Sunday, May 29, 2005

Spiraling Ironies in Iraq

All American government employs theatrical techniques to promote its policies, but theatrical gesturing is the main point of the Bush administration. So, the Bush administration has made the Global War on Terror the top item in its self-promotion, but have not filled many of the top counter-terrorism slots in their administration. Because the main point of terrorism policy is dramatic footage of Condoleeza Rice in Iraq, counter-terrorism administrators are unnecessary. Besides, if you don't appoint people like Richard Clarke, they won't write critical books after they quit in disgust.

The new Iraqi government has put 40,000 troops out on the streets of Baghdad and they have a funky name for the initiative--"Operation Lightning." However, the Iraqi government expects insurgent violence to INCREASE rather than decrease during the operation. Why? Of course, they don't want bad publicity if the operation doesn't succeed. However, there is a logic by which the increased presence of police forces actually spurs the insurgency. The Iraqis and their American backers hope to prevent suicide bombers from driving to their targets, but forty-thousand troops manning checkpoints provides forty thousand new, stationary, and therefore very tempting targets for the insurgents. Insurgent violence will increase because the checkpoints will make their job easier.

The stated purpose of the invasion of Iraq was to undercut militant Islam in places like Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, and Pakistan. The utopian idea was that the invasion of Iraq would create a secular democracy in Iraq and provide the U. S. with a jumping off point for pressuring the other Arab and Islamic countries into becoming secular democracies. Of course, the only part of this that worked out was the overthrow of the Saddam regime. Not only are the broader aims not going to be accomplished, but the American occupation is producing the opposite effect. Far from being a secular democracy, the Iraq government is dominated by the Shiite religious parties and will probably evolve into some kind of Iranian influenced theocracy. As one Iraqi government official noted a couple of weeks ago, Iraq is becoming a huge mosque. Likewise, far from pressuring the other Arab and Islamic countries in the region, American troops have been pinned down by the insurgency. Neo-cons dream of invading other countries, but what troops would we have to fight the subsequent insurgencies in Syria and Iran. Finally, the occupation of Iran is creating the conditions for the future expansion of global terrorism. After Abu Ghraib, the street sweeps of "men of military age," and bombing several weddings, the U. S. has lost what little credibility it ever had on the Arab street. Moreover, the Iraq insurgency has become a training ground for jihadis all over the Arab world and Europe. The Washington Post reports today that the re-circulation of Islamic fighters back from Iraq to their home countries will increase the dangers of terrorism everywhere.

Maybe the Bush administration should make those counter-terrorism appointments after all.


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