A few nights ago, some friends asked for my predictions about what’s going on in the Middle East. Specifically, they wanted to know “How big will it get?” I led off with the old mutual-fund disclaimer: “Past performance is no guarantee of future returns.” A prognostication must stand independently of its prognosticator. No matter how many times he’s been right in the past, he can still be wrong, so use your own eyes and ears, your own analytical skills, and your own judgment.
Having said that, I got down to prognosticating. Why not, after all? Everybody else is doing it. Besides, it’s fun.
I predicted a large regional war. I said that I expect it to embroil several Islamic states, but that Great Power involvements would be limited to provisions and “diplomacy.” The U.S., Russia, China, and the NATO nations would function as the supply depots for their respective proxies in Eurasia. This time around, I opined, the deterrent power of the nuclear arsenals would hold…but considering China’s machinations against India and Pakistan’s willingness to collaborate for “a piece of the action,” it could be a close thing.
What clouds the issue is the divergence among the ruling motivations of the nations involved. The Islamic states want very much to destroy Israel. The desire emanates both from religious animosity and from envy of Israel’s spectacular economic success, which shames its Islamic neighbors. But Russia, China, the U.S., et alii are motivated quite differently.
Russia, despite its success in Ukraine, would very much like to have America’s attentions elsewhere. Our shipments of weapons and money to Ukraine have helped to prolong its resistance. Were we to shift our attention to Israel, that supply chain would necessarily tighten.
China has similar motives. The PRC is increasingly determined to seize Taiwan. Once again, a small, economically and socially successful nation has demonstrated the superiority of a free economy to other schemes. As determined as the Chinese were to have Hong Kong, they’re twice as resolved to eliminate Taiwan as a thorn in their flesh…but first, American attention to the defense of Taiwan must be distracted.
India and Pakistan would normally not be affected by an Israel / Islam showdown. But if China can induce Pakistan to take a more assertive attitude toward its decades-long border clash with India, the PRC could also score gains along the India / China border and in Nepal, where the suppression of regional resistance has proved difficult.
Such Great Power maneuverings were typical of the early Twentieth Century, before the outbreak of World War I. Of course, our world of today is not that one. In some ways it’s far more dangerous. However, the changes to national economies have altered the pressures on the largest nations.
The United States, owing to the anti-energy policies of the Biden Regime, must have uninterrupted access to Middle Eastern oil. Our former self-sufficiency would have made that influence far less, possibly even negligible. Add European NATO’s need for Russian energy supplies. At the very least, the combination would create a large incentive for the NATO nations to try to shorten the conflict. Consider how they meddled in the conflicts of 1956, 1967, and 1973.
The U.S. is to warfare today as the Krupp Arms Works was to Europe in the early 1900s. We are the world’s leading-edge developers of weapons systems. There’s a lot of money involved…and you can bet your bottom dollar that the masters of our large defense companies are aware of how much they could make from a large ground war. The demand for munitions would keep those firms busy for a long time to come.
American citizens’ concerns tend to be about whether American armed forces will get involved. Politically, that would seem a losing move for the Usurper Regime, despite the general disposition of Americans to back Israel against its attackers. We’ve had a lot of war, and a lot of losses of blood and treasure, since Black Tuesday, 2001. Popular sentiment today is against further commitments of American personnel to wars which don’t directly involve American interests.
But to what extent does popular sentiment influence the political elite of our time? The electoral game is rigged; that was amply demonstrated in November 2020. Besides, foreign conflicts are a traditional deflector of public opinion from domestic concerns. External enemies can redirect popular passions away from domestic dissatisfactions. Besides, war provides a great excuse for further federal taxation, federal borrowing, and currency degradation.
That makes the probability of direct American involvement in a Middle Eastern war difficult to assess. It could happen. Will it, given the proximity of the 2024 elections? The dispatch of a significant American naval force toward the eastern Mediterranean certainly looks ominous, but so far, there are no American boots on the ground. We can only pray that will remain the case.
So there you have it, Gentle Reader: the geostrategic vision of the mouthiest commentator on the World Wide Web. I’m probably wrong, though whether in detail or overall we must wait to learn. Most people who presume to predict important developments are wrong; why should I be an exception? But as I said above, it’s fun, even if what one foresees is not fun. And of course, “wrong” is a statement about quality, not about magnitude or direction. These, too, are things we must wait to learn.
However, about some things, I am sufficiently certain to use the imperative mood:
- Buy ammo.