USA's 'Kick the Dog' Strategy?

Reprinted from Daily Reckoning newsletter for March 5, 2003.

Published: 05-Mar-2003

By James Dale Davidson

It is interesting to contemplate how far US foreign policy has evolved in the few years since President Clinton appeared to engage in parodies of the movie Wag the Dog. In the Clinton era, gestures of force abroad seemed to be geared more to news management than event management. In fact, I did an informal study that showed an extraordinary correlation between the employment of force abroad and various red-letter days in Clinton's numerous legal embarrassments. The more embarrassing the situation Clinton faced, the more likely he was to unleash an attack.

Military action, epitomised by Clinton's semi-comic cruise missile bombardment of the Sudanese aspirin factory, seemed designed more to distract US public attention from Clinton's various legal scuffles than to achieve a coherent policy objective. Bush seems to have a different approach. Instead of "wagging the dog", he is "kicking the dog".

Let me explain. "Kicking the dog" also has a cinematic origin. It refers to a practice, immortalised in a Monty Python movie, of communicating unhappiness by punishing a weaker party rather than one who might be more objectively at fault. In the movie in question, members of an English household gather for meals and other family occasions only to find the matron of the family, an old dowager, loudly passing gas. As it is socially impossible to upbraid her, they respond in another way. Each time she passes gas, other family members kick the dog.

Bear this analogy in mind when you are trying to sort out the pending war to oust Saddam Hussein. Saddam is the dog. While Saddam is surely guilty of innumerable crimes, which make it desirable that he be removed as Iraqi head of state, there is scant evidence of Iraq backing terrorism. Part of the reason that Bush's many bellicose statements about ousting Saddam have not gained wider acceptance is the fact that it is impossible for him to articulate the actual good that his war would achieve if successful. Therefore, the real logic of Bush's belligerence against Saddam has been little understood. Bush may be attacking Iraq, but the real target is Saudi Arabia.

Think about it: Saddam may have welcomed an al Qaida operative or two in Baghdad. But the main reservoir of fanaticism that gave rise to and sustains al Qaida is Saudi Arabia. The chief patron of the al Qaida terrorist network is Osama bin Laden, a wealthy Saudi fanatic. The great preponderance of suicide bombers (15 of 19) who attacked the United States on Sept. 11 were Saudi nationals. And the major financial support for the terrorist networks, in addition to the millions lavished on terrorism by bin Laden himself, comes from six other wealthy Saudis.

If stopping terrorism were your objective, and you really meant it, as Bush seems to do, it might be important to cut off the supply of weapons of mass destruction accumulating in unstable hands in Iraq. But it could be equally important to turn off the incubator that is breeding more terrorists, as well as to cut off the flow of funds that sustains terrorist enterprises. This is where Bush is way ahead of his critics.

When you start thinking in those terms, your attention automatically gravitates south of the Iraqi border to Saudi Arabia, which is the main incubator of terrorists. It is the vast Saudi oil wealth, concentrated in the hands of often-pious devotees of the intolerant Wahhabi sect of Sunni Muslims, which repeatedly leaks into the hands of terrorists, many of whom are themselves Saudis. And it is not to be forgotten that official Saudi support for fundamentalist schools in Pakistan and elsewhere in the Muslim world has done much to stoke the fires of religious fanaticism.

Indeed, as The Wall Street Journal reported, the Saudis have financed efforts to spread radical Islam through prison ministries in the United States. (See: "Captive Audience: How a Chaplain Spread Extremism to an Inmate Flock"; "Radical New York Imam Chose Clerics for State Prisons"; "Praise for 9/11 'Martyrs' Saudi Arabia's Helping Hand" by Paul M. Barrett, Feb. 5, 2003.) The story details how the Saudi government financially backed efforts led by Warith Umar, formerly known as Wallace 10X, formerly known as Wallace Gene Marks, to turn imprisoned black Americans into Islamic terrorists.

The major factor that contributes to the cauldron of steaming lunacy in which characters like Osama bin Laden bubble to the surface is the almost uniformly backward
nature of Arab society. Throughout the Middle East, most
Arab cultures are essentially medieval in their orientation. Indeed, in many cases, they are more backward than they were in medieval times, when Arab scientists were at the forefront of developments in astronomy, mathematics, chemistry and technology.

At that time, Arab thinkers like Ibn Khaldun (1332-1406) were centuries ahead of their counterparts in the West. Indeed, many modern scholars consider al Mugaddimah, Khaldun's prologue to history, to be a more sophisticated and modern treatment of the issues raised in Niccolo Machiavelli's The Prince, written a century later. Unlike Machiavelli, or almost any other thinker in early modern Christendom, Khaldun based his analysis of power politics on cultural, sociological, economic and psychological factors, and not just the moral character of the ruler.

I don't know whether Bush has read Ibn Khaldun. I rather doubt it. He may have read Machiavelli. As for Saddam, he certainly acts as though he were a student of Machiavelli. Be that as it may, it appears to me that Bush is basing his campaign against terrorism, not just on the effort to turf out one corrupt prince, Saddam Hussein. Rather, Bush appears to be seeking to undermine the whole cultural, sociological, economic and psychological foundation of terrorism.

Ironically, while Saddam postures, lies and manoeuvres with the alacrity of Machiavelli's Prince, Bush seems intent upon striking at the deeper roots of terrorism, as Ibn Khaldun would have advised.

Regards,

James Davidson For the Daily Reckoning

Daily Reckoning Editor's Note: James Dale Davidson has enjoyed astounding personal success founding new companies in a variety of industries. A graduate of Oxford University, Mr. Davidson is also a renowned venture capitalist and the author of bestsellers such as Blood In The Streets and The Great Reckoning. Davidson's latest research and investment picks can be found in his monthly newsletter, Vantage Point Investment Advisory.

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