THE NEW WORLD SCENE EMERGING FROM THE
20 March 2007
by John Pedler, (Diplomatic Consultant, former British diplomat)
[comments welcome to: email@example.com ]
This remains one of our basic papers - 2 Sept 2008
"The Pax Americana is over...The real question is not whether
“I kind of think that the decisions taken in the next few weeks will determine the rest of the world for years to come.”
UK Prime Minister Tony Blair to President G.W. Bush, 20 March 2003 as the Iraq war began. As quoted in Plan of Attack, Bob Woodward, p 399.
This essay for the general reader is in response to our correspondents who have asked us for a summary of the why of the Iraq war and its global consequences. This is because ‘sound bites’ and op-ed articles etc. cannot summarise the whole picture, and also because so much of the media in the
US and the UK has been ‘dumbed down’ for both profitability and right wing political reasons. So, many of those involved in politics, business, NGOs, and the media itself – as well, of course, ordinary voters – want, without or before going to expert sources, better to understand the long thought out neo-conservative foreign policy, much of which President George W. Bush has put in action, why that led to disaster, and what is the effect on the now already altered world scene.
Our note in September 2002 (when it became clear that meagre US &
Before sketching the reverberations of ‘
One of the most striking things about the
Yet these representatives had access to all the information we on the outside possessed, and the right to demand very much more. More determined, some well-organised questioning of key political and career individuals before the war would have revealed both the glaring defects in planning (a leading UK complaint), the gross distortion of the intelligence (see now esp. John Prados, Hoodwinked, 2004), and the likely grave world-wide consequences of an 'unapproved' invasion (Mr. Powell and key aides).
Downing Street even massaged the legal advice to obtain an opinion that the war would be legal. Had the two governments’ culpability been demonstrated, the voting could have been very different.
Neither party even demanded clarification of the reasons for invading and occupying
Iraq, and the advantages supposed to result. Yet the media were persistent in suggesting that the official reasons - the alleged immediate danger of Saddam's WMD, the possibility of him supplying al-Qaeda, and the need to end his tyrannical regime - were not the only ones.
There were also, readily available to the elected representatives, a host of warnings from an array of distinguished outside specialists about the likely problems that would have to be faced both within
Iraq and on the world stage. Perhaps the most eminent was Mr. Brent Scowcroft, who had served as security adviser to Republican presidents since Nixon: he warned on TV on 4 August 2002, that an invasion “could turn the whole region into a cauldron and, thus, destroy ‘the war on terrorism’ (cited John Prados, op. cit., p 1). Note that almost all of the expert warnings against the war were given by those who did accept that Iraq did possess significant biological and chemical weapons.
There were exceptions, notably the late Robin Cook, former UK Foreign Secretary in his resignation speech as a Cabinet Minister on
17 March 2003 whose plea for multilateralism reverberates today. Senators Feingold, Graham, and others strove to preserve priority for the "war on terror". And Republican Senator Chuck Hagel (who voted war powers, hoping they would be used with prudence) made a remarkably prescient speech on 30 September 2002 at the Eisenhower Institute – insisting that Iraq not “be viewed in a vacuum”, but required a multilateral “comprehensive strategy for peace” including moves to resolve the Israel/Palestine problem, maintaining the priority for Afghanistan, and other vital requirements - all of which, as we see below, were jettisoned.
So, ironically, the missionary zeal to spread democracy coincided with a major failure of the duty of opposition - that is of democracy - in the invaders' home countries.
2. NEED FOR US &
Equally striking, both the Democrats in the 2004 Presidential election, and the Conservatives in the 2005 General Election failed to take advantage in their campaigns of President Bush's and Mr. Blair's gross misjudgements over Iraq. Senator Kerry, as Democratic candidate for the presidency in 2004, never made a major statesmanlike speech on Iraq and the resultant world situation - he chose to campaign largely on domestic issues. Mr. Michael Howard, the Conservative leader in 2005, went so far as to confirm that he would still have voted for war even if he had known the results!
This was partly because both candidates and both their parties had voted too readily to give war powers to the leaders, and partly because of the general failure to comprehend the damage already done by '
So it is essential that US and UK politicians, and US and UK electorates, now urgently grasp the totality of the damage to Western interests caused by the 'blunder' (the word attributed to Mr. Al Gore) of the Iraq war and to use that understanding in their forthcoming campaigns. For this it is important first to understand the genesis of the war.
We still know little for sure about Prime Minister Blair's motivation beyond his conviction that
Specifically, Mr. Bush did not heed Mr. Blair's and
Had Mr. Blair used Britain's trump card - withholding British military participation unless there were a second UN Resolution, or the invasion were delayed by some six months, he might well have won international recognition and influence as the statesman of world class so badly needed today. (Polls showed that a majority of Americans did not relish a war without
As for President Bush - it is not hard to see why he was beguiled by his suite of neo-conservative advisers, primarily of course, Vice President Cheney and his Defence Secretary Mr. Rumsfeld (also notably his then Deputy, Mr. Paul Wolfowitz) and their, at first sight, plausible scenario. The neo-conservatives, theoreticians for pre-emptive war, had for years urged the removal of Saddam Hussein in order to forward US interests in the
Middle East - and beyond. The '9/11' attacks provided the opportunity to invade Iraq - not because Saddam was believed to be behind them (an unjustified claim touted by Mr. Cheney that was perhaps critical in persuading a majority of Americans to back war) but because it was, as they saw it, the key move for the US in the world game. Neo-conservative thinking is revealed notably in their Project for a New American Century and in the classified Defense Planning Guidance leaked to the New York Times in 1992 (drafted by a protege of Mr. Wolfowitz, Dr. Zalmay Khalilzad, the neo-conservative Afghanistan-born US Ambassador to Iraq, and previously to Afghanistan. A more recent precis is From Containment to Global Leadership, also by Dr. Khalilzad). Piecing together neo-conservative thinking:-
A quick war, which certainly would be welcomed by most Iraqis, would not simply end any threat from Saddam's WMD (which the CIA had anyway assessed as slight), but would put the United States into the heart of the Middle East, both militarily (with bases in Iraq), and politically. The
U.S. could then start a shift towards American style secular democracy thoughout the region by establishing a successful democratic Iraq. As importantly, a friendly oil-rich Iraq would reduce dependence on ever less dependable Saudi Arabia (whose fundamentalist Wahabism had spawned al-Qaeda led by the Saudi, Osama bin Laden). And such a success in Iraq could be a magnet pulling Saudi Arabia (with its increasingly fragile monarchy) - and even all of Islam - towards democratic evolution and away from Wahabism, al-Qaeda, confrontation, and chaos. A thriving Iraq would at the same time encourage success in Afghanistan.
Also, with American forces in
The neo-conservatives, aware that American power had been leaking away since the fall of Saigon - and this despite the collapse of the Soviet Union (essentially due to its own house of cards structure) - believed that a brilliant manoeuvre, such as the occupation of Iraq, would plug that leak,
restore prestige, and guarantee the
Thus the neo-conservative doctrine of pre-emptive war would have been vindicated and a powerful message sent to all potential enemies of the
US. And particularly to the two remaining members of President Bush's "axis of evil" - North Korea and Iran, also pretenders to nuclear power status. It would be 'one down and two to go'. Non-proliferation would be saved.
All of this would amount to a severe set-back for al-Qaeda. It would be a major victory, even quite likely the decisive victory, in the 'war on terror'. In other words - the invasion of Iraq would not be an unnecessary and disastrous diversion from the 'war on terror' as the critics claimed, but on the contrary, a strategic shift of theatre away from isolated Afghanistan and home security (i.e. uncertain reliance on 'goal-keeping') - neither of which could bring any quick and dramatic success over al-Qaeda and its progeny. In December 2002, President Bush, asked if there were a strategy to counter the growth of Islamic extremism, is reported to have replied ‘that victory in Iraq would take care of that’ (James Risen, State of War p 171). This was to be an elective shift towards the Islamic homeland, at once protecting
So this bold stroke against al-Qaeda, would amount to a master move to strengthen the United States' hegemonic position world-wide, ensuring that the 21st century, like the latter part of the 20th century, would be America's: a uni-polar world. All
Indeed a most beguiling package! And it is no wonder that a President who admitted to little international experience, but saw ‘democracy’ as a panacea, (apparently more enthusiastically after reading The Case for Democracy by the Israeli politician Natan Sharansky) accepted much of this neo-conservative vision when offered by the two neo-conservative leaders he had chosen as his principal external affairs advisers.
4. FUNDAMENTAL WEAKNESSES OF THE NEO-CON PLAN
i) Success for this bold plan clearly depended above all on correct and exhaustive planning for a swift transfer of power to a new Iraqi government, one which would very soon prove stable and ready to play its part in the grand design.
a) Any significant delay or miscalculation leading to widespread opposition to the occupation which the nay-sayers had warned of, would risk another '
b) To prevent Iraqi society splitting ethnically and confessionally between Kurds, Sunnis and Shi'ites there was general acceptance by experts that there would need to be a secular government, as was Saddam's. That implied keeping the state structure - army, police, and administration intact, though removing the worst elements in Saddam's secular though odious Ba'ath regime and greatly increasing Shi'ite (and Kurd, etc.) participation in each. In sum, a swift, smooth, transfer of power and a quick exit could only be achieved by preserving and building on
c) To do this required providing adequate forces trained in occupation and police duties i) to prevent civil unrest, ii) and to reduce that risk by ensuring security for the rapid restoration of Iraq's public services and economy to pre-Gulf War levels, iii) to continue Saddam's controls on al-Qaeda, preventing it from infiltrating Iraq in an attempt to wreck the grand plan which threatened to prove its nemesis. In other words, carrying a truly big stick but being able to use it with restraint because of generous and effective use of the carrot. Thus the popularity of the occupation and of the successor regime would be maintained.
But, quite remarkably, there was no such detailed planning - even though the British government and the State Department (e.g. its Future of
ii) Such a bold plan would be unlikely to succeed unless it enjoyed both the widest possible international backing and specialist support from the UN and Arab countries. For the
But, while virtually all countries have a major interest in a stable, friendly
The fact was that as the grand plan was designed to help ensure that 'Second American Century', the neo-conservatives did not want major foreign participation which diluted American overall control. So this requirement too, was not met.
iii). The plan contained another contradiction: throughout the Cold War the
The authors of the grand plan were clearly betting on
America's appeal not only in Iraq (although a non-Islamic occupying power) but in staid, tradition-bound, ill-educated, societies where religious intolerance and pervasive anti-imperialism hold sway.
CIA and State Department warnings against counting on a lasting welcome, of the likelihood of armed opposition, and of the possibly insuperable difficulties in creating a stable, friendly
Clearly the whole operation was very high risk - regional experts might well have put the odds at over 10 to 1 against. The world now sees the outcome of President Bush's and Prime Minister Blair's gamble which was described by Clare Short, who eventually resigned as a UK Cabinet Minister, as 'reckless'.
Reckless indeed: In parallel with John Prados, Mr. Paul Pillar, National Intelligence Officer for the Near East and South Asia 2000-2005 has now filled in (Foreign Affairs, March/April 2006) many of the details of how the intelligence was ‘cooked’, how the White House - notably Vice President Cheney - brow beat the professionals (see also James Risen, State of War) to produce something, anything, to back its public assertions that Saddam was in some way involved in 9/11; and how - although it had already been totally discredited - the President's 2003 State of the Union address came to include the charge that Saddam was purchasing uranium in Africa in order to give some semblance to the otherwise unbacked casus belli claim that Iraq was near to producing 'nukes'. As to the lack of planning: Mr. Pillar also reveals that, as coordinator of all intelligence regarding
The Neo-Con weaknesses become apparent: the fundamental contradiction between America's lack of ‘soft’ and ‘hard’ resources to achieve the grand design by itself, and the neo-conservatives' opposition to exchanging the planned American dominance for essential international support and approval to rectify this, was resolved by accepting the far greater risks of 'going it alone' as quickly as possible with significant military support only from the UK. Hence the 'rush to war' in March 2003 - the newly returned UN weapons inspectors had absolutely not to be allowed time to demonstrate that
But the lack of 'post-Saddam' planning was immediately apparent. As General Shinseki, the outgoing Chief of the US Army Staff, had famously warned before the invasion, the Rumsfeld slim 'blitzkrieg' force designed quickly to unseat Saddam proved grossly insufficient for the occupation. The initial welcome for the end of tyranny - so important for the plan to succeed - had soon been dispelled after civil order in
Baghdad had straightway broken down in looting. Mr. L. Paul Bremer III, then President Bush's 'viceroy' in Iraq from May 2003 complained that far more troops were needed. Bremer had replaced General Jay Garner who lasted less than a month - partly for having opposed enforced privatisation. Bremer lasted a year. Ambassador Negroponte was appointed to succeed Bremer in April 2004. He too, lasted a year, being replaced by Dr. Khalilzad - appointed US ambassador on 21 June 2005. Although a neo-conservative ideologue Dr, Khalilzad has proved pragmatic and regret has been voiced that he, the first choice, was passed over and arrived too late to rectify errors. Like the others, he too, complained of the astonishing lack of pre-war planning.
There had not even been sufficient troops either to secure arms dumps (to prevent their use by pro-Saddam or al-Qaeda insurgents) or mass graves (needed as evidence if Saddam's guilt was to be established to prevent his being later presented as a martyr. As of today his trial is in disarray). Frontier control also suffered severely from lack of man power: efficiently repressed by Saddam, al-Qaeda could now infiltrate those circles opposed to the occupation.
In the confusion the Iraqi army, police, intelligence, and even administrative structures were melting away. No decision had been taken to maintain and pay for them as was essential to the grand plan's swift transfer of a functioning
Iraq to a lay successor government. As Major General Paul Eaton, tardily made responsible for rebuilding an Iraqi Army, has complained, for lack of planning a year was lost before this obviously top priority task got under way. Worse, the Pentagon, which had been left responsible for organising the political handover (apparently because the neo-conservatives did not have the same influence over the State Department) had not chosen a preferred succession or how to impose one. "We'll find out about that out when we get there", was one quote. But, with the quick end of the honeymoon, there was no time for that.
In this vacuum of US dithering from the President down, Saddam's secular state disintegrated - as predicted - on sectarian lines into Sunnis and Shi'ites (with subsidiary feuding among the latter) all struggling to grab as much as possible of the power Saddam had so recently enjoyed. Not to mention the Kurds and other ethnic groups staking out their claims. Mr. Bremer stood down an already largely phantom army, so ending hopes of employment for the large reservoir of armed, unemployed, disgruntled men open to recruitment by anyone. By then the insurrection - or rather insurrections - were well under way, fanned by al-Qaeda and co. Whatever the aims of other insurgents, al-Qaeda and its associates have taken the lead in largely isolating Iraq - driving out the UN, some foreign embassies, and making it all but impossible for NGOs and reconstruction workers to get on with their tasks. All this has vastly increased Iraqi resentment of the occupation.
So, instead of putting the US into the centre of the Middle East and strangling al-Qaeda support through a successful 'democratisation' of Iraq, thus bringing victory in the 'war on terror' (or ‘the struggle against violent extremism’) within reach, the inherent weaknesses of the plan led to the opposite - such dramatic insecurity in Iraq as to enable al-Qaeda readily to infilitrate the centre of its own Arab homeland. And to carry on its war there against both the
Partly because the grand plan was not capable of being realised as an all but entirely American undertaking, partly because of the lack of planning for the handover to a successor government, and partly because - to get it accepted politically - the invasion had had to be presented to Congress as requiring few troops and but modest expense, the American people is far from supportive of Mr. Rumsfeld’s long haul to ensure even an acceptable minimum of success - a demonstrably stable and not unfriendly Iraqi regime. As of now, this still remains a mirage with the appointment as Prime Minister designate of Mr. Ibrahim Jaafery, the outgoing caretaker moderate, but who has now become dependent for his position on the extremist cleric Moktada al Sadr and his ‘Mahdi Army’ which fought the Americans. Al Sadr is tipped by some as ‘the dictator in waiting’.
But it is not even so simple as that: there is a complicating factor. Has defective planning coupled with gross disrespect for international norms (Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, Bagram, 'extraordinary rendition' etc.) helped to bring about so great an antipathy not only in Iraq but thoughout Islamic circles, that the American presence itself is working against such a minimum of success, as increasing numbers believe in both Republican and Democrat circles? If so, what should be done about drawing down American forces when no other powers are either prepared or able to help pull
At the time of writing (March 2008) the security situation appears worse than ever. Oil production has fallen below what it was in Saddam's last years. An army of mercenaries has been unable to provide sufficient security for technical workers to get on with reconstruction - fuelling discontent at the failure after nearly 3 years to restore electricity, water, sewage etc. Crime too, is undermining normal life for Iraqis, particularly extortion by kidnap. Worst of all is the slide towards civil war.
In sum, now that the grand plan appears utterly to have failed, a restive
5. WHAT DID AL-QAEDA EXPECT FROM '9/11'?
Curiously there is no reliable information available about what al-Qaeda expected from the attacks on
Al Qaeda's leaders surely must have anticipated determined military action by the
Which begs the question - did Osama bin Laden and his closest associates calculate that their attacks on
New York and Washington would prove the detonator that set off an invasion of Iraq? They may not have known of reports that when President Clinton handed over to George W. Bush in January 2001, the former put al-Qaeda as the No.1 threat to US security, while the latter cited Iraq. But they must have known of the long standing neo-conservative arguments that replacing Saddam would bring great strategic benefit to the US in the Middle East - and that, with neo-conservatives surrounding the new President, it might not take much to provoke an invasion.
Al-Qaeda was in the business of crippling the second, and only remaining, superpower with the ultimate aim of dominating the Muslim, or at least the Arab world – even perhaps, ‘restoring the Caliphate’. Its leaders believed that their part in the Afghan struggle against the Soviet superpower had led to, or at least hastened, its demise.
Vietnam had shown them that even the United States could be defeated militarily. And, since the fall of Saigon, the US had withdrawn from Somalia and Lebanon after the loss of a handful of soldiers. So how long would the US stay in Afghanistan - how long in Iraq? Al-Qaeda knew the Middle East far more intimately than the Americans so it must have shared the assessment of all those experts (notably Mr. Powell in his reported critical tête à tête with President Bush) who warned of those dire consequences, not only in Iraq but world-wide, of an occupation - dire consequences al-Qaeda was well-placed to exploit.
Indeed, by the autumn of 2002 pundits (including he writes: see letter to The Independent, 10 Sept. 2002) were pointing out that nothing was likely to help al-Qaeda more than an 'unapproved' American invasion of Iraq. For al-Qaeda, it was not just set-backs to the
US in the Middle East that would help it, but set-backs world-wide. For every set-back the US suffered on the world scene would be a gain in al-Qaeda's monumental task of clipping the American eagle's wings and gaining control of the Middle East and its oil for its extreme Wahabist version of Islam based in Saudi Arabia.
Finally, bin Laden and his closest associates must presumably have made contingency plans for their own flight from
Afghanistan - whether to exile in Waziristan or elsewhere. They must have known the great risks they were running. But, in the aftermath of '9/11' how far did they count on al-Qaeda's inner group being able to continue organising major terrorist operations - especially if Osama himself does indeed suffer serious health problems? Or did they assess that the torch of terrorism had already been successfully passed on to the many they have trained in their camps over the years? Are there one or more master groups capable of the overall strategic assessments and detailed planning for major terrorist acts with little, or even no, direction from Osama's original core group.
Indeed, al-Qaeda's interests in
Iraq – provoking civil war, reputedly under Musad Al Zarqawi (and to a lesser extent in the London and Madrid bombings) do seem to have been successfully pursued by lieutenants acting almost entirely, even entirely, on their own initiative. We do not know how far the al-Qaeda core command, or its quasi-autonomous associates (‘al Qaeda & co.’) - is in a position to organise a truly disastrous act of terrorism - say, using nuclear material.
Indeed, al-Qaeda's interests in
Or were the al-Qaeda fanatics no better at forward and contingency planning than the ideologues in the Bush Administration? The al-Qaeda ‘Harmony’ database papers published by the Pentagon suggest that organisation too, may have made serious mistakes in planning – particularly over the escape from
Afghanistan - and only been saved by ‘ Iraq’.
THE WORLD WIDE REPERCUSSIONS OF 'We can now sketch some of the most important worldwide repercussions of the neo-conservative policies which have not only aided al-Qaeda and co. and seriously set back the 'war on terror', but, quite as importantly, weakened not only the US but also the West as a whole, and all those who rely on the United States and the West to help preserve and forward their interests. As will be seen, taken together these repercussions have radically altered the international outlook.
Looking first at some Islamic countries, beginning with Afghanistan and including Israel/Palestine, both keys to success against al-Qaeda & co. but both neglected in favour of
it was widely agreed by strategists both within and outside governments that the first response to '9/11' should be for the Afghanistan - unfinished business: US to gain the support of the international community to overthrow the Taliban and crush al-Qaeda or at least to deny it use of a sovereign state. Then to prevent it reverting as a harbour for terrorism. That implied, with the help of all willing powers, providing the personnel, expertise, and funding to reconstruct . Afghanistan politically and economically as an example for other Islamic countries This would further isolate al-Qaeda after '9/11' which almost all governments had condemned and which Muslims world-wide had greeted not with applause but rather with condemnation or shocked silence - a few Saudi clerics notably excepted.
President Bush acted with commendable deliberation, first gathering the truly remarkable world wide support acclaimed by Mr. Cook, and then - notably with British help - staging a tactically challenging invasion.
But with pacification far from complete, with the al-Qaeda leaders still being sought, and with reconstruction barely started, Mr. Bush turned his attention to
US officers in the field lamenting the failure to capture Osama bin Laden (the prime reason for invading Afghanistan) declared that they believed he could have been taken in the Tora Bora area as he escaped if preparations for 'Iraq' had not prevented the deployment of sufficient US troops.
More serious still was the White House failure to ensure sufficient funds (from the
Already by the end of 2002 the State Department's Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) was insisting that the
Afghanistan opium crop had to be dealt with immediately while the number of farmers, processors, and those corrupted were still comparatively limited. This required sensitive policy making to avoid unneccessary hostility. There needed to be a feared and effective stick capable of dealing with the violent response of powerful profiteers to the destruction of processing facilities. But success depended on devoting sufficient resources to get the economy going sufficiently for Afghanistan to be weaned from dependence on opium. Alternative livelihood, not spraying and compensation (the US nostrum) is now seen as the answer.
And that means major targetted investment, experts and training and well as extra ground forces to assist the expansion of the power of the
It was only at the end of 2004 that Mr. Powell was able personally to brief President Bush, who agreed that opium growing had to be stopped to prevent the narco-destabilisation of
With the deterioration of security, and the failure of the occupation to bring much prosperity (except to 'narco-beneficiaries'), the initial encouraging return of Afghan refugees is partially in reverse. Some are going back to
Now, with the
US army overstretched and with increasing public pressure for troop withdawal from both occupied countries, some US forces are being drawn down in Afghanistan. Those NATO countries which early on had readily volunteered to help peacekeeping, but which are now dismayed by the reversal of American fortunes, are being pressed, reluctantly, to reinforce their troops to take over from US forces what is becoming not peace-keeping but a second pacification of the southern provinces. Observers there suggest that growing Taliban de facto control cannot be reversed by the still puny Nato contingents even if Europe proves to have the political will to keep them in the line of fire. After three years of inaction, NATO is being expected to tackle opium to prevent the country becoming the 'narco-state' the INL warned about.
In sum, all but incredibly, the White House, fixated on '
Iraq', failed to learn the lesson from US abandonment of Afghanistan after the Soviet withdrawal which led to the Taliban government and the haven it gave to Osama bin Laden after his ejection from Sudan. Leaving unfinished (or rather, barely begun) business in Afghanistan in favour of his elective war in Iraq, President Bush finds that the ghost of defeat already hangs over what was his brilliant victory.
There are though, some indications now that significant
US withdrawal from Iraq may enable military and financial reinforcement in Afghanistan in an attempt to ensure that at least this intervention orginally, and rightly, considered so essential against al-Qaeda, does prove a success.
Internationally, as a result of the neglect of Afghanistan because of the Iraq war, many Muslims now lump Afghanistan together with Iraq as US occupied territories, along with Palestine occupied by Israel, and Chechnya 'victim of Russian Imperialism'. This perception has much increased al-Qaeda & co.'s ability to recruit the susceptible worldwide.
2. Palestine/Israel: victory for Hamas: it was also widely agreed that, in tandem with the occupation of Afghanistan, the immediate response to '9/11' should be to deny al-Qaeda & co. the prime source of the prestige and the recruitment potential it enjoyed among disaffected young Muslims as a result of the widespread resentment felt by so many - non-Muslims too - at the conditions of the Palestinians under Israeli occupation.
That meant mobilising the wide support
Failure to get total success on a first round would not greatly have mattered - the world would have seen that
The support for the
Israel scored an 'own goal' by assiduously backing the neo-conservative rush to war - through the Israel lobby in the US, and through regular Mossad (Israel's secret service) visits to Washington, notably to the Pentagon and its neo-conservatives at the top.
The Iraq war's resultant boost for Islamic extremism, anti-Americanism, anti Israeli (even anti-Semitism) and terror, plus the Bush Administration's failure to do anything practical about the terror-engendering conditions in occupied Palestine explain the not really so 'surprising' victory of Hamas in the January 2006 elections.
Had there been no '
The West now has to decide how to handle Hamas, set up in 1988 by the military wing of Eygpt's Muslim Brotherhood largely to wage terror against
National terrorism usually reflects very real discontent which often can be remedied alongside pacifiation (Malaya in the 1950's is an example). And terrorists can often either be sidelined or got to come out of the cold into politics. International pressures - sticks and carrots - can be applied to encourage such developments. Formally abandoning terrorism and decomissioning weapons and personnel is the last step to be expected, because retaining terrorist capability is the main card such organisations hold when negotiating with a government with its forces of repression. In the case of Hamas, the second to last card to lay down is the formal recognition of the state of
For the United States the question is whether it puts the interests of the US first - the struggle against al-Qaeda, and US relations with Islam and the Arab world - or will it continue to put first what Israel claims, rightly or wrongly, are its interests?
Hamas' terrorism is confined to the
The choice for Hamas is to exploit its present popularity and get the best possible deal for the establishment of a Palestinian state, or forcibly to repress the inevitable dissent inherent in a ‘theological’ decision to carry on its terrorist campaign - and lose its independence by being forced to rely on say,
So, given sufficient priority, patience, flexibility and good diplomacy from outside, Hamas is, on the face of it, an organisation which could respond positively. But not only Hamas, but the
Then came the invasion of
The Shia majority in
Iraq, though Arab, not Persian, gave Shia Iran a unique chance to emerge, if skilfully handled, as the major influence in the 'democratic' state the US neo-conservatives were trying so unskilfully to build. American errors had conveniently ended secular government, bringing a largely confessional interim government dominated by a Shia majority. Al-Qaeda's suicide bombing support for Sunni insurgents helped create chaotic conditions initially favouring Iranian influence, but is now hampering the establishment of Iran's vision of a stable satellite clerical Iraq.
The genuine threat
n the new charged situation of both
This seems to have surprised some at least among the leaders of the regime who apparently believed that the election had been rigged (by throwing out reformist candidates) to ensure the return of the worldly wise but corrupt President Rafsanjani so adept at manipulating the West to Iran's benefit. (He did just manage to win most votes in the first round, but got less than 2/3 in the run off . The largely unknown Ahmedinajad won with the votes of only about one third of the electorate, partly because of the protest vote against his well known but mistrusted opponent). Some observers question whether the Supreme Leader and the Guardian Council, mostly cynics who run the Islamic Republic to their advantage, can maintain their control, or whether Ahmedinajad and his zealots will exploit their divisions and come to dominate policy, and perhaps provoke a power struggle.
For the time being though, Iran is pursuing a skilful policy of confronting a weakened West over its nuclear policies, while at the same time striking oil and gas deals with, and winning support in India, China, and South East Asia.
Still unanswered, is whether
Equally unanswered - will President Bush succumb to the Vietnam-style popular build up for immediate troop withdrawal, thereby abandoning even the minimum requirement of leaving a stable (albeit none-too friendly Iraq) or, after the US elections, will he use his then two remaining years of power in an attempt to rescue at least that much from the neo-conservatives' dream – and perhaps in the process do something to rescue Iraq from Iran?
To consider briefly
Turkey and some Arab states:-
despite intense pressure and a reported Turkey: US bribe of some $11bn, Turkey's new moderate Islamic government and its ever vigilant, fiercely secular, military both wisely refused to support the war on Iraq. But Turkey could not escape the fallout from the invasion. Prime Minister Erdogan - who, though leading a confessional party, famously promised "not to impose Islam on anyone" and gave as a priority Turkey's adhesion to the European Union - is faced with a recrudescence of the religious intolerance endemic in Turkey. This too, stems from ' Iraq', and from the 'clash of civilisations' exemplified by the furore over the Danish cartoons. (These are, for example, the two reasons the suspect is reported to have given for murdering Andrea Santoro, a Catholic priest).
But 'Iraq' has led to the deterioration of relations between the West and Islam, Europe's much enhanced fear of Islam, and the resultant massive growth of anti-Americanism in a once loyal NATO member. All this has reduced the chances for another American aim:
Turkey's accession to the European Union. This should greatly have helped Turkish society on the road towards tolerance. If rejected by the EU, how will post ‘9/11’ Turkey respond - it was the imperial power over most Arab areas, and the last 'holder' of the Caliphate?
Turkey now waits to see whether
6. Saudi Arabia: as noted above, the prime aim of the neo-conservatives was to obtain US bases in Iraq and dote it with a stable friendly secular government thereby ensuring less dependence on Saudi oil, and at the same time giving the Saudi royal family a gentle lesson in how they should manage the evolution of the kingdom towards the norms of the developed world.
Instead, coalition intelligence suggests that al-Qaeda & co's arrival in
Saudi Arabia's strict Wahabism, an extreme interpretation of Islam, puts it in an ambivalent position between, on the one hand, Saudi Arabia's stability, its trillion dollar oil business and relations with the West, and on the other hand upholding, for Muslims to emulate, the kingdom's established religion. For years a significant portion of the world's payments for oil has gone to support Wahabist madrassas and other 'charitable' works, notably in
And the de rigeur Wahabist beliefs are not so big a mutation away from the jihadist beliefs of Osama bin Laden and the 15 Saudis out of the 19 who carried out ‘9/11’. Indeed, it appears that several well-off Saudis have been bankrolling al-Qaeda in much the same way as the 'Angels', a number of European capitalists, bankrolled Lenin and the Bolsheviks before the Russian revolution.
The arrival in the kingdom of al-Qaeda associated terror, and the post 'Iraq' escalation of tensions between the Muslim and the non-Muslim world has made Saudi Arabia's foot-in-both-camps stance one fraught with danger. Its elderly rulers have to confirm its leadership of Islam as protector of the Holy Places, yet counter both internal terrorism and the perception that the regime is enfeebled by its own brand of decadence - which is bin Laden's criticism.
Competition with Shi'ite Iran, reflecting the Sunni/Shia hostility in
7. Pakistan: first the invasion of Afghanistan; then of Iraq; and now the violent Islamic reactions to American abuses in Guntanamo, Abu Ghraib, Bagram, etc., and the Danish cartoons, have put America's ally, President Pervez Musharraf, onto a tightrope. His 1999 coup d'etat was at the expense of middle class democracy. He therefore relies for support on the army and disparate elements of the population including the northwest frontier tribes and religious extremists. Although
America's set back in
Given this degree of lax nuclear security, there has to be a fear that instability in
On top of this, President Bush's proposed special exception for India (but not for Pakistan) enabling the US to give it nuclear technology despite its nuclear weapons, (besides prejudicing the future of the Non-Proliferation Treaty) discriminates against Pakistan, the essential ally against al-Qaeda and for success in Afghanistan.
It was hard enough for General Musharraf to change horses and ride out the occupation of
8. Other North African and
In South East Asia, the governments of Indonesia, Malaysia, even of Buddhist Thailand and the mainly Catholic Phillipines - all of which backed the 'war on terror' - have to face stepped up Islamic extremism with the ‘post Iraq’ deterioration of relations between Islam and the West.
i) The European Union - wisely (though not always for the the best of reasons)
British protesters, with an unprecedented anti-war ‘march of the million’ through
The split in
ii) Russia: 'Iraq’ and America's resultant discomfiture, and Europe's increasing dependence on Russian (rather than Gulf) energy have given President Putin less need to pay attention to Western criticism, particularly of his moves increasing the power of the Kremlin. President Bush's inclusive definition of terrorism has hindered efforts to get
anyway inevitable emergence as a 'pole'. It enables
China, on a very large scale, is rent with a problem that the world faces - how far, and how, the extraordinary dynamic of free enterprise should be controlled or chanelled to ensure social justice, particularly the abolition of poverty and, as importantly, to ensure priority for internal and international environmental challenges. The outcome of the present version of the socialist/capitalist argument is likely to determine whether
American calls for
The ex-Maoist fast growing Chinese giant is on probation -
iv) Japan and North Korea: 'Iraq' has led to heart-searching in Japan given its fears of China with its nuclear arsenal and its greatly increased military budget, and also of a nuclear North Korea. Dependent since World War II on the American alliance, any weakening of
Had there been no '
Cashing in on the surge of anti-Americanism in
10. The blow to the UN & international cooperation: Since the end of World War I in 1918, led by the
The 'preventive war' against Iraq, of course, divided the UN Security Council anew - this time with the US and the UK on one side and France, Russia and China on the other - supported by many allied (notably Germany) and other interested countries. And, indeed, their peoples (among them, as noted,
'Iraq' has thus created a crisis for organised international cooperation which had been been slowly but surely developing, despite grievous setbacks, for the best part of a century.
This could prove the most serious undesirable side-effect of the
These and other titanic challenges obviously require an urgent, major, and sustained effort by all the powers greatly to improve the mechanisms for international cooperation in all areas.
As the world's wealthiest and most powerful nation, these are the problems
If nothing else, the plight of the unilateralist neo-conservatives should be teaching our
11. Limits of
Great empires and hegemonies have receded or collapsed in the past because their weaknesses have been exposed (e.g. US power revealed. Britain's by the Boer Wars). Far from increasing 'shock and awe' of America, ' . The Iraq' has revealed America's military and financial limitations for all to see US is overstretched in keeping upwards of 200,000 troops on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan. Because of ' Iraq', Army morale and readiness to sign on again has much diminished - to risk your life for a political mirage undermines discipline. Army recruitment is failing to meet targets. There can be no question of restoring the draft. ' Iraq lite' - few troops and low expense, and thus a low level of public engagement, has not worked.
The direct costs of the intervention in
More important still, all the powers - allies and others - have had to factor into their strategic outlook, a new assessment of the limits of American military and financial capabilities and the reasons for which they might be used. Nuclear power - unusable except by accident through dogmatic extremism - and air and sea power remain. But air power without terrestial back-up can often be counter-indicated. Today, for example, a pre-emptive air strike to deprive
The US has needlessly used up long term in Iraq its potential for swift ground intervention instead of keeping its 'army of intervention in being' both as a deterrent and for selective short term use.
Although more a matter of sea/air power,
It may well be that America's so called 'world hegemony', both political and military, reached its apogee with the remarkable passage 15-0 of Security Council Resolution 1441 on 8 November 2002 threatening "serious consequences" if Iraq did not declare and disarm its WMD, which led to the return of the UN weapons inspectors to Iraq. Some observers see the decline of
12. Anti-Americanism hampering the 'war on terror': To cite again Robin Cook about 'Iraq' on 17 March 2003: "Only a year ago, we and the United States were part of a coalition against terrorism that was wider and more diverse than I would ever have imagined possible. History will be astonished at the diplomatic miscalculations that led so quickly to the disintegration of that powerful coalition". Prescient, for '
Of course, almost all countries want the struggle against al-Qaeda and co. to succeed, and few indeed do not want
There is always scepticism about government statements, but the Bush regime has lost credibility internationally and at home through 'spin', deception, and outright falsehoods as it pursues the twin neo-conservative aims attempting to make permanent both American 'hegemony' abroad, and an increase in the power of the presidency in the US.
Mr. Rumsfeld now concedes that the
In many parts of the world, especially in
New faces at the top in the
13. Human Rights:
Prosecutions of low ranking soldiers for gross abuse of prisoners have faltered because of President Bush’s declaration in February 2002 that terrorist suspects would not be protected by the Geneva Conventions. This left a fog of uncertainty - as a lawyer for a soldier charged with abuse pleaded, "If the President of the
United States does not know what the rules are....how does the government expect this Pfc to know?"
The struggle for human rights was one that the
United States - despite grave shortcomings notably in Vietnam - used to lead along with Europe. But with the US Administration's policy on detention, interrogation, and extraordinary rendition as it is, there are suggestions, even in the West, that there is no place for the United States on the proposed new UN body to protect human rights (which indeed some human rights groups accuse Ambassador Bolton of trying to sabotage).
There is a tendency to underestimate the severity of the damage done, not only among Muslims but world wide, by the notorious photographs of torture and sexual degradation. Yet it is this, probably more than anything else, that has led to the 'silencing' of moderate Muslims from Morocco to Indonesia (and among Muslims within Europe) - many of them former friends of America. This revulsion against America - so recently looked up to for at least setting a standard of decency in contrast to the cruel practices of some Arab and other regimes - has increased the likelihood that where there is a move towards democracy in the Middle East, clerical regimes will emerge, rather than Western style secular governments.
In the Vietnam war we ourselves saw how the Americans swelled the ranks of their enemies by indiscriminate violence and their permissive attitude to torture. Little has been learned. US behavior since '9/11' has done much to create the antipathies that may now, together with American public opinion, force a dangerously premature withdrawal from Iraq.
In a word, it is ironic that
To quote Al Gore, "President Bush should apologise to all those men and women throughout our world who have held the ideal of the
United State of America as a shining goal to inspire their hopeful efforts to bring about justice under law in their own lands."
The aim of Al-Qaeda is not exactly known. It appears to be not only to install their intolerant, rigid form of 'jihadist' Islam in the Muslim countries and to unite them in a political bloc, but also to use elements in the Islamic diaspora as a means of dividing and weakening non-Muslim countries in the long term attempt to replace the hegemony of the United States with their own.
After years of training by al-Qaeda ('the base') of some thousands of Muslims both theologico-politically and in the techniques of terror, '9/11' was meant to kick-start this process, but as already remarked, al-Qaeda was initially all but isolated. Much Muslim opinion rallied behind the
It is too often forgotten that Al-Qaeda did not come out of nothing, but out of widespread resentment and feelings of impotence and frustration by Arab Muslims in particular at their civilisation being left behind, despite a brilliant past (from Europe's Dark Ages until the Renaissance) in the making of the modern world. Today, authoritarian rulers of Islamic countries, whether confessional or secular, have frequently encouraged this resentment to focus on the plight of the Palestinians and the perceived iniquities of
But, as already suggested, the neo-conservative ideologues, by persuading President Bush to take
For observers have remarked that in modern times, starting with the educated, Islam has been quietly going down (or returning to) the same road towards greater toleration that Christianity went down (or returned to) after the era of the Inquisition and the religious wars of the seventeenth century. But that, since '
Partly because the invasion was 'unapproved' (and so lacking in the expertise the UN, Arab allies, and other sources could have provided) and partly because the Pentagon was responsible for the political reconstruction (and the State Depatment and its Arabist experts banned for 'nay-saying'), the Islamic dimension of the Iraq problem hardly appears to have been considered. Yet the Islamic religion has, from its beginnings, always had a strong political and legal element complicating and at times negating attempts to install, or come to terms with, secular government. There was not only a lack of understanding of Islam, but a failure to recognise its crucial importance both militarily and politically for the occupation.
Much is said about how al-Qaeda has 'hijacked' Islam and how important it is for moderate Muslims to resist this. But, as already noted, after '
Iraq' and such gross American human rights abuses, it is difficult - even in some places dangerous - for moderates to speak up. With such pervading, and often irrational, fear of Islam in Europe and elsewhere since ' Iraq', non-Muslim scholars of Islam with the neccessary profound knowledge of classical Arabic hesitate before publishing parts of their work. Extremist Mullahs and Imams exploit these self-imposed gags.
To rectify Mr. Rumsfeld’s admission that the
US is failing in propaganda, requires considerable knowledge of Islamic theology. For al-Q'aeda's recruitment and its claim of Islamic rectitude in large part depends on the interpretations it puts on certain passages of the Qu'ran. And any encouragement of moderate Muslims to stand against extremism implies a knowledge of mainstream Islam and the alternative overall interpretation which promotes mysticism, personal moral perfection, honesty, and tolerance.
A much larger question, long discussed and much disputed among Muslims, is how far their 7th Century revelation should be, or is susceptible of being, interpreted to meet changing times. The fallout from '
So ignorance of comparative religion, and ignorance of history, plus religious 'certainty', and plain bigotry and ill-will, are pushing both sides - Muslims and non-Muslims - into confrontation. Just two examples: first, Muslims complain of the Crusades and past Western imperialism, while Christians have often forgotten that Christianity, also revealed to a Semitic people, also began as Middle Eastern religion and that it was the Arab invasions of the Middle East and what had been Roman North Africa that resulted in the centre of balance of Christianity settling in Europe for the best part of a millennium. Second, many Muslims complain of being treated as second class citizens in
Since tolerance usually begins among the educated and well-informed, clearly efforts to foster education are of great importance. And education alone can raise living standards – bigotry is usually the handmaid of poverty. But equally the prevailing Western relegation of theology and comparative religion to a rare 'God slot' in the media and in schooling, leads to the near total ignorance of the beliefs of others which are already directly affecting daily life in the West. Higher criticism – which, since the 18th century, has been applied to the Jewish and Christian texts to the benefit of believers – began in the mid 19th century (notably by German scholars) to be applied to the Qu'ran and the Hadith yielding useful insights. This needs to be followed up 'without fear or favour', difficult though this may be in the current atmosphere of fear and revenge.
In sum, 'Iraq', by poisoning an atmosphere already charged historically and theologically, has helped take us still further from the day when people will have not just the ‘right’, but the ability to choose without fear their religion or their 'world outlook' irrespective of the religion of their parents, their community, or their government.
We cannot conclude this sketch of the new world scene we now face without remarking that history may very well conclude that the most lasting and damaging legacy of George W. Bush's two terms at the White House had little to do with the Iraq war. Rather it was that those years were wasted because he failed to tackle the biggest threat to mankind - the calamity of an irreversible alteration of the climate. For, from his election, months before '9/11', President Bush has stubbornly refused to accept overwhelming scientific data demonstrating, all but certainly, the acceleration of the warming of the planet since the industrial age began in the 18th century. Yet
The reader will doubtless have formed conclusions of his or her own. Here are a few points that seem to us important:
1. ‘The War on Terror’: as predicted by so many, nothing could have helped al-Qaeda more than the ‘unapproved’
Iraq diversion. Instead of the best move for America, it has proved the worst. And the Bush Administration has made it even worse than it might have been through gross lack of planning and lack of adequate forces for the occupation, through excessive violence, through the President’s decision regarding the rights of detainees and the scarcely credible lack of discipline which led to the gross abuses and their publication. The neglect of Palestine/Israel and the unfinished business in Afghanistan, has led to two more foci for Islamic resentment (and for al-Qaeda & co. recruitment) in addition to Palestine and Chechnya: US occupied Iraq and Afghanistan. The rise of anti-Americanism (or ‘anti-Bushism’) and the growing ‘clash of civilisations’ have made intelligence cooperation, needed for the struggle against al-Qaeda and co., considerably more difficult. There is increased risk of unstable areas becoming available for use by al-Qaeda & co. for refuge and training purposes. Instability in Pakistan - which could prove extremely serious - is now more likely. We are all ‘much less safe’ as a result of ‘ Iraq’.
2. Weapons of mass destruction: with the inspectors back, and Iraq in 2002 in any case presenting no nuclear threat, North Korea – expert consensus insisted – presented a far more dangerous and immediate threat and should have been tackled first with the aid of the surrounding powers. The grave consequences of the
Iraq diversion for American power and prestige have much assisted the nuclear ambitions of both North Korea and Iran .
3. US pre-eminence: ‘
Iraq’ has moved the world further towards a ‘multi-polar’ world. The neo-conservative hope of the 21st century proving an American century like much of the 20th - never likely – has been dashed. America will long remain the world leader. And only a few would prefer any other. But, as our first quotation suggests, can America adapt to becoming the primus inter pares and lead towards grappling with the great problems mankind faces?
4. The European Union: with enlargement,
Europe is the world’s largest economic unit with a population of some 350 million and it, with the Euro, is increasingly recognised as such. But on the world stage it continues to wait on the United States. Pathetically unable to stamp on Serbian aggression at the outset (as Britain’s former leader Mrs Thatcher, urged), it waited on America to act after the damage had been done. Post ‘ Iraq’, which magnified Europe’s divisions, there is an urgent need for a far more unified foreign policy which need not wait on overcoming internal disunity. To be successful this will have to diverge in important particulars from American policies in an attempt to mitigate the damage done by ‘ Iraq’. But overall, Europe must surely always work towards becoming the other end of the transatlantic ‘dumbell’ – a co-partner with America, working together with, and forming policy with America, where the great issues are involved.
Iraq’ has shown that the UK is also not integrated into Europe, and felt – not just Mr. Blair but the Conservative Party too – that the UK must follow the US in great matters, even where there is much doubt. ‘ Iraq’ may now be bringing about a UK- Europe rapprochement in foreign policy. This must succeed if the European Union is to play its vital role on the new international scene.
5. The ‘clash of civilisations:
Europe, with its imperial past and considerable expertise in Arabic and Islamic affairs, has an important role to play in mitigating Islamic extremism. But it will not succeed unless it makes it clear that relations with Islam must be conducted on a basis of reciprocity.
And there is not just one ‘clash’ – there is the clash of economic interest between the developed and the developing world. Particularly of
Africa and Latin America. This notably requires adapting globalisation to ensure much greater equity. Here the EU as the biggest market, has a leading role to play.
6. Politics: certainly a new lot of faces will be needed before the
US (and the UK) can rebuild their standing following the blunder of Iraq. But the Democrats seeking to improve their position in Congress this autumn are still a long way from launching a withering criticism of the global disaster ‘ Iraq’ has brought on America. This is partly, if not largely, because to win votes, a well-thought out policy must be proffered along with criticism. But, for the opposition in the US and the UK, while ‘ Iraq’ offers such a target, it has dug a hole from which there is no clear way to clamber out. President Bush is now bringing in outside experts to seek the best way to re-organise the US role in Iraq to achieve the stability most of the world wants to see. The US and UK opposition need to do the same thing. For the Democrats there is very little time – campaigning will soon begin for this autumn’s elections. There is plenty on the home front on which to campaign – but to get some of those new faces, a positive stand on ‘ Iraq’ and the great foreign issues will surely have to be introduced.
United States, which so many still see as the world’s best hope, has in the past always risen to overcome its errors. Can it, in a new less congenial political climate, again produce the leadership and vision to do so once again?
20 March 2006