|March 21, 2006||Posted by Fred Foldvary under Progress Report, The Progress Report|
Why Iraq Failed
by Fred E. Foldvary, Senior Editor
by Fred E. Foldvary, Senior Editor
The third anniversary of the invasion of Iraq by the U.S. government and its coalition partners is being noted throughout the world. Whether the war in Iraq was justified depends on the consequences. There was a tiny seed of moral justification in deposing an evil dictator who was brutal to the Iraqis, who supported terror in other countries, who waged a futile war against Iran, and who invaded Kuwait. But the invasion would have been justified only if the costs were less traumatic than the costs of him staying in power.
The costs of the war in Iraq include the disruption of the delicate social cohesion in the Middle East. War rips apart the social and political fabrics that have evolved over hundreds of years. The Austrian-school economist Friedrich Hayek warned against a total remake of society, but nobody listens to him. The disruption started with World War I, when the chiefs of the Turkish Empire decided to risk committing political suicide, and went to war against Russia, Great Britain, and France. Evidently the Teutonic royal chiefs of Europe also had a secret desire to commit institutional suicide, as the emperors of Austria-Hungary and Germany went to war, willing to risk their crowns for a bit of military glory and royal honor.
The British promised the Arabs liberation from the Turkish Empire, and somehow the Arabs had not read any history, since the Europeans had been on a colonial quest since 1500 as they regarded the rest of the world as plunder land. Europeans had believed that any promises made to non-Europeans were a mere tactic of conquest. Europeans would only realize much later that the end of the Turkish Empire was also the fatal termination of the Caliphate, based in Baghdad. The Caliph was the leader of the Islamic community. Though he in practice had little governing authority by the time the Ottoman Caliphate became defunct in 1924, nevertheless the Caliphate had great religious symbolic value, as Islamic extremists today seek to restore it.
The British and French colonial occupation of Arabs in the Middle East was the beginning of the anger that Arabs feel against the Euro-American realms. Europeans had already colonized Muslim lands in North Africa and the Middle East. After World War II, dictators overthrew kings in Iraq, Egypt, and other Muslim countries. The British also failed to establish a democratic binational confederation in their Palestine with justice in the ownership of land, leaving a mess that led to the wars and the current conflict between the Palestinian Arabs and the State of Israel.
Now there was a brutal dictator in power in Iraq. His overthrow would only be wise if the consequence was the establishment of a free, peaceful, democratic society in Iraq. Some commentators have said that it was not possible to create democracy and peace in Iraq, but this analysis is bounded by status-quo thinking. If we smash the status-quo box of conventional political thought, we can see that genuine democracy is the natural human order, and it is not so much a matter of imposing it but just letting it happen.
But genuine democracy is not the sham of casting ballots to choose among hand-picked puppets. Genuine democracy has to begin with actual individual sovereignty. Several persons come together to form a club. How to decide on common projects? Each person has an equal say, because there is nothing in human nature that makes any person a natural master. Even parents of young children should be trustees rather than masters, children being beneficiaries, not slaves.
After the overthrow of the old regime in Iraq, the U.S. and its coalition partners should have declared that the Iraqi people were now in fact individually sovereign. The people should have been guided to form neighborhood councils, with actual power and authority over local civic services. Then these councils would have elected higher-level legislative bodies. With power decentralized, rebellion would not have started. The main reason for the conflict between the Sunni and the Shi’ites is that each seeks to control the power and wealth of the centralized state.
The U.S. has pushed for a unified top-down centralized state in Iraq, which is indeed politically and socially impossible. The U.S. should have put in enough military to prevent the looting and violence that filled the political vacuum after the fall of the old regime. It should have instituted local democracy, with oil revenues distributed to the local councils by population. The U.S. government should have invited other countries to join it as peace keepers rather than occupiers.
Now it is too late for such reforms. The Iraqis have a constitution and government that is ill suited for their religious and ethnic divisions. Oil will remain a prize to be fought over. Unless there is a change of vision towards genuine democracy, turmoil will rule.
The anti-war protesters must accept some of the blame for not doing enough to stop the war. Protests should have been a catalyst for intellectual argument rather than an end in itself. Lacking intellectual capital, their cry was No blood for oil, but the war in Iraq is about much more than oil. The war in Iraq is more about power over actual and potential weapons of war, power over territory, power over people, and the power to suppress contrary beliefs.
Oil sells in a global market, and anybody can buy it at the market price. Going to war for oil is like fighting to get bread, very silly if you can just go to the store and buy it. Oil is at the heart of the war in Iraq, but oil is not the soul of the war.
Copyright 2006 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. Also see:
Cindy Sheehan Repudiates George Bush
Honor Our Troops — Impeach AWOL Bush
Bush Blunders Cost American Lives
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