Tuesday, October 23, 2007
Another excuse for the US presence in Iraq is crumbling
The American public has been presented over the four-year course of the failed occupation of Iraq with a menu of excuses for why the U.S. Army and Marines along with Blackwater and other private armies cannot simply pack up their gear and come home.
The most frequently offered in the mainstream media (MSM) have been—
- The "Pottery Barn" excuse: We broke it, therefore we own it.
- The "Pottery Barn" excuse is sometimes turned on its head to become the "moral" excuse: We broke it therefore we have a moral responsibility to own it.
- The "democracy" excuse: We must stay until the Iraqis have established a stable democratic government.
- The "sacrifice" excuse: American soldiers have lost their lives in this mission and we must not let that sacrifice be in vain.
- The "civil war" excuse: We must stay to prevent a civil war among the Sunnis, Shias and Kurds.
- And the "hostile neighbor" excuse: We must stay to prevent interference or invasion from Iraq's neighbors.1
The "Pottery Barn" excuse fails whenever the simple logic of it is baldly stated. Even if the American public is willing to see the acquisition of resources through invasion, the international community is not. Other nations will inevitably take steps (and are taking steps) to prepare a credible resistance to a military conglomerate the likes of which the world has never known.
The "moral" excuse fails for want of a demonstrable benefit to the Iraqi people. And the promise of the creation of a "democracy" is not regarded as serious by anyone who has assessed Iraqi conditions.
The "sacrifice" excuse fails when we realize that however heroic was the gift these soldiers made of their lives for this country, surrendering more lives to a failed enterprise will not enhance the honor of what they did—nor will a withdrawal diminish it.
The "civil war" excuse failed when the MSM eventually was forced to concede that a civil war was in fact taking place already.
And now, as Turkey stands at the point of invasion, the "hostile neighbor" excuse is coming undone.
Yesterday the Financial Times editorialized—
A Turkish attack on northern Iraq to end cross-border raids by the rebel Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) is beginning to look politically unstoppable after this weekend’s attack on troops in south-east Turkey, the worst in a decade.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the prime minister, is under intolerable pressure that will test his skill and judgment to the limit. The PKK attacks have outraged Turks, emboldened the electorally defeated ultranationalists and put Turkey’s powerful army back on the front foot after a string of setbacks in its cold war with Mr Erdogan’s neo-Islamist Justice and Development party.
Rather ludicrously, the Iraqi Foreign Minister has offered assurances to the Turkish Foreign Minister. According to the BBC,
Mr Zebari said his country would actively help Turkey deal with the PKK "menace".
"We agreed that the position we should take is a common position to fight terrorism wherever it is and we will not allow any party or any group, including the PKK to poison our bilateral relations," he said.
A delegation of senior Iraqi government officials is expected to travel to Ankara in the coming days to agree on measures that are being described as practical and concrete.
The talks came after the US urged Iraq to take swift action against the insurgents to forestall the threatened Turkish raids.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki agreed to work with the Turkish government to prevent the PKK from using Iraqi territory to plan or carry out terrorist attacks, a White House statement said.
This is theater at its finest. The notion that the Iraqi government can significantly contribute to the control of any group, least of all the PKK, is absurd. But it does suggest that Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan is looking for an excuse not to invade and at the very least is buying time.
Aside from U.S. pressure, a possible reason for Erdogan's reluctance (if it is in fact genuine) is suggested by the FT editorial—that an invasion would "put Turkey’s powerful army back on the front foot after a string of setbacks in its cold war with Mr Erdogan’s neo-Islamist Justice and Development party."
For whatever the reasons, we may hope that Turkey will not add to the overwhelming misery of the Iraqis. But in any case, it has become quite evident that the US is in no position to stop it.
A strange little flutter (6/16/04)
If this is true... (Turkey & Rice) (3/4/05)
Headline of the Day (7/6/05)
The denial of impotence (2/24/06)
The Pottery Barn Rule revisited (4/5/06)
Taking sides in a civil war (1/14/07)
Neocons fear the pain of premature withdrawal (1/29/07)
Latest revelations in the "Iranian threat" (2/12/07)
Reality Check of the Day (6/20/07)
Training the Iraqis: A contrary view (7/19/07)
Threat of the Day (10/9/07)
9/26/07 Correction: The lede sentence originally referred to the "six-year course of the failed occupation of Iraq." That has been corrected to "four-year course." It only seemed like six.
1In the more scholarly discussions of foreign affairs there are two others of which I'm aware—
- that an American withdrawal would be seen as a victory by militant Islamists in other countries of the region and would lead to a "domino effect." The supposed "domino effect"—that the Communists would be emboldened to take over all of Southeast Asis—was of course one of the primary justifications for the continuation of the Vietnam War. To my absolute astonishment, the first time I heard this excuse articulated was by none other than Henry Kissinger in an interview with Charlie Rose. It was one of those moments when you feel you've fallen into a time-warp.
We don't hear this rationale in the MSM because it might eventually occur to a reporter to make the comparison with the war in Vietnam.
- that an American withdrawal from Iraq would allow Iran to become the dominant power in the Middle East. It could be argued that this is really only one instance of the more general "hostile neighbor" rationale. But with the removal of Saddam Hussein, Iran can hardly be described as a hostile neighbor to the now-dominant Shias.
Unlike the reasons offered to us in the MSM, this is one of the real US interests that keep us in Iraq. But it is rarely mentioned, since to do so leads to the realization that not only was the decision to invade Iraq not in the US' interest in the first place, but that it in fact strengthened the Iranian position as a result.
Of course, a few people such as Naomi Klein and Naomi Wolf are suggesting that the profitability of the war for some of the folks back home creates a powerful disincentive to withdrawal. But surely no American businessman or politician would think like that, right? .... Right?! [back]