Sunday, November 27, 2005

Oh, what a lovely war

I am a cold war liberal, I strongly supported the first Gulf War against Saddam, I strongly supported the use of force in Bosnia and Kosovo. No pacifist or a friend of bloody dictatorships I, but never could I have believed that the US would choose to have a war of aggression against a country that was not an imminent threat and who was being contained effectively by other means. A state of affairs that was very well known to the Bush administration.

To have a war of choice in these conditions was guaranteed to split the West and in effect leave the US to go solo. No strings attached. And that was not seen as an unavoidable cost by the neoconservatives but, incredibly, as a welcome bonus. Talk about hubris. So, intelligence was cynically manipulated, a purely Goebbelsian propaganda campaign was started, Iraq was attacked and then occupied in a criminally negligent fashion. It seems that if you break it, you don't nowadays own it, not if it would mean a draft and a costly, real commitment for decades. Instead what you hoped for was a friendly strongman that would keep the oil flowing and take care of the housekeeping efficiently, should I say, in a quite Saddamian fashion.

And then, and then, after having ended up in the predictable bloody mess, you say to your critics that let bygones be bygones: what is done is done and we are all in this together. No, we are not in this together. This is what you get when you go it alone: you get to be alone. I am not totally convinced that a speedy US withdrawal would make things worse. It might actually help the situation. What I am totally sure about is that we can't make a success of this morally corrupt, disgusting imperial adventure. Now that state of affairs would be an imminent threat to the West.

There are certain moral positions we have to defend to the last - one of them is that we are not torture loving pirates. We have been lucky in that evil means have led to disastrously bad concequences. Yes, lucky, and yes, evil. With a capable, adult administration the situation would be even more horrible: the naked aggression would have succeeded and the ends would have ended up justifying the criminal means - and would been corrupted by them. We can only hope that one of the characteristics of capable and adult administrations would be not to engage in morally corrupt and criminal wars of choice.


helsinkian said...

The crux is of your argument is that the most important thing that happens is what happens to America and how this will affect US policy in the future.

I see things differently simply because to me what matters is what happens to Iraq. If American troops are withdrawn from Iraq in defeat and the victorious forces on the ground represent al-Qaeda or Baathist forces, that will be a very sad day for me. It will be no better if a lengthy civil war and a failed state results as a too speedy US withdrawal.

I'm certainly not advocating a US withdrawal but I'm advocating for America to support democracy in Iraq and for Europe to do the same.

Both supported dictatorship in Iraq when Saddam was taking care of things. Saddam was not any old dictator, he was personally responsible for a war against Iran that led to a million deaths and after that, he invaded Kuwait. While he was doing that, he used WMD against his subjects. To me that's the big deal, Saddam paying the price for his atrocities and indeed one of the dirtiest episodes in history (his rule) and the secrets behind it laid into the open.

I think it'll be an equally sad outcome of the war if US troops remain in Iraq and a supposedly Saddam-lite is installed to take care of business as usual. Democracy is the best thing that can come out of this war. But it won't come by itself, it needs to be nurtured.

Bush 41 could have toppled Saddam but his administration felt that a continued rule by Saddam would keep the balance of terror in the Middle East intact. That was cold calculation and Realpolitik and yes, it saved some America lives. Going all the way to Baghdad then would have been less costly than this war now that has the huge downside to it that it comes late and it doesn't enjoy much of the support of the first Gulf War.

So I wasn't that happy with Gulf War one. The decision to let Saddam stay in power was ultimately done to save US troops but the subsequent policy to contain Saddam led to the death of thousands and thousands of Iraqi kids. The decade that followed Gulf War one was a very sad one for Iraq. I know killing A to save the life of B is a bad excuse for any war but the sanctions were hurting the wrong target.

I know there's a resource called oil and putting oil interests before the interest of freedom was pretty much the reason why everybody was a friend of Saddam back when he was waging his war and gassing his subjects. I understand that oil explains many of the mistakes made in this current war, such as the Halliburton sweetheart deals.

Still to me the chance for the Iraqi people to continue their lives without the madman who tormented them for decades contains the seed of hope. US withdrawal from Iraq is without doubt for the best but not before Iraqi troops can take over and guard the new democracy. US war plans should be focused on this goal and not on securing the flow of oil.

helsinkian said...

Sorry about my confusing remarks on what I'm advocating and what I'm not advocating. YES, I am advocating US withdrawal from Iraq but NO, not too early.

stockholm slender said...

Well, yes, obviously the best outcome would be a responsible US occupation with serious longlasting efforts and resources to democratize the society and to build up a functioning infrastructure and economy. But this is not on offer. And I'm not sure that to continue indefinitely this criminally irresponsible Occupation Lite is really the best option for the Iraqi nation. It might actually be the worst.

helsinkian said...

I think the occupation should continue until the Iraqis are capable to take over, not a day longer. Downgrading the occupation is pretty much in the cards already.

What is on offer for Iraq we don't know, it's not only Americans that are doing the offering. Must supporters and opponents of the war see the Iraqis purely from a Western self/other-perspective, ignoring the agency of the Iraqi people. The Iraqis may build a society that is not exactly what is on offer. As long as Saddam was in power the only form or rule that was on offer for them was tyranny. That tyranny was sponsored by powerful interests in Western and Eastern Europe, the Arab World as well as America.