Failure in Iraq?

Gary MacLennan g.maclennan at qut.edu.au
Tue Nov 11 15:27:08 MST 2003


I have just finished reading an opinion piece on Iraq from the Economist
(7.11.03, pp14-15).  It is entitled 'Failure begins to look possible'.  It
is truly remarkable that so soon into the operation in Iraq that bourgeois
commentators are beginning to scent disaster. The very possibility is
sending them into a frenzy.  In Iraq itself the occupying armies have
become all the more brutal.

Still the Economist comes to the conclusion that on balance the Americans
could and should still win, though they have to 'take evasive action right
now'.

The Economist highlights as the principal weakness of the resistance that
it is not 'a popular insurgency.  That is to say no recognizable group with
a wide following and a plausible claim on political power appears to lie
behind the terrorism.'

The Economist points here to "firm" support from the Kurds (25% of
population) and 'co-operation' from the majority Shia (60%).  It recommends
that the Americans move swiftly to take advantage of this political vacuum
by instituting a democratic process as soon as possible.

Such an electoral process would presumably put the Shia clerics in control.
Not something that the Americans would want at all.  The Turks too are
anxious to maintain limits on Kurdish autonomy and power.  So the electoral
path that the Economist so enthusiastically endorses is by no means an easy
choice for the Americans.

Moreover if the Economist is correct about the political vacuum on the
Resistance side it is matched by a similar political vacuum on the
pro-American side.  In such a situation the resistance is IMHO at an
advantage.  To rally their supporters and continue the attacks they simply
have to rely on nationalism, tribalism and religion - all in abundance in
the region.  Like all colonial regimes the Americans have to divide the
conquered, but as I pointed out above the pre-existing divisions (Shia-
Sunni- Kurd) will not necessarily work for them in this context.

The division that Bush and the Economist would like to put in place is
pro-neo-liberal "democrats" versus traditionalists.  They managed to pull
that off in Russia, and conceivably they might succeed in Iraq.  I was
struck here by the demand from the Economist to bribe the population.  It
notes :

'America alone looks set to spend $20 billion next year - more than the
whole world spends on aid to Africa and more than America has spent so fast
(sic) on any other country.  Though it will be a challenge to spend all
this money efficiently, the sheer volume of it will help to lubricate the
hoped for transition to democracy'

This open emphasis on the necessity for bribes was also articulated by a
Fareed Zakaria in a recent column in the London Observer.  Fareed wrote

"There are no short cuts. The first task of winning the peace is winning
the war, which might take more troops, or different kinds of troops. It
might take a mixture of military force and bribes. Whatever it takes, the
US must do it. Talk about a drawdown (sic) of troops sends the wrong
message to the guerrillas." (Fareed Zakaria, Observer, 9.11.03)

There is a difference of emphasis between the Economist and Fareed.  The
former as we have seen wants political moves to forestall the possibility
of defeat.  Fareed, by contrast, seems to emphasize the need for a military
solution.  What unites them though is a shameless recognition that the
Iraqi population will have to be corrupted into accepting American rule,
and beneath this a fear that a defeat for imperialism is inevitable.

regards

Gary


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