The bomb-dropping here isn't merely the implied acceptance of a nuclear-tipped Iran (which Israel immediately panicked over), but the extension of a defense "umbrella" to other Middle East countries, including, presumably, Israel. In Israel's case such an umbrella has been implicit, if never quite official. But it's never been a nuclear umbrella. As for the rest of the Middle East, there's never been such a vague, broad umbrella, though the occupying forces of some 170,000 U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, the headquartering of the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet in Bahrain, and the freewheeling use by U.S. troops of Kuwait and Qatar as bases suggests that an umbrella would be redundant.
Still, Clinton's suggestion compels a fair question. Why should the United States provide a defense umbrella to Middle East nations? Nations such as Japan and South Korea enjoy a U.S. nuclear umbrella, but for two very good reasons: one is to defend the Korean Peninsula against attack from North Korea. The second is to keep Japan from feeling as if it has to go nuclear. NATO members in Europe enjoy cover of an American defense umbrella, or rather, of NATO's umbrella, but NATO members (with Turkey's obvious exception) are synonymous with European and Western interests. Defending Europe is an extension of defending Western democratic values. The same cannot be said of any nation in the Middle East, Israel included (considering Israel's comportment in the occupied territories).
So why should the United States defend the virtual tyrannies or authoritarian regimes of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates (where it's illegal to kiss or campaign against cancer in public) or Algeria? What's exactly at stake there, for the United States, in a Sunni-Shiite battle between Shiite Iran and the Sunni Arab world? It's not even Iran's Shiitism that makes Arab regimes nervous. It's Iran's revolutionary fervor that does.
There's a reason Arab regimes cheered Iran's latest crackdown on demonstrators. They don't want to see more democracy in the Middle East. That would be a fundamental threat to Arab regimes. They want stability--the stability of unquestioning submission that authoritarian regimes need, and unleavened repression that they mete out, to survive.
Why should the United States be extending an defense umbrella to that repression, that submission? Conceding a nuclear-tipped Iran is inevitable. The United States isn't the world's nuclear cop. But explicitly defending the tyrannies of the Middle East is a new low--unnecessary strategically, indefensible morally. Hillary Clinton chose a strange way to remind the world that she is still relevant.
- Why Arab Regimes Cheered Iran's Crack-Down
- Iran's Bogus Nuclear Threat
- Why Hillary Clinton Would Make a Lousy Secretary of State
- Hillary Clinton, MIA
- Morocco Targets Shiites and Homosexuals
- The Imperial Presidency of Algeria's Bouteflika