Favorite

The cases for war 

Did anyone notice how the case for escalating the war in Iraq differed so starkly last week from the case for going to war?

Four years ago, it was to install democracy in the heart of Islam, protect Iraq’s neighbors and ourselves from Iraq’s vast store of chemical and biological weapons and the nuclear bombs that were close at hand, punish Iraq for the administration’s crazy notion that Saddam Hussein helped the 9/11 terrorists and, finally, end the fear and suffering of Iraqi people.

But when Bush announced the New Way Forward in Iraq, the purpose had changed. It is to avoid certain Armageddon. If the United States does not carry on to final victory in Iraq, the president said, the consequences are fixed: “Radical Islamic extremists would grow in strength and gain new recruits. They would be in a better position to topple moderate governments, create chaos in the region and use oil revenues to fund their ambitions. Iran would be emboldened in its pursuit of nuclear weapons.”

His lieutenants envisioned butchery in the streets as old sectarian rivalries intensified. The strife would spread to other Islamic countries and destabilize those (repressive) governments. American influence in the Middle East and around the world would recede as people everywhere doubted America’s authority and its power. Rogue elements would feel freer to operate. Prospects for a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would be shattered.

Those are sobering thoughts all right, and that grim prospect caused people, including Democratic leaders, to doubt their own impulses that the United States needs to get out, sooner the better. Everyone knows by now that the people who predict all these calamities have been catastrophically wrong in every other forecast of what would happen in Iraq, but what if for once they are right?

Do all those warnings of historic calamity sound familiar? They should, for two reasons.

They were the warnings, at home and from abroad in 2002 and 2003, of what would happen if the United States invaded and occupied Iraq unilaterally in violation of international law and United Nations rules and without giving inspectors the chance to verify if anything the administration said was true. So clear were those fearful prospects in those days that even a poor, unread columnist in Arkansas gave utterance to them.

And they describe precisely what happened and what conditions are today, before the New Way Forward: civil war and a horribly degraded life for everyone who remains in Iraq, a surge of terrorists and sympathizers across Iraq and the Middle East, a confident and swashbuckling Iran, growing instability among the old regimes that America calls its friends, dimmer prospects in Palestine and Israel and winnowed prestige and influence for the United States.

Most poignant and frightening is the decline of American authority. The Sunni governments of Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan pleaded with the administration to use its remnant of influence to try to settle the Israeli-Palestine crisis. Forget Iraq and concentrate on the solution to everything in the Middle East, Egypt said. The Iraq Study Group said essentially the same thing. So the president announced in the same speech last week that he was sending Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to the region to get things started on Palestine.

And there she was in Cairo Monday with the sad scared eyes and tremulous voice, avoiding any talk now of democracy in the region and speaking of stability and of taking small equivocal steps toward a Palestinian settlement.

All the officials are indulgent but no one pretends that she carries an ounce of authority. The New York Times reported swelling resentment of the Egyptian government, which like other Middle East autocracies tries to avoid appearing to be supportive of the United States. From Cairo, the Times reported: “The United States is so unpopular in the region now, many here say, that its support is enough to undermine a government’s legitimacy with its public.”

So what would happen if the United States said its work was done and pulled out of Iraq in stages? No one can predict other than that the bloodshed would continue, at least for a time. But the worst of the consequences that the administration now predicts are already the reality. The Shiites and Kurds, who are 80 percent of the country, are in firm command, even if the current U.S.-backed regime is shaky, and the bloody little Sunni insurgency will not change that. The question is when the Sunni death squads will exhaust themselves and the Shiites have sated their need for revenge. American presence seems to have little influence in restraining our newfound friends, the Shia.

Leaving at least would end the anti-American insurgency, no small issue.

As for the rest of Armageddon — a general Middle East conflagration that a neutered America would be powerless to prevent — its prospects are raised by Bush’s description of it as a sure effect of U.S. failure and withdrawal.

But America’s sharp decline in authority in the region and the world since 2003 does not result from a weak spine but from arrogance and a sudden monumental ignorance of how the world works. The reversal begins with recognition of its mistake and ending the occupation of that desperate country. The world will have to wait two more years for that hopeful day of American renaissance.

Favorite

From the ArkTimes store

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

  • An open line for Sunday

    An open line.
    • Sep 24, 2017
  • City plans more spending on 30 Crossing

    The Little Rock City Board meets Tuesday to set an agenda for the following week and among the "consent" items is a new $175,000 with Nelson/Nygaard consultants to "assist with a comprehensive review" of the 30 Crossing project, otherwise known as the bigger concrete ditch the Department of Transportation wants to tear through the heart of Little Rock.
    • Sep 24, 2017
  • NFL owners rise to defense of players against Trump and false patriots

    Many football team owners have risen to the defense of players against Donald Trump criticism as yet another racially fraught issue seems likely to gain increasing heat thanks to Trump's rhetoric.
    • Sep 24, 2017
  • More »

More by Ernest Dumas

  • Bad health care bill, again

    Wait! Postpone tax reform and everything else for a while longer because the Senate is going to try to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act one more time before September ends and while it can do it with the votes of only 50 senators.
    • Sep 21, 2017
  • Climate blind

    If there was ever a teaching moment for a nation or a culture on an issue of historic importance, wouldn't it be the late summer of 2017 for climate change?
    • Sep 14, 2017
  • Tax sham

    This week begins another ritual that has become the most celebrated sham of modern times. We always look forward to it, because it will make our country richer and happier and change all our lives for the better. We call it tax reform.
    • Sep 7, 2017
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • No tax help for Trump

    The big conundrum is supposed to be why Donald Trump does so well among white working-class people, particularly men, who do not have a college education.
    • Aug 11, 2016
  • Dollars and degrees

    Governor Hutchinson says a high graduation rate (ours is about the lowest) and a larger quotient of college graduates in the population are critical to economic development. Every few months there is another, but old, key to unlocking growth.
    • Aug 25, 2016

Most Shared

  • ASU to reap $3.69 million from estate of Jim and Wanda Lee Vaughn

    Arkansas State University announced today plans for spending an expected $3.69 million gift in the final distribution of the estate of Jim and Wanda Lee Vaughn, who died in 2013 and 2015 respectively.
  • Bad health care bill, again

    Wait! Postpone tax reform and everything else for a while longer because the Senate is going to try to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act one more time before September ends and while it can do it with the votes of only 50 senators.
  • Sex on campus

    Look, the Great Campus Rape Crisis was mainly hype all along. What Vice President Joe Biden described as an epidemic of sexual violence sweeping American college campuses in 2011 was vastly overstated.
  • The inadequate legacy of Brown

    LRSD continues to abdicate its responsibility to educate poor black students.

Latest in Ernest Dumas

  • Bad health care bill, again

    Wait! Postpone tax reform and everything else for a while longer because the Senate is going to try to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act one more time before September ends and while it can do it with the votes of only 50 senators.
    • Sep 21, 2017
  • Climate blind

    If there was ever a teaching moment for a nation or a culture on an issue of historic importance, wouldn't it be the late summer of 2017 for climate change?
    • Sep 14, 2017
  • Tax sham

    This week begins another ritual that has become the most celebrated sham of modern times. We always look forward to it, because it will make our country richer and happier and change all our lives for the better. We call it tax reform.
    • Sep 7, 2017
  • More »

Event Calendar

« »

September

S M T W T F S
  1 2
3 4 5 6 7 8 9
10 11 12 13 14 15 16
17 18 19 20 21 22 23
24 25 26 27 28 29 30

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Sex on campus

    • Here we see a "social scientist" who begins with an ad hominem argument, and then…

    • on September 24, 2017
  • Re: Sex on campus

    • Once again commentators blame the victim. Social scientists, of whom I am one, regularly find…

    • on September 22, 2017
  • Re: Time for a coalition

    • Shiny, nobody is saying that Hillary isn't entitled to speak. Shit, the more she talks,…

    • on September 21, 2017
 

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation