For U.S., Middle East ‘Moderates’ a Fool’s Errand

For U.S., Middle East ‘Moderates’ a Fool’s Errand
Fighters of the Islamic State waving the group's flag from a damaged display of a government fighter jet following the battle for the Tabqa air base, Raqqa, Syria, photo post Aug. 27, 2014 (AP photo/ Raqqa Media Center of the Islamic State group).

The elusive unicorns wandering the forests of America’s Middle East policy are the so-called moderates who will battle the extremists on behalf of the Western world. There is a touching faith among many parts of the U.S. foreign policy establishment in the existence of these moderates, who simply require sustained U.S. support in order to step forward out of the shadows of the stagnant status quo regimes and extremist movements that dominate the region.

These moderates, according to this rosy view, can already field a disciplined and effective fighting force. But better yet, they can also be trained quickly and proficiently in the use of the latest U.S. military technology—and will be prepared to hand those weapons back when the fighting is done. In addition, they will be prepared to embrace some form of secular democracy, defend the rights of minorities and recognize Israel as a Jewish state.

Not surprisingly, finding such moderates has proved to be an impossible challenge. Certainly there are individuals and even small organizations in the region that embrace a secular liberal democratic agenda. Yet such forces do not command much allegiance among the general population, nor are there mass moderate movements that simply require an infusion of resources to become viable.

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