[This is part 3 of “Six Crises in Search of an Author: How the Bush Administration Destabilized the Arc of Instability”: part 1 was “Bush’s Absurdist Imperialism”; part 2, “Chaos in the Greater Middle East.”]
At any moment, somewhere in the now-Bush-administration destabilized “arc of instability,” with its six crisis areas, a seventh crisis could indeed rise, demand attention, and refuse to be ejected from the premises. There are many possible candidates. Here are just a few:
Al-Qaeda, an organization dispersed but never fully dismantled by the Bush administration, has now, according to Mark Mazzetti of the New York Times, rebuilt itself in the Pakistani borderlands with new training camps, new base areas, and a new generation of leaders in their thirties, all still evidently serving under Osama bin Laden. (In the future, Mazzetti suggests even younger leaders are likely to come from the hardened veterans of campaigns in Bush’s Iraq). Al-Qaeda is a wild card throughout the region.
Iraqi Kurdistan is now a relatively peaceful area, but from the disputed, oil-rich city of Kirkuk to its Turkish and Iranian borders it is also a potential future powder keg and the focus for interventions of all sorts.
Oil pipelines, which, from the Black Sea to the Persian Gulf, crisscross the region, are almost impossible to defend effectively. At any moment, some group or groups, copying the tactics of the Sunni insurgents in Iraq, could decide to begin a sabotage campaign against them (or the other oil facilities in the region).
Saudi Arabia, an increasingly ossified religious autocracy, faces opponents ready to practice terrorism against its oil infrastructure and rising unrest in its oil-rich Shiite areas as well as an ascendant Iran.
Syria, a rickety minority regime, under internal pressure, now faces the launching of a renewed Bush administration campaign to further undermine its power. Though we have no way of knowing the scope of this campaign, it seems the President and his top officials have learned absolutely nothing about what their meddling is likely to accomplish.
Outside the “arc of instability,” but deeply affected by what goes on there, let’s not forget:
The U.S. Army: 13,000 National Guardsmen have just been notified of a coming call-up, long before they were due for another tour of duty in Iraq. The Army, like the Marine Corps, finds itself under near-unbearable pressure from the Iraq and Afghan Wars and, as a result, is sending less than fully trained troops, recruited under ever lower standards, with worn equipment, into battle. The Army, for instance, is having trouble holding on to its best soldiers. Beyond their minimum five years of service, to take an example, “just 62% of West Pointers re-upped, about 25 percentage points lower than at the other service academies.” And the public grumbling of the top brass is on the increase. Who knows what this means for the future?