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The Truth Behind the New Islamic Flashpoints

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

The CIA claims that it never saw the storm coming, but Canadian intelligence sure did.

Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird landed in Vladivostok, Russia, earlier this month for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit and had barely stepped off the plane when he announced that Canada would be pulling its diplomats out of Iran and closing its embassy while kicking all Iranian diplomats out of Canada.


At the time, some thought that maybe the minister had a few too many mini vodkas on the ride over. Several days later, when protests and embassy attacks erupted in Islamic nations, and the American ambassador to Libya was killed along with three other diplomats, suddenly Canada looked like the sanest guy in the room rather than the paranoid weirdo.

But pulling diplomats out of Iran doesn't have the effect that it once might have, because we're now well into an age of war by outsourced proxies and various ragtag rebels on all sides, unaccountable to any nation-state beyond the one paying them to wreak havoc -- which is why the Islamic world has erupted with protests and there's little that can be done by anyone other than immediate on-site law enforcement (where it even exists).

First off, it would be helpful to depoliticize the issue domestically so the focus can remain on finding a solution rather than pinning blame to score cheap political points. Best I can tell, neither U.S. President Barack Obama nor Republican challenger Mitt Romney has any sort of viable solution, nor will we get around to a productive discussion until everyone uselessly pointing fingers sits down.

This also includes foreign players like Hassan Nasrallah, the head of Lebanon's Hezbollah, an Iranian proxy. Nasrallah is apparently naive enough to believe -- or foolish enough to think that intelligent people would believe -- that an obscure, low-budget video short posted online was actually the exclusive catalyst for all the mayhem, rather than just a false flag and cover for belligerent action. Nasrallah's solution: "There should be resolutions adopted in top international institutions, which are binding on all states and governments in the world, to forbid the defamation of religions."


Nasrallah should get out more. Those laws already exist around the world in functional democracies, and they're good enough. If they aren't sufficient to prevent people from losing their minds in his neighborhood, then he should work on closing that behavioral loophole at home. But clearly, as protests in Lebanon in the wake of Nasrallah's remarks against this heretofore obscure video short prove, he benefits politically from not closing it.

And forget trying to concoct any overarching linear tinfoil-hat conspiracy theory around this latest fiasco -- there are too many parties involved, across too vast a region, each with their own interests, who will all exploit the disruption and fog of war to the max, regardless of how and why it may have started.

To some, the obvious solution is to cut off funding to all proxies and abandon all foreign interests to refocus on domestic economics and security. The common refrain is, "What are we still doing in Islamic countries? Let's get out of there and bring everyone home." Right. And the ragtag "rebels," including al-Qaeda, shuttling as needed between Libya, Syria and elsewhere to foment paid unrest on behalf of the highest bidder are just going to go home, kick back with a beer and take up macramé?

It's a naive worldview at best. Even if America and all its allies shuttered all foreign embassies and interests tomorrow, they would be abandoning all economic interests and influence to the competition -- namely Russia and China.


It's a false paradigm to qualify these two nations as the "enemy." Russia has fought alongside NATO in Afghanistan and in the war on terrorism. Four months ago, Russian Special Forces held military drills with U.S. forces at Colorado's Fort Carson. You don't do that with the "enemy." In China's case, the "enemy" doesn't help prop up your bank account by buying up a significant chunk of your debt at a critical time. No, these are, more accurately, "competitors" who, just as we do, want to win at the game of ideological and economic supremacy for the sake of their people's best interests.

Abandoning the global competition would be forfeiting the game completely, so that's not a realistic alternative.

Rather than everyone bashing each other over the head for political show, we need to find solutions for containing and curtailing these proxies -- including our own -- and engaging in a more honest and civilized global economic competition that doesn't involve constant mutual deception and obfuscation. Either that or we just accept warfare and any related deception as inherent to man's nature, regardless of his purported degree of sophistication, and a natural extension of politics by other means, as military theorist Carl von Clausewitz said. In that case, we just toughen up about it and quit whining about every global flashpoint as though we have some sort of better idea when clearly no one does.


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