Thursday, April 08, 2004

The Iraqi Intifada

The problem was that we got involved in the mess in the first place, of course. Bush was never credible in his claims about WMD. Many will now claim otherwise to cover their own mistakes in judgment, including, unfortunately, John Kerry. I strongly suspect that if he had just admitted making a mistake early in the primary season, he still would have won the primary, and be in a much stronger position to criticize Bush on Iraq. With Kerry's expertise at investigation, I find it very hard to believe that he truly believed that Iraq posed any threat to U.S. security.

Then there is the Bush Administration continued obdurate resistance to UN control of the occupation. There is really only one reason for this in the eyes of the Iraqi's and the eyes of the world: we intend to take advantage of Iraq. For me, this is point at which any possible support I could give the occupation stops.

Bush obviously wants permanent military bases, a compliant Iraqi government, favorable treatment for U.S. corporate interests, and privatization of a great deal of the Iraqi infrastructure (which U.S. tax-payers are shelling out for). The only way to control these things is to hold on to control of the occupation and shape Iraq's institutions ab initio.

I do not necessarily have a problem with nation-building - and if any nation could use building, it is Iraq. Nation-building requires tough choices, a lot of hard-nosed pragmatism, and even a bit of ruthlessness. But it also requires a bedrock, regularly demonstrated commitment to the long-term welfare of the people who are being directly affected. In Iraq, America has demonstrated exactly the opposite. We have failed to initially convince the Sunni, or anyone else that we were there to help; the Shi'a and the Kurds figured that our presence helped them no matter our intent - as long as Saddam was gone and we would leave, that was fine. But now by the ineptitude and base purposes of this Administration we have made it clear that our intention is exploitation and domination, not reconstruction and freedom. Sadr's faction of Shi'a have taken the hint; how much longer before the rest of the Shi'a decide he's right and join him to speed us to the border?

I could probably support the Iraqi occupation if it were run by an Administration that demonstrated a genuine to commitment to nation-building, and not the hollow "empire on the cheap" to which the Bush Administration has proven itself devoted. It would be a benefit to the middle east, regardless of the poor justification for our presence, to have the sort of transformation we wrought in South Korea take place in Iraq. But South Korea was a basket case for 20 years before we were able to turn it around, and there were no ethic or religious schisms to overcome in Korea. Can we afford the sort of investment which Iraq would require? Not with this President. Unless the Iraqi's truly believe that we are there to help, not to repress them, rebuilding Iraq is a fool's errand. And not unless the world believes we truly are committed to helping, and is willing to help with VERY substantial aid.

All I can foresee under current conditions is a military occupation looking by turns like Vietnam, Israel's occupation of Lebanon, or, God forbid, Palestine. We will not have the political will to sustain an effective occupation of Iraq even now, and that violates our obligation to provide security for a conquered nation under international law, and any concept of decency. But we also cannot leave Iraq for fear of creating a failed state that will become a hotbed of terrorism in our wake. The more the Iraqi Intifada heats up, the less likely we are to get anyone to help us, or bail us out.

Bush's legacy will likely be another generation of instability and terrorism in the middle east. One which endangers strategic partners like Saudi Arabia and Turkey, fails to address the problems of proliferation, exacerbates our problematic relations with Iran and Pakistan, and throws yet more fuel on the fires of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Leaving a great portion of our armed forces sitting in the middle of it all. A Perfect Storm indeed. Bush will have accomplished the diametric opposite of his every stated goal in taking us into Iraq. Except of course, for disposing of the only source of stability in Iraq, the Ba'athist regime headed by Saddam Hussein. As wicked as he was, he may yet prove to have been the lesser of evils.

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