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The war in Iraq

September 12, 2007 Leave a comment Go to comments

Disclaimer: There are two obvious objections to the post that follows: I’m assuming without evidence that the Bush administration’s stated reasons were not the reason for the war and that these sorts of arguments are no longer relevant. The first is wrong, but it’s another subject and I won’t answer such arguments on this post. The second is true, but I don’t really care.

With that out of the way, on to the substance.

I’ve pointed out on here that I don’t buy that this war was about oil. This is still the case, though I will point out that I don’t believe oil played no part. It’s a valuable strategic resource and it plays a role in anything we do in the Middle East. Having a non-negative impact on our strategic needs regarding oil is a necessary, but not sufficient condition for a war.

In my view, the war is a complex confluence of different influences, but the primary one is the Neoconservative belief that America should assert her role as a global superpower and combat any threats militarily and export democracy as we do so.

Let’s start prior to 9/11. There were a few Neoconservatives who were sympathetic to Iraqi exiles, specifically Paul Wolfowitz. David Wurmser wrote a book about Iraq and how removing Saddam would have numerous positive consequences for the region. The fact that we didn’t remove Saddam during the first Gulf War came to be seen as a failure. Meanwhile, Iraq continues to rebel against the sanctions imposed on it, leading to Clinton’s bombing.

Then we have 9/11. The Bush administration starts with a logical war, attacking Afghanistan. Whatever you may think of it, the war in Afghanistan makes a lot of sense in terms of fighting al Qaeda. The Taliban was harboring al Qaeda and essentially giving them a home base. The Bush administration also correctly assumed that al Qaeda is bigger than just Afghanistan and that war is not going to solve the entire problem.

Iraq is strategically valuable. It has a lot of oil and would provide us with an impressive strategic position in the Middle East. An ally in addition to Israel (Saudi Arabia’s alliance with us excluded) would be a boon to our fight against terrorism. Iraq is also under the control of a brutal dictator. A staging ground for further operations in the region, a hand in a major oil producing country, and a free democracy to serve as an example to the region. We have this great guy to put in charge at the start and move the country to a free and liberal society. Sounds great, doesn’t it?

That’s hard to sell, though. There’s real no direct link to anti-American terrorism or 9/11. No obvious danger to Saddam staying in power. What are they to do? Cook up some other reasons, of course. The CIA thinks they have chemical and biological weapons. No evidence, but a solid, reasonable suspicion. Nuclear weapons? Far more nebulous. It’s something, though. Iraq also has links to terrorists, but nothing anti-American. Well, that’s no good, so intelligence is scoured and the claim is made anyway, with no solid backing. And hey, they can’t forget to throw in the warm and fuzzy part of the real reasons: democracy.

In short, the war was primarily a vehicle to create a friendly country that would serve as a beacon to the region, destabilizing the elements we dislike and bringing about a wave of democracy, while being in a strategic position for us.

I tend to take people at their word unless I have a reason not to. The main reasons proffered by the administration were highly suspect, so I don’t believe them. In other venues, the idea of strategic positioning and democracy promotion has been openly acknowledged and there’s little reason to doubt it.

My key piece of evidence is as follows. The prosecution of the war has been a disaster. Incompetent policies put in place by incompetent people. Only, most of the problems were anticipated. We’ve all heard the Cheney quote about Iraq by now. Several reports were produced by different government departments outlining negative scenarios. All of it was ignored. This has been a catastrophic failure and one that was anticipated. A realist view that we need to control Iraq’s oil doesn’t make sense here. Chaos doesn’t help. A stable flow of oil is what we want here. Throwing caution to the wind and uprooting a society is risky. To ignore the possibility that something will go wrong isn’t a trait of relatively intelligent realists, it’s a trait for horrendously stupid realists. I don’t think this administration as a whole is horrendously stupid. On the other hand, an ideology that holds everyone wants America’s benign power to help them and put them on the path to freedom fits much better. Do we have to worry about things going wrong? Only if our core assumptions about the world are wrong. I don’t know about you, but my core beliefs about the world are pretty ingrained and I’m pretty damn insecure. These people aren’t.

So there it is. That’s pretty much what I believe happened and why. Realist domination of oil resources isn’t the best explanation of what is the most striking event of this war: the horrific execution.

Categories: Iraq
  1. September 13, 2007 at 7:55 am

    “I tend to take people at their word unless I have a reason not to.” One reason not to take them at their word – you don’t reason with children, and our government is not about to enter into a large foreign policy venture by sanely and rationally reasoning with us. It’s just not done. They use propaganda and symbols and fear. Period.

    I think you confuse flow of oil with control of oil. We don’t need Iraq’s oil for ourselves for the foreseeable future, but others do – think of Japan and China and Western Europe and India as potential enemies. China is especially troubling. It helps to have leg up on them, and control of not just Iraq’s, but all of Middle East oil is a good way to do it. It’s not just Iraq – it’s why we’re so deeply involved with Israel, Turkey, Pakistan, have bases on Diego Garcia – oil, oil, oil.

    It’s not just Iraq – it’s central Asia and Sudan and Venezuela – anyone that has oil is in our sights.

    And finally, the U.S. does not care about democracy. Hasn’t since the end of World War II – that’s never been more than window dressing, once again, a way for our leaders to get us to follow – to appeal to our idealism. If Iraq were truly democratic, they’d tell us to take a hike, and that is not going to happen.

  2. September 13, 2007 at 5:52 pm

    I should have been more clear about the control of oil. I meant control and the ability to send it where we want in a stable manner. Regional chaos is not good for that and to completely ignore the possibility of it is unimaginable. Like I said, if these guys are realists, they’re mind-boggling stupid realists. Thinking of them as ideologues explains what we’ve seen better.

  3. September 14, 2007 at 12:36 pm

    Just one small example of what control of oil means – a pipeline from Iraq to Israel via Jordan – not just a pipe dream, but in the planning stages. I assume we have bases in place to protect it. Here’s the juicy part – a double-whammy. Our control of Iraq’s oil allows us to supply an ally with oil, and two, Israel currently gets its oil from Russia, and this would affect their balance of payments.

    Control of oil for the long term (along with military bases) is what this is about. We have the means to outlast any insurgency and will, no matter how long it takes. The violence will subside eventutally – even if it takes ten years, our state planners don’t think short-term.

  4. September 14, 2007 at 4:50 pm

    I still think the ideologue explanation is better. Even if they are thinking rather long term and we can outlast the insurgency, actually planning for the aftermath would have made this monumentally easier and simpler for them. There’s simply no reason for this kind of disdain for non-rosy scenarios from a realist perspective.

  1. September 14, 2007 at 4:57 am

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