The Dark Side of the Domino Theory

The idea of a monolithic enemy came from NSC-68 issued in 1950. Paul Nitze was the author of this NSC statement that was the by-product of a George Kennan's "Long Telegram" from Moscow in 1946, and the subsequent 1947 article "The Sources of Soviet Conduct" that argued that the Soviet regime was inherently expansionist and that its influence had to be "contained" in areas of vital strategic importance to the United States. Shortly after NSC-68 became official U.S. policy, Kennan began to criticize the policies that he had seemingly helped launch. By mid-1948, he was convinced that the situation in Western Europe had improved to the point where negotiations could be initiated with Moscow. The suggestion did not resonate within the Truman administration, and Kennan's influence was increasingly marginalized--particularly after Dean Acheson was appointed Secretary of State in 1949. As U.S. Cold War strategy assumed a more aggressive and militaristic tone, Kennan bemoaned what he called a misinterpretation of his thinking.

The CIA intelligence at the time confirmed that the Soviet Union even under Stalin was not in favor of expanding communism with the exception of its Eastern European satellite states to protect itself from another German invasion. The Truman Administration either ignored or skewed the intelligence that confirmed the Soviet position regarding world-wide expansion was a myth to help scare the American people enough to accept a buildup of the military industrial complex. That was the start of the monolithic view of communism that was the birth of the so called domino theory. That theory was disproved after the Viet Nam war and with the confrontation between China and Russia that took place in the late 60s and early 70s. In fact, Nixon and Kissinger exploited this dispute by changing to friendly policies vis-à-vis China and Russia.

With the end of the Cold War, the U.S. was left without an enemy and the military budget was in jeopardy of being slashed. The first Gulf War was the first stage of a view that a new monolithic enemy was in the cross-hairs of our foreign policy. That enemy represented by Iraq's dictator Saddam Hussein, our former ally against Iran, became the monolithic symbol for the Arab/Muslim evil enemy. 9/11 and the second Iraq war reinforced the monolithic view of the Middle East and the second generation of the domino theory. And it mistakenly gave a false perception of the difference between terrorism and totalitarian rogue states in the region. Exactly what constitutes a rogue state in that region is somewhat nebulous.

Iraq was the linchpin for containment in Iran in the region before the first Gulf War. In fact, it was Iraq that was the aggressor in the 80s supported by Reagan and Bush. It was the U.S. goal to have our client state Iraq, not Israel, conquer Iran and overthrow the Islamic revolutionist government in Iran that ousted the Shah in1979. Both Iraq and Iran sufferd several hundred thousand casualties as a result of U.S. military intervention. The incompetence of the military in Iraq was proven by Saddam's unsuccessful execution of the war even though he was armed by us with chemical and conventional weapons. Saddam was also given a false signal in 1990 that his invasion of Kuwait would not be opposed by the Bush Administration. Unfortunately, a military encounter against Iraq by an overwhelming U.S. force was too tempting for the Pentagon to ignore which set into motion all of the things necessary to incite the radicals in this region. The presence of U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia was perceived as a violation of the most "sacred ground" of the Muslim religion which set the stage for Osama Bin Laden and the extremists in that region.

Before the first Gulf War, Egypt and other oppressive Arab governments had been successful in defeating these extremists who had tried to undermine essentially secular dictatorships in the region. Many of these extremists in Egyptian prisons were released to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan. Our military presence in Saudi Arabia in 1990/1991 turned these extremists against the U.S. as their enemy thus replacing the Soviet Union. The alternative to a military confrontation with Iraq in 1991 could have taken place had the State Department put a leash on Iraq's military campaign in Kuwait. But, the opportunity to create another monlithic enemy of the mind was too compelling for Cheney and his Defense Department. The events of 9/11 sealed the deal with the incoming Bush/Cheney Administration. As a result, the domino theory was now alive and well again in another region, one in which the U.S. had strategic economic interests, unlike Viet Nam.

The false perception that all Muslims in Iraq were the same disregarded ethnic, religious, and tribal differences. The belief that so-called rogue Middle East nations could not be distinguished from Muslim extremists is also a form of the old monolithic view that came from the Cold War. Just as there were real distinctions between communist countries, the same is true of most of the Middle East countries with one exception. Iraq was an artificial result of post World War I haggling between the Allies which also resulted in the creation of Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia. Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia have since been seperated into separate sovereign states based upon more natural ethnic commonality. Iraq stands alone as perhaps the least homogenious of ethnicity in the world. Yugoslavia did have a period of instabilty and ethnic cleansing on both sides that did not destabilze the region. It is my belief that a period of sectarian violance in Iraq will not de-stabilize the region because each sovereign state in the region has their own national interest to protect.

The false premise that Iran would be interested in a volatile and unstable country on their border flies against any country's desire to have stability in their neighboring region. Like the Soviet Union, Iran does not want a hostile presence of American troops on their border. Bush naming Iran as part of the "axis of evil" put Iran in essentially the same position as the Soviet Union in 1950 with the issuance of NSC-68. That 1950 strategy became the impetus to the nuclear arms race just as the confrontation with Iran gave birth to Iran's desire for nuclear capability to offset American strategic military dominance just as it gave the same impetus to North Korea.

The regime change we need to build a peaceful Middle East is the rejection of the current leadership and military dominance that has plagued our nation for nearly 60 years. We in the U.S. have to get our own house in order to reject the insane military confrontation that has been evangelized by the Pentagon and their corporate sponsors. That will be the true test for leadership for the current Congress and the Presidential campaign of 2008.