Thursday, July 15, 2004

A Non Sequitur in American Foreign Policy

The SSCI and the UK’s own pre-war intelligence inquiry have forced many liberal supporters of the war and humanitarian hawks to re-asses their own assumptions about the Iraq War. I, myself, have been at odds to reconcile the findings in these reports with my own hawkish position on the War. It turns out that most, if not practically all, the intelligence used as justification for the war was either too ambiguous or entirely false.

With the common perception that Saddam Hussein was years and possibly months away from reconstituting his nuclear weapons program, the international community, at some level, understood the US’s urgency in quickly acting to deter Saddam. And, certainly, in a post-9/11 political climate the issue of American national security became paramount, thus prompting the revisiting of the Saddam problem.

Though, it appears that the real triumph of both the Blair and the Bush administration was to move so quickly the foreign policy precept of a containable and controllable Saddam and Iraq, to the perception, now proven false, of the imminent and gathering threat Saddam posed to not only the US, but to the world.

Conventional wisdom was jettisoned, as the Bush administration moved frantically to connect the dots: 9/11, Iraq, al Qaeda, Saddam, and Bin Laden.

The foreign policy establishment wasn’t convinced; but that didn’t matter. Congress had overwhelmingly passed an Iraq resolution that would allow the president to use the force necessary to make Saddam comply with UN res. 1441. One must recall that res. 1441 compelled Saddam to allow UN weapons inspectors into Iraq, giving them unfettered access to all suspected areas. This, however, was facilitated by the presences of over 180, 000 troops ominously surrounding the country; the visible threat of force.

But all these procedural formalities made no difference since the war games—strategy for the Iraq invasion—had taken place as soon as Rumsfeld stepped into the Pentagon, in January of 2001. So if the invasion of Iraq was a fait accompli long before all the political maneuverings at the UN, then why was it a fait accompli? One word: Neo-conservatism.

Many posit, rightly, that Neo-cons have been intent on reestablishing American global hegemony in the Middle East, and the best way to do this was to go for the weakest link: Saddam and Iraq. This meant that despite the economic absurdity, the political stupidity, and the diplomatic idiocy of such a venture so soon after Afghanistan, it still had to be undertaken for the simply fact of committing to the venture while the Republicans were still in power.

9/11 gave them the requisite wiggle room.

The Realist establishment of foreign policy maintained that the Iraq was a good seven to nine years away from a weapons program, manageable for the meantime without aggressive military commitment, considering the exigent priorities of Afghanistan and the War on terror. And while I too maintain, much like the Neo-cons that the regional stability of the Middle East depended on what happened with Saddam, the US needed to be realistic and judicious with its resources, which now seem to be compromised.

My contention is that the neo-cons thought so lowly of the Realist that they assumed no good faith effort would have ever been made in the future( by a Democratic administration) to address the Saddam issue. That will never be known, but, to some extent, I share their misgivings. Realizing that their only possibility to broach, let alone implement, the Iraq venture, the neo-cons pushed the talks of the Iraq war harder and faster, it was a window soon closing .

And now, even when US political and diplomatic capital has been greatly squandered, the plan, in the Neo-cons eyes, is under way, whether or not this current Administration survives to see the second phase.

The US felt Iraq wasn’t adequately complying with res.1441 because no weapons or evidence of a weapons program were being found—likely because none actually existed—so they gave Saddam 48 hours to step down or else. In fact, it didn’t matter that the inspections weren’t turning anything up, because the war plan scheduled combat for early March. 180, 000 troops weren’t there to simply make Saddam comply, and the longer the inspectors were inspecting, the further off schedule the war was being delayed.

From purely a management perceptive, the Iraq war was a magnificent blunder in US foreign policy, quite possibly rivaling Vietnam. There are no short term benefits both politically and diplomatically, and the long term benefits will follow after only years and possibly decades of regional instability. Though, such a scenario would have also been likely had the US waited another 5 years. Since, it seems improbable that more support would have been given the coalition, especially considering the growing Muslim demographic in Germany and France, and perpetual Russian obstinacy.

Thus, even if the US were unable to get the type of coalition it needed for a future invasion of Iraq, both materially and rhetorically, they undoubtedly would have been in a firmer position strategically if Afghanistan and the tribal area on the Pakistani border were more stable than they are currently. So the argument that the Iraq war diverted necessary resources from Afghanistan and has accomplished very little strategically becomes even stronger when you consider how tight militarily the situation is in Iraq. 135, 000 US troops will be in Iraq for a minimum of 3 years. After that, the situation is unknown. In an ideal world the Bush administration would have waited to invade Iraq; similarly, the following administration, it is hoped, would also take seriously not simply the threat of Saddam, but its inherent responsibility to remove Saddam. Therefore, the invasion of Iraq begins to look like a non sequiter in US foreign policy, accomplishing nothing else but starting something that should have been done years prior, and committing to something that has proven to be wholly unmanageable now.

But let’s not fool ourselves into thinking that the Bush administration didn’t pressure the Intelligence community, since it wasn’t their decision that Iraq be invaded. Despite evidence to the contrary, the Bush administration let it be known that Iraq and Saddam was a priority. By conceding that intelligence was faulty, and distancing its self from the CIA, the administration realizes that no rationale justified this war—at least one that would have warranted such hasty action. So again, the war, from any stretch of reality, didn’t and doesn’t make any sense (hopefully, for the US’s sake, it does in the future) and for that reason alone Bush shouldn’t be re-elected.


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