Looking Beyond the Signs Carried by Anti-War Citizens
Iraq: Strategies and Gut Feelings
by Lindy DaviesI turn eagerly to Fred Foldvary's editorials for fresh thinking on a wide variety of topics, and I value his work greatly. Yet, I believe his latest editorial, "Oil and War in Iraq" is off-target in many respects.
It is evident that the US war drive is not a matter of simply seizing the oil fields of Iraq, but that doesn't mean that the war is not "about oil." Foldvary admits as much, when he says that the real danger, in terms of US policy, is that the oil fields of the Middle East should fall under the control of a hostile dictator. It's not about oil supplies in the short term; it's about maintaining a status quo in which the dominant corporate forces, disguised as the United States Government, continue to call the tune of global energy, economic and military policies.
The United States has a long tradition of supporting cruel dictators, such as Mobutu, the Shah of Iran, Pinochet, and even Saddam Hussein himself, when it served US geopolitical goals to do so. After the Iran-Iraq war the Iraqi regime was no longer useful to the US, and its intervention in Kuwait could no longer be tolerated. It is very instructive that the infamous gassing of the Kurds happened while the US was allied with Hussein against Iran; despicable as it was, it only elicited US condemnation after the United States chose to fight Iraq.
Foldvary may well be correct in saying, "In their self-delusion, the chiefs of Iraq may believe that once they have nuclear bombs, along with chemical and biological weapons, they can march again into Kuwait and then to Arabia and seize half the world's oil supply." However, if so, then their level of self-delusion is very high. After being easily defeated in the first Gulf War, the country has endured a decade of very stringent economic sanctions that have rolled back its economic gains, decimated its infrastructure and left most of its people dependent on the UN oil-for-food program. Can it be that the United States believes Iraq to have the tiniest chance of being able to attack and conquer Saudi Arabia, now? Iraq cannot even control much of its own (supposedly) sovereign territory.
Foldvary says that Iraqi support for Palestinian terrorists is a major cause for the US determination to attack, and, again, this is probably true. However, if Iraq were to immediately stop all support for the Palestinian terror gangs, would the terrorist attacks in Israel cease? Of course not. Iraqis are not the only people supporting the Palestinian terrorists, and the Palestinian terrorists are strongly motivated. Their attacks will likely continue as long as they can scrounge up the material for suicide bombs, or until there is a sea-change in US and Israeli policy. (I whole-heartedly agree, by the way, with the framework Foldvary has suggested for a secular federation in the region with full human and citizenship rights for all.)
According to Foldvary, another attack by Al Qaida may be the trigger for the US invasion, and if the US is clever, it will not attack, but only maintain the threat. That scenario, however, seems to fly in the face of US strategy. It is well known that the US dearly hopes not to have to fight in the summer, when the oppressive heat, coupled with the need for protective gear against chemical weapons, will make the campaign much more dangerous and expensive. The US is about to adopt a national budget that features a very large deficit, before any of the costs of the war are factored in -- it is likely that once they are, the deficit will exceed percentage-of-GDP record levels. Therefore there is a strong incentive not to vastly increase costs by rotating troops through a protracted waiting period. Furthermore, public support for the US war drive is eroding rapidly. Anything more protracted and messy than a clean, quick bombing spree will tremendously erode what popular support is left. It seems that for all these reasons, the United States is not interested in camping out in the desert. Considering that the US "war on terrorism" has not yet been able to stop Osama bin Laden from publicly taunting us -- much less to locate and liquidate him -- it seems likely that Al Qaida still has considerable resources and would be able to attack the US at some point. So how long would US soldiers have to wait in the desert? The foreseeable future? That seems not to be such a "clever" plan.
Not only that: it is widely reported that the fanatics of Al Qaida and the socialist cronies of Saddam are not friendly. A US attack on Iraq may play right into the Islamists' hands. The post-Saddam chaos -- which would be characterized by tremendous hatred of the American invaders -- would be an ideal time to move the increasingly desperate people of Iraq toward Islamic theocracy. Perhaps bin Laden hopes to goad the US into attacking Iraq and doing Al Qaida's dirty work there! That scenario, of course, would be impossible under a regime of UN weapons inspections protected by international peacekeeping forces -- but all-too-likely, I am afraid, when 200,000 American troops are sitting on their big guns in the Gulf.
Surely, the "no blood for oil" protesters are expressing more of a gut feeling than a fully formed strategic rationale. But I believe that their gut feeling is, in strategic terms, very sound indeed -- and that there is nothing clever, appropriate or sensible about the United States rushing to threaten war against Iraq.
Lindy Davies runs the Henry George Institute.
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