Testing the Iraq Hypotheses
by Fred E. Foldvary, Senior Editor
Science has two types of theorems, pure and specific. Pure theory applies generally, and specific theory applies to particular situations. Specific theory is obtained by proposing a tentative proposition, a hypothesis, and then testing it with data. Posit hypothesis (1) about Iraq: the main purpose of the invasion was to eliminate the purported grievances claimed by Al Qaeda as the reasons for its attacks against the USA on September 11, 2001. Hypothesis testing requires alternative hypotheses, so the alternatives in this case were (2) that the US chiefs have primarily an imperialist reason for invading Iraq, to control its oil and exert power over the Middle East, or (3) that the primary reason was to eliminate Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.
One grievance of Al Qaeda is the presence of 5000 US combat troops in Saudi Arabia, which tarnishes holy Islamic ground. A second grievance is the trade sanctions which for 13 years have limited trade with Iraq and contributed to the illness and deaths that especially have afflicted the children of Iraq. A third grievance is the US support for the Israeli occupation of Palestine.
The first hypothesis would be rejected if 1) US troops stayed in Arabia; or 2) the U.S. did not push for a rapid end to the sanctions; or 3) the US did not promote a swift end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The recent evidence is that none of these three happened, but the opposite.
The U.S. government has announced that U.S. combat troops will leave Saudi Arabia by this summer. A few hundred US troops will remain for a training program, but the air operations center has already been moved to Qatar, and all the airplanes based in Saudi Arabia will leave.
The U.S. government pushed for an end to the Iraq trade sanctions, and on May 22, the United Nations Security Council voted to end the trade barriers. The U.S. government is also pushing a "road map" to end the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Arabs. The evidence is thus consistent with hypothesis (1). This does not prove the hypothesis, but the hypothesis is not rejected, which is the best that data can do.
Now consider hypothesis (2). If primary goal was imperialist control of the region and its oil, the US would also seek to end the trade sanctions, but would not leave its military base in Arabia, and it would not be so eager to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. . So this hypothesis is not well supported. For hypothesis (2), the oil profits would be diverted to U.S. interests, and the U.S. would seek a long occupation of Iraq. Evidence for that is lacking so far.
If hypothesis (3) were the case, the weapons of mass destruction should have been found by now. Iraqi scientists, who should know where they are located, are in U.S. custody. It seems that the weapons have either been moved out of the country, destroyed, or hidden so well that nobody knows any more where they are. So the evidence for (3) is very weak. These weapons did play a role, since they were the reason for the trade sanctions, but they were not likely the primary real reason for the war.
Now that the coalition is eliminating the grievances of Al Qaeda, it must deal with governing Iraq. The U.S. administration there has been remarkably deficient in restoring safety. It should not require the presence of many more U.S. or other foreign troops to establish order. There are many unemployed people in Iraq. The U.S. administration in Iraq should hire locals to patrol the neighborhoods. The coalition troops could supervise the Iraqi patrols. There is plenty of cash in Iraq that can be used to pay the Iraqi patrols. I don't see why this should be difficult.
The U.S. government has bumbled its occupation. It seems that planning was grossly inadequate. The lack of safety and security in Iraq is inexcusable. Fortunately, the U.S. government is reorganizing its administration there. The solution is obvious. There is a demand for safety, and a large supply of idle labor. The money is there. What are the barriers to hiring that labor for use in security patrols? It seems that incompetence may be the greatest problem in the U.S. occupation of Iraq. The U.S. chiefs should beware: a disaster in Iraq will lead to a regime change in the U.S. But it's not too late to win the peace, if the will is there.
-- Fred Foldvary
Copyright 2003 by Fred E. Foldvary. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, which includes but is not limited to facsimile transmission, photocopying, recording, rekeying, or using any information storage or retrieval system, without giving full credit to Fred Foldvary and The Progress Report.
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