[Marxism] White House and military at odds on Iran
philip.ferguson at canterbury.ac.nz
Tue Dec 19 19:37:55 MST 2006
I think there are a couple of important things missing from Gary McL's
post on this subject. Gary mentions the problems posed for the Bush
regime by American public hostility to escalation. But I think we need
to go a layer beneath this.
The public opposition in the US has grown because of *the situation on
the ground in Iraq* just like the growth of public opposition to the war
on Vietnam was predicated on there being resistance on the ground in
Vietnam. Without that, the American government could have won and US
public opinion would have been either satisfied with the win or it would
have been over too quickly for them to do anything.
In my view the consciousness of the US public on these matters does not
involve opposition to foreign intervention, but opposition to foreign
intervention that is costly in economic terms and in terms of US lives
and that threatens to be bogged down in a quagmire.
If the US govt can conduct (and win) a short, sharp war or invasion (eg
Dominican Republic in 1965, Grenada in 1983 or Gulf War 1) I doubt most
Americans are troubled.
I also think that the problem in Iraq is not just attacks on the US
forces but the disintegration of whole chunks of Iraqi society. There
isn't a progressive political force confronting the US as there was in
Vietnam, and that's one advantage for Bush and co over Vietnam. But, in
another sense, the nature of the opposition within Iraq creates an
anarchic situation which makes it virtually impossible for the
Americans, and whichever Iraqi faction they choose at any one time as
their underlings, to stabilise things.
Although a number of people on the left have written about the invasion
of Iraq being about oil etc, my own view is that it was actually largely
a blunder on the part of the US government. I don't think they ever had
a coherent plan; I think they thought they could get one-up on their
imperialist rivals, wave the big stick in the Middle East to remind
everyone who was boss, get the US public united around the big project
of a war for democracy, and they expected they'd just walk in and take
over Iraq, like they did with Grenada or the Dominican Republic. I
think they were aware that there would be very little effective
resistance from the Saddam Hussein regime, but never factored in that
things would be *more difficult* for them once they replaced their old
I also think a chunk of the US ruling class were never keen on the war
but went along with it anyway. They now see what a huge disaster it
was, is and will continue to be. That's what the Iraq Study Group
report represents - the more sensible and sophisticated wing of American
A similar process has happened in Britain where a new report has come
out from a think tank which has a rather more sophisticated
understanding of the interests of British capital than Tony Blair and
his retinue. I haven't seen this report, just a piece about it on the
TV News here, but this report seems to have said that the whole war was
a mistake and Britain should never have gotten involved. Of course, in
Britain's case, this goes to a serious issue within the ruling class -
do they see themselves primarily as allied to US imperialism or do they
see themselves as an integral faction of European imperialism.
If British capital is primarily oriented to the Anglo-American alliance,
it can have an elevated position at the global imperialist table -
British decline being offset somewhat by the alliance with the number
one imperialist. Of course, the drawbacks are that they have to do what
the Americans want, play second fiddle and any dipstick in the White
House can lead them into a misadventure which further weakens Britain -
ie what has happened with the Blair-Bush alliance and Iraq.
If they go primarily with the European option, then British weakness is
exposed as France and Germany really call the shots in Europe. But at
least they would be with the more clever imperialists in Paris and Bonn
and be able to steer clear of disasters like Iraq. Also the power
disparity between the British and the Franco-German axis is less than it
is between Britain and the US.
In terms of Iran, I'm not sure that the US will bomb Iran and it is only
a matter of when. The Iraq Study Group, which is a more effective
representative of the overall interests of US capital than the Bush
Gang, wants negotiations with Iran and Syria. This is basically a
recognition of *just how much* the Bush Gang has stuffed things up. I'm
dubious about whether the smart money in the US now wants Bush to stuff
up the possibility of such diplomacy by bombing Iran.
Meanwhile the Iranians must be laughing. Their old foe in Baghdad has
gone, toppled by their even bigger foe in Washington, and they hold a
whole set of aces in terms of the internal situation in Iraq because key
players within the Iraqi governing coalition are allied with them and
they also have a second horse in the race in terms of Shi-ite forces
like the Sadrists. And the opposition Sunni, if they stay as
opposition, are quite possibly going to have some kind of relationship
with Iran (indeed, I presume they already do).
The Bush Gang is screwed every which way, from what I can see. And US
imperialism in general is caught between a rock and a hard place.
Unless they can make up with Syria and Iran, or at least Iran, how on
earth are they going to disentangle themselves from the Iraq quagmire
without it being a huge defeat? The only thing Bush has going is that
in two years time he won't be president anymore and it will be someone
else's problem. Real frat boy behaviour, but hardly good news for US
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