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Iraq: exit strategy « Previous | |Next »
May 31, 2004

The US neo-con language of democratization and development situates America as the humanitarian liberators of the Arabs from the authoritarian oppression of Saddam Hussein and other dictators in the Middle East. Iraq would be the beacon light of democracy and reason, which would spread across the Arab world.

This is part of the neo-con's broader regional strategy to ensure regime change in Syria and Iran. Currently the US is endeavouring to squeeze Syria economically and isolate it politically in order to force Syria to changes its ways: to force Syrian troops out of Lebanon, abandon the pursuit of weapons of mass destruction, stop supporting terrorism and stop supporting the Palestinians. Syria is defined as the problem in the region and regime change means overthrowing the government of President Bashar Al Assad. Syria is held to be a "terrorist state" run by an "irrational" and fascist regime.

It is probably about time that the broad regional strategy of the US in the Midlde East is questioned.

At the moment the democratic liberal language of the US is being deployed as part of a broader, concerted strategy to turn Iraq into a dependent and docile American client. At the moment the paternalistic role is being played by the provisional Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), in which the US props up and trusts the exiles, but exercises control over Iraq through the instruments of budgets and security.

This can be seen as a continuation of the history of the colonial administrators of the inter-war French and British Mandates exerting a tremendous amount of power over Iraqi institutions and agencies.

Steve Bell

It is said that this kind of neo-colonial occupation will change on June 30th, with the handover of sovereignty. I cannot see how the on-the-ground situation after-June 30 is likely to be better than the situation on the ground pre-June 30--– do you?

It does look as if the exit strategy is a continuation of the modern form of colonialism? This kind of exit strategy would mean that the Iraqis are given sovereignty over their oil resources as long as that sovereignty does not interfere in the American strategic access to those resources. The limitation of Iraqi sovereignty----quasi-colonial regime with little domestic legitimacy---- would mean that any Iraqi leader who cooperates will again be viewed as a servant of American strategic interests. This kind of political authority does not look a promising way to deal with the ethic regions of a quasi-independent-Kurdish state, a Sunni Triangle dominated by ex-Baathist generals and a Shi’ite south coming under Iranian influence and control.

So the liberalism promised to Iraqi's by the US has an alternative face of neo-colonialism, political instability, social and cultural dislocations and economic hardship. The situation is bad. The modern face of western colonialism will lead to the further radicalization of Iraqi society. This Iraqi insurgency will increasingly acquire an explicitly Islamist character, not to an increasing secular society. It is already accelerating recruitment to the ranks of Osama bin Laden's terrorist network.

'Tis time for Australia to face the political realities. That means dumping the neo-con illusions wrapped around Centcom's Operation Iraqi Freedom that have been accepted by the Howard Government. A searching account of the connection between political realities and failure for the US is given by Billmon over at Whiskey Bar. I've relied on some of that excellent material and links for this post.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 9:52 AM | | Comments (16)



Mixed feelings. I think that sums it up for me. The sheer delight in seeing that the crazy stupid Bush adventure is unravelling as expected, not in the detail mind, but the broad course of events, is wrenched by a terrible feeling that something terrible is happening.

Billmon is right. Success is not an Option. I commented on this at John Quiggin's . Back in early April I saw that nothing would work to bring the desired peace.

The reality that needs to be faced is that there will most likely be chaos, and so the best thing to do is for the US to swallow its pride, and withdraw into the deserts, let the civil war begin if it must, (or maybe with luck it will let the Iraqi's feel some sense of victory, and organise themselves if they can) and then try to secure a deal (or re-engage militarily) with the eventual leaders or victors when it becomes apparent who they are.

It is not possible for the US to make a dignified exit. A smart Administration will realise this, and be prepared to sacrifice their dignity as collateral damage sustained in the least worse exit strategy.

I think Billmon puts its well. Now that the mainstream media has cottoned onto what a complete disaster it is, and finally caught up to the blogs, the role of the blogs is to speculate where this mess will likely lead us in a years time.

Simply because John Quiggin hasn't got to it yet, here are my thoughts on what we might be looking at a year from now.

- Significant Oil Price Increases
- Inflation starting to kick in.
- Big rises in Iraqi refugee populations in Indonesia and Malaysia.
- Pressure to increase refugee intake
- Big domestic fight over the Border Protection Strategy no matter who wins the election
- US still in Iraq - Situation even more hopeless than ever.
- Massive destabilisation in the Oil Producing nations
- Threat of Terrorism in West worse than ever before.
- Actual terrorism events: Not much different from now.

This is part of the neo-con's broader regional strategy ...

Who is this solitary "neo-con" you speak of? Is he/she related to Margo Kingston's celebrated "Yank"? What is it with you people and possessive apostrophes?

By the way, Rex, nice to learn of your "sheer delight", and to again be reminded that Random Capitals are a Reliable Indicator of Total Idiocy.

Read the report that was linked on the words "regional strategy."

You might learn something about your mob and what you are defending when you throw around "anti-Israeli" instead of arguing your case.


And what, praytell, could possibly be objectionable about a "broader regional strategy to ensure regime change in Syria and Iran?"

Is your hostility to America so reflexively knee jerk that you would oppose an attempt to depose the execrable dictatorships in Damascus and Teheran?

Do you really find the prospect of a more benign Middle East to be so appalling, merely because the engine for such change might be found in Washington?

I hope that the CIA is pouring scores of millions into programs to fund opposition groups in Iran. The sooner the Mullah-ocracy in Teheran bites the dust, the better off the people of Iran, and the rest of the world, will be.

And, the same holds true for that sawed off little simulacrum of his father, Bashar Assad.

Tim, it was a bloody stupid idea from the get out, and this was clear to anybody who wasn't induging in obscene boosterism.

It is a delight Tim to know that your sort of politics has been dealt a savage, and hopefully fatal blow. It is terrible though to think of what might now happen as a result of it been given its head in the first place.

As for Random CaptiTals, well i guesS that I can live with the stigma. Maybe if you taught me the secret of selective quoting I'd lose my problem with the Caps key.


I guess you hadn't heard that John Kerry has undertaken to INCREASE the US troop strength in Iraq if he is elected. So much for Tim's "sort of politics" being "dealt a savage, and hopefully fatal blow."

And, comrade, don't count your chickens before they've hatched. I think that Dubya will win another term at 1600 Penn Ave. I certainly hope so, at any rate.

Finally, it is fascinating to observe your application of the adjective terrible to the current situation in Iraq. Of course, you ignore the many and varied indices that things are getting better by the day in that country. But, even more telling is your apparent belief that it would have been preferable to leave Saddam Hussein's thugocracy unmolested.

I suspect that a lot of kleptocracy in the US will be quite happy whomever wins the US Presidential election. Meanwhile, there will still be millions of people loving the fact that they have to work two minimum wage jobs to make ends meet.

Bush's domestic political agenda is hardly the stuff of a real democrat, or a man concerned with the plight of the average person who does not have access to power and privilege via their familial connections.


So I guess that you would prefer confiscatory levels of taxation to support a burgeoning social welfare system that would make the economy inhospitible to business that there would be widespread capital flight and double digit unemployment?

Even at the depths of the recent American recession, unemployment never reached 7%. Compare that with France and Germany where it is consistently in the double digits.

But, then, I guess DJ and Glenn would still be happy under such a socialist regime because we'd all be equally poor and miserable.

'And, comrade, don't count your chickens before they've hatched. I think that Dubya will win another term at 1600 Penn Ave. I certainly hope so, at any rate.'

You and about .05% of the world's population. Which would include tim blair too I guess. Who you gonna follow now tim? It must be irritating to throw your lot in with a well-dressed crew like the neocons only to find they had minds of mush and feet of clay... so who'll be the lucky recipient of your allegiance.. who's pocket will you piss in now?

Contact Christopher Hitchens to see which way the wind's blowing, he's better than Lennox Walker.

It all depends what the broader regional strategy is.

1.If it led to an independent, Shiite dominated Iraq that would refuse permanent military bases to the US but would still be friendly to the U.S, then fine. That does not look to be the case.

2. I thought democracy was about the people of a nation state choosing their own form of government, not having one imposed on them by an imperial power.

3.The US does not have a good track record in supporting democracy in the Middle East: eg.,Saudi Arabia.

4.The assumption that democratic reqime in Iran or Syria would necessarily be friendly to the US (and Israel) is questionable.

5.the priority of regime change appears to be more about subservience to the US (and Israel) regional interests than democracy.

6. the assumption that independent democratic Iraq would not be an ally of the U.S. in the Middle East is based on U.S. Middle East policy being centred on support for Israel.

That is why the broad regional strategy needs to be placed in question.


You claim in 5.regime change is more about to US (and Israel) [sic] regional interests than about democracy.

On what basis do you make such a claim?

You also assert that democracy can't be imposed by an "imperial power." Oh really? How then would you describe the emergence of demoracy in post WWII Japan and Germany? MacArthur wrote the current Japanese constitution. If that isn't something being imposed from above, I don't know what is. And, yet, that constitution, foisted from above by the American occupation government, has served to promote democracy in Japan for over a half-century.

I also find it fascinating that you seem to be supportive of a Shia Islamic theocracy in Iraq. Moreover, it seems that the criterion for legitimacy in your eyes seems to be the degree of anti-Americanism of any forthcoming regime.

and what if a Shia dominated government were to ask American troops to stay? Would that somehow make such a government ipso facto illegitimate?

You imply that if the Iraqi's choose a democratic form of government that is Shiite theocracy, then that is not acceptable to the US.

That implies the US requires an Iraq subservient to US regional interests.

My argument precisely. So what are US geo-political interests in this region?

That is what we need to concentrate on. My suggestion is that US interests overlap with those of Israel.

VOS. You're such an argumentitive fella aren't you?

Sadly John Kerry if he gets in has to play the hand he's given, and he's been given a crappy situation caused by the application of the simplistic unsubtle and arrogant politics developed by the Neo-Cons and supported by their fan club.

Time will tell whether the new Iraqi situation will be better in the long run than one under the control of a contained Saddam. My feeling is that things are going to get much worse in the entire region because people were sucked in by the neo-con dream.

So in a few years we will be able to ask the averge person was it a good idea, and we're not just taling Iraqis living with chaos and death, we're talking Europeans, Americans, Aussies and even Isrealis, who are being hit by inflation, still in fear of terrorism, and facing a refugee crisis.

Rex - isn't argument the raison d'etre of this site?

Gary, perhaps you need to stop focusing on implication (this implies that, and that implies this) and instead concentrate on some of the clear and unequivocal issues at hand.

I don't imply that a Shiite theocracy would be unacceptable to the Coalition, I come straight out and I say it. Why? Because that is what Paul Bremer has clearly said.

Democracy is not merely rule by the will of the majority. Daniel Jonah Goldhagen proved pretty conclusively in his book "Hitler's Willing Executioners" that Nazi policies towards the Jews met with widespread approval in Germany. So, because the Final Solution was endorsed by a majority of Germans, it was somehow democratic?

For a system of government to be fairly described as democratic, it must also safeguard individual rights and the rights of minorities. For self-evident reasons, a Shi'ite theocracy, a la Iran would fail to provide such guarantees and thus would not be democratic. Bremer is absolutely correct to argue that any such outcome would be morally illegitimate because it would screw the Sunnis and Kurds, not to mention the Chaldeans, Christians and other smaller minority groups.

This doesn't in any way mean that a new Iraq has to be "subservient" to American interests. It means, rather, that America will insist that any new government in Iraq will respect the rights of all, regardless of religion, ethnicity or gender.

Muqtada al Sadr would want to slap a hijab on every Iraqi woman, on pain of severe retribution. Is that what you'd like to see in the name of "democracy?"

As for America's interests in the Middle East, both the US and Israel would like to see an Arab world where government of the people, by the people and for the people shall not perish from the earth of that region. A democratic Middle East would be a Middle East where governments focus on the betterment of their people's welfare because leaders' political careers depend on it. It would be a Middle East in which computers would be more important than cannons. A Middle East that would be inhospitable to the type of religious fanaticism peddled by OBL and his ilk.

Pipe dream? Perhaps. But not necessarily. While certainly you won't see Alexandria being transformed into Adelaide anytime soon, it is still within the realm of plausibility to work towards first steps down the road to democratic rule.

Great to read the healthy discusion here, but i'm reminded of a comment a Japanese politician had on the consequences of the French Revolution almost 200 years before:

"It's too early to say."