The Motive for the Invasion
by Michael Doliner
November 22, 2003

"This follows also on another natural and common necessity, which always causes a new prince to burden those who have submitted to him with his soldiery and with infinite other hardships which he must put upon his new acquisition. In this way you have enemies in all those whom you have injured in seizing that principality, and you are not able to keep those friends who put you there because of your not being able to satisfy them in the way they expected, and you cannot take strong measures against them, feeling bound to them. For, although one may be very strong in armed forces, yet in entering a province one has always need of the goodwill of the natives.

"But in maintaining armed men there in place of colonies one spends much more, having to consume on the garrison all the income from the state, so that the acquisition turns into a loss, and many more are exasperated, because the whole state is injured; through the shifting of the garrison up and down all become acquainted with hardship, and all become hostile, and they are enemies who, whilst beaten on their own ground, are yet able to do hurt. For every reason, therefore, such guards are as useless as a colony is useful."

~ Machievelli, The Prince

Those who prosecuted the war against Iraq should have known these passages. After all, The Prince should be on the basic reading list for anyone interested in government. 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. Hounding the bureaucracy to extinction and dismissing the army are precisely wrong moves for anyone wanting to stabilize the country, but rational for someone who wants to destroy it. They must have known, unless they are completely incompetent, that chaos would follow their actions.

If the hope was to rebuild Iraq it was folly also because of Iraq’s economic situation. Reconstruction in Iraq under American occupation will never happen. Here is an account of Iraqi debt:

"Estimates of Iraq's indebtedness vary greatly, from 60 billion to several hundred billion dollars. The most comprehensive study of Iraqi debts, by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), calculates Iraq's total debt to be $127 billion, of which $47 billion is accrued interest (based on 2001 World Bank figures). Iraq owes a further $199 billion in Gulf War compensation and $57 billion in pending contracts signed between the Saddam Hussein regime and foreign companies and governments. Iraq's overall financial burden, according to the CSIS figures, is $383 billion.

"Based on these figures, Iraq's financial obligations are 14 times its estimated annual gross domestic product (GDP) of $27 billion – a staggering $16,000 per person. Measured by the debt-to-GDP ratio, Iraq's financial burden is over 25 times greater than Brazil's or Argentina's, making Iraq the developing world's most indebted nation."

The $27 billion GDP mentioned above is Iraq’s income from oil sales before the invasion. Even with the optimistic figures presently given, Iraq now has only a third of that. 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. Here is’s take on the situation:

"United Nations, May 8 (Bloomberg) – The Bush administration's plan to rebuild Iraq, including a request that more than a dozen creditor countries forgive $127 billion of Iraqi debt, is getting little support from France, Germany and Russia, who opposed the U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein's regime last month.

"Negotiations – covering sovereign debt owed to such nations as Russia, Poland, Egypt and Germany as well as claims from Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait – may hinder Iraq's reconstruction, according to Robert Hormats, a managing director of Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and a former deputy assistant secretary of state in the Reagan administration.

"'This will be the biggest renegotiation of financial obligations in history and probably the most rancorous,' said Hormats, who also was an economic adviser in the administrations of Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter. 'The countries that are in control have very little of the debt, so they will pressure others to give, and those nations will demand concessions.'

"U.S. Treasury Secretary John Snow asked for debt reduction in meetings of the Group of Seven industrialized nations last month in Washington. While some creditors are willing to discuss debt in global forums such as the Paris Club, they haven't publicly made specific counterproposals.

"Agreement to cut Iraq's debt is critical because a resumption of Iraq's oil sales at prewar levels of 2.4 million barrels a day won't be enough to finance a reconstruction that may cost as much as $100 billion, according to Hormats.

"'Not even close,' Hormats said in an interview."

That was on May 8. Nothing significant has happened since then except for further destruction of Iraq and the further impoverishment of the people so that virtually 100% are now dependent on international food programs for survival, programs that the UN, obviously, can no longer administer. The theoretical costs of reconstruction are rising daily. There is far more that could be said about this, but it is not necessary. 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.

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?

In the beginning of the sixteenth century when Machiavelli wrote The Prince, the population of a country was needed to extract the country’s wealth. 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. If so they must be planning for a lot more devastation. After a few more months of resistance the American public might be prepared for such a move.

To destroy the political structure of a country, leaving the population helpless against expropriation is a rational, Machiavellian, if monstrous, political intention. Perhaps the Bush Administration did not expect their pretexts – WMDs, links to al-Qaeda, and whatever – to be so thoroughly exposed as false. No doubt they expected to find some kind of spinnable evidence of these things. But such exposure only influences their ability to gain American public support, and in spite of it, support still remains strong. At worst they might have to wait until after the election to complete the plan. (Battlefield nuclear weapons are now being prepared.) I admit, the idea that devastation was the goal from the start is a horrible one, but the idea that the Bush administration actually believed in Iraqi reconstruction can only be explained by attributing complete incompetence to them. Aside from these two possibilities I see no other.

Continued American presence in Iraq will serve no purpose unless complete devastation is the goal. Iraq cannot recover under American auspices. Machiavelli saw all this clearly. Too much injury has been done to the local population for them ever to accept American, or puppet, rule. Reconstruction requires enormous expense and renunciation of the debt or its forgiveness and hence cannot proceed under American (or puppet) government. There are simply no achievable American goals in Iraq except to turn it into a failed state and extract oil from its corpse. What pursuit of such a policy would mean for American relations with the rest of the world is not hard to imagine. But I do not find it hard to believe that this was the plan all along. Bush administration avowal of imperial ambitions makes it seem plausible.

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Michael Doliner studied with Hannah Arendt at the University of Chicago 1964-1970. He has taught at Valparaiso University and Ithaca College, but is now a businessman in Ithaca.

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