Yesterday, The New York Times published a piece by ‘guest columnist’ Roger Cohen of The International Herald Tribune entitled “The Long View in Iraq.” If I were inclined towards paranoia, I might believe it to be the result of a secret decision to convince Americans that we are going to be in Iraq for decades, no matter what. Certainly, it is the conceit du jour.
I see four core American interests in Iraq that cannot be abandoned. There must be no Afghan-like Al Qaeda takeover of wide areas. There must be no genocide (say a Shiite sweep against Sunnis). There must be no regional conflagration (for example, a Turkish invasion). And there must be no return to the old order (murderous Stalinist dictatorship).
“Cannot be abandoned,” huh? And the only alternative is American troops?
The simple-mindedness of that “either/or” aside, there are problems with every part of this list.
First of all, an “Afghan-like Al Qaeda takeover” is not in the cards. Even if it did manage to wrest control of any large part of Iraq, Al Qaeda would then have its hands full just trying to control it. The organization would be effectively neutralized. Also, the impact of the US invasion and occupation of Iraq has already been so positive that it doesn’t need a base in Iraq. It already has one in Pakistan, may be developing new possibilities in Afghanistan, and has reached out even to rebel groups in Algeria. Thanks to the Americans, Iraq has served its purpose, for Al Qaeda.
Strike Interest One.
No genocide in Iraq? It seems to me that our presence is making that easier and more likely—and it’s not as though the various groups aren’t killing each other with abandon right now. The only way to stop the possibility of genocide is to ease the pressures behind it (and religious differences won’t be the spark—Sunnis and Shi’ites have been living in relative peace in Iraq for a long time). The killings and forced removals (and even the start of refugee “tent cities”) going on right now increase those pressures. We Americans aren’t helping stop genocide. If anything, we’re making it more likely.
Strike Interest Two.
No “regional conflagration”? We seem hell-bent on one, what with our saber-rattling aimed at Iran. What with our failure to expedite a solution for the Palestinians and Israelis. What with our unwillingness to talk to Syria. Furthermore, if the European Union makes it crystal clear to Turkey that it will never join if it attacks the Kurds, and the US adds its own pressure, that will never happen—especially if a way is found to start the Turks and the Kurds talking. And that could be done.
Strike Interest Three.
No return to “murderous Stalinist dictatorship”? You mean, what the Iraqis have right now is better? Certainly, you don’t mean to say that the US could never get along with a dictator? Sure, we prefer democracies, but we don’t insist on them elsewhere. Why in Iraq?
Strike Interest Four.
My question is this: Why all the specious reasons for staying in Iraq? Cohen isn’t the first to say that the US will “have” to be there for along time.
The only reason that I can come up with that contains even a hint of rationality (though a disgusting one) can be summed up in one word.