It’s interesting to live through the times of American occupation of Iraq. What the Bush Administration sees as a necessary move, not without its faults, that has eventually led to a nascent democracy, is nothing short of tragically comic. What we see as “giving peace in the Middle East a chance” will in future history books be seen as imperial overreach, classic quest for respect, influence, and resources, and geopolitics.
It’s clear Americans long gave up on this “war” and no longer want any part of it in any sense except to support the troops, whatever that means anymore. (I suspect “support the troops” is akin to wishing a homeless guy well when you see him but walk on by nervously, hoping he doesn’t attack you). It’s clear the rest of the world thinks our occupation of Iraq is foolish and naive, and some countries and non-state actors think it’s wonderful that we’re willingly spending blood and treasure on an endeavor that’s going to hurt us for decades to come.
It’s also clear that we’ve learned nothing about Islam, Arabs, history in the Middle East, the international system, or democracy as a result of meddling with Iraq. Which is perhaps the most tragic thing, given that we’ve invested so much in the damn place. But I guess when Madoff, the Big 3, big banks, and the Bush Administration take us for fools and we hardly put up a fight, we deserve the pains of our own negligence and ignorance.
So what’s going on in Iraq now?
The US and Iraq “agreed” on the terms of American military withdrawal from Iraq recently. The full document of the agreement between the US and Iraq can be read on Scribd.
The US is required to leave all Iraqi cities by June 30, 2009. It is then required to remove all military forces (in which the document goes into elaborate definition of what that consists of) by the end of 2011. Which is still a full 3 years from now, I might add.
Sounds great, right? Pretty simple and realistic?
Well, the Sadrists refuse to acknowledge the passing of this agreement by the Iraqi Parliament and Al-Maliki. Their logic is that the deal would be legitimizing American presence in Iraq, and therefore they disapprove. Juan Cole has a further breakdown of the various Iraqi parties’ takes on the agreement and on federalism vs. central government.
Real Iraqis do not want us in their country (although they do want security). The only ones who want us there have interests in keeping us there.
Everyone knows this deal is a farce. The US does indeed want to remove most of its troops, and thankfully through electing Obama, this seems more of a reality. But there is no way the US is giving up too much of its military presence in Iraq. It will continue to provide “technical advisors” and “trainers” for Iraq’s military, air force, and intelligence. Intel and the central government will undoubtedly be strongly influenced by the CIA and other covert operations. The US has built massive bases and is still working on a brand-new embassy. These will require logistics, support, and maintenance.
Iraqis know that the US isn’t going away soon. It may not be clear (even to Americans) what the US wants from Iraq, but it’s pretty clear nothing good or stable will come out of it.
Meanwhile, Iraq is not going to improve. If someone says the surge worked, you can just stop trusting anything else they say. Baghdad is “calmer” now because it’s been walled off and because ethnic separation has already occurred. The number of troops that were added are not commensurate with numbers needed to be able to quell violence — through the rest of the world or through the rest of history. It seems as though the US bought off the Sunnis to get them to play ball in getting rid of Al-Qaeda, who should have always been an unwelcome presence in Iraq.
People still don’t get why Bush was so bad. This guy is dumb. He is happy watching the illusion of elections and democratic government, but he has no understanding of what all that actually entails. As long as people go through the motions of voting, he thinks it’s progress. When it comes to what happens afterwards, like the election of someone he doesn’t like, or massive violence and calls of fraud, he doesn’t know what to do with it.
This is why we’re supposed to elect people who understand politics, regional sensitivities and political levers, and maybe even a little knowledge of economics. It bothers me that people claim Bush is devious and sneaky; he’s clearly not. He’s a well-meaning buffoon who’s a puppet of the long-time buddy network he installed underneath him (look at how long Cheney, Rumsfeld, Negroponte, et al have been in the game of Machiavellian imperialism).
He’s happy with Iraq, even though Al-Maliki’s Iraq is somewhat akin to a banana republic, without the bananas. Al-Maliki is on shaky ground and you can bet as soon as he can, he’s going to wipe out any resistance within his government as soon as the US looks the other way (as he did with “former Ba’athists”, the new red-headed stepchild in Iraq and, more recently, with Sunni coup collaborators). So if you’re Sunni, better watch out. If you’re Iranian, welcome! If you’re Kurdish, you’re hoping everyone ignores you so you can continue to slink on by and come closer to a modern Kurdistan. Until Turkey decides it’s going to take the same opportunity to throw Kurdistan against the wall like Russia did with Georgia.
Doesn’t it piss you off that Bush is clueless about this stuff? When has he talked about how the Sunnis in Saudi (his friends, I might add) and the Gulf states and Pakistan feel threatened by the strongly Iranian-influenced Iraq? Bush has completely depleted all of our political capital and armament to do anything more in the Middle East. The US public won’t stand for further meddling in the Middle East, and all the international players involved in the region realize that the US has no sway there once its military leaves.
In other words, it’s going to be a bloody, messy fight in the Middle East once we leave. And we will watch cluelessly with our mouthes agape, wondering why those damn Ay-rabs can’t all just get along. Al-Maliki and the Sunnis will go at it after we leave. Any vacuum of power will invite Al-Qaeda and other global insurgency groups back in.
The irony is that it seems as though Iraqi politics is pretty interesting on its own, and the most powerful interests in Iraq (like, for instance, the highest grand cleric, Al-Sistani) are trying to push for a sovereign, independent, democratic government. But the US is determined to be the “peacekeeper” and state-builder, so it’s decided to stay. The biggest railroading issue in Iraqi politics is, of course, American occupation, but from our lens, we see it as keeping the place from descending into chaos.
As Bill Easterly, development economist, would call it, this is the white man’s burden. We feel as though it’s upon us to fix everyone else so they can be perfect just like us. We spend trillions of dollars on other countries, with no accountability from those who are affected by it, and let the automotive industry in our own country eat it. Not that we should bailout the automakers, but we sure do wrangle a lot more with smaller amounts of money for our own peoples’ education and well-being than we do about the trillions spent fixing countries we don’t understand.
This shit is never-ending. When will we realize that the best thing we can do is to not get involved? Are you looking forward to two decades from now when we’re stuck with a bunch of damaged, hurting veterans and an Iraq situation that’s still chaotic? This is the same stuff you read about in foreign policy history books where the colonizers drew arbitrary borders for entire peoples and then wondered why it didn’t work out.
I hope that this all will not happen, but the underlying currents of neo-imperialism, interventionism, paternalism, love for war and oil, and more, still run strong and are indefatigible in American politics, even after Obama’s being selected president.
Again, I have to be amazed at how we’re now willfully “leaving” Iraq under an “agreement”, which basically, when translated, amounts to us running with our tail between our legs now that the US public wouldn’t take it anymore (after even a Democratic Congress refused to answer the peoples’ wishes to withdraw).
Of course, the warmongerers (most of whom have never been in a combat environment) out there will call this cowardice and emboldening the enemy. Well, too bad. If employing the democratic support of your people to support your foreign wars is too difficult, then maybe the point is that the war isn’t actually worth it? To argue differently is to question democratic rule by the people. The flip side of that, if you are a pragmatic warmongerer, is that you shouldn’t start a fight you know you won’t be able to finish, even if you think it’s worth it.
I thought it was fitting that an Iraqi journalist threw his shoes at Bush. An educated Iraqi who’s in a professional line of work throws whatever he can, given the opportunity. That’s about as much of a condemnation as you can get. Bush may see it as bizarre and an outlier event, but that shows how out of touch he is with the world he should be the most powerful leader of. I would venture to say that a high percentage of the people who saw the event (regardless of nationality, color, creed, etc.) identified instantly with the journalist and knew EXACTLY what he meant.
Are we going to be ready for the pent-up resentment and hostility that will come out after we “withdraw”? History shows that it’s never pretty when the lid comes off a boiling political pot. An Iraqi journalist got his ribs cracked and sustained other injuries. Saddam was filmed during what was basically a Shi’ite execution. And these events were under US supervision!