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Pax Americana in the Middle East « Previous | |Next »
August 31, 2007

Unlike the Howard Government, which continues to engage in imperial flag waving in support of fighting al-Qaeda in Iraq, it is now widely accepted that the U.S. has created an intractable mess in Iraq. The insurgency has viewed the foreign presence as an occupation, not liberation.

The quagmire may well worsen, if Vice President Cheney gets his way on bombing Iran. A desperate and increasingly shrill President Bush is drawing on Graham Greene to offer selective "lessons" from U.S. military involvement in Vietnam arguing that leaving Iraq would provoke the kind of bloody retribution that followed U.S. withdrawals from Indochina. Presumably, Vietnam, for Bush was a self-inflicted defeat, not a disastrous war from the start, whilst bombing Iran is equivalent to Nixon bombing Cambodia in the Vietnam war.

Many in the Middle East are well aware of the limits of American power, and the fact that it is on the wane in this region. The signs are there when the regimes most dependent on direct U.S. military support — Iraq and Afghanistan — are simply ignoring the Bush Administration’s injunctions against consorting with Iran.

Another sign of the collapse of Pax Americana in the Middle East is David Walker, comptroller general of the US, saying that the US government is on a ‘burning platform’ of unsustainable policies and practices with fiscal deficits, chronic healthcare underfunding, immigration and overseas military commitments threatening a crisis if action is not taken soon.

As it is accepted in the Middle East that the U.S. must begin withdrawing from Iraq in the coming year and that the surge was only a temporary U.S. excuse to prolong a losing hand in Iraq, so the regional power politics is about the nation states deciding on what strategy they will pursue toward a post-American Iraq. Will they side with Iran in supporting a Shiite government in Iraq, or will they side with Saudi Arabia in supporting the Sunni resistance?

Presumably, the U.S. will muddle on with the present order, perhaps drawing down its troop levels and relying more on air power to essentially manage the conflict at more or less current levels. Maintaining the present level of civil war may now be all that’s possible with the leverage available to the U.S. acting more or less alone.

Update:2 September
Scott Burchill has an op-ed in the Sunday Age on the diminished power and significance of President George Bush when compared to the man who addressed the Federal Parliament in 2003. He writes:

More than most, the Bush Administration has been characterised by illusions, fantasies, ignorance and incompetence in foreign policy. Washington refuses to acknowledge the limits of its power and does not understand that military force rarely translates into geopolitical influence and success — wars are won politically or not at all....The great paradox for Bush is that at a time when the US has never been more militarily powerful, it has never felt less secure. Iraq and Afghanistan have been calamitous and incompetent interventions, disastrous for the people of both countries and the image of the US around the world.

Rightly said. It is in contrast with the past In the past, when Washington's strength rested on its ability to convince other nations it was in their vital interests to see the US prevail in its global role. Bush's strident unilateralism after 9/11 squandered much goodwill and effectively undermined this diplomatic approach.

George Bush has asked Rudd to rethink Labor's policy to withdraw troops from Iraq in interviews with Australian journalists ahead of his scheduled arrival in Sydney on Tuesday for the annual APEC leaders meeting. The ALP is holding firm: Rudd rejected any change to Labor's policy of a phased withdrawal of Australian troops in consultation with Washington.

Well, that's a relief. There is still a point of difference between the Liberals and Labor. For the latter, the alliance with the United States does not mandate automatic compliance with the United States on every element of foreign policy.

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| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 1:54 PM | | Comments (6)
Comments

Comments

it is now widely accepted that the U.S. has created an intractable mess in Iraq.

And another one to come when Iran is attacked. Per Bush's speech at the American Legion Convention:

Iran ... is the world's leading state sponsor of terrorism. ... Iran funds terrorist groups like Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, which murder the innocent and target Israel. ... Iran is sending arms to the Taliban. ... Iran has arrested visiting American scholars who have committed no crimes. ... Iran's active pursuit of technology that could lead to nuclear weapons threatens to put a region already known for instability and violence under the shadow of a nuclear holocaust.

Iran's actions threaten the security of nations everywhere. ... We will confront this danger before it is too late."

Congress has no intention of stopping this insanity, Democrats have buckled to the Israeli lobby and the propaganda of Iran being responsible for US failures in Iraq. Notice how the language and demonisation is the same as it was before the invasion of Iraq.

The nightmare of Iraq may well be overshadowed by the holocaust of Iran, triggered by US provocation --Bush is just itching for a 1914 style Serajevo incident to unleash the bombing, (like assassination of a US General?) however, if it happens and I for one believe it will, and am far from alone in that viewpoint: it really means the end of US hegemony, and will likely cause a world depression.


With his name and reputation trashed in world opinion, Bush it seems, is determined to drag his country down into the gutter with him. To crash through or crash. To put his name in the history books as the man who purportedly "saved" Israel. Reality is that revulsion and loathing will be the history accorded him, not entirely unlike that reserved for another tyrant in 1945.

Peter,
Looking back we can see that the neo-conservatives in the Bush administration were focused on regime change in Iraq as a low-cost way of leveraging more ambitious changes in the region. From the neo-conservative perspective, the very military weakness of Saddam's Iraq made it the logical target for the use of US military power.

Israel was more concerned with the relative military threat posed by Iran. The strategists in the Israeli government held that an invasion of Iraq would be destabilizing to the region and urged the United States instead to target Iran as the primary enemy.

I see that the British are beginning to withdraw their forces from Basra

Not sure whom I'm addressing here, but I agree with the above comment--the Israeli's knew that by removing Saddam (the only regional counterbalance to Iran)it could end up handing Iran regional dominance on a golden platter. Which has happened but for full effect awaits US withdrawal.

Problem is they can't withdraw as the whole neo-con policy will be shown for what it is, to be buried beneath Persian sand. The only way out for the remaining "crazies" (Powell's words) of which Cheney is the most diabolical, is to try to reverse the US's most stupid strategic blunder since Vietnam (and lately Iraq) by attacking Iran, on any pretext that they think they can get away with.

The campaign for shovelling blame on Iran for supporting "terrorists" in Iraq and being responsible for killing Americans is gathering pace. There is no evidence that directly links Iran with such support or to weapons supply but this type of simplistic propaganda is something that American Joe Sixpacks readily swallow, as they did with WMD and Saddam.

When the campaign reaches its crescendo soon, AND the UN is not "cooperative" (given recent IAEA advances with Iran re enrichment) a single incident of one kind or another will result in some concocted "hot pursuit" over the border, a reaction by Teheran and then it's on for young and old.

The only way for "victory" for the so called "real men (who) go to Teheran instead of Bagdhad" will be a pyrrhic one when Iran is glassed over. Kind of ironic that Cheney et al want to nuke people pre-emptively, to prevent them from ever acquiring the means to acquire nukes. In making the threats of annihilation , Iranian motivation for getting them rises exponentially--the ultimate irony.

Bush of course will never pull out of Iraq while president and I predict a re-run of Nixonian "peace with honour" and extensions crap after Bush
assuming he doesn't attempt the "smash and grab" on Iran before leaving office.

US oil and dollar hegemony is under attack from Russia and the Middle East. Desperate times for an "empire" led by dangerous but incompetent fools. Prepared to bring the house down in the last gasp effort to preserve their hold on world economic domination.

It could have survived another decade or so but for the massive blunder of Iraq. Such is hubris and power that corrupts men of small character absolutely.

(Mr Maliki, your name is Ngo Dinh Diem. General Petraeus, meet General Westmoreland in your mirror. Iran, I introduce you to---Cambodia.)

Interesting to read what uber-neocon Fukayama makes of all this.

Author of "The End of History and the Last Man" the definitive guide to neo-conservatism, offers his recent thoughts in "America at the Crossroads".

After a presidency's worth of watching neo-conservative foreign policy in practice he concludes that it's all wrong. The solution? Change the label.

Apparently neo-conservatism has botched things so badly that the only hope it has is to call itself something else and stop whacking people it doesn't understand.

Bit late for that Francis. Cat's out of the bag and your name and phone number are engraved on its collar.

Lyn,
what is meant by neo-conservatism here. It's often used broadly:

Neo-conservatism has served as a badge of unity for those in the Bush administration advocating an aggressive foreign policy, massive military spending, disdain for international law and institutions, an assault on the welfare state, and a return to "traditional values".

Neoconservatism is seen as the simultaneous embrace of secular free-market capitalism and "traditional" values. It's strategy, perfected since the Reagan era, has been to redraw the lines of division: then, as now, the west is is "at risk" - which requires nurturing a strongly emotional distinction between "us" and "them".

Peter,
I concur with your account. That should indicate where I am coming from. From the US military's perspective the military has a particular job to do, which David Petraeus understands as: defeat the insurgents and the sectarian militias and stabilise the country under a pro-American administration, thus aiding US influence over the long-term security of the Persian Gulf. This is the requirement on the ground and I cannot see it being militarily successful. It's seen as an occupation.

On the other hand, the political will in the United States is to maintain an imperial presence in the world's most important oil-supplying region. Washington wants hegemony in the area based around the regional dominance of Israel, its ally. That means knee capping Iran.

The US has a problem. The military interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan are not working out. The client states in Iran and Afghanistan and looking weak and shaky; Pakistan is wobbling, and Iran grows stronger. So how does the US establish and maintain its hegemony in the region?

Or does it withdraw as it effectively did in Asia, apart from having its forces permanently camped on the 38th parallel in Korea. Is Iraq a new Korea?