"The real difficulty in changing any enterprise lies not in developing
new ideas, but in escaping from the old ones."
- John Maynard Keynes
A ray of realism appeared in the confirmation
hearings for Secretary of Defense nominee Robert Gates before the Senate Armed
Services Committee. Gates himself said that the U.S. was not winning in Iraq,
a statement with which everyone agreed except the White House.
The U.S., however, is not out of the woods. The question remains: what will
be the U.S. government's response to the lost war and the terrible calamity
that Bush has created in Iraq?
Many Americans are still fighting the Vietnam War. They see Iraq through the
lens of the futile Vietnam misadventure and express their dismay that America
will lose another war because "the Democrats will cut and run like they
did in Vietnam." These Americans have forgotten that it was a Republican
administration that got the U.S. out of Vietnam and that it was the Democrats
who committed the U.S. to that conflict. Moreover, Democrats are not showing
a cut-and-run propensity.
For example, Silvestre Reyes, the incoming Democratic chairman of the House
Intelligence Committee, says the U.S. cannot withdraw from Iraq until it has
dismantled the militias. Reyes wants to put 30,000 more U.S. troops into Iraq
to dismantle the militias. Reyes has forgotten that sending more troops was
the Democrats' policy in Vietnam, a policy whose only result was that more Americans
lost sons, fathers, husbands, and brothers.
Obviously, sending more U.S. troops will not succeed in dismantling the Iraqi
sectarian militias. However, a U.S. attempt to dismantle the militias will result
in the militias joining the insurgency and turning on the U.S. troops. The situation
would deteriorate, not improve. It is frightening that the incoming chairman
of the House Intelligence Committee does not understand this.
The appearance of a ray of realism about Iraq in the Senate Arms Services Committee
does not mean that the U.S. will escape catastrophe. At the Armed Services Committee
hearing (Dec. 5), some senators said that U.S. troops must not be used in a
civil war between Iraqis, but that the troops have to stay until stability is
created. Senators have the idea that U.S. troops can be shorn of their combat
role, but remain to train the Iraqi army so the Iraqi government can put down
insurgency and civil war.
However, in civil war each side has a government and an army. Which side will
the U.S. support? If the U.S. sides with the Sunnis against the majority Shi'ites,
it will be throwing in its lot with the insurgency that has been killing its
troops and find itself arrayed against the more numerous Shi'ites backed by
Iran. If the U.S. favors the Shi'ite majority, the U.S. will anger its Sunni
allies in the Middle East.
Indeed, civil war between Sunnis and Shi'ites, with or without U.S. involvement,
could easily spread throughout the Middle East. Saddam Hussein's Iraq was not
the only country where Sunnis hold political sway over Shi'ites. By invading
Iraq, stirring up extremism, and setting in motion sectarian violence, the Bush
regime may have opened Pandora's Box of civil war throughout the Middle East.
The neoconservative Bush regime lacked the brains to understand that defeating
Saddam Hussein's army would not give the U.S. control over Iraq. Whatever minimum
control the U.S. might once have had is gone. The U.S. Army in Iraq has so little
control that it cannot even provide sufficient security for President Bush to
meet in Iraq with Prime Minister Maliki.
Since the U.S. Army has no control, provides no security, and does not know
who it is fighting, U.S. troops simply provide targets for insurgents. They
are accomplishing nothing positive and should be withdrawn. U.S. troops in Iraq
serve one purpose: They are a provocation that foments Islamic extremism and
creates dangerous instability throughout the Middle East.
The senators and Robert Gates haven't got this far in their comprehension.
The question is whether they will see the light before U.S. troops are forced
to pay a higher price for their government's stupidity.
A minority of Americans still believe the U.S. can defeat the Iraqi insurgency
if only the U.S. would use enough force. Americans hear this from neoconservatives
and from the right-wing crazies of talk radio. These are the same Americans
who believe the U.S. could have won the Vietnam War by invading or nuking North
The U.S. probably could have defeated North Vietnam on a one-on-one basis.
However, just as Gen. MacArthur's invasion of North Korea brought in the Chinese,
a U.S. invasion of North Vietnam would have been an extreme provocation for
the Soviet Union and China and could have ended in nuclear war.
Many Americans have the absurd notion that the only limit to U.S. power is
the will to use it. This absurd idea provides the Israel Lobby with a vocal
American minority that is easy to exploit in behalf of "standing tough"
in the Middle East. The main reason that neither Republicans nor Democrats can
come to their senses about Iraq and America's disastrous Middle East policy
is that the Israel Lobby will not let them.
Right-wing Israeli governments suffer the same delusion as neoconservatives
about limitless U.S. power. They believe that the power of their lobby can ensure
that American power will be used to destroy all of Israel's enemies.
The U.S. is likely to remain mired in Iraq until Israelis cast out this delusion.
No amount of U.S. power can make it possible for Israel to both steal Palestine
from Palestinians and have peace. No number of U.S. invasions of Islamic countries
can win "the war on terror." As long as right-wing extremism prevails
in Israel and as long as the U.S. interferes in the internal affairs of Muslin
countries, the formula for calamity remains in place.