[Marxism] Reconstructing the Bush administration and the Republican ascendancy? (Response to David McDonald)
ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Mon Oct 31 18:25:18 MST 2005
Thanks to David McDonald for his comments on my second post, and for
sending it to Marxmail, which I mistakenly did not do.
I agree with him that US withdrawal from Iraq in the immediate future is
extremely unlikely unless the administration's crisis leads to some kind
of collapse on the home front, or the growing anger at the incompetence
of the government and their sponsorship of the increasingly brutal US
war leads to a uprising of the Shia or something broader.
These are not excluded, of course.
However, I tend to think that it will be politically impossible to
reinstitute the draft while the war continues at its present level. I
think the Iraq war as a possible justification for a draft has
completely exhausted what little potential it ever had. A draft must be
a response to a different crisis somewhere else that can be sold to the
public as Iraq never can, or a "peace-time" measure to reorganize the
military with withdrawal from Iraq under way or the level of fighting
and US casualties greatly reduced.
I agree that the level of overall social unrest in the United States is
far less today than during the Vietnam war. This gives added
maneuvering room for the US imperialists. But the underlying social
instability and economic difficulties of US imperialism have been
surging toward the surface, and they seem to be even greater than the
'60s. The empire seems to be in greater decline than the 60s, rather
than less, and in contrast to the rising empire -- again able to take
over and reshape "failed" semicolonial countries to meet the needs of
imperialism (as the rulers began to believe was the case after they
"won" the cold war -- that is, after imperialism outlasted (not
conquered) the Soviet bloc.
But the difference in the situations in Iraq relative to Vietnam.
Vietnam was a popular social revolution more than it really was a
quagmire. Vietnam had a single unified leadership that cut across many
national and even class lines. There were clear directions in which
they planned and declared their intention to take the nation. The masses
themselves were mobilized and active. Where the rebels were dominant,
they organized the provision of basic human needs (there were schools
and hospitals in the tunnels, not to mention factories).
The occupation of Iraq was not like the French-British and then
occupation of Vietnam after World War II a response to a revolutionary
upsurge in the country. This was an attempt to take over a country they
considered weakened and divided enough to be forced to accept occupation
and reorganization according to the demands of imperialism. There was
no popular revolutionary movement threatening Saddam's regime, although
his popularity had been in decline for a long time.
In response to the occupation, there was not a revolutionary upsurge but
a broad-based resistance -- military and otherwise -- reflecting all the
unresolved problems and divisions in the country.
Imperialism certainly favors dividing Iraq rather than a unified
anti-imperialist Iraq, but that is not the only source of the divisions.
We have seen processes related to this take place when US-backed
dictators fell in Somalia, Liberia, and Zaire. In Somalia, the US
attempted briefly to take over but pulled out when they met an explosion
of resistance. They thought things would go better in Iraq because
they were more committed to winning than in Somalia but, in fact, a
variation of the same thing has happened. A vast and heroic national
resistance has stymied them and even, to a considerable degree, defeated
their takeover attempt although the people are not yet strong enough to
drive the troops out due to the determination of the imperialists to
How can imperialism buy time, how can they play on the divisions to head
off complete defeat? By supporting the tendency toward disintegration.
Let the Kurds take over in Kurdistan (not a reactionary outcome in and
of itself, by the way) including Kirkuk; let the currently dominant
wing of the Shia elite establish a type of fundamentalist rule in their
area, and extend economic and cultural exchanges with Iran; and let
Sunni Iraq drift toward an irredentist form of nationalism. And keep
the troops there in the name of protecting each against the others while
the military is reorganized, etc.
This is not the strong forward base they wanted to establish, but it is
the best they can hope to get for now -- if they can get that.
In other words, go with the flow. Put the troops on the battlefield to
a much lesser degree, and attempt to hold onto the bases, while
reorganizing the military and looking for a chance to retake the
offensive. Quiet the US front and hope the Iraq front quiets down too.
The weakness of the national movement gives them leeway to consider such
options, even though I think the trends still point to defeat (and the
setbacks they have takened at the hands of a people so weakened by
divisions and by political-military-social unpreparedness for this
confrontation is already an inspiring and historic gain -- confirming,
among other things, that the defeat of the attempt to occupy Somalia was
Are their politicians in Iraq with broader nationalist aspirations? Yes,
but there has also been deterioration. In the last couple decades, I
believe that the Baath for instance has become a less nationalist and
more sectional Sunni party (the anti-Shia and Kurdish campaigns
strengthened this trend) and less secular and more religious -- in Sunni
Islam form. The tendency of Baathist leaders to denounce the Shia as
Iranian infiltrators because they do not go along with the Baath program
reflects the sectional breakdown.
My own impression is strongly that Sadr has some genuine aspirations to
build a pan-Iraqi following (at least encompassing Shia and Sunni), but
in the practical situation, he has little room for maneuver. He is
still part of the ruling electoral alliance. He certainly did not
publicly campaign against the constitution. He does have to defend his
people against what certainly appear to be Sunni chauvinist attacks. He
cannot break openly with Sistani, and the latter cannot openly try to
Why does Sadr find the new constitution uncomfortable. Nationalist
considerations play a part, but I think part of his concern is being the
leader of the Shia in a region that is eventually to be consigned to the
Sunnis under the new attempt to further institutionalize the divisions.
We shouldn't romanticize the "only one" "united" "national" resistance.
>From the beginning , Sadr's forces have been organized to and actively
engaged in resisting chauvinist attacks on the Shia by Sunni groups.
This is not a new development of imperialist psy-ops -- the Shia in
Baghdad have faced such attacks from the beginning of the occupation. He
has no reason to expect smooth sailing if central Iraq becomes a
Sunni-ruled region, while Sunni are under pressure in the Shia regions,
and the Kurds spread their control in the far north. Some kind of
unified regime offers "his" Shia more possible protection.
Anyway, I see hard times ahead for Iraq, and, while they have shown that
the US cannot run Iraq or reorganize the country, they face the very
difficult challenge of getting the occupation out, which may require and
will certainly lead to openings to overcome some of the current
divisions which, while they are not doubt focused on by the
imperialists, are not a figment of "psy-ops" imagination.
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