enemies, the U.S. finds itself under attack by Iran’s rulers, who no longer have to worry about defending their own borders and can instead challenge American interests all over the Middle East, and as far away as Venezuela. At the same time, Iran continues to build facilities to process, gasify and enrich uranium, in spite of the International Atomic Energy Agency and solemn resolutions by the U.N. Security Council. . .
. . .Viewed from the inside, Iran is hardly the formidable power that some see on the outside. The natural outcome of increasing popular opposition to extremist rulers, of widening ethnic divisions and bitter Sunni resentment of Shia oppression is a breakup. Certainly there is no reason why Iran should be the only multinational state to resist the nationalist separatism that destroyed the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia, divided Belgium in all but name and decentralized Spain and even the United Kingdom, along with other states large and small.
Once again, there is a better alternative to detente with a repulsive regime, and that is to be true to the Wilsonian tradition of American foreign policy by encouraging the forces of national liberation within Iran.
Should be an interesting session tomorrow.
— Steve Clemons