MilitaryWeek.com Without Reservation
A biweekly column by Karen Kwiatkowski, Lt. Col. USAF (ret.)
posted 02 Nov 04
What Are We Doing?
While Bush and Kerry pedal furiously to the electoral finish line, and lawyers for both sides put final flourishes on their November 3rd briefs, the Chinese News Agency Xinhuanet reports on a $70 billion deal for the development of Iranian gas fields by China.
Life goes on, while George W. Bush talks tough about fighting a vague war on terror. If the clockwork regularity of Bin Laden videos over the past three years is any indication, we are probably not winning that war. One prefers not to mention the lost tons of explosives and the long term ramifications to American soldiers and civilians of that particular planning and security oversight.
Rumor has it the American navy, or the Israeli air force with American military and diplomatic cover, will strike Iran in coming weeks. Whether or not this happens, Iran has become a new kind of problem for America, and for Israel.
A basic and salient objective of the invasion and occupation of Iraq was to thoroughly weaken a regional threat to American and Israeli interests, and to ensure that it stayed weak. While the fun and profitable aspects of the invasion – as envisioned by irrepressible neoconservative ideologues like Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz and Dick Cheney – didn't pan out, at least Iraq was weakened. Right?
In fact, the Iraq insurgency – nationalist and anti-American forces – has utterly astounded the armchair generals with its energy, strength, motivation and resilience. That's bad enough for the over 1,100 Americans who have already died there, and the thousands of soldiers and Marines physically or mentally damaged as a result of their deployment to Iraq.
Like any good horror show, just when you think it can't get worse, it does. Robin Wright reports in the Washington Post that the "the U.S.-backed government of interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi is losing serious ground" to Iraq's religious parties.
Experienced senior officers at the State Department, who must remain anonymous in the current environment in Washington, have a wise perspective on what this all means. They're telling me the following:
We will go from an inept, ineffectual, unreal threat from Saddam Hussein to an effective, well-equipped U.S.-trained Iraqi Army – under the leadership of an Islamic government aligned with Iran. That doesn't sound healthy for American, much less Israeli interests. But there's more:
We are repeating the same mistake we made in Afghanistan – short term gain that led directly over the long term to terrorism and 9/11. In our expediency over the present crisis, we are creating a very long term problem for Israel and for ourselves. No one at the NSC or White House is listening to warnings from State about the longer term implications of the situation. No one is listening at the White House? Before 9-11, we understood that and forgave the Bush administration's tin ear. But today? Sadly, there is even more:
The Iranians are running circles around us in Iraq. There is no way we can compete with them on the ground amongst the Shia. We are pinned down by the military insurgency – but the short term military victory we seek is being lost by a political game that is being stolen right from under our noses. One might think that if we just try to build Iraqi support for democracy and develop Iraqi friendship with America, perhaps good can prevail. Sadly, grasping even this last straw seems impossible, as a Dayton Daily News analysis of Iraqi compensation claims relating to Army abuses or accidents or collateral damage shows. It turns out only one in four claims by Iraqi civilians results in even a small payment. Three of four are denied completely, with the Army providing a written explanation that includes this reasonable statement "Coalition forces dropped ordnance during Operation Iraqi Freedom on legitimate targets. Your family was in an area that was being legitimately targeted and therefore regrettably harmed."
"Regrettably harmed" has an emptiness about it. In the words of Middle East expert and retired military officer Dale Davis, this is,
"... another glaring example of how US forces just don't "get it" when it comes to operating in Iraq. ... Nothing other than blood money and a sincere apology can quench the demand of Arab honor for revenge. Each legitimate claim denied ... can be understood to add an entire family, clan or even tribe to the ranks of those supporting the insurgency." Indeed. Poor leadership in Washington, fueled by human will and an irrational and ill-informed neoconservative ideology of American empire, is clearly the culprit here. Yet this Middle East adventure isn't an armchair exercise, or a horror flick. It is the Bush foreign policy implemented, and it apparently includes the ascendance of Iran and Shia religious government in the region. Tragically, "regrettably harmed" seems to describe long-term American interests in the Middle East.
George W. Bush says he is a man of God, a good Christian. Hopefully, he won't think me impertinent if I remind him of the New Testament epistle to the Romans, where it is written "For the good that I would I do not; but the evil which I would not, that I do." This admission, although unlikely to be made from the Oval Office, is the required first step to healing our Middle East policy.
© 2004 Karen Kwiatkowski