Sunday, May 15, 2005


Why did America invade Iraq?

America in Iraq – Why, Where and Where to? (1)

I never addressed the motives for the US invasion of Iraq during the first year of this blog. I only addressed the aftermath, the mistakes and the horrible consequences. In fact, I only started writing after Abu Ghraib and Fallujah I (of April, 2004) and after it was quite evident that the management of this adventure was leading to disaster. But now, for want of a plausible explanation of what happened and what is happening… I repeatedly think of those motives.

There seems to be so much confusion regarding the motives of this war in the minds of most people. Looking back, a wide variety of motives and arguments for justifying the Iraq war have been presented by both pro-war and anti-war camps over the past two years. The spread of ‘declared’ and ‘assumed’ motives is certainly interesting. There also seems to be some shift in the relative ‘importance’ of these motives over time. That shift sometimes indicates an honesty that leaves something to be desired. Let us look at the full spectrum.

There were of course the publicly declared and trumpeted motives:

1. Iraq was developing weapons of mass destruction
2. Saddam’s regime was a threat to the USA and to world peace
3. Saddam’s regime had links with international terror groups
4. The war on Iraq was part of the war on international terrorism
5. Freeing the Iraqi people from an oppressive regime
6. Spreading Democracy in the Middle East.

And there were ‘other’ assumed or unspoken motives, usually contested by the opposing camp:

7. Securing control over a major oil resource
8. Creating a country to neocon design and to “Project for the New American Century” requirements
9. Avenging 9/11
10. Creating a haven for American investment in a rich country.

Ordinary people were, and many still are, confused regarding these issues. A major source of confusion is the desire by some people to pinpoint a single motive. One natural question is of course: are these objectives shared by the public, the administration and the special-interest groups within the USA? Has everybody been honest with the American public regarding these objectives? Has the American public, as a body, been honest with itself regarding these objectives?

After so much turmoil and loss of life, isn’t it time yet for some reassessment? Shouldn’t we all aim to be honest about an event that may have an enormous effect on international relations and on the world that we all live in, for a long time to come?

Perhaps one could start to address this question through some nagging and unanswered questions concerning the lead-up to the invasion:

1. Why was such an unconvincing case presented to the American public and to the world?

2. Why did so many Americans accept that unconvincing case so readily and enthusiastically?

3. Why would huge, professional intelligence establishments and powerful governments rely on questionable reports … to lead their countries to war? Reports based on things like: a student’s thesis written 10 years earlier, a vague report by Czech intelligence that a terrorist probably met someone who was probably with the Iraqi intelligence or German intelligence obtained from a drunkard of dubious credentials, code-named curveball, regarding Iraq’s WMD capabilities.

4. Why were the many challenges to those ‘intelligence’ assessments dismissed so lightly, and even attacked so vehemently?

5. Why did so many Americans believe that Iraq was linked to international terrorism… with so little evidence?

6. Why did so many Americans believe that they were avenging 9/11 by attacking Iraq?

7. Why were clear statements by Al Qaeda senior leadership that Saddam was an ‘infidel’ and a declared enemy so readily dismissed?

8. Why was a person like Colin Powell prepared to compromise himself in front of the whole world to present evidence that was ‘unconvincing’ to say the least?

9. Why didn’t America try hard enough to form an international coalition?

10. Why didn’t America care much about what the rest of the world thought about the invasion?

11. Why was there such frenzy in condemning the position of those countries that opposed the invasion, particularly old allies like France and Germany?

12. Why was there such an outrage about Saddam’s use of chemical weapons against his own people and against a neighboring country… more than 12 years after those events? Why was there no similar outrage at the time those atrocities were committed?

13. Why was there such an outrage about Saddam’s brutal oppression of the popular uprising in 1991 after 12 years… while the American, and other, armies were in the vicinity at the time and while those armies were already at war with Iraq? On the contrary, at that time Saddam was given explicit permission to use warplanes to quell that uprising?

14. Why was America in such a hurry… to the extent of jumping into war without proper planning? What was the eminent danger?


Other essays on this subject

Declared Motives

Possible Undeclared Motives:

1. Control of Iraqi Oil
2. Creating a Country to Neocon Design
3. Invading Iraq to Avenge 9/11
4. Creating a Haven for Investment
5. Eliminating Saddam’s Long-term Threat
6. Intentional Devastation of Iraq
7. Leading America into Perpetual War
8. Other Theories

All in one long article


Oh Abu Khaleel,
the obvious answer to the bulk of your questions is: They (those ruling the US) had organised it (the invasion of Iraq) long beforehand, and what you say was just the 'selling' of the thing, to the common Americans and to their European allied States.
The difference between the two audiences is that while most of the American public, due to some special 'peculiarities' of theirs, did buy it stock & barrel, all European Govts (plus Australia) that did lend a hand knew very well that it was all bunkum.
It was just a fanatical & groundless propaganda campaign, but those very Govts (Britain, Spain, Italy, Poland, Japan, etc. etc.) knew that the US Administration DID want to invade Iraq at all costs, & that was it. So, fawningly, they did support the aggressors, some during the action itself (i.e. Britain & Spain), some afterwards (like Berlusconi's Italy).
It was just the 'rule of the mightiest' in some Nazi-like Darwinian sauce, with no real justification (I see that many American commentators are still posting on Iraqi blogs going along with that original propagandist sillyness, but for sure they are a lot less than one year ago).
On the side of the ruling Neo-Cons, one does suspect that what the US did in Iraq ('mistakes' included) was taken beforehand into account by them (& by their Likhudnik allies). The real aim was 1) the destruction of the Iraqi State, and the Lebanonisation of Iraq; 2) the creation of a launching pad (through the famous 14 bases being built) for new adventures all across the Middle East (Iran, Syria, & whatever); 3) showing that the US is THE superpower, & that nobody can oppose its actions.
Possibly the patriotic answer on the part of so many Iraqis, the resistance, was not foreseen to this extent (that's the only part where some 'mistake' on the part of the Bush Admin. was done).
If you hope, with this post, to get some thinking feedback from American posters, I'm afraid you are mistaken. Those American posters who discovered they had been fooled by their mass-medial hysteria, indeed, just disappeared in the last few months (especially after the oh so wonderful January elections); those who are still loyal to the 'manifest destiny' (in Neo-Con sauce) of the US will just rant on, regardless of any reality.
They will say how a democratic Iraq is the only hope of a peaceful & affluent Middle East, and that your marvellous 'democratic process' is a shining beacon, and so on and so on; and that all would be OK were it not for some 'Islamofascist' terrorists, etc. etc. etc.
And that you are 'negative', and so on and so on...

Hello Abu Khaleel,
1.,2. My recollection is that the case presented was very threatening with WMDs to be launched within 45 minutes and support from British Intelligence. Frightened Americans reeling from 911 did not need a lot of prodding and Saddam's self-destructive braggadoccio didn't help. Americans knew they would win the war and Saddam was a bad guy. The moral position as usual was derided as foolish pedantry out of date in a 911 world.
3. At the highest levels there has been the infusion of neo-con 'philosophy' over the more complex reality. Intelligence analysts have been relegated to writing press releases for politicians. In other words, the bosses fixed the intelligence to match their own preconceptions. This is known as 'disciplining the bureacrats'. Inside the US military (Pentagon) for example Rumsfeld's war plan met a great deal of resistance. Those who resisted were removed (purged).
Bush's party represents people who are determined to extend superior US military power in a period of economic decline.

4.The assessments didn't agree with the prevailing neo-con philosophy, so it was necessary to purge the State Department, CIA, Pentagon,etc.

5. 'International terrorism' seems to be a misnomer, as it harkens back to the old world wide Communist International run out of Moscow, familiar to Americans. On 911, there were photos for Palestinians rejoicing which caused great fury in the USA.
6. Why did so many Americans believe that they were avenging 9/11 by attacking Iraq?
This is a strange one, and basically ignorance of history and geography...some people think that Iraq is in Afghanistan.
7.For the US public, such facts was usually dismissed as bogus intelligence. It made sense that all Muslims were in on it.
8. Colin Powell was seduced by power, he should have resigned but chose to lie.
9. Part of the neocon 'philosophy' is that the UN is a front organization for 'United anti-Americans' around the world.
10. Why didn’t America care much about what the rest of the world thought about the invasion?
As the 'leader of the free world', Bush thought he would lead and the rest have to follow. He's not very skillful at leading.
11. These allies never bought the neo-con philosophy. They also had moral objections to the invasion. They supported the original war on terror and Afghanistan.
12. Neoconism is a post-Soviet era philosophy. In the previous era, containment philosophy dictated that stability (of the international order)was paramount.
13. The current containment (stability)philosophy favored Saddam. That event started the neo-con movement.
14. Why was America in such a hurry… to the extent of jumping into war without proper planning? What was the eminent danger?
Americans do everything fast, the faster the better.

The central question we need to answer is this: What were the real reasons for the Bush administration's invasion and occupation of Iraq?

When we identify why we really went to war - not the cover reasons or the rebranded reasons, freedom and democracy, but the real reasons - then we can become more effective anti-war activists. The most effective and strategic way to stop this occupation and prevent future wars is to deny the people who wage these wars their spoils - to make war unprofitable. And we can't do that unless we effectively identify the goals of war.

When I was in Iraq a year ago trying to answer that question, one of the most effective ways I found to do that was to follow the bulldozers and construction machinery. I was in Iraq to research the so-called reconstruction. And what struck me most was the absence of reconstruction machinery, of cranes and bulldozers, in downtown Baghdad. I expected to see reconstruction all over the place.

I saw bulldozers in military bases. I saw bulldozers in the Green Zone, where a huge amount of construction was going on, building up Bechtel's headquarters and getting the new US embassy ready. There was also a ton of construction going on at all of the US military bases. But, on the streets of Baghdad, the former ministry buildings are absolutely untouched. They hadn't even cleared away the rubble, let alone started the reconstruction process.

The one crane I saw in the streets of Baghdad was hoisting an advertising billboard. One of the surreal things about Baghdad is that the old city lies in ruins, yet there are these shiny new billboards advertising the glories of the global economy. And the message is: "Everything you were before isn't worth rebuilding." We're going to import a brand-new country. It is the Iraq version of the "Extreme Makeover."

It's not a coincidence that Americans were at home watching this explosion of extreme reality television shows where people's bodies were being surgically remade and their homes were being bulldozed and reconstituted. The message of these shows is: Everything you are now, everything you own, everything you do sucks. We're going to completely erase it and rebuild it with a team of experts. You just go limp and let the experts take over. That is exactly what "Extreme Makover:Iraq" is.

There was no role for Iraqis in this process. It was all foreign companies modernizing the country. Iraqis with engineering Ph.D.s who built their electricity system and who built their telephone system had no place in the reconstruction process.

If we want to know what the goals of the war are, we have to look at what Paul Bremer did when he first arrived in Iraq. He laid off 500,000 people, 400,000 of whom were soldiers. And he shredded Iraq's constitution and wrote a series of economic laws that the The Economist described as "the wish list of foreign investors."

Basically, Iraq has been turned into a laboratory for the radical free-market policies that the American Enterprise Institute and the Cato Institute dream about in Washington, D.C., but are only able to impose in relative slow motion here at home.

So we just have to examine the Bush administration's policies and actions. We don't have to wield secret documents or massive conspiracy theories. We have to look at the fact that they built enduring military bases and didn't rebuild the country. Their very first act was to protect the oil ministry leaving the the rest of the country to burn - to which Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld responded: "Stuff happens." Theirs was an almost apocalyptic glee in allowing Iraq to burn. They let the country be erased, leaving a blank slate that they could rebuild in their image This was the goal of the war. The big lie The administration says the war was about fighting for democracy. That was the big lie they resorted to when they were caught in the other lies. But it's a different kind of a lie in the sense that it's a useful lie. The lie that the United States invaded Iraq to bring freedom and democracy not just to Iraq but, as it turns out, to the whole world, is tremendously useful - because we can first expose it as a lie and then we can join with Iraqis to try to make it true. So it disturbs me that a lot of progressives are afraid to use the language of democracy now that George W. Bush is using it. We are somehow giving up on the most powerful emancipatory ideas ever created, of self-determination, liberation and democracy.

And it's absolutely crucial not to let Bush get away with stealing and defaming these ideas - they are too important.

In looking at democracy in Iraq, we first need to make the distinction between elections and democracy. The reality is the Bush administration has fought democracy in Iraq at every turn.

Why? Because if genuine democracy ever came to Iraq, the real goals of the war - control over oil, support for Israel, the construction of enduring military bases, the privatization of the entire economy - would all be lost. Why? Because Iraqis don't want them and they don't agree with them. They have said it over and over again - first in opinion polls, which is why the Bush administration broke its original promise to have elections within months of the invasion. I believe Paul Wolfowitz genuinely thought that Iraqis would respond like the contestants on a reality TV show and say: "Oh my God. Thank you for my brand-new shiny country." They didn't. They protested that 500,000 people had lost their jobs. They protested the fact that they were being shut out of the reconstruction of their own country, and they made it clear they didn't want permanent US bases.

That's when the administration broke its promise and appointed a CIA agent as the interim prime minister. In that period they locked in - basically shackled - Iraq's future governments to an International Monetary Fund program until 2008. This will make the humanitarian crisis in Iraq much, much deeper. Here's just one example: The IMF and the World Bank are demanding the elimination of Iraq's food ration program, upon which 60 percent of the population depends for nutrition, as a condition for debt relief and for the new loans that have been made in deals with an unelected government.

In these elections, Iraqis voted for the United Iraqi Alliance. In addition to demanding a timetable for the withdrawal of troops, this coalition party has promised that they would create 100 percent full employment in the public sector - i.e., a total rebuke of the neocons' privatization agenda. But now they can't do any of this because their democracy has been shackled. In other words, they have the vote, but no real power to govern. A pro-democracy movement The future of the anti-war movement requires that it become a pro-democracy movement. Our marching orders have been given to us by the people of Iraq. It's important to understand that the most powerful movement against this war and this occupation is within Iraq itself. Our anti-war movement must not just be in verbal solidarity but in active and tangible solidarity with the overwhelming majority of Iraqis fighting to end the occupation of their country. We need to take our direction from them.

Iraqis are resisting in many ways - not just with armed resistance. They are organizing independent trade unions. They are opening critical newspapers, and then having those newspapers shut down. They are fighting privatization in state factories. They are forming new political coalitions in an attempt to force an end to the occupation.

So what is our role here? We need to support the people of Iraq and their clear demands for an end to both military and corporate occupation. That means being the resistance ourselves in our country, demanding that the troops come home, that US corporations come home, that Iraqis be free of Saddam's debt and the IMF and World Bank agreements signed under occupation. It doesn't mean blindly cheerleading for "the resistance." Because there isn't just one resistance in Iraq. Some elements of the armed resistance are targeting Iraqi civilians as they pray in Shia mosques - barbaric acts that serve the interests of the Bush administration by feeding the perception that the country is on the brink of civil war and therefore US forces must remain in Iraq. Not everyone fighting the US occupation is fighting for the freedom of all Iraqis; some are fighting for their own elite power. That's why we need to stay focused on supporting the demands for self-determination, not cheering any setback for US empire.

And we can't cede the language, the territory of democracy. Anybody who says Iraqis don't want democracy should be deeply ashamed of themselves. Iraqis are clamoring for democracy and had risked their lives for it long before this invasion - in the 1991 uprising against Saddam, for example, when they were left to be slaughtered. The elections in January took place only because of tremendous pressure from Iraqi Shia communities that insisted on getting the freedom they were promised. "The courage to be serious" Many of us opposed this war because it was an imperial project. Now Iraqis are struggling for the tools that will make self-determination meaningful, not just for show elections or marketing opportunities for the Bush administration. That means it's time, as Susan Sontag said, to have "the courage to be serious." The reason why the 58 percent of Americans against the war has not translated into the same millions of people on the streets that we saw before the war is because we haven't come forward with a serious policy agenda. We should not be afraid to be serious.

Part of that seriousness is to echo the policy demands made by voters and demonstrators in the streets of Baghdad and Basra and bring those demands to Washington, where the decisions are being made.

But the core fight is over respect for international law, and whether there is any respect for it at all in the United States. Unless we're fighting a core battle against this administration's total disdain for the very idea of international law, then the specifics really don't matter.

We saw this very clearly in the US presidential campaign, as John Kerry let Bush completely set the terms for the debate. Recall the ridicule of Kerry's mention of a "global test," and the charge that it was cowardly and weak to allow for any international scrutiny of US actions. Why didn't Kerry ever challenge this assumption? I blame the Kerry campaign as much as I blame the Bush administration. During the elections, he never said "Abu Ghraib." He never said "Guant?namo Bay." He accepted the premise that to submit to some kind of "global test" was to be weak. Once they had done that, the Democrats couldn't expect to win a battle against Alberto Gonzales being appointed attorney general, when they had never talked about torture during the campaign.

And part of the war has to be a media war in this country. The problem is not that the anti-war voices aren't there - it's that the voices aren't amplified. We need a strategy to target the media in this country, making it a site of protest itself. We must demand that the media let us hear the voices of anti-war critics, of enraged mothers who have lost their sons for a lie, of betrayed soldiers who fought in a war they didn't believe in. And we need to keep deepening the definition of democracy - to say that these show elections are not democracy, and that we don't have a democracy in this country either.

Sadly, the Bush administration has done a better job of using the language of responsibility than we in the anti-war movement. The message that's getting across is that we are saying "just leave," while they are saying, "we can't just leave, we have to stay and fix the problem we started."

We can have a very detailed, responsible agenda and we shouldn't be afraid of it. We should be saying, "Let's pull the troops out but let's leave some hope behind." We can't be afraid to talk about reparations, to demand freedom from debt for Iraq, a total abandonment of Bremer's illegal economic laws, full Iraqi control over the reconstruction budget - there are many more examples of concrete policy demands that we can and must put forth. When we articulate a more genuine definition of democracy than we are hearing from the Bush administration, we will bring some hope to Iraq. And we will bring closer to us many of the 58 percent who are opposed to the war but aren't marching with us yet because they are afraid of cutting and running.

written by Naomi Klein

Abu Khaleel,

In regards to the general awareness of the American populace:
I live in one of the cities with a fair-sized Assyrian (or Chaldo-Assyrian...) populace. However in conversations I've had over the past week, most of the people with whom I've spoken believe that all the Assyrians died millenia ago (if they even know that much). There is neither awareness of a community HERE, down the street or just across town, nor is there awareness that we are involved in the Assyrians' homeland (one person asked if I were referring to Afghanistan).

Some of this may be due to the distractions of TV and video games.

Be Well,

Why, why, why? Gee Abu, you yourself may have never directly addressed the US motives for invasion, but seems to me that your commenters have been mostly discussing nothing but that for months. Anonymous three posts above seems to have answered your questions pretty well.
From a detached and increasingly disgusted perspective, this farce looks more and more like the War of the Wankers, which is what I suggest future historians should call it.
That’s a NZ colloquialism: to wank strictly speaking means to masturbate, but here a wanker is an inadequate, incomplete and inauthentic person, someone who is essentially dishonest about themselves, who lacks self-knowledge and generally acts foolishly and nastily because of this. It means the same in Australia, I think also in the UK, I don’t know about Canada and the US.
"What’s your new boss like?"
"Man, the guy’s a wanker."
"Don’t park there, wanker, can’t you see the sign?"
I mean, look at some of the main players. Bush is a supreme wanker, not an authentic bone in his body, totally constructed by his image makers, and to me he still looks like a little boy playing at being President. It’s so hypocritical, him stumping the globe as the great advocate of democracy, acting like he invented it, when, as Putin reminded him, he wasn’t democratically elected himself in the first place.
Rumsfeld, with his arrogant and dismissive answers to questions about his responsibilities - going to war with the weapons he has, then rushing to up-armour the Humvees when he gets caught out. What a wanker.
Wolfowitz, no need to plan the post-invasion phase, we’ll be greeted with smiles and flowers. Not a word of regret for US and Iraqi lives this stupidity has cost - just move on to a better-paid job. Wanker.
The US military also seem to be commanded mainly by wankers, unable or unwilling to admit that their brutal tactics have fueled the insurgency just like they did in Vietnam - and laughing at the Brits last week when they suggested the advantages of a "minimum force" approach.
But then Blair’s a wanker too. Never mind the Downing Street Memo, during his election campaign Blair more or less admitted that joining the war had been a mistake, bleating that he had made the best decision he could have at the time.
Sure, sure, there’s wankers aplenty on the other side - fanatical Osamas and suicide bombers and die-hard Baathists and all. But you don’t have to become a wanker yourself just because you’re up against some. You don’t have to make mistakes just for the sake of making mistakes.
Unless you enjoy it? Has the whole US involvement in Iraq just been a massive exercise in self-abuse?
And yes, Charles, I suspect you’re a bit of a wanker and all, mate. Unless at some stage you can stop saying "Yes, there’s been a few mistakes, a few lies, a few collateral deaths," and admit that just maybe there might have too many, far too many for your supposedly noble goals.

Hey, 512 words, Abu.
Better delete the bit about Charles, before he gets all upset.

Abu Khaleel:

It is impossible question to answer since there are probably as many answers as there are disparate opinions on any subject in this country. As to what may have been Bush and his administration’s real intentions, I think you have summed up most of the important ones, with one quite large exception.

That reason is fear of a resurgent Saddam if the sanctions were lifted or allowed to deteriorate over time. That threat was long term, not short term, and it rested nearly completely on Saddam's long held nuclear ambitions. The case is set forth at great length in the linked review ( ) of Kenneth Pollack’s, "The Threatening Storm." Pollack is a former Clinton administration official and is director of Middle East Studies at the Center Left Brookings Institute.

To my mind, the case he makes is the most logically compelling that I have seen for the invasion and its timing. Whether or not the Bush administration really shared any of his views is probably unknowable. They certainly didn’t follow his preferred timing or his suggestions as to first assist in settling with the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.

As to your allegation number 13,"Saddam was given explicit permission to use warplanes to quell that uprising." I have heard this one many times before, have spent considerable time researching it, but have not seen convincing evidence that it is, in fact, the case. Could you please provide a citation to a credible source?


Abu Khaleel,

I'll turn your question around and try to answer, "Why is there such confusion about America's motives in Iraq?"

I think the confusion starts at the end of the Vietnam war. Some say that the war in Vietnam was unwinnable, while others say that the U.S. abandoned a militarily superior position, but most people will agree that this war ended because American public opinion turned against it.

A year before the invasion of Iraq started, it was already being fought on those terms. Those opposed used arguments intended to sway public opinion rather than the advocates of invasion, and the latter responded as if that opposition were the only thing that could derail the actual war.

This situation persists now. The two sides are locked in a contest of wills. One side uses all the possible reasons against the war, including arguments against an invasion that already took place. The other side uses all possible justifications, no matter what the war has accomplished. Re-evaluation might be taken as a sign of faltering resolve. The war in Iraq itself, with casualty numbers that are (on the American side) very low, barely registers.

Mark --

To the best of my knowledge, the “warplanes” in question were in fact the helicopter gunships used to quell the Shia rebellion. I seem to recall that the Iraqis complained that their high ranking military officials were unable to properly coordinate their troops so as to comply with the Ceasefire terms, due to the large amount of damage done to the Iraqi roads / bridges. They suggested that the no fly restrictions be lifted in order to allow the movement of these officers, and when this was done, Saddam’s forces took the opportunity to employ gunships against the Shia instead.

Of course, this is all from memory, so perhaps I ought to look through my archives to see if there is anything more concrete available.

I can personally accept that the US felt threatened by the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iraq under Saddam. What I cannot accept is that open war was the only alternative to inspections. Particularly when pretty much all of the neocon wishlist concerning Iraq seems to have been more important than the weapons themselves. Really, IF Saddam had had so many NBC weapons, and he had not employed them under the considerable duress of the “no fly zones” and bombing … when WOULD he have employed them? I think that the unpredictable and mad Saddam was in reality a lot more predictable and clear headed than people give him credit for. In fact, this notion of unpredictability was part of the process of selling the war.

Everybody --

I largely agree with the Naomi Klein article above. Abu Khaleel’s question of “why so soon?” is answerable if one sifts through the Neocon papers, and happens to stumble over the sentence where they wished for a “catalyzing event” like Pearl Harbour to facilitate and speed up their agendas. I know Mark will dispute the extent of the Neocon influence, yet what cannot be disputed is that events have pretty much followed the script that they have set.

I think that they realised that their policies of American Supremacy and radical free market economics would not sit well with large numbers of Americans, never mind people elsewhere on the planet. Given that the American electoral system allows for only 4 years in office, they have had very little time to get the ball rolling and set events in motion in such a fashion as to be irreversible. In Richard Clarke’s book “Against All Enemies”, for example, he bemoans the fact that numerous experienced intelligence personnel were purged from the US intelligence agencies in favour of ideologically approved people. The same was seen in Iraq, where appointees to the Bremer administration were made on affiliation and not experience.

The ball is now rolling. The US is in Iraq, and as long as the “we can’t leave until the job is done” argument is accepted as truth, the Neocon agenda is still on track.

Iraq was always the target.

There are a large number of factors that make it attractive as a first “conquest”. I would do the same if I were a Neocon.

These factors are, in no particular order:

(1) A largely secular regime amongst theocratic / religious nations amenable to remoulding
(2) An oppressive dictator which, once removed, could possibly engender gratitude from the populace facilitating further plans (3) Immense, and cheaply extractable oil reserves which could rapidly finance the nations resurgence
(4) A highly skilled populace in terms of education, which would mean that their mindset would not be as closeted as say, Saudi Arabians
(5) Favourable geographic location – the central position of Iraq makes it ideal from which to control Iran, to keep force on hand in the case of a Saudi Arabian religious takeover and with which to keep tabs on all the other Gulf States. Iraq is also fairly close to central Asia, and this unstable region could well be the front for the next American wars, particularly if one considers the oil and gas deals under development there. Iraq would be an ideal logistical transit and force projection point.
(6) Israeli security would be ensured via the presence of large amounts of US troops nearby.
(7) The large amount of reconstruction to be done would be of great benefit to the US economy both from immediate cash injections and through long term maintenance of US equipment and facilities – ie Iraq is a client state.
(8) The emergence of China as a great Power could be controlled via control of the oil flow that it desperately needs. The next decade or so will be the time in which China would be the most vulnerable to oil control.
(9) The so called “domino theory” of democratization in the Middle East is probably another factor. One should be careful, though in the interpretation of “democracy” when dealing with a neocon. They actually mean “democracy subordinate to US interests” when they say it.
(10) Removal of troops from Saudi Arabia, where they inflamed Muslim sensibilities, to Iraq, where they presumably would not.

Of course, these are just what I think are the main ones, and what would make sense to me. I’m hardly a neocon, their thinking is a little warped, to be honest. For example, I can’t really understand their strange obsession with protecting Israel, when that country really has nothing to offer them, or America for that matter. Really, Israel is at this point more of an albatross around the US neck than an asset at the moment, politically speaking anyway.

Doubtless Mark will accuse me of being a gullible conspiracy theorist with an intractable anti-American bias, but I must say that to my simple mind your analysis of the factors that led to the Neo-con conquest of Iraq seems to be an excellent summary.
Except of course for the rather awkward fact that none of it has worked as intended, really.
In a typical ironic reflection of how far off beam from reality they have been, virtually the first independent public act of the new Government has been to host a friendly visit from the Foreign Minister of Iran!
Presumably the Neo-cons didn’t plan for that.
Bunch of wankers.


You wrote, "I know Mark will dispute the extent of the Neocon influence." Quite to the contrary, when it comes to exploiting American's post 9/11 emotions to harness support for military action, I completely agree that the Neocon's in the Bush administration did just that. If they really subscribed to Pollack's theories, they did not sell the war on that basis because taking risky, expensive military action now to defuse a long term threat would not have sold well with the American public. This is largely because of the significant pacifist/isolationist undercurrents in American political culture. The emphasis on short term threats and the haste to act were largely driven by the perceived need to act while the American public was still biased toward support for military action by the trauma of the 9/11 attacks.

While the neo-cons may have had some less than moral motives for removing Saddam's regime, the fact remains that Pollack constructs a pretty convincing argument that it was still probably the correct thing to do (even if done for the wrong reasons). Pollack's argument is not based on any imminent threat, but on the long term danger of leaving a despotic, ambitious serial aggressor with future access to significant oil wealth in power in the heart of the middle-east. Your counter-argument only makes logical sense if it based on one of the following assertions: (a) Saddam had no long term nuclear ambitions, (b) Saddam had no long term plans for further military adventures or (c) U.N. sanctions could have effectively harnessed Saddam and his sons in perpetuity. None of those three propositions seem tenable. And, of course, one should factor into the equation that the Iraqi people would have born the burden of the deprivations of such long terms sanctions, not Saddam, his sons or their respective regimes. Thus, Pollack argues one is stuck with the least worst option of regime change.

In my view, the real tragedy of Iraq is that the neo-cons were so blinded by ideology they thought post-invasion governance would be virtually problem free. This accounts for much of their shameful failure to adequately plan for the occupation period. That incompetence has provided the insurgency with a claim to legitimacy that it would have lacked if Iraq had been better managed.

As to economic matters, there are precious few serious people who argue that Iraq's largely state run economy would have been better off with a higher level of entrepreneurship and free-market reforms. The real Neocon mistake on this issue was to attempt to force, simultaneously, both radically different government and economic systems down the throat of a war and sanctions ravaged Iraq. It was clearly too much, too soon. Any such changes would have been much better off if undertaken by an Iraqi government after it formed a political consensus.

As to the rolling on of the Neocon agenda and their future influence in American governments, several of the most prominent neo-cons have recently left the Bush administration. Further, recent polls have all confirmed that support for the Iraq war is at an all time low and that the trend is clearly downward. Accordingly, for both political and logistic reasons, there is little danger of another American military adventure in the near term, unless there is another mass terror attack on U.S. soil.


"In my view, the real tragedy of Iraq is that the neo-cons were so blinded by ideology they thought post-invasion governance would be virtually problem free. This accounts for much of their shameful failure to adequately plan for the occupation period."
I’m pleased to see you use those words "tragedy" and "shameful." You have always been so coldly logical and brutally realistic (in a geo-political sense) that one wondered whether you acknowledged any ethical and emotional overtones in discussion of Iraq. Abu’s last few posts seem to me to show that he, probably like a majority of Iraqis now, regard these factors as primary, rather than secondary to the geo-political background.
Your reasoning, following Pollock, leading to the statement that "one is stuck with the least worst option of regime change" seems to me only acceptable if one looks at one’s options in terms both of ends and of means, as I’ve said before. The ends mustn’t just justify the means, they must include the means. And the reasons you give for the necessity of regime change did not justify an impulsive, inadequate resourced and poorly planned conquest. As Abu says, there was no imminent danger, only what you call a "long term threat."
But isn’t there also a danger of "letting America off the hook," so to speak, by blaming everything on the neo-cons? If they dangled the bait of the need for urgent and massive action before the American public, didn’t that public, by and large, rise very eagerly to the bait?
Does this perhaps relate to the fact, recently publicised, that US military spending now equals that of all the other nations on the planet put together. Can successive governments have brought the nation to this point without, essentially, the consent and agreement of the governed?


You raise several interesting points. First, while the American public can and should be blamed for allowing itself to be manipulated by Neocon use of the 9/11 tragedy to justify the invasion of Iraq, the failure to adequately plan the invasion and its aftermath cannot be blamed on the public. Invasion and post-invasion planning are issues that, of military necessity, are kept as secret as is possible in an open society. Further, most civilians don't have the expertise to analyze conflicting claims about the adequacy of such planning. Thus, assigning blame to the public for those matters seems unfair. However, unlike you, I find Pollack’s argument to be fairly convincing.

Second, as to the current size of the American military, it is largely a legacy of the cold war. Politically, it has been very difficult to close bases and reduce troop levels drastically. For example, Rumsfield's current proposal for closing domestic bases and consolidating services is currently meeting fierce local opposition from politicians of every ideological stripe. That opposition is based almost completely on preserving local civilian jobs. For this reason, the American public can also be fairly blamed for failing to pair down its military infrastructure in times of peace.

However, your criticism begs the question of what is the appropriate size for the American military. In the absence of an effective system for international collective security (where U.N. member states contribute a fair share to an international military force and sufficient political harmony exists for such forces to actually be used), the answer, for me, is that it needs to big enough to do "the job." The definition of "the job" will change over the course of time depending on international developments.

Your assertion that U.S. military spending is larger than all other nations combined is not believed to be even close to accurate. Please provide a citation if you believe I am mistaken. U.S. military spending does, however, dwarf the spending of any other nation, although the Chinese have recently been ramping up military spending at rates far in excess of the U.S. As a percentage of GDP, U.S. military spending ranks 47th as of 2002 (the latest year for which I could find data). See This spending percentage is significantly below the Chinese level (3.3% to 4.1%).

Turning to several current issues to be considered in making such spending judgments, should the U.S. maintain a sufficiently robust military to assure that the People's Republic of China (PRC) is not tempted to invade Taiwan? Should its forces be large enough to assure a rapid, overwhelming victory if called in to enforce the will of the International community as may become necessary in Darfur? Such tasks will require very large, capable forces with extensive logistics support and probably forward basing.

If the U.S. would cut back its military, will New Zealand (1.1% of GDP) pick up the slack so that the international will can be enforced? Will your country build air craft carrier groups and masses of C-130 cargo planes to ensure that a U.N. resolution authorizing force (assuming, that is, that there is ever again substantial harmony on the Security Council) can be rapidly carried out over great distances? How do you intend for the world to stop the next militarily aggressive despot, like Milosevic or Saddam, or to halt the next genocide before it gets too far out of hand as in Rwanda?


"Defence expenditure in the US will equal that of the rest of the world combined within 12 months, ... corporate finance group PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) says.
Its report - 'The Defence Industry in the 21st Century' by PwC's global aerospace and defence leader Richard Hooke - adds that "the US is in the driving seat", raising the prospect of a future scenario in which it could "dominate the supply of the world's arms completely".
The US defence budget reached US$417.4 billion in 2003 - 46 per cent of the global total."
Your key statement, I think, is when you ask "what is the appropriate size for the American military. In the absence of an effective system for international collective security ..." Well, probably considerably less than it is now - you seem to approve in principle of closing down a lot of bases. Has the US, probably mainly under the influence of the "military/industrial complex," effectively become almost paranoid in its determination to be armed against every possible contingency? I could give the example of expensive anti-missile and space-based programs at a time when there is only the remotest possibility of the US suffering a major missile attack. Isn’t your current administration’s hostile attitude towards the UN counter-productive of international collective security, and also unhelpful in promoting international negotiation and consensus?
Remember that although the US provided the bulk of the force in Gulf 1, the rest of the world was there too, notably UK and French in the ground war, plus of course some Arab forces. And the same in Afghanistan. I would suggest that should be the pattern for the future, e.g. in Sudan if necessary: but I would also say that some places, e,g. Somalia, Burma, are probably going to have to stay in the "too hard" basket for some time to come. The world can’t be made perfect overnight. And I doubt that it is yet ready for consensus on the doctrine of pre-emptive intervention on a large scale to make it perfect.
After all, the US has rather undermined the credibility of this doctrine by its actions in Abu’s homeland, hasn’t it?
(As to NZ, yes, successive governments have rather degraded our armed forces, to the point that we are probably now unable to contribute to collective action to the extent that we should.
On the other hand, the only large-scale threat that we face, as a nation, is that of seaborne invasion and conquest. The prospect of this is absolutely remote, who’s going to invade us? China? Indonesia? Hell, postwar investigations showed that even the Japs in WW2 made no serious plans to come this far. And we’ve got no oil, so we’re safe from the US, too.
So should we overstrain our economy by building up and maintaining expensively large air and naval forces to guard against this very unlikely threat? Or concentrate on keeping up a reasonable level of peacekeeping troops on hand for when and if they are needed? Seems more realistic to me.)
505 words, Abu. I’m trying to be responsible, even though I have gone off-topic.

With or without the American forces in Iraq, it is obvious that what is going on now is a Civil War, a war within a war. Whether it is Iraqis killing Iraqis or religious zealots from outside of Iraq, it seems as if there will be no Democracy in Iraq any time soon.

As in the case of Tito, in Yugoslavia, when the strong leader (however much of a tyrant he was) is gone, in the turmoil that follows, the innocent suffer the most. We see it in Africa today, and the those guilty of genocide or other crimes seem to escape punishment.

Today, there's an obvious question: is Iraq better off without Saddam and his sons, or is the situation worse. Personally, I never did see that Bremer did one thing right. He couldn't shine MacArthur's shoes, when it comes to leading a country out of wartime chaos. He wasn't the man for the job, definitely not.


The Price Waterhouse Coopers piece states several times that the projected future levels of spending are unlikely as they reflect the inflated costs incurred in the Iraq and Afghanistan campaigns. The piece further points out that, even if those levels were to be reached, they are unlikely to be sustained over time.

The article also makes pretty darn clear that European countries need to significantly increase their defense spending if they ever wish to act without American logistical assistance. While U.S. spending may be too high, it is clear the many other countries have not been pulling their own weight. In the past, those allied countries have assumed the U.S. would always be willing to assist them if there was trouble. This has lead to quite a bit of free riding on American military expenditures by its allies.

To answer you question, the right amount of expenditure for New Zealand is to have enough military logistics and forces to be able to project its fair share of force over distance if called upon by the U.N. to do so. Apparently, you believe 3.3% of GDP is too high for military expenditures and 1.1% is too low. I, for one, would be happy to meet you Kiwis on spending somewhere in the middle.

If you really want an international security system, it is time for the rest of the world to step up to their obligations. In security matters, future European administrations are much more likely to have real influence with an American administration’s military decisions, whether it’s a Democrat or Republican one, when they can carry their own weight in applying force over distance.

I agree with you that missile shields and space warfare expenditures are largely wasted. However, the failure to reduce military expenditures further in the 1990s had little to do with paranoia and much to do with retaining civilian defense industry jobs. Even so, per your PWC article, U.S. defense spending dropped by roughly a third between 1987 and 1999. After 9/11, any continued political momentum for significant reduction in military spending within the mainstream of either the Republican or Democratic parties was lost. Rumsfield's current round of base closing is not designed to reduce the military budget, but to streamline operations so that he can free up more funds for his own pet projects.


We are hi-jacking Abu’s Blog off-topic, but he doesn’t seem to mind. Your last post prompts these thoughts:
a) I’m not too enthusiastic about excessive nationalism, but the world is definitely defined in terms of sovereign nation states, and their alliances, for the foreseeable future. Therefore
b) If a nation has no aggressive or expansionist intentions (which of course it shouldn’t have) then the appropriate level of military expenditure is determined by 1) its need to defend itself against its neighbours and 2) its alliance obligations.
c) Hence reduced levels of European expenditure can partly be seen in terms of the fact that the European nations do not at present need to protect their borders against each other, as they did from the 18th century until the 1940’s. (Relates to NZ’s current low expenditure - we have no potentially aggressive neighbours, and there is at present no large power signalling world-wide imperialist intentions such as Nazi Germany, Japan, and perhaps the USSR did. Well, apart from the USA. That’s a joke. I think.)
d) You can correct me here, but I’m not aware of any region at present where wars of conquest or annihilation are impending between neighbouring nations. India and Pakistan seem to be prepared to go only so far. Saddam’s conflicts with Iran and Kuwait were just him being very stupid. China will probably sort out the Taiwan situation peacefully - they tend to think long-term there, its a very old country.
e) Thus the main alliance that matters for most nations at present, in terms of maintaining military forces to contribute to it, is the UN.
f) And as I’ve said before, the UN is as I understand it not yet ready to accept a responsibility to intervene in the internal politics of any nation that doesn’t meet some ideal standard of freedom and democracy. Otherwise we’d all be rushing off to Uzbekistan, with the US in the lead, right? The unfortunate reality is that for some time to come UN intervention as in the Balkans, or East Timor for example, is bound to be a bit belated.
g) But that’s possibly preferable to unilateral action by a blundering over-armed superpower which seems in Iraq to have lost far, far, far more hearts and minds than it has won.
Why did America invade Iraq, Abu? Same reason the chicken crossed the road. It was a mistake, that’s all.


I was slightly surprised by your question. I thought it was a well known fact. I have no links. If you remember, we had no electricity at that time, but the regime made such an issue of that ‘concession’. By the way, Bruno’s memory is rather accurate. It was confirmed by several first-hand accounts of the proceedings in that tent. One of them was General Sultan H. Ahmed who later became our Minister of Defense. Also, I can testify to seeing those helicopters in action! They were operating in clear view of the US army.

Your point concerning Saddam’s long term threat is worth considering further. I have mentioned the perceived threat in the ‘declared motives’ list because people were given the impression that the threat was eminent. I will add the long-term aspect in the other list and hope to address it when we come to that list.


I agree with you regarding the blog’s commentators repeatedly and consistently addressing the invasion… but I thought I should approach the subject methodically.

Although your debate with Mark was slightly off-topic, I enjoyed following it. It is not really too far off the subject… more like useful background.

A mistake, Circular? Frankly I find the thought rather depressing!


I believe that brewing civil war was/is a consequence of the management. Sectarianism has been made ‘legal’ and institutionalized through the design of the ‘democratic’ process that was implemented. I believe that ordinary people are still doing rather well… considering the enormous pressures.

I also agree with your assessment regarding Bremer but I think that the man was only following certain guidelines. It is the philosophy (basically the neocon doctrine) that is at fault and, as a result, disastrous.


Thank you all for such a good discussion. Many things to think about! I am sorry I did not participate, but I did not have access to the internet for most of the past week.

There were a few interesting additions to possible ‘undeclared motives’ (notably Mark’s remarks about long-term threats and Italian’s assertion that it was an undeclared objective to devastate the country. A large number of Iraqis are now convinced that this is the case!)

The contention that the neocon doctrine seems to offer the best explanation for much of what happened, as outlined by Bruno (with the main thesis accepted by Mark) also seems to go uncontested. Are we getting somewhere at last? I keep thinking about Seymour Hersh’s wonderings about how a handful of people could hijack America’s foreign policy (or was it democracy?) so easily.

However, it is noteworthy that nobody defended the ‘declared motives’ for this war. The implications are obvious. I hope you don’t mind if I post something on it… just to add a few nails to the coffin!!

Apologies, this was supposed to have been posted last week already. For some reason I was defeated by blogger yet again. So here it is:

As usual Mark makes a logical case, in this case pertaining to the need for a powerful US military.

I would agree with his comments, except for that here a sticking point arises. That point of divergence is that I view the US military more as a tool to enforce and preserve US interests and policies and less as a tool for preserving world peace. Admittedly it can be used to preserve the peace. It can also however, be used to oppress by force, and has often been used in such a manner.

Mark, you seem to buy into the idea of American exceptionalism and basic good intentions. Sure, sometimes US aims coincide with what I would deem to be “good”, the preservation of Taiwan’s independence being a case in point. But the US just as often associates itself with disgusting regimes like Uzbekistan et al, and even goes so far as to ‘render’ prisoners with useful information to Karimov’s regime, to use his ‘facilities’ to crack them.

The other sticking point with your position is actually twofold, and related to Iraq.

(1) You assume the right to remould a foreign society along your lines of thinking because they are hostile to your objectives and stances … without taking into account that this hostility may well be generated in large part not because of WHO you are but because WHAT you have done to these societies. In other words, you are giving band aids to the battered wife without addressing the fact that her injuries are caused by an abusive husband. The analogy is somewhat imprecise, but I think you get my drift. Polls have consistently shown that Muslims / Arabs have less problems with American culture / technology / freedoms than with American policies relating to them. I suggest to you that a secular westernized Democratic Iraq could well be as hostile to the US as an Islamic, eastern Autocratic Iraq.

I’m sorry, but I find your stance flawed and addressing the symptoms of the problem, not the root causes.

(2) Saddam Hussein was not necessarily an impulsive madman. In fact, if one reads articles and biographies on him, one realizes he is an intelligent, calculating and ruthless man. I feel that diplomatic pressure backed by the threat of military force was enough to contain him for ten years, and there was no reason to believe that the situation could not have been prolonged.

The ‘serial aggressor’ lable that people are quick to plaster onto him is true … BUT … the same lable can be applied to the US, with a MUCH longer list of incidents to back it up. Now, Americans will jump in and point to all the reasoning that necessitated such a long tally of aggressive behaviour … some of which can be justified. But when it comes to Iraq and Hussein, the mere fact of an aggressive war is enough to condemn him, and the reasoning behind these wars is not looked at, at all.

Now, why is that?

The sanctions regime did indeed hurt ordinary Iraqis, but if one looks at the DETAILS, there was much manipulation on the side of British and Americans to use them as a tool to grind Iraq to dust. Denial of approved water treatment components and so forth really had less to do with containment and more to do with punishment. If one points to the immense suffering that the sanctions caused, one must also take into account that there were ulterior motives by some members of the committees that had this effect.

The neoconservatives’ invasion has, to date, proven worse to Iraq than even the sanctions regime. At the outset of this adventure I admit I was basically ignorant about Iraq, yet I had made certain extrapolations and predictions based on human nature and history that have been fulfilled to a large degree. Now, if an outsider like me can on virtually no knowledge make generally accurate predictions about the consequences of invasion - then a US politician like Bush, Rumsfeld et al, with the entire resources of the US intelligence and analysis apparatus should too. Their actions in this light are nothing short of criminal.


As to the first of your two points, I assume no American right to do anything. I would have vastly preferred that the U.S. build an international coalition and gain security counsel support prior to taking any military action. That is a legal right of the international community under the U.N. charter. In Saddam's case, Professor Juan Cole, among others, has argued that Saddam should have been legally removed from power for violating a number of international standards including the conventions against genocide. I agree with those arguments in principal, but disagree that such a course of action had any chance of successes for obvious political reasons.

Further, I did not argue that Pollack's position was legally valid, or for that matter, that it was completely morally convincing. That does not mean it lacked persuasive force.

Whether a truly democratic Iraq is initially either hostile or friendly to the U.S. does not overly concern me. Overtime I am sure that the countries will have decent relations based on mutual self-interest, if nothing else. As long as Iraq has a sound democratic system, I trust that swings in public passions and politics will even out over time so that a rational, mutually beneficial relationship will emerge. This may not happen, as in the case of Vietnam (even though it lacks a truly democratic government), for twenty or thirty years, but it seems inevitable.

As to your other critique, I do not believe in American expectionalism. Various U.S. governments have made idiotic mistakes (e.g., colonization of the Philippines, cold war era CIA interference in Latin America, generally, and Chile specifically). I am just no sure whether the invasion of Iraq will fit into that category. Time will tell.

Concerning Karimov, the U.S cut off aid to his regime last year in protest over his human rights record, although it still has basing rights in southern Uzibekistan. What else should it now do now Bruno? What possible move can it make that has a realistic chance of influencing his abhorrent behavior? If the U.S. cuts ties completely with the Karimov regime, he will run into the open arms of the Chinese and Russians as they generally lack much in the way of scruples when it comes to cracking down on dissent and have refrained from criticizing his brutal tactics. If you are proposing a U.S. invasion of Uzbekistan, I, for one, have had quite enough military adventures for the time being. We, in the U.S., will have to leave this one to you South Africans and Kiwis. Perhaps you and Circ can get the ball rolling? I wish your countries the best of luck in deposing the scoundrel.

Turning back to serious matters, the main thrust of my post was not whether the U.S. military is, or has been, a force for good (or evil for that matter). It is that, any effective collective international security system will require the capability to timely project significant force over great distances. Currently, not only does the rest of the world largely lack those capabilities (in the absence or U.S. assistance), they also seem to lack the political will to pay for them. This is the point I have tried to make, rather obliquely, with my somewhat sarcastic comments regarding deposing Karimov. However, if I am incorrect in my assessments, and South Africa and New Zealand are willing to step up and pay for those capabilities, I am sure that most Americans would be more than happy to see a proportional reduction in U.S. defense spending.

You see, most American don’t want to be the world’s policemen as it is an expensive and thankless job (this is backed up by the CFR foreign policy survey). However, if the alternative is to lack even the capability of checking potential threats, they would prefer to pay for an effective military than can project power. Most Americans (outside of true, blue neo-cons) would like to shift as much of the cost of that burden to its allies as they will bear. I haven’t seen many allies volunteering to end the free riding by significantly increasing their own military spending on those capabilities. Until then, much of the foreign criticism of U.S. defense spending by its allies is suspect.


Mark, first and foremost the issue of the US playing at “Globocop” is indeed the most serious issue.

Basically, while I agree that there is a need for a viable collective security mechanism for maintaining global security, the facts remain that the US has done little to encourage other countries to develop the capability to do so. Or, where it has, it is in the context of a superior country arming subordinates so that they can aid in the execution of foreign policy goals. This is especially true of the current US Administration, which has made it clear, in fact, that there should not be other countries with significant military capability in the world, and that the US must at all costs remain “top dog”. Your view is at odds with the typical view of most US Administrations, you do realize?

My problem with an overpowering US military is mainly due to the fact that often it is employed in the protection or pursuit of other interests, usually economic.

Historically this has been the case, and if one looks at NATO for example, the situation was that the US was supplying all the weaponry and that its allies in Europe did all the buying. Let’s be honest here, there has been VERY little encouragement from the US towards other countries for them to build strong militaries armed with indigenous weaponry. Thus I find the argument that “nobody else wants to take up the slack” somewhat ironic.

Secondly: you are obviously unaware that South Africa has built up a fairly formidable (well, for our size) local armaments industry as well as a decent army, and that in fact we are engaged in numerous peacekeeping efforts in Africa.

While I have to admit that I am skeptical of the SA government’s enthusiasm for spending money on peacekeeping when we have so many problems of our own, it is also true that SA diplomatic and peacekeeping efforts have been quite successful to date. I believe that this success is mainly due to the employment of our military within a multilateral framework, unlike the present US unilateralism. While this approach is certainly slower and more tedious, it is also less destructive and more likely to reach a comprehensive solution.

On Karimov:

Again, I can understand to some degree the necessity of sometimes holding one’s nose and forming an alliance with a regional scumbag in order to accomplish some more important goal. Even though I don’t really agree with this stance.

There is a big difference, however, between doing that … and actually MAKING USE of the scumbag’s torture facilities to crack hard cases. And to then proclaim that you are motivated by humanitarian reasons in your foreign policy. I don’t know if you can understand how angry this attitude makes people outside the US. It is the hypocrisy of the situation that adds fuel to the fire.

The aid cuts were $ 18 million from a total of $ 55 million … and of course we don’t know the figures being paid to Uzbekistan for basing and development rights. While the gesture is appreciated, in the larger scheme of things it is fairly meaningless.

To a hard nosed realpolitik politician who bases his calculations on military might and cost/benefit ratios of working with despots this stance may seem acceptable. Unfortunately the US has made a big case about its humanitarian values, and when one tries to marry the two concepts the result is an explosive rhetorical mixture, because they are mostly incompatible.

[mark]” Overtime I am sure that the countries will have decent relations based on mutual self-interest, if nothing else.”

I tend to agree with this. While Iraqi attitudes (and Arab attitudes) are largely anti West / US, the fact remains that they have reason for those attitudes. I’m fully confident that once those reasons are removed, relations will improve dramatically. I see no real ideological difference between the Arab mainstream and the West that necessitates a clash.

My deepest fear is, however, that the US interventionism in the ME may eventually aid whacked radicals like Al Qaeda to gain a foothold in mainstream Muslim opinion, and that the whole “Islamofascist” propaganda story will eventually become reality.


Of course, I realize that my attitude is contrary to post WW II U.S. policy. That policy of maintaining military superiority was driven by the cold war, which is now over. To my mind, the most cogent criticism of neo-con philosophy is that it is grounded in a cold war "us vs. them" mentality, which justifies massive expenditures. Future U.S. policy is not likely to be as unilateralist. However, unless there is an international commitment to adequate alternate security systems, I don't see an end to excessive U.S. military spending. The first step to such a collective system is for America's European allies to openly acknowledge their military deficiencies and begin to end the free ride.

It truly amazes me that you have attempted to blame the free rider’s failure to spend sufficient resources for force projection on the U.S. Your complaints about S.A.'s peace keeping efforts tellingly illustrate the chief problem with attempting to build any effective collective security system, that is, very few allied countries are likely to muster the political will to pay their fair share. This again is another hang over from the cold war when the U.S. could be counted on to do most of the dirty work. Unless allied countries do so, the end result is likely to be that the U.S. continues to be the world's policemen, and the Europeans continue to complain about their lack of influence on U.S. policy.

I note that you offer no solutions, only criticism regarding Karimov. Did you realize that Karimov has been in China buddying up to that regime and that the Russian defended his action in Andijan? Would you prefer the U.S. follow the Russian and Chinese examples and applaud his actions while seeking closer ties? It must be nice to have the luxury of sitting back and self-righteously criticizing every U.S. action or inaction in a country with nearly zero global responsibility.

Isn’t the correct course of action to use a combination of carrots and sticks to try to influence a less than desirable, but strategically located foreign regime? At least the U.S. has the backbone to do something to attempt to encourage Karimov toward better behavior, the Russians and Chinese have only encouraged future butchery. Yet, I have not heard an international outcry against their policies. Apparently, according to you and many others, it is better to be unambiguously and ruthlessly self-interested, like the Chinese and Russians, than to inject any concern for human rights into one's foreign policy lest any of your actions be accused of falling short of reaching those high ideals. This is truly a pathetic state of affairs.


Mark –

I have no problem with increased military spending per se. Fully developed countries like Europe and the US etc. can well afford it. I also agree with having a strong military. It is just that in South Africa’s case, there are very real and serious problems concerning basic amenities, housing, infrastructure and so forth. I mean, we have been having riots here for the last year over the fact that people are still living in squalor without amenities such as toilets, running water or housing. It just seems to make sense to sort out the basic problems at home first before jaunting around trying to sort other people’s hassles out. As you can imagine, I am rather more conservative in this respect than one might think.

[m] “It truly amazes me that you have attempted to blame the free rider’s failure to spend sufficient resources for force projection on the U.S.”

LOL! It truly amazes ME that you are unable to grasp that the US to date has NOT wanted powerful militaries in other countries, and that it has seen allied countries as cash cows for the purpouse of exporting military equipment to. It has always been US policy to utilize allied countries as subordinate entities during its military adventures abroad.

What we are actually talking about on the Karimov / Uzbekistan issue is the issue of Humanitarian War. (1) Do we have a right to intervene? On what basis? Are we allowed to impose our own ideals? Why? (2) If we think we do, what do others think? If they are against intervention, we must ask why. Do they have vested interests? Do they think we have vested interests that will harm them? (3) If this is the case, what sort of diplomatic solution can we forge that gets the opposition on board? How can we convince them of our own good intent?

In Uzbekistan, for example, regime change would necessarily have to have a consensus reached with Russia (amongst others) as to how to proceed. Regime change would furthermore have to take into account whether the actual change would cause more damage than leaving Karimov in place. There are probably dozens of thorny issues to be resolved before a clear decision could be made.

What the US is doing now, though, is training the very security forces that are doing the oppressing, using their facilities and financially supporting the regime. I can understand the clash of geopolitical interests with Russia might drive the US to take such a stance. However, it cannot then fairly claim to be simultaneously taking the interests of the human rights of the oppressed of the world into account.

Please understand, I am not anti American because of the US stance that the use of force is acceptable in achieving regime change. Nor because the US is militarily powerful. I am so because of the frankly disgusting double game that the US plays in this regard, through the forceful pushing of its geopolitical agendas under the umbrella of humanitarian motives.

THAT is the primary cause of my anger.

[mark] “Apparently, according to you and many others, it is better to be unambiguously and ruthlessly self-interested, like the Chinese and Russians, than to inject any concern for human rights into one's foreign policy lest any of your actions be accused of falling short of reaching those high ideals.”

You have a point – there is a nerve that the US touches when it tries to do both at once. It is because the element of deception enters the equation, and that this deception taints the ideals which are used as a cloak for the aggression. THAT is why there is so much anger towards the US.

You are of course correct that Russia and China are quite reprehensible in the way in which they conduct themselves – Chechnya and Tibet being cases in point. (Although, let me add, I am not quite as clued up about those conflicts as about the Iraq/US conflict.) Nevertheless, with Russia in particular, there are never any questions as to what it might be up to. It is reassuringly predictable in its foreign policy, and as strange as it may sound, this element of (brutal) honesty goes some way to deflecting outrage.

The UN was supposed to be the solution to humanity’s problems in terms of resolving conflicts and so forth; ironic isn’t it, when the great powers use it rather as a tool for the promotion for their own interests? I’m starting to believe that a legislated solution to mankind’s problems will never work, because the fundamental failings of self interest, magnified at national levels, will always tear down whatever is built up. That’s the fundamental reason why Communism, in my opinion, will not work. And Might will always be right. That’s what is really sad about the whole human rights / war / laws thing.

Ah, sorry, I’m wandering …

Could it be ever more sinister? The war is about the control of oil. Not for oil! But could it really be the war against Russia? How about some simple history! U.S.S.R. was before its dismemberment was allied with Iran in its war against Iraq. Iraq at the time had the support of the State Department of the United States. You remember the Axiom the enemy of my enemy is my friend. So when the U.S.S.R. dissolved some in the state department that were thinking that they no longer had to keep supporting Iraq. So Saddam stopped getting the due he was felt so he tried to conquer Kuwait. This pissed off to many in the world so the U.S.A. and the rest of the world stepped in and sent his soldiers packing back to Iraq. Now when Iraq became has become further destabilized the U.S. had to go in and insure the safety of our worlds needed oil supply. Flash forward till now and what is happening Iran wants to control its nuclear destiny and who is supporting them Russia a former member of the U.S.S.R. club. So the real question is Russia attempting a come back? Could this be right?

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I think Rumsfeld and the British dogs secretly sold tactical nuclear weapons to Sadaam Hussein with the intention of ending the Iran Iraq war. We the irish will disarm those UK dogs once and forever. Down with the UK! Long live the USA! Long live Iraq, Iran!

Ireland forever!

you guys are seeking Mirage, I'm here in Iraq living the best of my life, and for those who suspect me living well, as my TV dish, that I'm opening Sex channels every day because I live in a free country, anything else you guys are talking about is only a rubbish and shits.

sorry for my honesty!!

hai guys good evening . Dont
belive american's it is dangerous one i hate american.

it is a erakka matra nadu porampokku nadu .

tamilnattu makkale we hate amerikans..................
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