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Sunday, August 12, 2007
Current Affairs ... Politics ...

There have been a number of big-newspaper articles in the last week or so acknowledging signs that the US troop surge is having positive effects. Three intellectual heavyweights (Anthony Cordesman, Michael O’Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack) recently got back from Iraq, and are now espousing the progress made by US forces in stopping violence and getting the rebuilding process underway once more. However, quite a few commentators and bloggers are asking if this is not a classic case of winning the battles and losing the war. In the past few weeks, the Parliament went on vacation without solving the big sticking point, i.e. how to get the oil-rich Shiite sections to share their revenues with the oil-poor Sunni areas; the Sunni factions subsequently pulled out of the Maliki government. And three days ago, the governor of a southern Shiite province was killed in a roadside attack. About a year ago, that region (Diwaniyah) experienced fighting between central government troops and militias loyal to Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. Since then, it was thought that radical Shiite factions were cooling their heels. So, despite four years of nation-building on our part, neither the Sunnis nor the Shia appear to be happy with political compromise.

I do believe that a lot of people working for big media aren’t very sympathetic to the Bush Administration, and like myself take perverse delight in seeing the USA mess up a war effort that we wise ones thought was a bad idea from the start. Yea, it’s fun to say “I told you so”. But let’s grow up.

It would be a good thing if the USA could get a stable government going in Iraq. Iraq isn’t going to become a prosperous liberal democracy overnight, as Chaney, Bush and Rumsfeld were dreaming back in 2003. But if it could at least stabilize itself without a strongman government (i.e., another Saddam Hussein), it might eventually move in the directions that we had envisioned for it. Our problem with Islamic terrorism does indeed stem from the social and economic backwardness that is so prevalent in the Middle East (although I’ll be the first to admit that our extremely pro-Israel foreign policies, coupled with our exploitative economic policies focusing on cheap oil, certainly helped to get where we are today). If we could turn Iraq into a poster child with an Arab-Islamic accent, the world might well become safer for all of us.

And that would be a good thing, if not an unmixed blessing. It has a heavy dose of “realpolitik” to it, something along the lines of the 2nd Century Roman Emperors (with their “Pax Romana”) and Henry Kissinger and Queen Victoria. The main scenario is to send in the mighty empire troops, beat down the unhappy local militias and insurgents, then rebuild and modernize their lands, educate their youth, and let them taste the benefits of participation in the new world economy. Our actions in Iraq today are basically the same thing, with a slightly kinder and gentler slant. Will we do any better than the British and the Romans? Can we keep the barbarians from attacking the homeland? Can we prove to the world that we are really good, deep down inside, and that our ways are right? Or are we just winning a few battles in the process of losing that war? That’s the trillion dollar question for the USA, isn’t it.

◊   posted by Jim G @ 11:01 am      

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