Archive for September 14th, 2008
People are beginning to realize that the “surge” is not the reason for reduced violence in Iraq. The story I linked there repeats the argument I made a couple weeks ago that Iran is the reason that violence is down, and Iranian influence is actually bad news for the US in overall strategy. But, because the US wants to find a way out of the debacle in Iraq, the Bush Administration isn’t countering the Iranian influence — they are willing to accept a real defeat in favor of a propaganda victory that might help the McCain campaign. Apparently they are willing to lose a war in order to win an election.
Moreover, Americans on the scene are very afraid that the lack of political progress over these months of relative calm may be setting the stage for an increase in violence. This worry underlies concern that Iraq is about to explode. For the Bush Administration, the hope is that all the shit hits the fan AFTER the election, so that they can continue the fallacious argument that the surge is working.
This is a short entry today, but the topic is huge. The US fought a war in Iraq that successfully deposed Saddam Hussein, but failed in every other goal. Iraq is not a functioning democracy, not even close. They held elections, but the government is a Shi’ite dominated bloc that only controls Baghdad and some Shi’ite areas, often because of a deal between Iran, Iraq and a few militias. The Sunnis and Kurds control their regions, and if the Shi’ites try to extend control, the violence will expand again. The dream of Iraq as a model democracy to alter politics in the region is dead, and the US policy has failed utterly and completely.
The reason for war in Iraq was ostensibly about Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction. They didn’t exist, and that was never the reason for the war. The war was a bold attempt to change politics in the region, make Iraq a pro-American democratic enclave, and use Iraq to pressure other states like Iran and Syria. The failure to do so cost billions, as well as tens of thousands of lives and America’s position in the world. It was a costly and dramatic failure. Now there is an attempt to create a smokescreen, a claim that a “surge” somehow has turned things around, simply because deaths are down.
But the main goals haven’t been reached. The country is in a precarious situtuation, with renewed violence likely when the right spark is struck. Even the US military acknowledges this, although the Administration and the McCain campaign continue to put lipstick on the Iraq pig. The American public has been fooled by this, exhausted by the Iraq war, and not wanting to hear continuing headlines. The hope that the decrease in violence will lead us out is enough.
The reality is far different. This has been a costly defeat to the US and the US military. Our status in the world is diminished, our economic position is precarious, and we lack the capacity to counter states like Iran if they choose to pursue paths contrary to our interests. We are in many ways an ex-superpower, even if that is unacknowledged. And, once it becomes clear that the surge did not bring success, then the full diaster of the last eight years will have to be acknowledged.
The good news is that even if the PR machine spins this positively long enough for McCain to win, he is realist enough to be able to make a real change of course. One has to hope he stays healthy, because I’m not sure Palin is up to the task. Obama should be able to make changes, as long as he doesn’t have to feel he has to “prove his mettle” by acting tough. In any event, a change is coming. I hope Iraq doesn’t explode. But no matter what happens the US will sooner or later have to accept the fact that our days as a superpower are over.