Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Depressing Iraq Curiosity

I'm very curious, in a despairing kind of way, where things can possibly go in Iraq. I don't see anything positive that seems very likely right now. Here are some facts that lead me to feel this way:

(1) The United States effectively lost the political struggle to control post-Hussein Iraq in April, by simultaneously provoking escalation of conflict with Sunni militants in Fallujah and setting off a chain of events that sparked armed struggle based in the Shia population. The military struggle rages on, but whatever goodwill was left in the non-Kurdish Iraqi people towards the U.S. occupiers was lost at this stage, and with it any chance of a U.S. political victory.

(2) The situation is, from the U.S. point of view, worse now, and getting worse still. And obviously that means that things must be unbelievably awful from the perspective of Iraqi civilians.

(3) In Vietnam, another occupation of a country in which the U.S. lost the political struggle early on but kept up a military fight for more than ten years, the U.S. killed two or three million Southeast Asians before they finally realized they had lost.

(4) Iraq matters to U.S. interests far more than Vietnam ever did. Vietnam was largely about the "threat of the good example" -- making it clear to peoples seeking liberation from colonialism that an economically isolated nationalist model or a Communist model was not going to be tolerated. Despite rhetoric about other dominoes falling at the time, the actual importance of losing Vietnam to the "red menace" was pretty marginal. The long-term presence of U.S. troops in Iraq, however, is crucial to the control of Middle Eastern oil, an absolutely vital element in the competition between the U.S. and the other major economic powers in the world (Europe, Japan, China). This is more true than ever before, given that the world has already or will soon reach peak oil production, and in the coming decades availability will go down and the price will go up, which will have all kinds of implications for the world's political economy.

So what's going to happen? What they'd like, I'm sure, is for the Iraqi resistance to be pacified and U.S. media/public attention to turn elsewhere, so that Iyad Illawi can go about his assignment of turning Iraq into a country that is stable, undemocratic in any meaningful sense, and slavishly devoted to U.S. geostrategic interests and to neoliberal economics. What many peace and anti-occupation activists would like is for the U.S. to pull out tomorrow and to figure out some way to pay huge sums of money to the Iraqi people for many years to come to at least try and make ammends for the more than a million deaths caused by two wars and a decade of sanctions.

I don't see either of these happening any time soon. The occupation cannot (thankfully) win politically and the resistance can't win militarily. So what will happen?

A lot of dead civilians. An increase in power for fundamentalists and reactionaries on both sides. Anything else?


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