Last month, Andrew Bacevich eviscerated the Iraq War party with his passionate and clear-sighted essay, “Surge to Nowhere,” in the Washington Post. He points out that the real motivation behind last year’s troop escalation was to avoid popular outrage building in the US electorate to the point where the troops were pulled out. He observes that the argument for the “success” of the “surge” is purely a tactical one. When viewed from the vantage point of grand strategy, the Iraq War is as much a failure as it has always been.
If someone came to you six years ago and said that for only $2 trillion, you could have for your colony a burned out country, a failed state, and a semi-permanent incubator of terrorism and hatred against the US, would you have ponied up the money? That’s what you’ve got, and that is what it cost you. Detroit could have used some of that money. New Orleans could have used some of that money. Appalachia has lots of schools that need to be painted.
The argument could be made that Israel is safer with Saddam Hussein out of power. But that argument does not hold water. Current Iraqi leaders such as Muqtada al-Sadr and Adnan Dulaimi are not less anti-Israel than Saddam, and it turns out he did not have WMD with which to attack Israel anyway. The Shiites of Iraq will certainly side with Hizbullah against Israel, which may actually mean that Israel is less secure now than before. Moreover, to have substantial turmoil on their doorstep just cannot be good for the Israelis.
You could argue that US petroleum corporations are now well placed to bid on Iraqi oil development. But what with doomsday cults planning a takeover of the petroleum facilities, it will be some time before it is safe for US corporations to operate in Iraq. China and Holland (Shell) are being looked upon favorably by the Iraqi government as investors.
And anyway, if the US government had thrown the $2 trillion and more that Iraq will end up costing at green energy development, both we and the earth would have been far better off. At a time when the US military is paying 60,000 Sunni Arab Iraqis $300 a month each not to fight us, it is pretty hard to justify letting the US working class sink, without any government help, into penury and homelessness in the face of the mortgage crisis and the recession. The Iraq War may or may not be good for Houston. It is certainly bad for Iraq and for everyone else.
The current round of optimism about Iraq in the Washington press corps will eventually falter against the country’s hard realities, just as have previous such rounds. Or maybe worrying about Iraq and continued US troop deaths there is so yesterday for the punditocracy in DC.
The optimism is a planted story, a sleight of hand produced by looking at tactics rather than at strategy, or by making comparative statements (Iraq has less violence today than it did in the volcanic period a year ago) which obscure absolute reality (Iraq is very unstable and dangerous).
What the snake oil merchants like Fred Kagan and Bill Kristol (both of them hard right Zionists) are really saying is that if you just give them $2 trillion more, and are willing to expend another 12,000 killed and wounded American young people, boy do they have a deal on a neo-colony for you.
Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice– can’t get fooled again.
Juan R. I. Cole is a professor of history at the University of Michigan and has written extensively about Iran, Iraq, and South Asia. He has given numerous media and press interviews on the War on Terrorism since September 11, 2001, as well as interviews on the Iraq War and the building conflict with Iran.
Click here to visit Professor Coles’ home page.