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Fighting a second, open-ended war in Iraq
(The Daily Star, 03 October 2003)
A key development in US policy toward Iraq has occurred in recent days, signifying the beginning of an open-ended commitment to remain in Iraq at a time when the central US objectives for going to war have been achieved and a growing number of Americans are questioning the American presence there. . . . Until recently the objectives driving US policy were fairly clear, limited and quantifiable. The administration of President George W. Bush intended to depose former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, locate and destroy Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction and install a democratic successor in Baghdad. Such goals were not above controversy, particularly the latter one given Iraq’s tumultuous political history. Nevertheless, the success or failure of the policy agenda could be readily determined. . . . The war against Iraq, it seems, is actually two wars. The first one ­ against the former Baath regime ­ has been won. The second ­ a war against international Islamist terror ­ will be far more difficult, more costly in American lives and money and impossible to declare over anytime soon. The war against Saddam has seamlessly morphed into the main front of World War IV. . . . The ties between Saddam and Al-Qaeda were always marginal at best, never so intimate to suggest that Iraq was the Times Square of international terror. Yet to listen to Washington, that is just what the country has become. Since the victory against Saddam, we are now told, Iraq has been transformed into the key battleground against Islamist terror. Iraq, it is said, is to the US mainland what the West Bank is to Israel. It is preferable to engage the enemy on foreign soil than in the heartland. Better Baghdad than Des Moines. . . . Young men anxious for jihad are streaming into Iraq across borders the US Army, engaged in other pursuits, has chosen not to secure. Their numbers are more reliably put at some hundreds at the most. But for leaders looking for a politically correct explanation of why many Iraqis are growing tired of the American presence and its insistent desire to run their country, and for an explanation as to why some are even taking up arms against American soldiers, invoking this amorphous, faceless and merciless enemy works quite nicely. . . . The war against terror now being conducted in Iraq has many advantages for those favoring a lengthy US occupation. Like the battle against communism, the war against terror has no single enemy, leader, or faction. It is, therefore, less problematic to identify those who oppose the US as emissaries of its worst enemy. Like the Cold War, it is a battle of wills, for which Americans must be prepared to sacrifice treasure and blood at home and abroad. The war will not be soon won, we are told. And when terror is the antagonist, cutting and running, as the US did in Lebanon and Somalia, is simply not an option. When it comes to Iraq, exit strategies are for wimps. . . . There is, however, one small problem with the package being prepared by the Bush administration. Washington’s view of Iraq reflects a triumph of ideology over reality. It paints a picture that obscures rather than clarifies the challenges and dangers that continuing occupation poses. A long road of blood and tears will be traveled before this sober truth is appreciated.

posted by Lorenzo 8:22 PM

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