Iraq, Orwell, and American Foreign Policy
January 9, 2014
Here is a quote from an article in the NY Times from today:
“Critics complain that Mr. Obama squandered the military success achieved by President George W. Bush’s 2007 troop “surge” and should have done more to persuade Baghdad to accept a residual American force beyond 2011. They say he should have been more active in restraining Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, whose Shiite leadership has alienated many Sunnis, fueling the latest uprising.”
Where to begin? Anywhere, actually. First: This implies that Obama’s Iraq policies are different than those of George Bush II. Really? “The military success achieved by….Bush” was that Bush got to leave the presidency with the appearance of success. In this sense, and in this sense only, did “the surge work.” And it was Bush who, because of the alleged “success” of the surge, claimed that it would be possible to do what Obama did, pull out of Iraq.
Second: This continues the fantasy that the presence of American power is the key to peace around the world. Why a fantasy? Well, just to name a few examples: Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Cuba, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Syria, and Afghanistan. All of these are places where the “presence” of American power did little or nothing to promote peace. In places like Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan especially, American power was the cause of war and created, facilitated, and extended wars there. People forget too easily that more American soldiers were killed and injured in Vietnam after Nixon was elected president than before with his “secret peace plan.” And, of course, the war in Afghanistan has been going on for at least 13 years since the United States has been “involved” there. And now we see that Iraq is quite similar. The war, started by Bush II, as it bears repeating, is on going. It is a fantasy for us to think that “the projection of American power,” as some like to say, leads to peace – or is intended to.
Third: What is currently happening in Iraq is, I submit, precisely what Bush II and the Obama administration want to happen: Chaos in the Middle East. It seems to me pretty obvious that this has been the goal of American foreign policy over the past few presidencies, a policy that is meant to serve the interests not only of the United States but also those of Israel and Saudi Arabia. The most obvious action supporting my contention is how the Bush II administration “dealt with” Iraq once the invasion was over. And it is impossible to buy explanations like, “Oh, the Bush administration forgot to plan for the occupation.”
Does this policy mean that there might be “blowback,” say in the form of “terrorism” even here in the United States? Of course, but then such “blowback” is merely “collateral damage” for those holding the reins of power in Washington. Such damage is part of a realist’s modus operandi. And what the Bush administrations and the Obama administration have in common, in addition to other things, is an embrace of “realism” as the basis of American foreign policy. “Unconscionable,” you say? Yes, of course. But again that is the essence of “realism.”
So, here is my guess: The killing, the war will go on in Iraq, while Republicans and Democrats squabble here, making it seem that this is, from their perspectives, an undesirable state of affairs. But it is not. In fact, it is exactly the state of affairs they both embrace. And, so, whichever party holds the presidency, war in the Middle East and in Afghanistan, and maybe elsewhere as well, will go on and on and on, as George Orwell saw so long ago when he wrote 1984. And like Winston in 1984, we will be expected to accept these wars as necessary and even as justified. We seem to be pretty much there already, as the Times article illustrates.
Here is the link to the Times article: