Sunday, March 30, 2008

Cures for Iraq Without Diagnosis

In the Washington Post today Zbigniew Brzezinski, former National Security Adviser (to Jimmy Carter) and first head of the Trilateral Commission secretariat, has a prescription to end the war in Iraq. Like all three candidates for the presidency of the United States, he offers a cure without a diagnosis. None of the movers and shakers has yet said why the United States is in Iraq.

Obviously, it is not because Saddam Hussein had nuclear weapons or a program to develop them; and there are few who believe that the hard-eyed neo-conservatives of the Bush administration initiated the Iraq adventure to spread democracy in the Arab world.

What then?

The closest Brzezinski comes to an answer is when he says
"The case for terminating the war is based on its prohibitive and tangible costs, while the case for 'staying the course' draws heavily on shadowy fears of the unknown and relies on worst-case scenarios. President Bush's and Sen. John McCain's forecasts of regional catastrophe are quite reminiscent of the predictions of 'falling dominoes' that were used to justify continued US involvement in Vietnam. Neither has provided any real evidence that ending the war would mean disaster, but their fear-mongering makes prolonging it easier."

The comparison with Vietnam is misleading, for there is nothing comparable to the fear of international communism actuating American foreign policy. Saddam Hussein's Iraq was in no danger of falling to jihadist Islam; nor is such a fear realistic today; "al-Qaeda in Iraq" wouldn't last long in a post-occupation situation dominated by the Shiite majority and Sunni tribal leaders intensely protective of their turf.

Nor is fear of Sunni-Sh'iah carnage in a post-US Iraq an acceptable explanation for continued occupation of the country. If Washington announced today that it intended to pull out of Iraq and that it wanted an international force to oversee the transition, the rest of the world would be eager to help. That is not happening because continued conflict is enormously profitable to a handful of corporations and people; and it's not just military contractors: look at the balance sheets of the major oil companies. The geopolitical situation the war has created also benefits the same interests. Unless there is a public debate about all this, clearly identifying who loses and who benefits from the situation in Iraq, we are unlikely to see the path to peace.

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