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Iraq: Instability Intended

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Iraq: Instability Intended

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Michael Doliner's essay of November 22 at, "The Motive for the Invasion," provides more reason for us to conclude that the existing chaotic situation in Iraq, with its concomitant huge financial burden for the United States, was the expected outcome in Iraq, as opposed to the optimistic predictions peddled by the neocons of an easy occupation and a reconstruction of Iraq that could be paid for by Iraq's oil wealth. As Doliner writes:
The plan, from the start, was unworkable, and one must either assume those in charge are completely incompetent, admittedly a plausible assumption, or that the present outcome is not that far from what they expected. I do not mean that they expected the resistance to be so stiff (though they should have) or that their pretext for the war would be so transparently exposed as lies, but simply that they never intended to restore Iraq to anything like a functioning state.
Doliner focuses on Iraq's enormous debt — the highest in the world in relation to national income. Iraq would have to greatly increase its oil production for its national income to even exceed the interest accruing on its debt:
To increase oil export to the roughly 2.4 million barrels a day prewar figure will require at minimum $10-15 billion investment in infrastructure according to most estimates. No oil company will invest this money in the political morass that is now Iraq. Without this investment Iraq will have a GDP of far less than even the interest accruing on the loan. Right after the war many advocated debt forgiveness for Iraq, but creditors resisted.
Doliner maintains that the debt cannot simply be written off because it would provide the basis for other debtor nations to demand similar treatment:
Iraq could only emerge from its present catastrophe if it renounced all its former obligations and started afresh. Such a course could never be undertaken while the United States is in control. For the United States to countenance renunciation of Iraqi debt would be to countenance the renunciation of other debt including the debt Russia assumed as a successor state to the Soviet Union and the debt previously incurred by corrupt dictators and now burdening Latin American countries such as Argentina and Chile. Much of this debt is owed to American institutions.
The author goes on to imply that the easily foreseen dire conditions now prevailing in Iraq might have been the intended consequence of the war:
So as long as the United States stays in Iraq, it will remain a zone of chaos, a zone that is likely to spread into neighboring states. That this would happen was not hard to predict, but could this result have been the intention of the Bush administration? Again, it was not difficult to determine Iraq's debt and the probable costs of reconstruction. Nor was it hard to anticipate the political chaos that followed the invasion. Either the Bush Administration had no member capable of adding or thinking politically, or it was aware from the start that reconstruction was not in the cards. Incompetence or calculation?

Doliner seems to lean to the view that the existing chaos and devastation is the intended result: Iraq's wealth, its oil, would be even more valuable without its population. Indeed, without that population oil companies would have a far easier time exploiting it. To extract oil, undermine OPEC, and aid Israel in its battle with the Arab states surrounding her might have been rational motives, but only if the plan were to devastate Iraq so that it could offer no further resistance.He sums it up: "To destroy the political structure of a country, leaving the population helpless against expropriation is a rational, Machiavellian, if monstrous, political intention." ***

I think Doliner almost has it right — but that the purpose of the unsettled conditions in Iraq is to benefit Israel (as the Likudniks envision Israel's security) and not to facilitate the acquisition of oil. Oil could be better obtained under conditions of stability. Representatives of the oil interests actually opposed the war and had sought the lifting of sanctions to allow American companies to become involved in Iraqi oil. Moreover, there is some evidence that Saddam, through back channels, offered American companies lucrative oil deals in order to stave off the U.S. invasion. [1]  

Expert opinion certainly predicted dire consequences for an American occupation. For example, a yearlong pre-war State Department study foresaw chaotic conditions in Iraq that would exist during the period of U.S. occupation. [2] The CIA also warned the Bush administration of extensive postwar resistance that would make reconstruction extremely difficult. [3]

More significantly — and despite administration rhetoric to the contrary — an exhaustive pre-war report conducted in the fall of 2002 by the U.S. Defense Department's Energy Infrastructure Planning Group contended that an oil bonanza should not be expected because of the dilapidated condition of the Iraqi oil infrastructure. It held that Iraq's oil infrastructure would require years of work and billions of dollars in investment before it could provide plentiful oil. [4]

Furthermore, military experts such as Maj. Gen. Anthony Zinni, who headed the U.S. Central Command from 1997 to 2000 and was later George W. Bush's special envoy to the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, also predicted difficult conditions for American occupation forces resulting from Iraqi opposition. [5]

Outside the neocon ambit, expert opinion was largely either opposed or at best lukewarm to the invasion of Iraq. Among the foreign-policy experts questioning the invasion were Larry Eagleburger, Brent Scowcroft, James Baker, and Zbigniew Brzezinski. Those men all held leading national-security positions in previous administrations, including that of George Bush the Elder.  

The crux of the matter is that the neocons' rosy view of the occupation went completely against the views of experts and government studies of the subject. The question is why the neocons held such wrongheaded views. Were they simply incompetent, naive babes in the woods, as some critics seem to think?

There are compelling reasons for rejecting the "neocons as incompetents" theory, beginning with the patent fact that neocons are intelligent, successful men. To say that they were incompetent is to take at face value their pro-war propaganda, which should be looked upon simply as good propaganda for advancing their Middle East war agenda. Their mentor Leo Strauss stressed the need to deceive the masses in order to advance a hidden agenda, though we may doubt that Strauss's teaching was necessary to convey that obvious lesson.

More importantly, the destabilization of the Middle East was a long-held Likudnik position, which the neoconservatives openly embraced. I brought that out in my essay "The war on Iraq: Conceived in Israel."

An increasing number of commentators now identify the neocons as the driving force for the Iraq war, but few have looked into this Israeli Likudnik background. That some American Jews might try to use the U.S. government to advance the interests of Israel is a taboo notion. (Presumably, we are really supposed to believe that AIPAC is working to advance U.S. interests through its efforts to advance Israel's.)

A long-standing Likudnik view is that a destabilized, fragmented Middle East would enhance Israel's security. That policy was put forth in a 1982 policy paper titled "A Strategy for Israel in the 1980s," authored by Oded Yinon. Yinon proposed that Israel engage in military action to bring about the dissolution of its Middle East enemies. The late critical commentator on Israel affairs Israel Shahak described the proposal in his foreword to "The Zionist Plan for the Middle East," a document published by the Association of Arab-American University Graduates that frames Yinon's translated text with commentary. In summarizing the strategy, Shahak observes that Yinon's essay "represents ... the accurate and detailed plan of the present Zionist regime (of Sharon and Eitan) for the Middle East which is based on the division of the whole area into small states, and the dissolution of all the existing Arab states."

In his own introductory remarks, the Association's Khalil Nakhleh comments:

To survive, Israel must 1) become an imperial regional power, and 2) must effect the division of the whole area into small states by the dissolution of all existing Arab states. Small here will depend on the ethnic or sectarian composition of each state. Consequently, the Zionist hope is that sectarian-based states become Israel's satellites and, ironically, its source of moral legitimation.

The neoconservatives copied the Likud strategy. Richard Perle, David Wurmser, and Douglas Feith openly pushed this destabilization idea in their 1996 study, "A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm," which was originally prepared as a working paper for then-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel. The co-authors envisioned the elimination of Saddam's regime as a first step toward eliminating the anti-Israeli governments of Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and Iran. [6]

The report was a framework for a series of follow-up reports on strategy, including one by David Wurmser, titled "Coping with Crumbling States: A Western and Israeli Balance of Power Strategy for the Levant." Wurmser emphasized the fragility of Syria and Iraq, and described how Israel should take advantage of that situation:

Syria's and Iraq's regimes are based on Baathism, a variant of Nasser's brand of secular-Arab nationalism. Baathism has failed.... Underneath facades of unity enforced by state repression, their politics are still defined primarily by tribalism, sectarianism, and gang/clan-like competition. It is unlikely that any institutions created by tyrannical secular-Arab nationalist leaders, particularly the army, will escape being torn apart.

Notably, the above proposals make no mention of democracy; they are strictly oriented toward Realpolitik. The goal is not to create stable, productive Middle East states, but instead dissolved, fragmented entities that will not be any threat to Israel. In fact, stable, economically productive, democratic neighbors would be anathema to Likudniks. Democratic states would be almost guaranteed to be anti-Israel, since Arab and Islamic opinion is anti-Zionist. Stable, economically productive Middle Eastern states (controlling a large portion of the world's oil reserves), which would work together rather than fight each other, would be able to put immense pressure on Israel over the Palestinian issue.

It is quite apparent that the war on Iraq and its aftermath have achieved positive results from the neocon-Likudnik perspective: weakening Israel's Middle East enemies, planting the United States more firmly in the Middle East in opposition to Israel's enemies, worsening the Palestinians' position, reinforcing the alliance between Israel and the United States, confronting the Muslim states of the Middle East with destabilizing terror attacks, and placing international pressure on Iran to eliminate its nuclear program. Even the fact that the Arabs/Muslims are fighting the United States is a positive achievement from the Likudnik point of view.

In short, not only is Israel not alone as an enemy of the Arabs/Muslims, but it also seems that the United States has actually replaced Israel as the foremost enemy — a very impressive achievement from the standpoint of Israeli national security. None of this is to deny that the neocons would prefer to have scored even greater successes: regime change throughout the entire Middle East, with pro-Israel puppet regimes installed by the United States. But such a development was unlikely, and it cannot be attained at this moment because of political realities. Still, from the neocon-Likudnik perspective the power situation in the Middle East has much improved since September 11, 2001. Does that mean the neocons were simply agents of Likudnik Israel, hijacking American foreign policy in the interest of another country? As I have written before, it seems apparent that neoconservatives view American foreign policy through the lens of Israeli interests (as Likudniks perceive Israeli interests). Quite probably they view American and Israeli interests as identical. The idea that some Americans might be motivated by an attachment to a foreign country and that they could be influential in determining American foreign policy is not such an outlandish, unheard-of idea. Historians and other commentators have frequently stated that German-Americans, Cuban-Americans, Polish-Americans, and other ethnic groups have been influenced in their foreign-policy views by their attachment to a foreign country. Historians have shown that Woodrow Wilson's support for England in World War I resulted in part from a pro-English bias. If Israel and Jews were not involved, there would be nothing extraordinary about that thesis as it applies here.

November 30, 2003 © 2003 by WTM Enterprises. All rights reserved.

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