US Should Pull Out of Iraq Now
Iraq: Make Politics, Not War
Once again, the United States must come to terms with the limits of its power. In Iraq, America has undisputable control of the skies but holds nothing on the ground. Its very presence incites violence.
While President George W. Bush believes that he is protecting America in taking the war to the enemy, more than 1,700 Americans have died in the Iraq War, which has also caused the terrorist attacks on the allies of the United States. The horrible London bombings were probably inspired by British co-direction in the war.
The error of the Bush Administration was to have ignored political considerations in his war calculations or to have blindly followed the dictum that war is the pursuit of politics by other means. In fact the war represents the end of politics and of political imagination. Given the self-satisfaction of Bush and his advisors and their lack of cultural and historical sensibility, the believed that the invasion of Iraq would be easy, that Saddam Hussein’s army would collapse and that the United States would be welcomed as a liberator.
For these reasons, the Iraqis naturally view the occupation as merely new chapter in the long history of foreign exploitation by the United States. Oil is generally recognized as the basis for this war, not terrorism. The war was prepared by Bush One’s advisors in the 90’s and made possible by the Republican win of the presidency in 2001. During the 90’s, US Vice President Dick Cheney and others clearly indicated that the regime of Saddam Hussein threatened America’s oil security by forcing it to over-rely on Saudi Arabia. They believed that the vast Iraqi oil reserves could not be reliably developed until Saddam was overthrown. The September 11th terrorist attacks in the United States gave them the green light, but their motives were intrinsic.
And the Iraqis are aware of all this. The refusal of Mr. Bush to set a date for troop withdrawal is not seen as "determination" but as America’s declaration of its intention to remain in Iraq, to establish a puppet government, to take control of the oil reserves of the country and to build permanent military bases.
It won’t work. Simply stated, there are too many real political forces at work on the territory of Iraq for the United States to manage and these forces are becoming more and more insistent upon a schedule for the withdrawal of US forces, as are the legions of Iraqis participating in public protests and religious activities at the mosque. Each time the United States refuses to set a deadline for the withdrawal of its troops it only feeds the opposition, not to mention the insurrection. Plenty of Iraqis are prepared to fight and die to oppose the US presence. Only politics, not arms, can cool things off.
Vietnam was a veritable precedent for the current situation. The Vietnamese dead and wounded surpassed US dead and wounded by a ratio of twenty to one, yet the United States could not get the better of the nationalist enemy which it faced. The United States bombed Vietnamese cities and reduced them to cinders--just as they could in Iraq--but that would accomplish nothing except the deaths of a great number of innocent victims and confirm the United States as an occupier in the eyes of everyone.
All this has an economic angle. US foreign policy doctrine instructs that national security rests on three pillars : Defense, diplomacy and development. Economic aid to poor nations is essential because poverty is the firmament of violence, conflict and terrorism. However, diplomacy and development are obliged to yield to defense, or, more precisely, to the military, and find themselves relegated to second and third place in US foreign policy budget.
The United Staes is going to lay out more than $500 billion, or 5% of its GNP, on military spending this year, half the aggregate total in the world. In other words, the United States spends as much per year on weaponry as the rest of the world combined. However, they are spending only $18 billion, barely 0.16% of GNP, on assistance and development. Europe spends approximately 2% of its GNP on defense and 0.4% on GNP on assistance and development and this may rise to 0.7% of GNP by 2015.
Should the United States decide to engage itself politically rather than militarily, as it does today, then it will come to understand that American interests are better served by greater spending on development and by using the lever of trade as an approach in Asia, Africa and the Middle East. The bombing of Libya did not return Qadaffi to the fold. It was peaceful diplomacy which accomplished that by demonstrating to Qadaffi that the restoration of diplomatic relations with the West and the abandonment of his nuclear plans held certain advantages for his future and for that of his country.
The same approach towards Saddam Hussein would have been less costly and more promising. Vast sums of money and millions of lives would have been spared if this approach has been attempted with Ho Chi Minh in the 1950’s.
No one questions the necessity of intelligence and policework in the fight against terrorism. But the war in Iraq with its phenomenal military spending represent something else. The United States Armed Forces can protect America against conventional military threats and protect the accessiblity of sea lanes so that rivers of oil and other essential resources may flow. But it cannot protect the United States from politics. For this, America must show more acuity and invest in peaceful development projects rather than in the construction of military bases in the heart of country which it exploits as it has always done. The US must withdraw from Iraq immediately. Afterwards, it can and must use its economic and political weight in the management of this complex and difficult situation, which it was largely responsible for creating, even if it was not completely at fault. US domination in Iraq will be limited but a pullout will make this domination more workable than it is today and far less costly in terms of money and human lives—American, allied and Iraqi.