Monthly Archives: September 2012
The Military Point of View
There was an article in the NYT yesterday (9.23) on Iraq, which appears to be critical of the Obama Administrations’s efforts to end the military presence in Iraq: “In US Exit From Iraq, Failed Efforts of Americas Last Months in Iraq”. It’s an excerpt from a book due out next week called the “Endgame: The inside story of the struggle for Iraq, from George W. Bush to Barack Obama” by Michael Gordon, the NYT reporter and retired Lt. Gen. Bernard E. Trainer. The timing is suspiciously political. It’s even a 2nd printing. Didn’t attract enough attention the first time?
Vice President Biden comes off as naive and foolish, and Obama himself is criticized for coming late to the negotiations as well as botching them. It seems to me that the situation on the ground had already been thoroughly botched by the Bush Administration beyond the point of the rescue of the so-called American interests.
The article is written mostly from the military point of view. The military never wanted to leave Iraq, even under George W. The military never wants to give up on an operation, even when there is no choice as in Vietnam. It dragged its feet in Iraq, and now it’s dragging its feet again in Afghanistan.
George & Co. had already made such a mess of things by the time Obama arrived in office that there was not much that could be done to create that chimera of the “balanced, stable democracy”. It was the American post colonial policy of divide and conquer under the Provisional Authority that set the stage for all the struggles that followed, including the civil war and Maliki’s slide toward authoritarian rule. The American government never learned much about Iraqis and Iraq all the time they were present in the country. They only saw their own point of view, their wants, their needs. No one ever asked the Iraqis what they wanted until the elections were forced on them in 2005, and then the arrangements were pretty much rigged to favor the Shia continuing the sectarian divide. The Bush administration was never able to get Maliki to agree to leaving some soldiers in Iraq because it would have had to go through parliament which wanted all Americans out of Iraq. What influence the Americans had was pretty much gone by the time the Bush administration was gone and Obama came in.
To attempt to blame Obama for the mess we left in Iraq is to have some kind of political agenda that ignores history and the present facts on the ground. There was no way they were going to undo what George & Co. had created. It will take time and a lot of hard work on the part of the Iraqis to come out of the chaos that followed the invasion. We here at home should be extremely wary of those who think our military can do everything. They can’t, as we have found to our sorrow in both Iraq and Afghanistan.
A more accurate analysis can be found in Michael Schwartz’s “War without End: The Iraq War in Context”. Just because it’s a political season doesn’t mean that newspaper articles should be irresponsible.
It looks like more old chickens are coming home to roost with the riots in Cairo and the killings and bombings in Benghazi and elsewhere. All it takes is some nuts in the US to set off mobs in both places. Arabs have been abused, ignored and mistreated by westerners for a very long time. Now the reactions are coming, as well as the provocations on this side. Unfortunately, because we believe in freedom of speech people like Yigal Palmor who, according to the NY Times, made the video that may have set things off and Sam Bacile (or whoever he is) who posted it on YouTube, there is not a lot that the government can do except apply the laws of hate speech after the fact. The article online at the NY Times this afternoon includes a mention of an Al-Qaeda video posted on their website calling for attacks on westerners.
The fact that the US and its allies are still killing Muslims in various parts of the world might have something to do with “the rage against the United States that still smolders in pockets around the region”. Well, duh! As long as we insist on the Empire state of mind for ourselves as well the actions and military bases that go with them, and as long as we continue to grab other peoples’ resources, we will have to endure the resentment as well as the attacks of those who have learned the hard way to hate us. Did we care about the thousands of Iraqis we killed in our “war” with them? No. We did not even count them. Do we even know how many Afghanis we’ve killed? No. The Pentagon always fudges the numbers.
George W. did us a great disservice in attacking and overrunning Iraq. The hatred that was already simmering because of our policy on Israel in which we let the Israelis call too many of the shots, and adding Abu Ghraib abuses plus those in other places in both Iraq and Afghanistan only added to the fire. And those were put together by Arabs and others with long memories dating back to the ouster of Mosaddegh in 1953. There is no way a single President in office for 3 and half years could reverse all the mistakes and misjudgments made over many years. To say, as Romney did, that the Obama Administration apologized is to invent a fantasy for political purposes. It will only make hime an even more obvious liar than he is already. We do not need another shoot first, ask questions later President, any more than the nation needs more war right now.
It would be nice if we could “teach the world to sing…” like the old 1970’s song says, but today’s world doesn’t lend itself to romantic dreams of peace, much as we might like to hang on to all that naive hope we had back in the 60’s and early 70’s. Today (Sept 13), with more protests boiling in other countries, we will just have to wait this wave out, and hope for a better one soon. We also need to do more to educate in our own countries against intolerance and hate, and perhaps stop killing innocent people in Muslim countries.
Polarization here at home seems to be because people have forgotten how to listen. Shouting matches may make for exciting TV to some, but they don’t do anything for communities or their governments except tear them apart. Moving inexorably toward a more authoritarian state will do nothing to arrest the problem. The same is true of Muslim countries. which have seldom had anything close to what we call democracy, mostly because western governments preferred to deal with authoritarian governments thought to be able to better maintain “stability”, and some of us still do think that way. You can see this in the Republican criticism of Obama’s foreign policy which relies on a nostalgia for the “way things were” when dictators were in many places around the globe, and America was “King of the Mountain”.
I wonder if we ever really were that “king”, but Romney still speaks of the “American Century” which should have gone out with George W.
Politicians love to talk of “young democracies” in places like Iraq, Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya, but their eyes are pointed straight at their own vision of what democracy is, a myth, far from the reality that exists or ever existed. To expect that after months of warring chaos they will suddenly become paragons of order is just stupid.