The Tragedy of American Diplomacy in Iraq*News Abroad
During the summer of 2004, the Historians against the War sponsored a Town Hall Meeting in New York City to discuss how far to the right the Bush administration has moved. The historians group invited West Point graduate and eminent scholar of international relations, Andrew Bacevich. The former colonel surprised the crowd by announcing that he voted for Bush in 2000, but was distressed by the administration’s “stupidity” and “arrogance” as well as its muscular unilateralism and sheer lack of vision. The self-described conservative seems to be a bit of an anomaly. His text, American Empire, urged scholars to accept that the U.S. is an empire before it became fashionable to do so. Bacevich pointed to William Appleman Williams as an exemplar of someone who encouraged Americans “to contemplate the implications of their imperium.” Professor Bacevich is no aberration; a host of conservative writers are contemplating the dire prospects of the American imperium in light of the Iraq tragedy. These conservative commentators offer insightful analysis on the strategic failures in Iraq, while formulating arguments for a speedy withdrawal. It is my contention, however, that U.S. foreign policy behavior is structurally incompatible with stability and democracy in the region. Indeed, the work of diplomatic historian William Appleman Williams enables us to better grasp the institutional causes behind the U.S. tragedy in Iraq. Such causes demand that the U.S. exit Iraq at once.
As for the conservatives, the Cato Institute offers a compelling case for withdrawal. Its director, former Navy officer, Christopher Preble, convened a task force that calls for U.S. withdrawal “at the earliest possible date.” The study, Exiting Iraq, acknowledges that a departure will cause a short term loss of honor, but holds a long term gain against Al Qaeda, which uses the U.S. invasion as a primary recruiting tool for new members. U.S. forces are “a lightning rod” for dissent and rebellion. According to Preble, 57 percent of Iraqis also want the U.S. out immediately. An orderly exit should take, “no more than six months,” Preble says. Although the Cato study dismantles the administration’s plan to stay in Iraq, it speaks in strictly strategic and not moral terms. Nonetheless, this important book makes a cogent argument for an “expeditious withdrawal.”
An Open Door for Iraq?
Although Preble hints at the economic dimension of the war, he stops far short of contemplating the consequences of imperialism. Muslims see the war as motivated by the U.S. “desire to control Iraq’s oil resources,” Preble writes, but such arguments “seem absurd at face value.” A Center for Public Integrity report regarding Executive Order 13303 helps illuminate why these “absurd” charges hold currency. Bush’s order states that, “judicial process is prohibited” against the Iraq Development Fund and “petroleum and petroleum products.”
Recall that the 1992 Defense Planning Guidance long ago fantasized about controlling Iraqi resources. The U.S. should “establish and protect a new world order,” the document attributed to Paul Wolfowitz reads, including “access to vital raw materials, primarily Persian Gulf oil.” Even the American Conservative has questioned U.S. economic behavior in Iraq. “We have imposed policies,” the conservative journal carefully explains, “that worked against the recovery of Iraq’s industry and commerce.” It reports that 7 out of 10 Iraqis are unemployed, a situation exacerbated by the invasion.
I am not suggesting the war is driven by oil, but such measures only “confirm in the minds of Muslims around the globe the malicious intentions” of the U.S., as Preble says.
Here it is worthwhile to follow Bacevich’s nod to William Appleman Williams for a better grasp of U.S motives. As Williams noted regarding the Cold War, it is “in reality only the more recent phase of a more general conflict between the established system of Western capitalism and its internal and external opponents.” The Iraq invasion seems to fit the pattern. Consider that the U.S. quickly ratified Bremer’s infamous Article 39, which privatized much of Iraq’s infrastructure, turning it over to foreign corporations along with other measures that ensure a favorable tax scheme on all profits rendered. At the same time, the U.S. has refused for decades to ratify the UN International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which calls for people to control their own resources. Harper’s Magazine interviewed Iraqis on the street, plagued by astronomical unemployment, who complained about factories shut down due to lack of electricity. Some even moaned about “privatization.” The U.S. argues that it wants to bring democracy to Iraq. If so, it should immediately rescind order 39 and related provisions to guarantee full Iraqi control of its industries and resources. Holding Iraqi banks, factories and business’ hostage is simply incompatible with democracy. Halliburton and Bechtel contracts certainly do not help the U.S. cause.
Whatever the motives behind the intervention, it is a failure that must come to an end, according to many former military strategists. William Odom, Director of the National Security Agency in the eighties, describes Iraq as a “strategic disaster,” the “sooner we leave, the better.” Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, William Crowe, puts it bluntly: “we screwed up…we have got to get out.” It was William Appleman Williams who strongly urged us to use such moments of “disaster” as an opportunity to refashion American adventurism. Iraq is fast becoming a monumental crisis that begs for an evaluation of the American empire.
Closing the Door on Empire
Part of this evaluation concerns the U.S. track record with the conflict parties in Iraq. Recent U.S. behavior in Iraq is entirely at odds with a peaceful, orderly solution. During the 1980s, we now know that the U.S. supported the Ba’athists, providing logistics and support to the murderous Hussein, even during the Halabja massacre in 1988. As for the Kurds, the U.S. double crossed them twice—1975 and 1991. In 1972, Iraq nationalized its petroleum and the Nixon team drafted a covert plan to disrupt the Iraqi’s move. It entailed a Kurdish uprising, aided by Iranian Shah Pahlavi. But, the Shah was able to cut a deal in 1975 turning a strategic waterway over to Iran at the last moment, and the covert program was aborted. Kurds desperately fled into Iran, with almost no assistance. Kurds also seek statehood, a complicated matter, but one that is opposed by U.S. ally, Turkey. To be sure, recent U.S. behavior in Iraq is incompatible with stability and democracy.
Historically, the U.S. also hindered democracy in the Middle East. Shah Pahlavi was installed in Iran in 1953, replacing the democratically elected Mosssadeq. In 1949, the U.S. encouraged a military chief, Hunsai Zaim, to overthrow the existing government of Syria, setting the stage for a military dictatorship. According to the historian Douglas Little, Ziam immediately authorized a Western pipeline project. Of course, the reasons for these interventions are complicated, but they illustrate that the U.S. is most successful in subverting democracy in the region rather than building it. Such observations are not lost on those living in the region, nor were they lost on Eisenhower who admitted that U.S. actions in the Middle East fomented hate.
Ending the Tragedy in Iraq
Bush dangerously bordered on offering a similar confession regarding the U.S. occupation of Iraq: “I wouldn’t be happy if I were occupied,” Bush said. The Cato Institute adds that the ongoing occupation incites resentment. It seems that the deaths of Iraqi civilians are a primary source of this hostility. A study in the British journal Lancet estimates that 100,000 Iraqi civilians have been killed as a result of U.S. actions in a controversial report. Perhaps a bit overstated, but the U.S doesn’t offer casualty figures. That 50 U.S. air strikes against Iraqi leaders missed their targets in 2003 certainly suggests that significant numbers of Iraqi civilians are being killed. Conservative estimates are still near 10,000 civilians killed. Abu Ghraib, Camp Cropper, what the Red Cross calls “serious violations of International Humanitarian Law,” add to the toll of suffering. Unfortunately, we can add the roughly 1,400 dead U.S. soldiers to this tragedy.
Despite these gruesome realities, Bush supporters say it is unrealistic to ask for immediate withdrawal. It is far more unrealistic to expect the very nation that belied world opinion and went to war any way, then destroyed and tortured a nation, to bring democracy to Iraq.
An orderly withdrawal makes more sense than prolonging disaster. This withdrawal entails rescinding all economic orders that privatize Iraq. It would illustrate to the world that the U.S. is serious about democracy. Even terrorists kill for a reason; this is one reason that they attack all things USA. Second, a massive international coalition, with Arab forces and blue helmets, must enter Iraq. Armed yes, but trained as police and without any economic control over Iraq’s resources. UN consultant, Johan Galtung, rightly suggests a Conference on Security and Cooperation in the Middle East, chaired by Jordan or a party in the region. Related issues such as Israel/Palestine, Kurdish independence, and a Middle East common market with Israel’s participation should be part of the discussion to avoid isolating issues that matter to the conflict parties. Third, invite significant participation of the Red Crescent in Iraq to repair the walking wounded. Fourth, a U.S. aid package, with no absolutely no strings attached, to rebuild the infrastructure it destroyed, in the spirit of recent tsunami relief. In short, the U.S. is responsible for repairing the damage it inflicted on Iraq. The presence of American soldiers is hardly necessary to begin this healing, a multinational force and massive aid is far more desirable than a U.S. force that has wreaked so much havoc on the country. My scheme is only a starting point and is hardly perfect, but it is far better than a U.S. occupation that only encourages resistance and violence.
Some critics will be tempted to describe this analysis as “revisionist,” even anti-American. Within America it sounds radical, outside the States it comports with the mainstream world citizen’s perspective on Iraq. Remember, too, that most of the world’s citizens and governments, as well as the UN opposed the invasion in the first place. Bush opted instead for “unilateral” action, while Condoleezza Rice warned of “mushroom clouds.” It turns out there were no WMDs, no mushroom clouds, no yellow cake, no Saddam link to 9.11, no Atta meeting in Prague. In fact, just about everything the administration claimed about Iraq’s weapons program was wrong. And, their argument that U.S. can’t simply withdraw from Iraq is equally incorrect, it is as misguided as barking, “Bring ‘em on.”
Lastly, Bush recently expressed regret over his “Bring ‘em on,” comment. Maybe it symbolizes a rare moment of introspection. If so, the president may wish to dust off his autobiography for further reflection. “I also learned the lesson of Vietnam,” Bush wrote, “Our nation should be slow to engage troops.” Not only did we have “no exit strategy” the president complained, but interventions must “respect and nurture our traditional alliances.” The U.S. rushed to war in Iraq with no exit strategy, while simultaneously straining traditional alliances. It is unlikely that Bush will follow the advice of the Historians against the War, even when they invite an erudite conservative to their meeting, but Bush needs only to read his autobiography to understand why he failed in Iraq. Bring the troops home.
*This title is derived from William Appleman Williams, The Tragedy of American Diplomacy (New York: W.W. Norton, 1972). I wish to thank Staughton Lynd and Jesse Lemisch for commenting on an early draft; however I remain solely responsible for its content.
1. Andrew Bacevich, American Empire: The Realities and Consequences of U.S. Diplomacy, ( Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2002), p. 31.
2. Christopher Preble, Exiting Iraq: Why the U.S. Must End the Military Occupation and Renew the War against Al Qaeda, Report of a Special Task Force on Exiting Iraq Sponsored by the Cato Institute, (Washington, DC: Cato Institute, 2004), p. 2, 34, 66.
3. See David Armstrong, “Dick Cheney’s Song for America,” Harper’s Magazine, October 2002. PBS also aired a program that addressed the DPG in 2003. Predictably, Cheney and Wolfowitz deny any knowledge of this version of the draft and a revised version was circulated after news reports on the DPG surfaced.
4. William R. Polk, “A Time for Leaving,” The American Conservative, 17 January 2005. Preble, Exiting Iraq, p. 31.
5. William Appleman Williams, The Tragedy of American Diplomacy, (New York: W.W. Norton, 1972), p. 10. On Order 39 and Iraqis, see Naomi Klein, “Baghdad Year Zero,” Harper’s Magazine, September 2004.
6. Paul Alexander, ‘Seven Retired Military Leaders Discuss what has gone wrong in Iraq,” Rolling Stone, 2 November 2004. This article was sent to me via e-mail from the Professors for Peace.
7. On Syria and Iran, see Douglas Little, American Orientalism: The United States and the Middle East since 1945, (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2002), p. 52-8. Eisenhower quoted as saying a “campaign of hatred against us, not by the governments but by the people” in the context of the Lebanon intervention in Little, p. 136. Information on Kurds derived from William Blum, Killing Hope (Monroe, ME: Common Courage Press, 1995).
8. Bush quoted in Preble, Exiting Iraq, p. 66.
9. At Slate.com, Fred Kaplan challenges the Lancet study in an article titled, “100,000 Dead—or 8,000—How Many People have Died as a Result of the Iraq War,” 29 October 2004. On torture, see Mark Danner, Torture and Truth: America, Abu Ghraib, and the War on Terror, ( New York: New York Review of Books, 2004), p. 251-75. Danner reprints the Red Cross report that discusses abuse at several installations, and notes that physical coercion was used in “a systematic way” and “appeared to be part of standard operating procedure.” For information on air strikes, see Human Rights Watch, “Off Target: The Conduct of the War and Civilian Casualties in Iraq,” (2003), available at: http://www.hrw.org
10. Galtung expands on these possible solutions and offers some brilliant insights on constructive ways to resolve international conflict, see Johan Galtung, “Human Needs, Humanitarian Intervention, Human Security and the War in Iraq,” (February 2004), posted at http://www.transcend.org
11. On Bush’s regret, see “Bush Rethinks his Tough Talk,” Newsday, 15 January 2005. I applaud the President’s reflection and encourage further reflection on his policies. Quotations in George W. Bush, A Charge to Keep: My Journey to the White House, (New York: Perennial 1999), p. 50, 55, 240.
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Edward Siegler - 2/18/2005
...because you've made some good points. First of all, your'e right that hindsight is 20/20. At the time there certainly were good reasons for Bush to employ the "exit strategy", avoid "mission creep" and get out while the getting was good. There were also good reasons why Britain and France wanted to avoid war in 1938. They weren't well prepared for war and the horror and pointlessness of World War I was still fresh in their minds. But in both cases another war still came eventually.
Although Bush I frets about the international response to an invasion of Iraq, there can be little doubt that the people of Iraq would have given it more support in 1991 and would have felt more of a sense of ownership in the whole affair than they did in 2003. It is only now, after the elections, that the Iraqi people are starting to believe that the country is really theirs again. We would have been much more likely to encounter this attitude from the beginning if U.S. troops had gone into Iraq in support of the revolt. After all, what does "supporting the revolt" mean other than some kind of U.S. military action beyond ejecting Iraq from Kuwait? Even though the U.S. was in a position to dictate its own terms, the peace agreement allowed Iraq to keep its helicopters - a key element in crushing the U.S. inspired uprising.
Of course the Arabs would have left the coalition in anger. It has always been against these autocrat's interests to see a representative government arise in the Arab world. However the Arabs and the rest of the world would have had a much weaker argument against removing Hussein in 1991 than they did in 2003. As far as Bush I's concerns about setting the right precedent for handling aggression he should have looked to the Korean War for guidance. This was the first large scale test case for the U.N. containing aggression in the post war world. Crossing the 38th prallel in to North Korea was a controversial move at the time because, as in 1991, this action exceeded the U.N's mandate which was to repel the North's aggression and not to conquer and occupy the whole peninsula. As it happened, the Chinese threw the U.N. forces out of the North. Should we then conclude that this attempt to liberate the North was a mistake? Compare North and South Korea today before you answer. And consider that North Korea is both "stable" and "contained", a situation that both South Korea and China hope to see continued indefinitely. But what of the North Korean people? Should their lot concern us or is it an acceptable price to pay for stability that they continue to live under the most horrific regime on earth? Having been stable and contained for decades, North Korea is infinitely stronger militarily than Hussein's Iraq and an invasion is out of the question.
I'm not sure what you mean when you say that we should have supported the revolt but left Hussein in power. I would think that supporting the revolt would necessarily have led to Hussein's removal. And I'm not sure if what is going on in Iraq today can be defined as a "conflict." Outside of the insurgents, who represent a lunatic fringe, there is wide agreement in Iraqi society that democracy and stability are to be the countries' goals. Iraq's election proved that the world underestimated the demand for freedom among the people of Iraq and given the lie to the belief that Arabs do not want or are incapable of democracy.
There are certain regimes that are so odious that their removal must eventually take place. Idi Amin's was removed by the impoverished Kenyans. Pol Pot's was removed by his fellow Communists of Vietnam. There are some rulers that just have to go and avoiding this fact won't change a thing.
Woodrow Wilson said that if the aftermath of World War I was mismanaged there would be a second, much more horrible war with Germany. The peace was lost and a second and worse war was fought. Bush I made the same mistake in 1991. Yes he had his reasons, but those reasons still did not amount to what was right.
Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 2/18/2005
The above post was actually written in response to a post in another article on this web-site rather than this one. My apologies for getting them mixed up.
Robert F. Koehler - 2/18/2005
Wish that I were!
The real tragedy in Iraq is that it has showcased the limits of American power. The US crossed a bridge too far and wound up unmasking our vulnerabilities and weaknesses to the world. Had the US stopped after Afghanistan the world, and Americans, wouldn't have been the wiser to these limits. Instead of husbanding the "capitol" of American power, George instead squandered it in the sands of Iraq.
It may be too late to prevent an alliance between Russia & China that are committed to weakening American uni-polarity and creating a multi-polar world. The significance of the diplomatic visits of Condi & Rummy and Georges visit in March is to mend transatlantic ties and prevent an emerging EU, which can't be stopped now, from the grave possibility of drifting away towards other emerging or potential regional alliances. Ain't no one is mouthing off now "we don't need them," "old Europe," or your either "with us or against us." Those imbecile doctrines are dead.
Michael Barnes Thomin - 2/18/2005
You must have consumed large amounts of adult beverages, because, as the old Roman proverb states, "In vino veritas!" said.
Best regards and cheers,
Robert F. Koehler - 2/17/2005
The stop sign remark was made by Garet Garret back in the 1950's, whom I paraphrased. He felt that moment was sometime yet in the future though not far off. I believe the last chance to bail spans from the fall of Soviet Union to today, when the justification for the armed state against communism ceased to exist. The continuing purpose for maintenance & expansion of a vast military establishment can only be for empire. The significance of George Bush is that he most likely ended the argument when he gave the battle order in late March of 03 to invade Iraq. In that regard, when you say George but merely removed the mask is apt. From my point of view that's the day America may have changed forever, not 9-11, which was only a last wake up call.
America is not a world imperium yet. This evolving empire shares the world with regional powers that have no desire to live under a Pax Americana. Russia & China have just closed a big deal on Russian oil, expanding rail transport and divergence of the Siberian pipeline south. The Japs ain't happy about that since it looks like they got snookered into paying a lot for that pipeline that they will now have to share with China, an emerging competitor and enemy. Washington didn't like it because its another big step for these two powers allying with each other against the US. Things weren't all that rosy for Rumsfeld in Europe either since Germany, most likely acting on behalf of other European countries, demanded a more equitable restructuring of command & control within NATO. Germany is also playing Europe, or should I say the EU's interlocutor with Russia, keeping open possible alliance relationships there.
Realists in the foreign policy & defense establishment see these developments all too clearly, but whether they can correct or ameliorate these trends is another matter. George got into a row with these types because they opposed his invasion of Iraq. His answer to that argument was to push them out of the way, manufacture his own intelligence & justifications and invade Iraq. On his own he fell flat on his ass and in the process has made a mess of other peoples hard work, which may not be fixable even though Jim Baker and his boys & girls are now back on the job. An interesting development is that George will be addressing a full session of the EU, a first for a President of the United States, and about as first class an endorsement of the EU short of a treaty. This was not something previously in US interests to do, but its a measure of the seriousness that confronts the US. A Russia/China alliance is potentially bad enough, but an EU/Russia/China axis, along with all our other developing problems in Southeast Eurasia, collapsing Andean democracies, potentially nuclear Brazil, "bring it on" Venezuelan Hugo Chavez who has a score to settle with Bush, and a little problem with N. Korea & Iran, just to mention a few, translates into one Jim Dandy of a problem if all these problems should develop at the same time, or in collusion together.
And this isn't considering the arguments that are going on internally within the US government, especially the defense establishment that I am watching where transformational forces are taking place that Rumsfeld never considered, let alone wanted. And corporate America? Crassus got a pot of molten gold poured down his throat, I wonder what will get poured down theirs? That thought alone darn neigh tempts me to renounce my isolationist sentiments for imperium. The century started off with a bang and is getting all the more interesting all the time. Think your ready for it?
Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 2/17/2005
I disagree. I believe that while it retrospect Bush should have gotten rid of Saddam Hussein in 1991, his reasons for not doing so were cogent and I believe, quite prudent under the circumstances. As Bush later said:
“While we hoped that popular revolt or coup would topple Saddam, neither the U.S. nor the countries of the region wished to see the breakup of the Iraqi state. We were concerned about the long-term balance of power at the head of the Gulf. Trying to eliminate Saddam, extending the ground war into an occupation of Iraq, would have violated our guideline about not changing objectives in midstream, engaging in "mission creep," and would have incurred incalculable human and political costs. Apprehending him was probably impossible. We had been unable to find Noriega in Panama, which we knew intimately. We would have been forced to occupy Baghdad and, in effect, rule Iraq. The coalition would instantly have collapsed, the Arabs deserting it in anger and other allies pulling out as well. Under those circumstances, furthermore, we had been self-consciously trying to set a pattern for handling aggression in the post-cold war world. Going in and occupying Iraq, thus unilaterally exceeding the U.N.'s mandate, would have destroyed the precedent of international response to aggression we hoped to establish. Had we gone the invasion route, the U.S. could conceivably still be an occupying power in a bitterly hostile land. It would have been a dramatically different--and perhaps barren--outcome.”
Our mistake was, as you said, not supporting the revolt and leaving the revolutionaries to suffer under Saddam without sticking to our own guarantees. As far as leaving him in power, however, I believe that the current conflict has done nothing but validate that position. Iraq under Saddam was stable and made militarily impotent though sanctions and no fly zones. As we now know, the inspections worked quite well, Saddam was not able to rebuild his WMD and there is no reason to believe that he could not have been contained indefinitely under the new inspection guidelines W. Bush imposed before the actual invasion.
Saddam Hussein was no Hitler and to pretend otherwise only serves to radically exaggerate the extent of his power, strength, and popularity. Stalin, more accurately, but without the military or the threat level.
Edward Siegler - 2/17/2005
After encouraging Iraqis to revolt against Hussein in 1991 the U.S. then walked away from the situation and allowed the uprising to be crushed. In so doing the peace was lost and a future war with Iraq insured. America is now paying the price for abandoning its obligations.
Mirra calls for the U.S. to pull its troops out of Iraq immediately and repeat this disasterous mistake. He ignores the fact that America has an obligation not leave until Iraq is capable of defending itself. He also ignores the election, which may show that this article is hopelessly outdated.
Even more laughable than Mirra's simplistic and ill-conceived policy prescriptions are his constant references to William Appleman William's The Tragedy of American Diplomacy. This farcical book argues, among other things, that the Cold War was caused by Truman's nasty treatment of the well-intentioned Stalin. Its conclusions are based on the blatant distortion of the historical record, similar to those found in the writings of the Hiroshima revisionists such as Atomic Diplomacy by Gar Alperovitz. Anyone who compares William's book to the sources he misuses will plainly see that this book is a joke.
Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 2/17/2005
1) “My understanding is, the state of Israel first existed over 2000 years ago. During the 1940's a group of people claiming to be Israelites returned and took land by force. So what justification?”
I could understand, based on your statement, why you have such disdain for Israe, I would as well if I believed that. The reality of Israel’s existence, however, is quite different. It stems from massive anti-Semitic attacks and persecution throughout Eastern and Western Europe for 2000 years, until a groups of Jews finally decided that their only solution was to create their own independent state. Of course, they looked to their biblical origins and began massive immigration to Palestine (excluding the thousands of Jews who had a continuous presence already there). This was all done quite legally, with Jews continuously buying property from its Arab landholders. By the 1920’s, violence began erupting between Arabs and Jews and the British decided to limit Jewish immigration. Once the horrors of the Holocaust emerged, and the knowledge that this was due, in part, because no nation would allow Jewish immigration (including the US which did nothing to ease the quota restrictions), the British, and then the UN decided the partition the land into 2 independent states, a Jewish one and an Arab one. The Jews accepted this partition and the Arabs did not, ultimately invading the new state in 1948. When the was over, Israel found itself with far more land than they were allotted, thus giving birth to the Palestinian refugees and the entire conflict.
That, in short, is the creation of Israel, although obviously there are many other variables at play here. It was not, as you seem to suggest, some violence invasion based on genetic connection to the ancient Israelites.
2) “Are most Israelies direct decedents of the original people expelled or are most of them decended from people who have converted to Judaism in the distant past for example the Khazars who have absolutely no ties to the Middle East other than religious.”
Because Israel does not base its connection to the Bible through genetics, the issue is moot. Judaism is a culture, or an ethnicity, or a religion, or all 3, but it is not a race, nor has anyone claimed it as such. One does not need to be a Jew to believe in Jewish nationalism, nor does one need to be black, or an Arab, or a Muslim to believe on black nationalism, Pan-Arabism, or Islamic nationalism.
3) “The reason I brought this up in the original discussion is that colonies are always resisted by the colonised and would obviously stretch that resistance to the supporters of the colony. I don’t want to get stuck on the word colony, call it what you like. Although Israel has suffered set backs it is still trying to expand.”
I would prefer to stick to conventional definitions and avoid using the word colony to describe something that is clearly not a colony, nor is it in any way a colonial power. Is Israel trying to expand? Some part of it, I would agree, does want to do exactly that. Resistance to Israel’s existence is understandable, as is the desire to have a state. Terrorism, however, should not be considered a legitimate method of such resistance. It was wrong when Jews used it to kick out the British and it is wrong when anyone uses it.
4) “My only point is why does it benefit America to support Israel. I was suggesting that Israel is a very useful tool for destabilising the region thereby ensuring the Arab nations don’t unite and cause difficulties for the Western world by seizing control over its current energy source. A resource it has never relinquished control of.”
The issue of whether or not we should be supporting Israel with aid is certainly one worth debating. Perhaps it should end or perhaps not. This is a discussion I would happy to have but before we even get into it, I must say the following: I would not agree that such support is meant to de-stabilize the region. The only way we are to maintain some form of control over oil resources is if the governments in that region are stable. It would make little sense to support Israel in order to prevent Arab nations from uniting since a great number of inter-Arab conflicts have nothing to do with Israel. Indeed, the greatest war in the history of the region (the 1980 Iran-Iraq war, although in fairness, Iran is not Arab) had nothing to do with Israel.
I would recommend the following article that discusses this in more detail:
James H Dalrymple - 2/17/2005
My understanding is, the state of Israel first existed over 2000 years ago. During the 1940's a group of people claiming to be Israelites returned and took land by force. So what justification? They own the land because God gave it to them. Doesn’t work for me I’m not religious. They are direct decedents of people illegally dispossessed – good argument, but what evidence. Are most Israelies direct decedents of the original people expelled or are most of them decended from people who have converted to Judaism in the distant past for example the Khazars who have absolutely no ties to the Middle East other than religious.
I would argue that Israel is a colony of mostly European Jews, Sharon is of Russian descent. The reason I brought this up in the original discussion is that colonies are always resisted by the colonised and would obviously stretch that resistance to the supporters of the colony. I don’t want to get stuck on the word colony, call it what you like. Although Israel has suffered set backs it is still trying to expand.
I have no problem with colonies; it has been going on since humans first walked out of Africa, according to the latest theory. My only point is why does it benefit America to support Israel. I was suggesting that Israel is a very useful tool for destabilising the region thereby ensuring the Arab nations don’t unite and cause difficulties for the Western world by seizing control over its current energy source. A resource it has never relinquished control of.
Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 2/17/2005
I am curious, why does this discussion supercede the expressed rationale delivered by actual policy-makers? President Bush, VP Cheney, SOS Powell gave very different reasons for the invasion. Are you suggesting that a joint discussion about the positive effects an Iraq war would have for Israel between some Israelis and some lower-level administration officials carried greater weight than statements from various congressmen who voted to support the conflict? Or conservative pundits who endorsed it?
Of all of the side-benefits to invading Iraq, certainly solving the conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians was up there, as was democratizing the Middle East and strengthening UN resolutions, but those goals (while laudable) was not the primary reason most Americans supported this war and it was not the primary reasons the administration defended it. What you are suggesting (I assume) is that this war was waged on behalf of other countries (I assume you would include Saudi Arabia and Iran on that list). While the administration clearly thought it was doing a favor to these countries and the world by removing Saddam, there is no reason to believe that we would have gone in had there not been a direct threat to the US via. WMD.
1) “America has supported the colony of Israel from its birth by lobbying crucially for its creation and has never once allowed it to be mortally wounded although it may have had to chastise it periodically.”
The “colony”? I am curious, a colony of whom? Do the Jews have some other country that have spread out from, and from where their empire traces its origins? It is true, America lobbied for its creation, as did the Soviet Union, and numerous Western European governments. It is also true that we have never supported its destruction, a fact that I am quite grateful for.
2) “Unless an overwhelming percentage of modern Israelies can be DNA linked to ancient Israelies and if one is not religious and does not believe gods designate geographical areas to certain peoples, Israel fits every other definition of a colony.”
Perhaps we might want to define colony then: “A group of emigrants or their descendants who settle in a distant territory but remain subject to or closely associated with the parent country.” I am not sure how and where Israel fits into this definition, even if they did pass such a DNA test (although I don’t really know what that has to do with anything).
Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 2/17/2005
You make some excellent points.
James H Dalrymple - 2/17/2005
The stop sign you referred to was passed many years ago, neither President Bush, even if so inclined, nor any other individual is capable of stopping America’s inexorable and might I say quiet natural quest for ever more power and control. America’s power lies with its corporations and its ideology – capitalism - its god is profit. The good thing about President Bush is that he has removed the mask so carefully constructed to reveal the true nature of the beast.
America has supported the colony of Israel from its birth by lobbying crucially for its creation and has never once allowed it to be mortally wounded although it may have had to chastise it periodically. Israel is absolutely central to Middle East policy precisely because it’s a colony. Unless an overwhelming percentage of modern Israelies can be DNA linked to ancient Israelies and if one is not religious and does not believe gods designate geographical areas to certain peoples, Israel fits every other definition of a colony.
Michael Barnes Thomin - 2/16/2005
"Israel can shape its strategic environment, in cooperation with Turkey and Jordan, by weakening, containing, and even rolling back Syria. This effort can focus on removing Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq — an important Israeli strategic objective in its own right — as a means of foiling Syria’s regional ambitions."
Michael Barnes Thomin - 2/16/2005
"It was done on many parties behalfs, Israel being one of them."
Robert F. Koehler - 2/16/2005
I am an equal opportunity cutter across the board. Though Israel was specifically mentioned as an example it is by no means the only recipient of US economic or military aid, as you have identified in a previous post. Israel, by herself, is not the problem. Nor for that matter is Iraq, which is the topic of this page. The problem is here in the US of A. We are a people at grave risk of losing our founding identity and traditions. Americans no longer know who they are, what they are, or where they are going. As far as I am concerned, the last 4 years is the final part of a long process that is framing the question decisively, either we proceed with the process and become an empire, or we abandon it and return to our roots. We cannot maintain the hegemonic status quo without destroying ourselves, its gone as far as the US can carry it.
I have no delusions of what that will mean to the world if America continues the process, nor do I doubt the vast changes that will be wrought domestically within the US. And I have no doubts in my mind that America could pull it off, though it will require all 290 million American's from the seed-corn to the half-dead to do it. Eisenhower in a rare moment of lucidity saw where all this was leading, when he feared that America could be the ultimate evil hanging all of humanity upon an iron cross. In the prospect, its not going to be righteous, honorable, or all the other flap-doodle we deceive ourselves as justifying why and what we are currently doing today.
Those who lust for this had better think real hard about what they are lusting for, because the stop sign warning there is no return from this point forward, is staring us hard right in the face. Once that threshold is past the brave had better not weaken, or they will find themselves hanging from that iron cross too. The buck stops with today's living generations and the days of glibly passing it off on our children are done. The decisive moment is now.
Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 2/16/2005
I am not really sure what the point of your post is?
Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 2/16/2005
1) “Any discussion concerning the Middle East has the potential of including Israel in a debate of what is happening over there and American involvement in those affairs.”
This is all too true, but I cannot say how much of this is because of any actual involvement of Israel, and how much is simply ideological. You are right, however, I can think of absolutely no situation in the Middle East (and many other areas as well) in which the discussion is not drown to something Israel did/will do/is trying to do. It is regrettable, in my opinion, and often inaccurate.
2) “My point is that America is a world hegemon, well down the road to world imperium and that it had better start waking up to the implications of that fact. Either it retreats from the world stage and puts paid to the adolescent games it plays, or it gets on with it and puts its toys away and become the "big boy" you suggest it is.”
I agree with this.
3) “You believe Israel can stand on its own? Hey, that's fine with me. Lets cut all military & economic aid and quit being the lone goof as a punt-block in the UN, whenever Israel gets that body worked up over some issue, that country commits, they don't like.”
I believe that many nations who receive aid from us can stand on their own. However, I would never favor cutting off aid to Israel alone without justification and without doing the same to other countries as well. Were it part of an overall strategy to disengage support and aid to other nations, then I have little problem with it. However, if it is simply to cut Israel off arbitrarily and solely, then I would oppose such a measure.
Michael Barnes Thomin - 2/16/2005
"Securing the Northern Border
Syria challenges Israel on Lebanese soil. An effective approach, and one with which American can sympathize, would be if Israel seized the strategic initiative along its northern borders by engaging Hizballah, Syria, and Iran, as the principal agents of aggression in Lebanon, including by:
striking Syria’s drug-money and counterfeiting infrastructure in Lebanon, all of which focuses on Razi Qanan.
paralleling Syria’s behavior by establishing the precedent that Syrian territory is not immune to attacks emanating from Lebanon by Israeli proxy forces.
striking Syrian military targets in Lebanon, and should that prove insufficient, striking at select targets in Syria proper."
"Moving to a Traditional Balance of Power Strategy
We must distinguish soberly and clearly friend from foe. We must make sure that our friends across the Middle East never doubt the solidity or value of our friendship.
Israel can shape its strategic environment, in cooperation with Turkey and Jordan, by weakening, containing, and even rolling back Syria. This effort can focus on removing Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq — an important Israeli strategic objective in its own right — as a means of foiling Syria’s regional ambitions."
It was done on many parties behalfs, Israel being one of them.
Robert F. Koehler - 2/16/2005
Any discussion concerning the Middle East has the potential of including Israel in a debate of what is happening over there and American involvement in those affairs.
My point is that America is a world hegemon, well down the road to world imperium and that it had better start waking up to the implications of that fact. Either it retreats from the world stage and puts paid to the adolescent games it plays, or it gets on with it and puts its toys away and become the "big boy" you suggest it is. America's current path can only lead to exhaustion, ruin and deft exploitation by other states because its republican system of governance is so disgustingly corrupt and inept, whether exploited by Israel or other states to their specific advantage & interests.
You believe Israel can stand on its own? Hey, that's fine with me. Lets cut all military & economic aid and quit being the lone goof as a punt-block in the UN, whenever Israel gets that body worked up over some issue, that country commits, they don't like. And while were at it stand down from hegemonic power, bring all our troops home and return to our customary and traditional roots of republican governance where liberty is the business of the land. Nothing would delight me more because imperium means inevitable, unavoidable and vast economic, social and cultural changes in America if it is to pull it off. Changes I would prefer not to see, but I believe may be too late to arrest.
Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 2/16/2005
PS. Another reason why I believe this conflict has gone very poorly for the US
Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 2/16/2005
1) “From an American perspective Iraq is a success. America has control over Middle East oil, Arab nations are further fragmented and so less likely to fight Israel as a bloc.”
I do not agree with this statement. The conflict has given us control over oil, but that hardly seemed necessary given our relationship with Saudi Arabia and our ability to get cheap oil elsewhere by simply lifting the embargo against Iraq and buying it rather than the costly invasion. The conflict has further united rabid anti-Americanists, lowered American reputation throughout Europe, and diminished our ability to respond militarily almost everywhere else. This is to say nothing of the cost of the conflict. As for Israel, I cannot help but notice the assumption that this war was waged on its behalf. I have seen no evidence for this and note that while Iraq was no friend to Israel, Iran is a far greater concern. Furthermore, I know of no reason why we would invade Iraq simply to help Israel.
2) “Without the US Israel wouldn't survive without the billions in annual aid, diplomatic & military support she gets from the US.”
I find this proposition unlikely and it is worth looking at a history of our relationship to analyze this statement. “The United States provided only a limited amount of arms to Israel, including ammunition and recoilless rifles, prior to 1962. In that year, President Kennedy sold HAWK anti-aircraft missiles, but only after the Soviet Union provided Egypt with long-range bombers… The U.S. did not provide Israel with aircraft until 1966. Even then, secret agreements were made to provide the same planes to Morocco and Libya, and additional military equipment was sent to Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and Tunisia. As in 1948, the U.S. imposed an arms embargo on Israel during the Six-Day War, while the Arabs continued to receive Soviet arms. Israel's position was further undermined by the French decision to embargo arms transfers to the Jewish State, effectively ending their role as Israel's only other major supplier.”
In other words, Israel fared pretty well without any US assistance, and then with a little, and today with massive assistance. It is likely that while the Israeli economy would suffer, a total termination of aid and military support would not suddenly make the Arab armies strong enough to defeat the modern army of Israel. Of course, this is just a side note, as I am not sure what relevance any of this has to the current discussion.
3) “Israel won't like that outcome, but than she should have thought twice before encouraging American intervention in the Middle East, because the US is well on its way to realizing that fact a** deep in the sands of Iraq.”
I cannot help but notice that the tone of this statement seems to hold Israel accountable for “encouraging” American intervention in the Middle East. Is there any reason why this is a bad, negative, or unusual thing? The United States is, to use an analogy, a “big boy” and should be held accountable for its actions, rather than blame Israel, who had every right to request assistance from anywhere and everywhere and hardly dragged us into the region kicking and screaming. Your statement is all the more unusual since American involvement in the Middle East preceded the creation Israel.
4) “I agree that Israel is a vassal of the US, it would'nt survive 10 minutes without American economic and military aid.”
Again, I see no reason why you believe this to be so. The mere fact that we give Israel so much does not automatically mean that it needs it to survive. I am curious which army would destroy Israel after the 10 minutes are up, and why they would have a better chance now, with an Israeli army even more powerful and nuclear armed, than they did when America provided them with very little and yet they managed to survive. Is there something about thinking that Israel is dependent on the United States for survival that brings some comfort to people? Perhaps it is the only way people can justify giving Israel the aid in the first place? Or perhaps it is because it then allows America to reap the “blame” for Israel’s transgressions? In any event, I do not believe it is an accurate prediction.
Again, why is Israel mentioned in this debate?
James H Dalrymple - 2/16/2005
I agree that Israel is a vassal of the US, it would'nt survive 10 minutes without American economic and military aid. I don't think Israel gives orders to the US, which begs the question, what is Israels use to America as a vassal state?
A scenario which I think is scary for the US is the unification of Arab states, which might cause real problems regarding control of oil. Israel serves an excellent destabalising function.
Why America attacked Iraq, when as you say it already had control, is puzzling unless it felt some threat to that control from Europe for instance.
Robert F. Koehler - 2/16/2005
Got no argument from me about democracy. Its the supreme, asinine, delusion that out-ranks & tops all the egregious lies of our times. As Pilate mused: "what's truth?" I do the same with democracy.
As for controlling Middle East oil we didn't need to invade Iraq since we already controlled it. And if this is all about defending Israel from her neighbors than the US deserves to go down to crushing defeat for being the stupidest imperial hegemon in the annals of history. Client states and surrogates are supposed to take their marching orders from the center, not vice-versa, nor exclusively for their interests to the disadvantage of the hegemonic power.
Israel needs to be grabbed around the neck like a chicken and rattled around a bit. Without the US Israel wouldn't survive without the billions in annual aid, diplomatic & military support she gets from the US. And if our elites intend in pulling off a hegemonic presence smack dab in the middle of the Arabic & Islamic world, than they had better get it through their heads that hegemonic power goes a lot further among vassals, when exercise of that power is seen as even handed & equitable across the board.
Israel won't like that outcome, but than she should have thought twice before encouraging American intervention in the Middle East, because the US is well on its way to realizing that fact a** deep in the sands of Iraq.
James H Dalrymple - 2/16/2005
From an American perspective Iraq is a success. America has control over Middle East oil, Arab nations are further fragmented and so less likely to fight Israel as a bloc. Its dirty work but someone has to do it. All talk of democracy is so much hot air.
Robert F. Koehler - 2/15/2005
If your averring that retired Colonel Bacevich's remarks can be construed as subversive, than you haven't been paying attention to the arguing & dialogs percolating within the defense establishment among non and uniformed types, retired or active duty concerning this administrations policies & wars. Your glibness about Duty, Honor & Country are cutting edge virtues that our armed forces types take very seriously, especially oaths of office the civilian elite instantaneously forget after uttering.
Retired Lt. Gen. Odom remarked early last year he has never seen it this bad between the administration and uniformed services. Retired Gen Hoar in the January issue Proceedings of the Naval Institute raised the question of honesty and loyalty that is "raging in the US government," that for uniformed types honesty must always trump loyalty to senior civilian & military commanders when they lie. Loyalty is only to the constitution, fealty to the nation and a fierce responsibility to their solemn oaths of defending both against ALL enemies, foreign or DOMESTIC. I have been following this ever since retired Gen Zinni's speech before the Middle East Institute back in 10 October 2002, which in a nutshell can be summed up as an "lead or get out of the way" attitude directed at our elected, civilian & appointed leadership. I got the distinct impression it was more focused on "get the hell out of the way" than lead.
Nor do these retired officers just disappear when they retire. They all wind up with berths in some part of the defense establishment, public or private, holding fellowships in institutes and working on various agency committees of that establishment. The Bushies thought they got rid of Zinni and others they purged from the Pentagon, CIA & other agencies, but only found such haunting them from other niches and perches. The defense establishment takes care of their own to Georgie and neo-con ire and will continue to do so whether they like it or not.
George has made more than just a mess of things beyond America's shores. He has also ignited a war of sorts within the US government and the armed services concerning foreign policy, war, transformation, leadership and more, and a good deal of it is not favorable towards Boy George regardless of the propaganda churned out by party and partisan organizations. I believe the days of selfless sacrifice and blind obedience are done and that history will rank that among his many abysmal failures.
Vernon Clayson - 2/14/2005
Two things in the article stand out. One, the former Colonel Bacevich, is just another retired military officer full of adverse, if not subversive, opinions now that he doesn't have to march. He still accepts the pension, of course, he just didn't carry the Long Gray Line's creed of Duty, Honor, Country, into his retirement. On dictionaries used at West Point, he and the others like him should be listed under the definition for weasel. They should call him back into active duty to see if his grand ideas play with the reality of the situation. The other thing that stood out was the comment that "US behavior is at odds with a peaceful and orderly solution." Absurd statement, the first peaceful and orderly solution to any conflict will be just that, the first one. Mr. Mirra, do not hold your breath waiting for that.
John H. Lederer - 2/14/2005
Do the Iraqis have a say in when the U.S. stays or leaves. Right now we are comitted to leaving if the Iraqi government (in formation now) asks us to leave. If they ask us to stay longer should we leave anyway?
Essay is way behind the curve.
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