George Sarant

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Posts Tagged ‘Iraq

STAY OUT OF THE LINE OF FIRE

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The USA has not been blessed with leaders with a clear-eyed, long-term geopolitical view of the interests of the country for decades, and that record, along with the consistent ineptitude of the present administration, makes inaction preferable to action on a number of fronts. Iraq is descending into a chaotic civil war, due to the precipitous disengagement of the Obama administration and a total lack of strategic vision. There is no question that the blunders of the Bush administration are responsible for instigating these problems, but in that case at least half the blame belongs to Saddam Hussein himself for so successfully faking WMD capabilities in order to be perceived as a more formidable force in the region. That posture backfired, as did his removal. Sadaam was an awful dictator, but he counterbalanced the equally odious Iranian regime, which became the principal beneficiary of his demise. Broader strategic thinking would have made that outcome obvious. 

More importantly, Sadaam was a secular leader who checked religious extremism as long as he was in power. The same dynamic is at work in Syria now, where the US currently has zero credibility or respect, having drawn a  “line in the sand,” which it then ignored.  A wiser, long-term geopolitical understanding would have informed us of the saliency of the religious extremism in the two branches of Islam, and guided our strategic thinking accordingly. This is a long term, historic conflict that could still last centuries. Do we want to be part of that? At this stage, given the bumbling proclivities of our leaders, I think the best course for the US is to use this as an opportunity to get out of the line of fire. By that I mean ceasing to be enemy number one to extremists on both sides of the Islamic rift.  We have managed to fumble our way into that position, and it is now time to extricate ourselves. 

There are many countries in the world with an “Islamic problem,” meaning either a restive minority population or conflict with an aggressive neighbor. The US is not one of them, and a cursory examination of global borders makes that obvious. There is no inherent reason for the US to be at odds with any of these players, but for inserting ourselves into their affairs. Contrary to the beliefs of some on the left, it’s not about oil. We are more self-sufficient in this hemisphere than most other countries, and would be even more so but for the anti-energy policies of this administration, which sooner or later will be undone. The people who depend on mideast oil are the Japanese, the Europeans, and increasingly, the Chinese. Consequently what happens in the area is of far more consequence for them than it is for us. 

As for cultural conflict, Europe has a large, unassimilated Muslim population. Russia, and even China have restive Muslim minorities. Thus, the problems are far more acute for them, so why should the US wind up being the Great Satan? Bin Laden (who primarily targeted the US for stationing forces in Saudi Arabia, which are now gone) is dead and most of the perpetrators of the 9/11 attack are accounted for. The Muslims are not our problem, and the more we disengage from conflict with them the less we would be targeted. Their main goal is obtaining power within the Islamic world. They are basically a headache for the existing regimes, who until now have managed to deflect such hostility onto the west. We are not sufficiently ruthless for this kind of conflict.

This does not mean cutting and running, but making a realistic policy that in essence says you don’t bother us and we won’t bother you, for if you do you will be annihilated with overwhelming force.  We would basically make an offer they couldn’t refuse. Let the CIA do its job for a change and come up with accurate information on these movements. Given the nature of the present administration I do not see a better path. 

We have paid dearly for all of this, not just in lives and treasure, but in terms of our own liberties. We now have a massive security state that is adept primarily at inconveniencing us at airports. Yet the end result is a situation no better than it was before, and given the instability in the area, arguably worse. We need to focus on rebuilding strength at home, where our way of life has deteriorated significantly. I am not suggesting isolationism here, but realism, as per Theodore Roosevelt’s axiom, speak softly but carry a big stick. 

 

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ADRIFT IN IRAQ

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Leave it to Joe Biden to claim that Iraq is one of the great successes of the Obama administration, never mind that Obama strongly opposed the surge that made victory there possible. Unfortunately much of what we fought for may go down the drain if we simply walk away with nothing gained. The administration has set a firm date for a complete troop withdrawal even as the political situation there remains somewhat unsettled. One can argue about the wisdom of the war in the first place, but that is academic now. What matters is the current situation, where Iranian influence is boldly growing and further reconciliation of Iraqi factions has hit a dead end. The now-empowered Shiites are refusing to allow virtually anyone who was a member of Saddam’s B’aath party to run for office, even though that may have been the only way to get a job and their involvement was otherwise limited. This precludes a significant number of Sunnis from running for office. The Sunnis pose no threat to majority Shiite domination of the government so some conciliation would be advisable, but American efforts have been insufficient to bring this about.

Behind the scenes lurks the presence of Iran, which is manipulating various Shiite factions, violating Iraq’s borders and otherwise gaining influence in the country. If we simply ignore Iraq now we will have fought a war just to turn it into an Iranian satellite. Steps must be taken to counter the influence of the illicit Iranian regime now. Otherwise this administration may not be responsible for “success” in Iraq, but an avoidable failure. Sour grapes over Bush is not a reason to abandon a successful policy. The administration itself has adapted the surge strategy in Afghanistan, and if that works it can properly claim credit for it. But claiming success in Iraq is a little premature.

Written by georgesarant

February 19, 2010 at 8:28 PM

Posted in international

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