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The Middle Eastern way of war

The Middle Eastern Way of War

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On April 14th, Iran launched a combined missile and drone attack on Israel. The attack did little to no damage, mostly because the Israeli forces, supported by the US, UK, French and Jordanian air force managed to shoot down all incoming bogeys. The damage was negligible and only a few people were injured. The attack came in response to an earlier Israeli bombing of the Iranian consulate in Syria which resulted in the death of an Iranian commander. Tellingly, the Iranian attack was one of the most heavily telegraphed attacks in history, with Iranians going as far as specifying the hour of the attack, the types of weapons and their flight path days in advance. In short, Iran seemed intent on launching an attack that would be deflected without any casualties or serious damage to Israel. To me, it sounds insane, but if we look at it in its proper cultural and civilisational context, it’s just the Middle Eastern way of war. 

As we speak, the Israeli government is debating launching some sort of counterattack. Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu is deeply unpopular domestically and wants to prolong the conflict with Hamas as well as engineer more conflict with Iran in order to exploit the rally around the flag effect, however Israel’s inhumane actions in Gaza have left him in a position where if Israel acts, it’d be acting alone, without assistance from the US and other Western allies. So, we’re unlikely to see any serious Israeli attacks on Iran. 

However, it is highly likely that we’ll see a performative Israeli missile attack on Iran, one that Iran will easily deflect, possibly with the same level of telegraphing and informing as before. Again, to Western eyes, informing your supposed mortal enemy of the time, place and method of your attack seems insane, but that is just the Middle Eastern way of war. 

In fact, the history of the Middle East isn’t so much a history of war as much as a history of low-level, internecine conflict. Western liberals may pine for “peace in the Middle East”, but we don’t often understand that there’s very rarely war in the Middle East, at least the way we understand it. For example, Israel and Syria are currently at war and have been since the Yom Kippur war in 1973. Outside of sometimes lobbing artillery shells and rockets at each other, their armies do not really engage each other in what western militaries would recognise as battles. 

When Western people, Western states say war, they mean war. Two states which are at war will use all available means to destroy each others’ military capacity and combat power. Western militaries will seek to overwhelm the enemy completely, use the element of surprise to gain an advantage, concentrate forces to attain local superiority, engage in deception and shaping operations in order to manipulate the enemy order of battle, use manoeuvre to attain tactical advantage etc. At no point will Western states perform military actions designed to fail. Even a diversion, a military action that’s destined to fail (or appear to fail) serves the purpose of distracting the enemy so that a friendly action succeeds. To put it in layman’s terms, Western militaries do not fuck around. But fucking around seems to be inextricably linked to the Middle Eastern way of war. 

The Western conception of war is conflict between opposing states with each seeking to impose its will on the other with a mixture of political and military means. The oft misrepresented and misunderstood von Clausewitz quote speaks of “the continuation of politics with a mixture of other means”, the other means being the military actions. In European politics, the dialectic between states is one of competition or cooperation, with war being only the highest possible level of competition where one actor seeks to eliminate the other’s ability to successfully project military power. When European states go to war, they go to war for keeps and seriously. Thus the European takes war very seriously – after all, he is likely to be ordered by his government to take up arms, kill other human beings and put himself at the risk of being killed. It is in fact in this right to order a man to go out and legitimately kill another man that Carl Schmitt places the “concept of the political.” The right to make the friend-enemy distinction belongs to the legitimate sovereign. 

When a European man is told by his legitimate sovereign to go out and kill another man, he will do  so with alacrity and ruthlessness that are frightful to behold. Good, liberal-minded, almost comically friendly men who look like Ned Flanders will turn into blond beasts and wreak destruction on whatever unlucky souls they’re pointed at. Or, in the words of George Orwell:

As I write, highly civilized human beings are flying overhead, trying to
kill me.
They do not feel any enmity against me as an individual, nor I against them. They are ‘only doing their duty’, as the saying goes. Most of them, I have no doubt, are kind-hearted law-abiding men who would never dream of committing murder in private life. On the other hand, if one of them succeeds in blowing me to pieces with a well-placed bomb, he will never sleep any the worse for it. He is serving his country, which has the power to absolve him from evil. 

The Lion and the Unicorn

To such a blond beast with no aim but victory, the notion of lobbing missiles at one another along predictable routes, at pre-announced times is uncanny. The Middle Eastern way of war is so radically different that it is almost incomprehensible to a Westerner. A white nation at war seeks to end it by defeating the enemy entirely, or by inflicting enough damage on him that he cries uncle and sues for peace. The war aim of a European nation at war is to end the war on its terms and return to peace. However, Middle Eastern powers don’t seek to end wars and return to peace because their notions of war and peace are radically different to our own. 

For starters, middle easterners do not believe in peace. I use the term middle easterners because in my observations, all of the ethnic and religious groups in this space seem to have the same attitude towards war and peace. While I’m sure there exist many national, religious and linguistic differences between Israelis, Iranians and Arabs, fundamentally, neither of these three people groups seem interested in ending a conflict like Europeans end conflicts and rather more interested in keeping conflicts going on as some sort of face-saving theatre.

The Middle Eastern way of war is to keep internecine conflict going for years primarily as a means of appearing strong domestically. There’s no finality or totality to Middle Eastern conflicts. Whereas Europeans will go to war today and seek to end it by overwhelming the opposition as soon as possible and thereby winning peace, middle easterners are very comfortable with generations-long low level conflicts and not very interested in total wars. A total war is an exceptional state (or in Schmittian terms, a state of exception), where all or most societal resources are mobilised for the purpose of overwhelming and destroying the enemy. In its declaration, it contains the implication of the non-exceptional state, the normal state, which is the state of peace. A middle easterner has no conception of peace or of (total) war because they can only really exist in a state of permanent low-level conflict. 

A total war would require a society-wide mobilisation of resources, and a necessary precondition for that would be to have a society. However, middle eastern countries don’t really have societies – they have clans. To mobilise national resources, the countries would have to violate the rights of the clans and if they did that, they’d risk conflict with the clans. Thus the clans can prevent the titular sovereign from taking sovereign action, i. e. waging war. In a European context, this’d mean that the clans are the actual sovereigns, or that they are a political entity with a check on sovereignty because they have the power to veto a declaration of war and thereby influence the friend-enemy distinction. But this is not Europe and because of the need to appear strong as well as the strong cultural tolerance in the region for having performative or low-level conflict, the titular sovereign has the option to wage a phoney war, to lob missiles and artillery shells, to stage raids and use proxy forces, all in the service of pretending to wage war with the supposed enemy, all the while not seriously threatening the enemy in any way, shape or form. 

The exception which proves the rule here would be Israel before 1973. In the earlier days, when it was ruled by white-admixed Ashkenazi Jews of the Mapai and later Labour Party, Israel would engage in total wars and seek swift, decisive victories in the European fashion, such as for example in the Six Day War in 1967 or the Yom Kippur War in 1973. However, as Israel has experienced a demographic shift, with the Arab-admixed Sephardi and Mizrahi Jews outbreeding the white-admixed and Europeanised Ashkenazi, power has rested more and more with Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud which has a typically middle eastern genocidal rhetoric against the enemies of Israel combined with typically middle eastern military ineffectiveness and preference for subterfuge, intelligence operations, depending on the US and generally favours low-intensity conflict over the decisive actions – whether in the direction of war or peace – advocated by Labour. The history of Israel since it crested the Ashkenazi demographic wave has been the history of its devolution into a more primitive – or more precisely more middle eastern society. 

To all the impatient war watchers out there expecting a flareup in the Middle East to trigger a good and proper war: your princess is in another castle. The sand people will keep flinging projectiles at one another in order to appear strong to their domestic populations, but the very structure of their nations means that they cannot wage wars like Europeans wage wars. They’ll rattle their sabres and threaten annihilation, but it’s all in the day’s work for them. War, alas, is a white man’s game and will remain so for the foreseeable future. Middle Easterners, whether they’re Jews, Arabs or Iranians are simply unmartial in the extreme, weak and effeminate, more given to subterfuge and shadows than to open conflict, or indeed honest diplomacy and peaceful coexistence. Those remain the provenance of civilised nations and are very far removed from the Middle Eastern way of war. 

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“However, middle eastern countries don’t really have societies – they have clans”

Bingo. They’re not unified, good. Also I would add they are dumb and beastly. I bet they had White people design and build all of their rockets.

Great article.Too many people in the DR constantly push the narrative that non-Western states are superpowers and uber trad when in reality this couldn’t be any further from the truth.

Also coincidentally the ones who push this myth also happen to be Russian shills.When they’re not hyping up the little grey mans monster they spread demoralization.

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