News+and+politics religion philosophy the cynic librarian: The Truth About Iraq?!

Thursday, December 01, 2005

The Truth About Iraq?!

One of the soberest assessments of the siuation in Iraq has now appeared on the web. One is by an Australian scholar, Dr Scott Burchill a senior lecturer in international relations at Deakin University in Australia, whose vantage outside the US perhaps gives him distance enough to eyeball the facts clearly and without bias.

He sees the only option for America in Iraq as being one of brutal dictatorship. It is a pessimistic view, one perhaps that only can be answered by immediate withdrawal and subsequent impeachment of G Bush and conviction of D Cheney on war crimes charges. (On impeacing Bush, see also the eminent--West Point-required reading--Israeli military historian's recent article, "Costly Withdrawal Is the Price To Be Paid for a Foolish War," by Martin van Creveld, who calls this war the worst military blunder in over 2,000 years.)

Burchill seems to see that the US has painted itself into a corner--either by ineptitude or through some plan that we are unaware of. While I disagree that the US MUST stay in Iraq, I do think that Burchill presents the REAL picture of the US situation in the Mideast.

Burchill writes:

And yet the likely policy choices of a sovereign, minimally democratic Iraqi government would not be favourable to Washington. Closer political ties with Tehran, continuing hostility to Israel, oil contracts for US competitors such as France, Russia and China, and the political emancipation of Shiites across the region are not what the Bush Administration wants.

The only solution for Bush in Iraq is the traditional imperial one, as applied in the region earlier by the British, the French in North Africa, the Russians in Eastern Europe, the US in Central America, and so on: leave a client regime and a brutal army in place, with big muscle only a phone call away when the natives get too restless. This will be called "the democratisation of Iraq" and victory will be declared again, but few locals will be fooled.
This rather pessimistic assessment brings the long-range and short-range options into focus. I do not think, however that Burchill gives enough credit to the desire for moderation within the Mideast among Arabs themselves. That is, the US could do worse than approach the moderate elements within Iran, who have taken an increasingly keen dislike to their current President.

Were the US to foster better relations with Iran, move away from its past of cozying up to despots and theocrats like Saddam Hussein and Saudi Arabia, perhaps in the long run--and it is a long-run view point here--the Us can foster an environment which will ultimately be in the interests not simply of itself but also of those in the region.

It's time that Americans take on the real debate about Iraq. The debate so far has been about tactics in an ill-defined, nebulous "war on terror." This is simply confusing and miring. The real debate should be about the role that the US plays as the pre-eminent military and economic power in the world. In a word: empire. Many Americans, as Wesley Clarke has noted, do not like the idea of imperial rule. The neo-cons, however, take the idea seriously and have prosecuted the war in Iraq as the first stage in establishing that empire. For all the recent rigamarole about plans and lack of plans, few people engage tha fact that Bush has a plan, and it is the one voiced by neoconservatives like Cheney and Rumsfeld in the 90s.

The case for empire has been made on several grounds. As Bernard Williams notes, there is the "enlightened empire" model, a view based on ethical grounds and advocated by Deepak Lal. Then, of course, there's the rather cynical, classically based argument that the neocons put forward. To the far Left is the argument mainatined by Slavoj Zizek, whose Marxist informed ideals are not so bad, although I wonder whether they are achievable without a reversion to the errors exhibited by past Marxist-Leninist "world orders." And then there is the theologico-deconstructionist view advocated by Adam Kotsko.

Except for the Zizek and Kotsko views, some of these issues have been in the mdeia. The problem is, the media has simply covered them piecemeal. Instead, the issue should be the center of the debate, put on a high level for all to see and discuss. Why this has not been done in the public sphere bears review itself. Could it be that the insider elites--Democratic and Republican--want to debate this issue among themselves, cynically and pessimistically assuming that the "public" cannot be trusted to understand it?

On the other hand, the issue might just be academic, since it appears to economist Anatol Levin that the US simply does not have the economic resources to maintain an empire.

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