100 Years

Marc Ambinder still doesn’t understand why John McCain should be held accountable for his ‘100 years’ remark:

The differences between McCain and Obama are clear enough; Obama wants a bare-bones U.S. presence in Iraq, and McCain is willing to tolerate a much larger one; Obama believes that the presence of U.S. troops exacerbates the tension and gives Iraqis a crutch to delay political reconcilliation. McCain does not. One would think that those differences are a sufficient basis upon which to launch a political attack.

If I tell my parents that I really don’t want to burn the family home down yet keep playing with matches, and proclaiming that I will keep on playing with them, what are my parent supposed to think? Of course I don’t want to burn the house down, but obviously it isn’t a very high priority, and anyway, whatever my professed intentions, my actions are going to lead to these consequences anyway.

For people that oppose the war, the occupation of Iraq is a neo-colonial operation and a continuation of the war and the fact that John McCain can’t see this is of great significance.  It would be incompetent and irresponsible of any anti-war candidate to gloss over and ignore McCain’s remarks and his continued defence of them; this issue should be attacked until it is properly understood, the kid of confused thinking it betrays being responsible for the current Iraq disaster.

It is really no wonder that Obama supporters take issue with Marc Ambinder’s professed neutrality.

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3 responses to “100 Years

  1. Neo Colonial? How so? Colonies are supposed to be a source of income for the colonizer. Iraq has been nothing but a source of cash outflow for the US. If this is colonialism, then we are the worst colonial empire in history.

    By your logic Korea and Germany are part of the US colonial empire. We still have troops in both countries.

    The most unrealistic aspect of Obama’s realist foreign policy is to withdraw all troops, and then to open negotiations. Doesn’t it seem, from a negotiations point of view, that the presence of our troops next door in Iraq is a potent bargaining chip for our side? Maybe the biggest bargaining chip? If the Iranians win their biggest objective before negotiations even begin, then what is their incentive to negotiate.

    I predict that if Obama wins and withdraws the troops unilaterally, then Iran will refuse to meet with him.

    Don’t for a minute think that Obama can reverse course once he’s found out that he’s been had, and reintroduce troops into the region if Iran misbehaves. You imagine that the future will present unambiguous and clear-cut choices for action, whereas in “reality” Obama, if faced with future Iranian aggression in the region, would have no more clear cut case for action than George Bush had in Iraq. Do you think that Obama and his peace party would have the political courage to commit the US to war in such murky circumstances?

    You ignore another point of reality. Once the troops come home, then the Iraq adventure is complete. There’s a second bookend on the war. Obama’s administration will write the history of the war, and it will have been a shameful defeat for the US. As was Vietnam. The US people, chastised and demoralized, will withdraw into a cocoon of isolationism as we did after that war. What makes you think that the American public will let a president re-commit troops abroad after bringing them home with their tails between their legs?

    There’s another book, in addition to the Black Swan, that you should read to get an understanding of the politics of the region. It is “Honor: A history” by James Bowman. The Middle East is an honor culture. Abandoning the Iraqis, or being seen to have abandoned them out of political cowardice, will bring dishonor upon the US in the eyes of the Iranians, the Iraqis and every one in the region. This is another reason Iran won’t meet with Obama after he withdraws. Honorable men don’t meet with dishonorable men.

    If you want to recognize reality as it is, then you have to get your mind around this notion of honor. We’ve scrubbed our culture clean of the concept of honor, but if you go up against an honor culture and expect your view of good intentions and fair play to prevail, you will be rudely awakened.

  2. Thanks Robert. The comparison between Iraq and Korea and Europe is bogus and the McCain people know it. The US presence is not being resisted in the other countries and there is no political issue with the US forces being stationed defensively.

    The US hegemony is described as a neo-colonial empire because it doesn’t take on the same form as the last round of 19th century empires but all successful empires succeed by making people love them and want to be more like them. You saw this a lot with the Romans and you have seen this with the US throughout the 20th century. There comes a time where the whole thing goes to people’s heads, and when they get into government they pay no attention to the careful fabric of power that has been built up believing that because they are running an empire with an overwhelming military and industrial advantage they can shove everyone around as it pleases them and without consequences. At this stage they start to chew their way through the capital accumulated by previous generations. I think this is what happened with the rise of the Neoconservatives and their Project for a New American Century.

    Empires in this phase start doing really stupid things. The British Empire invaded Iraq in 1914 spent a fortune in blood and treasure trying to replicate what they had done in India there which may have started the undermining of Sterling that ultimately finished the empire. Empires don’t lose battles; they go broke. The parallels between the invasion of what we now know as Iraq in 1914 and the 2003 invasions are eerie (Polk’s ‘Understanding Iraq’ is good on this). The Iraqi nation was forged in an effort to resist just this kind of occupation, and they are quite adept at it.

    Also I would not advocate doing anything dishonourable–seriously. The reason I think it is daft to stay in Iraq is that it is bleeding the US to no good purpose at all, apart from allowing some people to save face and avoid facing up to what they have done.

    The US presence distorts the situation in Iraq as that huge presence inevitably bases its decisions on the needs of US politics. Iranian and US interests are the same in Iraq as they are in Afghanistan, supporting the same parties in government. The smart thing to do would be to co-opt the Iranians, then you don’t have to worry about a ruinous effort to garrison the country to deal with the Iranian menace (i.e., revisit the strategic bargain the Iranians proposed in 2003 that proposed sorting out their nuclear differences, demilitarizing Hezbollah, withdrawing support for Hamas, de facto recognition of Israel, all thrown away in a moment of unbelievable hubris).

    As it stands the Iranians mostly run Iraq anyway. The point is not that the US abandons Iraq but that it stop trying to occupy the country perpetually. If the Iraqis sense that permanent occupation is off the agenda and they have the freedom to run their own country then the situation will become much more manageable. I see no need for any dishonour. Remember Obama’s position is consistent with what pretty much all the Iraqis are demanding (at least at the moment–some of their tunes may change as he withdraws the brigades, but I doubt it).

    Again look at what has been happening with the current negotiations to extend the US presence beyond December with the Maliki government refusing the deal proposed by the Bush administration.

    I am not saying any of this is easy. There are no easy options. But the current policy of a massive indefinite occupation is totally unsustainable. It is a matter of time before the policy gets changed.

  3. Bowman’s book looks interesting. The problem with Vietnam were multiple, and can hardly be put down to the final decision to withdraw. The US got itself into an untenable situation and continued to deny the complete unviability of the south until the end. (I recommend Halberstam’s The Best and the Brightest.) Vietnam is a powerful argument for not ignoring political realities until they are forced on you–that really does lead to humiliation.

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