Thursday, June 24, 2004

Why We Went to War in Iraq

A lot of my fellow democrats seem to believe that we're in Iraq because Bush wants oil and Halliburton contracts and to prove something to his dad.

I really don't think those are enough. I don't think Bush would do it for those reasons.

I mean, they're probably on the list somewhere, along with genunine worry about weapons of mass distruction, and genuine concern for the welfare of the people of Iraq, but even all together, those wouldn't be enough to make us actually invade.

I think it's geopolitical. Rumsfeld and co. have mistaken the middle east for the Soviet Union. Wesley Clark explains how that could happen.

If the Arab states were ever united, they probably could represent a threat to the US. The region is rich, and young, and awash in a powerful ideology which is not wholly consistent with rampant American consumer capitalism. We have as little influence there as we ever did among the Soviet satellite states, but we are dependent on their resources.

(North Korea, by contrast, has little real power even with nukes, is dependent upon us, rather than the other way around. The neocons see it as less of a threat. Yet in spite of that "weakness" we couldn't win a war with North Korea quickly or cheaply, as it seemed we could in the middle east -- if we acted immediately, while we still had the expulsion of the UN inspectors as a fig leaf to cover the aggression, and while Saddam's government was in the doghouse with Europe and with several governments in an internally divided region.)

It was about, "Saddam Hussein can't be seen to defy the US and get away with it," lest it set a dangerous precedent. Richard Perle uses the word "defy" several times in this interview, from about a month after September 11, about why we should invade Iraq before Afghanistan.

By attacking, we got to 1) make an example out of Iraq, to intimidate its neighbors 2) install a friendly satellite government in a hostile region 3) interfere with Arab unity. And in the process, also secure oil reserves, finish Daddy's war, liberate an opressed people (and make ammends, to some extent, for our previous complicity), secure the oil supply, boost the economy, drum up business for Halliburton, and establish American "National Greatness," to inspire the voters and solidify our hedgemony.

We want nothing more than to make the rest of the world look like Europe and America and Canada and Australia. We don't want to own it. We just want it to share our values, so that it doesn't represent a threat. We believe that there can be a democratic "domino effect" just like the one we used to fear from communism.

To tell you the truth, I don't think this is such an awful goal. To want all of those third world countries to look like first world countries, stable and democratic and prosperous, is not evil. Most of the people living on those countries probably want the same thing, more or less.

Unfortunately I don't think you can do it this way. You can't change a culture at gunpoint. We've tried it before -- some of the dictators we supported in the middle east tried to "modernize" it by force, tearing off veils with weapons pointed at women. No wonder they don't it as a blessing. No wonder they aren't grateful. If we just had patience, I think that they would begin to imitate us out of our own free will. It was already beginning to happen in Iran.

But the "Project for the New American Century" folks don't want to wait. They fear America will lose its hedgemony unless it acts, and then Pax Americana will break down, and the world will fall back into the old chaos. The fear the dominoes won't fall unless we push them.

That page says "We need to strengthen our ties to democratic allies and to challenge regimes hostile to our interests and values." This is dated June 3, 1997. That's almost the words "regime change," that long ago. It's signed by Jeb Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and Paul Wolfowitz, among others.

What the neocons want is a world where everyone respects America and lives like Americans (or perhaps slightly less wastefully). But you have to earn respect. You can't compel it with threats.

Incidentally, since I mentioned "Pax Americana"... You know that the analogy between the US and the Roman Empire is a favorite of both its supporters and its critics. Some (on both sides!) may carry that analogy a step further, and say that the American empire, like the Roman Empire, is doomed by its decadence. What I wonder is, if we're Rome, who are the Goths and the Vandals? Wasn't the original Rome, in a sense, brought down by militarily weaker "terrorists"?

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