Thursday, October 7, 2010

When will they ever learn?

In the 1980s while the Soviet Union was occupying Afghanistan, the United States government helped to create Al Qaeda. They financed Osama bin Laden and his mujaheddin in their fight against the Russian occupation. Not much later we invaded Afghanistan to capture bin Laden. We are still involved in this war which, at the moment, is not going well.

In retrospect financing bin Laden turned out to be a terrible mistake for which we will pay for a long time.

In the same Cold War period, Somalia was first a client of the USSR. They had a guided missile base there. The Russians supported Somalia. The United States supported neighboring Ethiopia. Then left-leaning generals took over the government in Ethiopia and we and Russia played musical chairs. Russia sponsored the left-leaning generals in Ethiopia and Somalia now became a client of United States.

Enormous quantities of weapons flowed into the region. In the 1990s the government in Somalia collapsed. The United States rescue effort ended in a shameful defeat for us. Today Somalia has no functioning government. But its coastline harbors pirates who are taking in millions of dollars every year in ransom for big ships they managed to take over. The Pirates are armed with weapons we supplied in the years of Cold War rivalry.

There are other examples of this knee-jerk policy of arming the enemies of our enemies. Again and again this policy has backfired dramatically. But our Department of State has not learned its lessons.

They are about to do it again. The Obama administration is considering selling $60 billion worth of advanced aircraft in Saudi Arabia -- a country mired in medieval customs and government. Run by a king and his family, Saudi Arabia is ultraconservative and oppressive to its population, especially to women. It is not a suitable political partner for a country that presents itself to the world as a champion of free institutions.

But following the disastrous principle that the enemies of our enemies are our friends we will sell cutting-edge military supplies to the Saudi kingdom because they are enemies of Iran.

How long before we will bitterly regret this action?