1. The Possessed and Their Plans
Dostoevsky paints the scene: a pathetic group of would-be world-shakers gather in a bleak provincial town for a clandestine political meeting – third-rate intellects all, but useful fodder for the socially and politically connected nihilists who sets them on. One earnest dullard rises to address the group: the "long-eared" Shigalov, with a thick notebook outlining his "system of world-organization." It is, he says, the only possible way to ensure the happiness of humanity – although he admits to being puzzled at his own conclusion.
"Having started from the idea of unlimited freedom," he says, "I've ended up with unlimited despotism," in which a small elite will order the affairs of the human "herd," who are to be kept deliberately undereducated, misinformed, plied with myths and spin, and periodically set against each other with fearmongering and "shocks" as a diversion from their servitude. It might sound grim, he adds, "but there can be no other solution of the problem but mine."
Dostoevsky's 1872 novel, The Possessed (also known as Demons)– a prescient dissection of the roots of political terrorism – provides a revealing glimpse of how the noble idea of "humanitarian intervention" to bring freedom and democracy to the benighted places of the earth invariably becomes a brutal despotism, geared toward imposing a single vision of world order.
Thus a Shigalovian plan for global re-ordering – a brutal vision of national dismemberment, forced migration and ethnic cleansing on a gargantuan scale – recently published in Armed Forces Journal has thrown a stark light on the mindset of the "full spectrum dominance" gang now in power in Washington. The article could perhaps be dismissed as the fantasy of a would-be world-shaker – but it has already provoked a diplomatic firestorm from the plan's intended targets, requiring a State Department intervention to dampen the flames.
What's more, a series of events now emerging from the "arc of crisis" stretching from Central Asia to the Mediterranean bear witness to the deadly chaos and "creative destruction" celebrated by the new Shigalovs dancing attendance on the Bush-Cheney administration. These disturbances include strange, Bush-backed treaties with al Qaeda fueling American deaths in Afghanistan; the assassination of moderate voices in Pakistan and Iraq; the despairing surrender of the last hope of holding back civil war in Iraq; and feverish new plans for more war in the turbulent arc, based on the deliberate fomenting of sectarian strife.
Ralph Peters – "Terror War" analyst, hack novelist, ex-military intelligence officer – was the cartographer of creative destruction in the Journal article. Peters, a long-time member of the "close your hearts to pity" school of warhawking commentary, forever urging more strenuous application of hot iron on the recalcitrant tribes that beset us, has recently joined with the bold visionaries at the Project for a New American Century crowd. That's the group made up of Bush Faction heavy hitters – Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Scooter Libby, Elliot Abrams, Brother Jeb and others – who in September 2000 laid out the blueprint that George W. followed faithfully once he acquired the presidency.
This plan – long pre-dating 9/11 – included astronomical hikes in the military budget; invading Iraq and establishing a "permanent role" for a "substantial American force presence in the Gulf;" planting a "worldwide network of forward operating bases;" gutting arms control treaties; and making "regime change" a primary focus of American policy. The PNAC plan did note that it could take decades to get the American people to accept these "revolutionary" changes; unless, of course, the United States was struck by "some catastrophic and catalyzing event – like a new Pearl Harbor."
Peters was not involved with this remarkably prophetic document, but he recently hitched up with PNAC and its demands for adding at least 25,000 new soldiers to U.S. forces each year. However, in his AFJ article – aptly named "Blood Borders" – he surpasses his new compatriots. Where they were content merely to usurp existing regimes, Peters has produced a detailed plan for re-ordering whole regions – ruthlessly chopping up Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan, and creating new countries such as Greater Kurdistan, a Vatican-like "Islamic Sacred State" out of Mecca and Medina, and a "Free Baluchistan," tearing the oil-rich province away from Pakistan. He'd also lighten Islamabad of its troublesome Waziristan provinces and give them to Afghanistan.
To be sure, Peters acknowledges that "correcting" these borders "may be impossible. For now." Nevertheless, he assures us that his admittedly draconian adjustments are the only way we will ever see "a more peaceful Middle East." And in any case, he says, "given time — and the inevitable attendant bloodshed — new and natural borders will emerge." Why? Because of a "dirty little secret from 5,000 years of history: Ethnic cleansing works."
Thus from the warmongers' stated goal of freedom for all nations we've now arrived at a savage hacking at their sovereignty, with enforced "corrections" and ethnic cleansing "from the Bosporus to the Indus." Long-eared Shigalov would surely approve.
(Continued after the jump)
2. Dreams Become Reality
But although the Peters plan – like the 2000 PNAC blueprint – was ignored in the Homeland, those on the receiving end of its enforced beneficence took notice. Especially in Pakistan, where the shaky throne of military dictator and Bush favorite Pervez Musharaff is being rattled by separatist uprisings in several provinces. These include oil-rich Baluchistan, which makes up 42 percent of the nation's territory – not exactly a chunk they'd like to give up for Peters' reshuffle. Angry editorials in Pakistani papers denounced his piece, with one asking why Great Britain was not a target for dissolution: shouldn't Scotland and Wales be free too? Another suggested returning California and Texas to Mexico while Peters was out there redressing "unnatural" borders. The plan sparked a heated response in Turkey as well, and gave fuel to hardliners throughout the Middle East, who seized on it as confirmation of an all-out Western "war on Islam."
Late last month, the U.S. State Department was forced to issue a disavowal of the article, as Pakistan's Dawn newspaper reports. The article was the work of a private citizen and didn't reflect official government policy, said State mouthpiece Sean McCormack, who couldn't resist adding that, yes, the U.S. was committed to sweeping change in the arc of crisis – but only because "this call [for change] comes from the Middle East itself." In other words, they're asking for it.
And they are certainly getting it – in the neck. If the events of the past two weeks are not the work of a deliberate plan to foment mass upheaval and engineer large doses of Peter's lauded political cure-all, ethnic cleansing, the effect on the ground is the same.
Pakistan is now being roiled by the killing late last month of Akbar Bugti, a prominent Baluchi leader and former government minister. His death during a raid by Pakistani military forces has set off mass protests throughout Baluchistan, where the locals have long been squeezed out of the province's oil and gas riches. A violent separatist movement has emerged in recent years, endangering plans for a major pipeline system from Turkmenistan through Afghanistan to Baluchistan. This unrest has also made it difficult for the U.S. to use the province as a staging area for threatening – or attacking – Iran, which lies across Baluchistan's border.
Bugti, a leading player on the national stage for more than 30 years, demanded more autonomy for the province, but denied backing outright separatism. Even so, he became a symbol of Baluchi resistance; surely his removal would quell the uprising and let Musharaff's cronies and his American backers get on with their business in Baluchistan. Or so the thinking went in the dictator's inner circle. But Bugati's death has turned out to be a major blunder, denounced by many in Pakistan's top political and – most ominously for Musharaff – military circles.
At the same time, Musharaff is trying to shore up his faltering support by signing truces with the Islamic extremists now sheltering al Qaeda and Taliban forces in North and South Waziristan. Remarkably, Musharaff has agreed to ease military pressure on the renegade provinces and pour in economic aid (much of it from the U.S.), the San Jose Mercury News reported last week. These truces – fully backed by the Bush Administration – are designed to cool off fundamentalist resistance to the Musharaff regime, and allow him to shift more forces to Baluchistan. But the agreements have also allowed the extremist forces in the provinces, including al Qaeda, to expand their operations in neighboring Afghanistan.
The bloody results of this policy are evident in the fast-crumbling Afghan state, where the resurgent Taliban has essentially recaptured whole provinces and warlords reap the profits of record-breaking opium crops. The fighters freed up by Musharaff's truces in Waziristan are now killing Americans, Canadian, Brits and scores of Afghans. Afghan President Karzai is incensed at the agreements, while the new head of the British army, Sir Richard Dannat, says UK forces are "barely" coping with the unexpected level of combat. But they can do nothing, because the Bush Administration has decided it is in its interests to back Musharaff's domestic political moves – even if this costs American and allied lives. And so the chaos in Afghanistan keeps growing. And of course, Osama bin Laden can breathe a little easier; indeed, Pakistani officials now say that even if he is found in Waziristan, he will not be arrested, as long as "he is being like a peaceful citizen," Major General Shaukat Sultan Khan told ABC News on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, in Iraq, this week's assassination of Sheikh Hassan Mohammed Mahdi al-Jawad, a top aide to Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, provided stark underscoring for Sistani's alarming admission: "I no longer have the power to save Iraq from civil war." Sistani, a relative moderate long credited with keeping the Shiite majority from rising against the Americans or turning violent against the Sunnis, said he was bitterly disappointed in the Bush-backed central government for its weakness and corruption, the Daily Telegraph reports. He acknowledged that he has lost influence with younger Shiites, who now look to firebrand cleric Motqada al-Sadr for guidance – and weapons.
Sadr's forces have been fighting pitched battles with Sunni sectarians and Iraqi government troops – largely militia members of SCIRI, another Shiite faction. Iraq is being chewed to pieces by a three-way civil war – Sunni against Shiite, insurgents against the government, Shiite against Shiite – with the Americans taking sides as it suits them. The resulting chaos makes it less and less likely that U.S. troops – now seen as a "stabilizing force" amongst these warring barbarian hordes – will withdraw anytime soon, if ever. Since the original Iraq post-war plan of a cakewalk and flowers in an obedient satrapy never panned out, perhaps sectarian turmoil might be the best way to achieve that PNAC prescription for a permanent American military presence.
But do things really work that way? Would planners incorporate chaos and bloody turmoil as part of a larger strategy of re-ordering regions and changing regimes?
The Sunday Times reported this week that Israel is embarking on a major strategic shift after being stymied by Hezbollah in Lebanon. The new focus will turn away from Lebanon and Palestine to concentrate on big game: taking out Syria and Iran. Elite brigades are being reconfigured for "deep cross-border operations" in the two countries, while veteran PNACker Richard Perle – a leading strategist for the Israeli hard-Right –is calling for bomb strikes on Syria.
Naturally, American officials are in the loop on the Israeli plans. The State Department reportedly wants to engage Damascus diplomatically and wean it away from its alliance with Iran, the paper reports, because an attack on Syria "could unleash Islamic fundamentalist terror in what has hitherto been a stable dictatorship." But this seems to be just what the Pentagon – led by PNACker Rumsfeld – would like to see: sectarian strife tearing Syria apart.
“If Syria spirals into chaos, at least they’ll be taking on each other rather than heading for Jerusalem,” a Pentagon insider told the paper.
So there it is: the strategy of chaos, the efficacy of ethnic cleansing. This brief tour of the arc of crisis, taken from only a few days of news stories, sounds remarkably like the world Peters prophesied almost 10 years ago, in Parameters, the journal of the U.S. Army War College. UK author Nafeez Ahmed dug up the Peters quote for his Op-Ed News article on the "Blood Borders" controversy, and it is most apt:
"There will be no peace," Peters wrote in the summer of 1997. "At any given moment for the rest of our lifetimes, there will be multiple conflicts in mutating forms around the globe. Violent conflict will dominate the headlines, but cultural and economic struggles will be steadier and ultimately more decisive. The de facto role of the US armed forces will be to keep the world safe for our economy and open to our cultural assault. To those ends, we will do a fair amount of killing."
The brain-sick dreamers of The Possessed had to wait almost 50 years to see their nihilistic visions come to pass in the Revolution and the Red Terror; but it seems our modern Shigalovs can watch their dreams come true in each day's headlines.