Tuesday, September 28, 2004

America is losing the war in Iraq

The United States is headed for an ignominious defeat in Iraq, the consequence of egregious strategic and political incompetence on the part of the Bush administration.

Under the banner of a radical Wolfowitzian plan to ‘spread freedom and democracy’ around the world, Bush and his entourage of corporate profiteers are making a killing in Iraq, literally and figuratively.

But while Big Oil and the military industrial establishment are reaping the rewards of chaos and instability, the civilised world is crying out for sanity and humanity to prevail.

Nothing exemplifies the appalling dysfunction of the Bush administration better than the President himself, who continues to justify the attack on Iraq as a noble, altruistic act of liberation, while ignoring the unpleasant fact that Iraq has descended into violent anarchy with little hope of immediate improvement.

Perhaps Bush believes he can convince the American electorate that his grand vision is succeeding and real world evidence to the contrary is irrelevant and should be ignored. Unfortunately, such collective delusion on the part of American society will do little to improve the situation in Iraq.

Parading his puppet prime minister, Iyad Allawi, before a joint congressional sitting last week, simply further confirms the utter contempt Bush has for tact, reason and the views of those who oppose his reckless and aggressive unilateralism.

The mutual confidence and excessive cordiality evident between Bush and Allawi is more a reflection of inherent dependence than any sincere expression of trust or friendship. The President desperately needs to believe his strongman can deliver stability in Iraq, and Prime Minister Allawi cannot hope to survive without the President's support and a cordon of US bodyguards.

Each needs the other more than they care to admit, but neither can really feel assured the other will deliver. The stakes are high. For Bush, failure to secure peace and stability in Iraq will cost America dearly; financially, strategically and politically. A defeat of the US military at the hands of the Iraqi resistance will undermine US credibility and weaken America's willingness to engage threats elsewhere in the world. Bush will go down in history as the president who single-handedly neutered the US military.

For Allawi, failure to gain the support of his fellow citizens by restoring security and essential services will very likely cost him his life, or many more years in exile. Ironically, his vaunted propinquity with the Bush administration may well be his greatest liability. There is no doubt the majority of Iraqis are bitterly opposed to the US occupation, and anyone closely associated with the occupation forces is generally considered to be collaborating with the enemy. Such widespread popular sentiment bodes ill for Allawi's future in Iraq.

Allawi's gravest mistake has been his eagerness to align himself closely with Bush, compounded by his failure to moderate the aggressive behaviour of US forces in many parts of the country. Most Iraqis now regard Allawi as little more than an American stooge, doing the dirty work for George Bush and his neocon warriors. Allawi's reputation sinks lower with each additional civilian death, and his inability to stem the violence undermines his support, both at home and abroad.

There are now signs coming from the White House that suggest some senior administration officials are beginning to doubt the wisdom of open ended support for Allawi. The other day, Defence Secretary Rumsfeld opined that US forces might be withdrawn from Iraq even before the violence and conflict is resolved. He was signalling Allawi that America cannot be relied upon to restore security to that war ravaged nation.

And last week, the right wing journalist, Robert Novak, wrote that inside the Bush administration, "there is strong feeling that US troops must leave Iraq next year," a determination "not predicated on success in implanting Iraqi democracy and internal stability." Novak made the astute observation that "getting out of Iraq would end the neoconservative dream of building democracy in the Arab world."

With insufficient military strength on hand to defeat the resistance in Iraq, the US has three available options. They can maintain troop numbers and continue to fight an interminable guerilla war, with the ever increasing cost in life and treasure for no discernable advantage. Or they can greatly increase troop numbers and the use of force in an effort to subdue the resistance, an extremely expensive and potentially disastrous escalation of the conflict with no guarantee of success. Or they can cut their losses and leave.

According to Novak, well-placed sources in the administration are confident that Bush, Rice and Wolfowitz all favour withdrawal. This would leave Allawi in a precarious position as the various tribal and sectarian groups battle among themselves for power in the chaotic emergence of a new Iraqi government. Apparently, the Bush administration views such an internecine outcome as vastly preferable to Saddam's regime.

With typical insouciant certainty, Bush is displaying the sort of limited strategic cognisance that has epitomised his presidency. No thought given to the longer term ramifications of his belligerence, no regard for America's standing in the world, little more than arrogance, blind obstinacy and pig-headed aggression.

The attack on Iraq has been nothing short of an unmitigated strategic disaster for America, with serious geopolitical consequences for the whole world. It has weakened the international system of collective security. It has undermined US credibility on the world stage and consequently strengthened the position of other major forces, including non-state actors like al Qaeda. It has destabilized a region of immense strategic significance, at enormous cost to the United States, creating conditions that will lead to even more conflict and instability.

It is a testament to the fatuity of the Bush administration that they continue to portray their achievement in Iraq as a benefit to America and the world. But for those who appraise the situation with a modicum of objectivity, the horrible truth is all too apparent.

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