Victory in Iraq?
Columnist declares, “Pretty unlikely, sir.”
After President George W. Bush announced his plan to deploy 21,500 additional troops to Iraq in January, I wrote that the surge strategy had no chance of success (“America should not support Bush’s new plan for Iraq,” Jan. 24, p. 7). In the interest of intellectual honesty, I must admit that American forces have achieved more than I thought possible since that time. Even with that in mind, I can only reject the assessment of two Brookings Institution scholars shared in a July 30 New York Times article that Iraq is “A War We Just Might Win.”
Writers Michael E. O’Hanlon and Kenneth M. Pollack cited reduced civilian casualties, high morale and greater cooperation between Iraqi natives and U.S. troops as positive developments. These achievements are laudable, but they do not constitute a basis for optimism.
We have not yet seen that any sustainable gains have been made with regard to security in Baghdad and other areas of Iraq. As has been the case since the start of the occupation, insurgents removed by U.S. troops are returning to their previous bases after Americans vacate the area. The surge was intended to prevent such lost progress and has only been partially successful. After March 2008, the Defense Department’s deployment policy will force a reduction of U.S. troops. Unless surprisingly rapid gains are made between now and then, the improvements made during 2007 will prove ephemeral.
The details of the counterinsurgency are not my motivation in questioning the prospects of victory in Iraq. Nor am I motivated by the utter lack of political progress by the Iraqi government, lamented in the biannual National Intelligence Estimate released on Aug. 23.
I conclude that victory in Iraq is not possible because the United States has built its foreign policy on a disastrous model. History shows that the United States government, under Republican and Democratic presidents alike, has maintained a view of the world around us which is callous, hypocritical and myopic.
It now seems to me that the people behind the Iraq war knew it was sure to fail. If so, why would they go through with it? Our government’s foreign policy paradigm is entirely wrong, and the decision to invade reflects that broken paradigm. Foreign intervention is rarely motivated by the interests of the American public. Rather, military deployment and especially covert operations are most often conducted on behalf of powerful business interests. Hawaii, numerous Native American nations, Mexico, Chile, Venezuela, Iran and dozens of other countries have been subject to coup attempts or military invasion for the benefit of rich American businessmen. Collateral damage is acceptable because the property destroyed is not American property and the children inadvertently killed are not American children.
The American government and the public have consistently failed to learn the lessons of our foreign policy failures throughout history. U.S. influence has helped to make South America and the Middle East politically and militarily volatile, requiring continued covert or overt operations to protect U.S. business interests.
Plans were announced recently to give $20 billion in military aid to Saudi Arabia and $30 billion to Israel in an attempt to retain the balance of power in the Middle East. This expenditure was deemed necessary in the face of the increased leverage of Shiite Iran after the creation of the current Shiite-led Iraqi government. Sunni Saudi Arabia, long a U.S. ally, is expected to help counter the military strength of Iran, and Israel has been granted this additional aid in order protect itself from both Arab powers, which represent threats to the Jewish state.
This untenable situation is the result of the U.S.’s past involvement with both countries: the Saudi government has a long-standing friendship with U.S. oil interests; the 1979 coup by anti-American religious zealots in Iran was a response to the Eisenhower Administration’s overthrow of the democratically elected government of Iran in 1953, which, true to form, was conducted for the benefit of oil corporations.
This pattern is clear throughout the history of our foreign interventions, and the Iraq war has faithfully continued it. Recent advances by U.S. troops are impressive, but they can only be called successes if one approaches the war with the same pernicious mindset which led to the abysmal political and military situation in that country and in the greater Middle East region.
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