Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Explaining the unexplainable

Got this query from a bright, close friend of mine, who also happens to be my cousin.
I remember you explaining your views on Bush in Iraq a while ago, but I forget most of your points and am finding myself questioning why he is there again... other than to get his hands on more oil. I look forward to reading your blog.
America does benefit from the oil, in terms of stabilization of oil prices. But going over there to *take* oil was never one of our intentions, and absolutely has not been the case. In terms of oil policy, the motivation for going into Iraq was to allow us to *buy* oil from Iraq at a reasonable market price without the money going to Saddam and the gang. So yes, there was an oil policy reason for going into Iraq, but it wasn't the dominant factor, it wasn't an imperial factor, and it wasn't a 'cheat the Iraqis' factor.
There were a couple obvious policy factors behind the invasion which we obviously couldn't state in public.

First, Iraq is effectively our 'terrorist honeypot'. How many terrorists were in Iraq before the invasion? Quite a few, mostly Palestinian training grounds. How many are there now? A whole lot more. Were there terrorists 'created' by our invasion of Iraq? Probably some, but not a significant percentage considering the incredible forces islamofascism had already built against us. We're talking militant organizations dating back to the late seventies during the Soviet expansionist era. Enough militants to drive the Soviets out of Afghanistan, harry their forces in the central asian republics and chechnya, and they continued recruiting throughout the 90's while we did nothing but cut our military. Thousands upon thousands of Afghani war orphans brought up in Pakistani madrassas being taught nothing other than to destroy western civilization in the name of Allah. It's very easy to underestimate the forces we are facing here.
After 9/11 it became very clear that we were in a very asymmetrical conflict. Al-Qaeda and others could hit us without having to confront our main strengths: economic prosperity and military investment. They bypassed all that and did a quarterback sneak into the end-zone.
It was clear to me soon after 9/11 that we could only win this conflict if we could find a way to match our strengths against their weaknesses. This means making effective use of our military superiority in combating terrorism. Having our military forces camped out at home was only costing us a lot of money and providing little to no benefit in the new conflict.
The job of our military at that point became to pick a fight with these guys, and draw them into a situation where we could at least pit them against our military strengths, rather than our civilians at home.

Secondly, we had just gone into Afghanistan. That was required in order to staunch the flow of operations of Al Qaeda. A whole lot of people were opposed to it. There were large demonstration all across the world, but a big majority of the US supported it. It's easy to forget these days how many people were against the invasion of Afghanistan, because many have started using it as their token point of moderation in attacking the other side. How many times have you heard protestors against the invasion of Iraq say that they were for the invasion of Afghanistan? I've heard it a lot. But if you actually look back, many of those people I hear using that reasoning now, actually were *against* the invasion of Afghanistan. They've just forgotten that out of the convenient ledge they feel they gain in discussions. Like: "Oh, I'm all for defending the country, but this is going too far.."
Not true. The protests against going into Afghanistan were extremely large. I was quite disrespected in two workplaces for supporting the invasion of Afghanistan, by the same people who now say they supported it.
Anyways, the more important point, which is again not something that could publicly be used as a justification is that Afghanistan was not enough.
The US needed to make it clear to any tin pot dictators around the world, that if they allowed their territories to be used by terrorists to plan international terror attacks, that their little gig as dictator would be up. We needed to make the case that not only are we going to go after those dictators who supported and/or engaged in terror plottings, but that we were going to strike out and start solving the problem before it became a problem.
Terrorists train and attack under the protection of one dictatorship, we remove two dictatorships in response. We needed dictators around the world to know that they were on notice, and that we will respond with near-illogical overwhelming force.
This is largely credited with having convinced Ghaddafi in Libya to declare and shut down his nuclear weapons research program. I'm not so sure it was that, but if it was, good.
So that's the crux of this particular facet of my argument. We can't say that we were going to make an example out of Iraq, yet we really needed to make an example saying that we will act proactively, even possibly illogically (from the perspective of a dictatorship that really doesn't understand democracy anyways, and just considers it a weak form of government) in preventing another mass attack against the US.

A third unspeakable reason was that not only were our military forces doing pretty much nothing about terrorism, we were losing ground against Saddam. Our pilots were being run ragged enforcing the no-fly zones. We had forces getting bombed a couple times a year in Saudi Arabia, where we didn't want our forces stationed anyways. One could say "but those losses were small compared to what we're taking in Iraq". But on the flip side of the coin, our losses in Iraq are in combat, attempting to build a safer future. Our losses in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere were meaningless, stupid, and defeatists to the morale of our military.
We're going to take on the burden of 'containing' Saddam, expending enormous resources enforcing these no-fly zones, and providing deterrents for absolutely *nothing* in return except maintaining the status quo. This may seem like a great idea for Europe, and countries other than the US, being that it wasn't their guys or money spinning their wheels in the way of danger.
We did everything we could in the UN, and the whole time, the UN bureaucracy was arranging to funnel money to Saddam. We expected that if he was cut off by sanctions, he would lose his grip on power and succumb to internal revolt, except the UN worked to maintain the status quo. Honestly, the last thing the UN needs is more democracies. It drastically reduces their relevance, since democracies do not go to war against each other. I'm not saying the UN is particularly against democracy, but that they don't have any vested interest in helping countries attain it, except for the fat US paycheck they would risk if they're ever caught overtly working against democracy. So Saddam was gaining power, and we were losing power.

The fourth unspeakable reason we went into Iraq, was because we couldn't threaten anybody else in the middle east while we still had to deal with containing Saddam. 16 of the hijackers were from Saudi Arabia. That makes Saudi Arabia an enemy in my book. But as it was, we had no leverage for threatening Saudi Arabia at all. We needed our military bases on their soil in order to contain Saddam. If we maintained the status quo, and another 16 Saudis found another way to kill 3000 Americans, we *still* would not be able to respond by attacking Saudi Arabia. Now, we have a whole lot of leverage.
I predict the moment Saudi-supported for Saudi-funded terrorism comes to America again, our military will immediately be dispatched to expropriate Saudi oil fields. From there, the gloves will come off with respect to our tolerance of Saudi funding for the terrorist enemy. I'm absolutely certain the Saudis know this as well, and this buys us time.
Getting rid of Saddam both freed up our military, and put pressure on our true enemy.

These are just the 'unspeakable' reasons. The kinds of reasons that you can't publicly claim, because while they're quite realistic and extremely important, they're not acceptable logic under the prevaling attitudes in the world. Making these reasons public would also make the prosecution of this war more problematic, and the last thing we need is more soldiers dying in Iraq.

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