As I said in today’s video, invading countries is a really stupid thing to do in the 21st century. It’s something I think about a lot, and it’s not focused on enough. It’s one of the best things about modern living. We tell ourselves that the United States doesn’t take territory like old empires because we’re such nice folks. This isn’t really backed up by the historical record. The US spent 50 years failing to subject the Philippines to imperial control as one example. If Iraq had worked out, the Bush administration famously wanted to build a broader empire in the middle east in quick succession. Nationalism quite rightly has a bad reputation, but this is one of its nicer aspects. Folks really care about who rules them today. Independence is something that is valued. Literate, nationalist masses, plus readily available explosives makes the old school kind of empire impossible. So even the most powerful countries find that conquest is too expensive.
It’s interesting to me that this principle isn’t more widely understood. It’s clear from almost every conflict the US has been involved in since World War II, yet we keep jumping into new countries and expecting different results. I suspect that the difficulty of conquest does not make it into most discussion of national security, because it would make it too clear how useless a lot of our military spending is. The Military Industrial Complex needs to pretend that conquest is still a thing that happens.
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Video Transcript after the jump…
Ladies and gentleman, Iranian influence is not expanding. I mean it kind of is, but it’s not expanding because of some sinister plot on the part of the Mad Mullahs of Tehran. Thanks to the horrible end of Jamal Khashoggi, The past month has seen a pretty extraordinary shift in Washington DC’s opinion of Saudi Arabia.
Number One, the crown prince is thirty three years old. There’s a reason you can’t run for president until you’re thirty five.
In this country…
Yeah, in this country. He’s been a wrecking ball. He put the prime minister of Lebanon under house arrest for a while. He put an embargo on Qatar and didn’t tell anybody in the world about it. You know one minute he’s a visionary leader, the next minute he’s putting women in jail who…
As weird and awesome as stuff like that is, there is a growing backlash against it. All the old Saudi purchased wise men of Washington DC are reminding us of what our true priorities should be. Sure Saudi Arabia may savagely murder people who mildly criticize the government, but they are a vital ally in the fight against Iranian expansionism. The problem here is that the expansionist Iran they are talking about doesn’t really exist.
The standard story here is that Iran is making great strides in a ton of fronts. Since 2003 they have had growing influence in Iraq, where the majority of the population shares their Shia faith. Since 2012 or so Iran’s influence in Syria has grown as they have acted to preserve the savage regime of Bashar Assad. Since 2015 in Yemen they have acted to help the Houthis in Yemen’s supposed civil war.
When people try to sell this standard story, they leave out something kind of important. Who started all these wars exactly? The United States did. And who led the charge on all of this? Who bribed all the right people in Washington DC to convince us to do all this stupid shit? Saudi Arabia did.
After declaring war on Iraq and Iran with the access of evil speech in 2002, Bush invaded Iraq in 2003, basically giving that Shia majority country to Iran. Saudi Arabia was not in favor of the 2003 invasion, but the only reason we got into it with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq in the 1990s was to defend our Saudi ally. In 2013 the United States launched the largest CIA program in history to turn Syria into a Jihadist nightmare. Who was our main partner in this, who provided billions of their own dollars to the rebels, and who invented the entire ideology of fun groups like ISIS? Saudi Arabia of course. Iran has been allied with Syria for decades. Helping Assad isn’t exactly surprising if you know anything about the region. In 2015 Saudi Arabia convinced the US to help them invade Yemen. The result once again has been escalating influence for Iran. The Iranian presence in Lebanon is rare in that it’s not directly Saudi Arabia’s fault, but according to the US government’s own messaging it’s been there since the early 1980s, so we aren’t talking about anything new here.
Iran isn’t acting offensively. Iran is acting defensively. They are winning in all of these places because they are aligned with the people who actually live there, against outside aggressors. Iran isn’t getting more powerful because of some sinister expansionary plot they came up with. Iran is getting more powerful because Saudi Arabia keeps convincing the US to invade countries and invading countries is a really stupid thing to do in the 21st century. Honestly, if you look at the record, dropping Saudi Arabia as an ally may be the best way for the United States to challenge Iran.
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