Published: Sunday, August 5, 2007
In Middle East arms bazaar, we're always thinking ahead
"More weapons to Israel," says A, as the waiter refills the coffee cups. "And that's a good idea ... why?"
"It's obvious," says B.
The coffee is fresh, the morning is young. There's nothing else on A's schedule for hours. He can afford to be patient.
"Completely obvious," says B, punctuating his pronouncement with a long, slow swallow.
"Help me," says A.
"You give more weapons to Israel," B explains, as if to a large melon, "or they'll object to you giving more weapons to Egypt."
A brief silence, as A considers this new information. There's still something not quite right about it.
"So Rice is going to the Middle East - "
"And Gates, too - don't forget Gates."
"So Rice and Gates are both going to the Middle East, and the reason they're going to the Middle East is to give more weapons to Israel, and the reason they're doing that is so Israel won't be upset about us giving more weapons to Egypt."
"And the Saudis," says B.
"What about the Saudis?" says A.
"We're also selling more weapons to the Saudis. You wouldn't want Israel getting upset about that either."
"Of course not. But why - "
"And the Gulf States. You know - Bahrain and Qatar and ... those other ones."
"We're selling them more weapons, too?"
"That's what we're saying, anyway. We wouldn't be saying it if it weren't true."
The waiter is pouring again. They wait for him to finish, then carefully recalibrate their cream and sugar levels - dark but very sweet for A, lighter but barely sweet for B. Being a coffee drinker is harder than it looks.
"I don't know," says A when they've completed their calculations. "It's not like the Saudis have exactly been our best friends lately. How do we know they won't use these millions of dollars of - "
"Billions," says B. "It's probably billions."
"Great. So how do we know they won't use these billions of dollars of new weapons in some really dangerous way? Or give them to somebody else?"
"We don't know. We'll just have to - "
"Besides" - A is on a roll now - "isn't there enough tension in that part of the world already? Does it really make sense to pour billions of dollars of new weapons in there? Why would we possibly want to do that?"
"Iran," says B.
"Iran?" says A.
"Iran is starting to throw its weight around. We have to have a counterweight, or they could dominate the entire region."
"That wouldn't be good," says A.
"That would be terrible," says B.
"Didn't Iraq used to be the counterweight?"
"Before we overthrew Saddam, I mean. Didn't Iraq used to be the biggest counterweight to Iran?"
"But not anymore."
"I guess not."
The waiter is back with the bill. They both reach for their wallets, toss their money onto the table.
"Tell me we thought all this through first," says A.
"Who did?" says B. "Thought what through?"
"Exactly," says A.
Rick Horowitz is a nationally syndicated columnist. Contact him by writing to firstname.lastname@example.org.