zondag, januari 30, 2005

Sections of US establishment beginning to advocate pull-out

Just a few quick Sunday links:

Now that the American presidential election is over, and the publication of critiques of the country's position in Iraq can be taken as read instead of as partisan manoeuvres, more than a few key players in the US establishment, of both major parties, have submitted their opinions for consideration.

In the last few days, a number of Democrats have discovered their spines and actually begun to call for a withdrawal from Iraq. This is certainly to be encouraged, but what is more interesting is the number of Republicans, and/or those in the foreign policy establishment, who are making similar sorts of noises. Most of these voices are, of course, generally associated with the 'realist', non-neo-conservative wing of the GOP, who have never been happy with the PNAC gang's ascendancy, or indeed with the Iraq invasion. However, while their distaste for the neo-conservative position has never been hidden, they certainly haven't been exuberantly vocal about it. The fact that such voices as James Dobbins, a US Special Envoy in Kosovo, Bosnia, Haiti, Somalia and Afghanistan; Anthony Cordesman, a former national security advisor for the Department of Defense; Henry Kissinger and others are now offering analyses that range from 'we are on a path that leads to defeat', at their most optimistic, to 'we are already defeated', at their least, is not important so much for the content of their critiques, however brutally realistic they are, but for the fact that they are saying these things so prominently, so publicly. The US establishment is clearly very divided on Iraq.

The US is, however, seriously up the creek of poo sans paddle, as all these analyses acknowledge. To remain in Iraq is to double one's bet when one knows one is holding a weak hand and furthermore knowing that one's opponents know it too. At the same time, to cut and run, however dressed up as a victory it would be in the pliant media, would embolden the enemies of US interests in the region and around the world, and would almost certainly deal a death blow to the Saudi regime and possibly to other US-friendlly governments in the Middle East. Ironically, if it were to pull out of Iraq, in order to prevent this and to protect US interests, the US would actually have to extend itself still further in the region.

They're damned if they do, and damned if they don't, which US realists recognise, and so, absent the idealism of the neo-cons, are counselling the least bad option. The situation could be salvaged, they hope, by a relatively quick pull-out and a dependence on diplomatic miracles from the EU and the UN, as well as, intriguingly and in stark contrast to the neo-con perspective, a dependence on Iran as a stabilising force.

How the neo-cons respond to this will be interesting, as they are not as much an expression of the will of US capital as the Foreign Affairs/Carlyle Group/former consiglieri to Bush Sr. gang are, even though, post-election, they consider themselves untouchable.

Check James Dobbins' piece in Foreign Affairs, 'Winning the unwinnable war', for an example of this sort of thinking; while for a rough but fairly handy progressive analysis of this desertion of sections of the US elite from the war party - in particular Cordesman's arguments, check out the editorial, 'The failure of empire', in the latest edition of the Monthly Review.


Elsewhere, for those needing to be disabused of the idea that the anti-war camp position is devoid of nuance and internal debate, you could do worse than have a read on the International Viewpoint website (also published on Znet) of the snippy exchange between Alex Callinicos, a leader of the UK's Socialist Workers' Party and prominent figure in the Stop the War Coalition, and Gilbert Achar, a leader of the League Communiste Revolutionaire and prominent French commentator whose writings feature regularly in the pages of Le Monde Diplomatique. While the discussion at times seems to get bogged down in the passive-aggressive point-scoring and repetition typical of such colossal academic egos ('My esteemed Alex, while my admiration for your sprightly braininess knows no frontier, you plainly do not recognise that it is imperative that the anti-war movement condemn attacks on civilians.'; 'Ah, but my dear cleverly clever Gilbert, whose writings offer erudite shivers of insight satisfying in ways similar to the shivers one sometimes receives when peeing standing up, what you have not gathered is that it is crucial that attacks on civilians be condemned by the anti-war movement!'; and so on), taken together, the polemics are as good an analysis of the current situation as I have come across, while also an example of how our side is very far from monolithic, whatever the slanders of the pro-slaughter left that our perspective is no more advanced than an automatic 'enemy of my enemy is my friend' amorality.


Relatedly, via the annoyingly prolific Lenin's Tomb, we find on the Iraqi Democrats Against the Occupation website a leaked document showing that Allawi's regime is considering a return to Baath-style authoritarianism.

'Signed by General Taleb Al-Hamadani, 'overall coordinator for security matters' for Ayyad Allawi, and addressed to Allawi, he appears to comment on another discussion document circulated within the Ayyad Allawi government and suggesting full restoration of the Baath party in Iraq. While advocating caution to stem "international opposition" to such move, General Al-Hamadani nevertheless supports the return of leading Baathist to government and cites measures to ensure that "those belonging to other parties are excluded from military and security institutions", in effect advocating a dictatorship in Iraq.'

IDAO has a copy of the (Arabic-language) document uploaded to its website.

The proprietor of Lenin's Tomb also reminds us that, while progressives should not necessarily be opposed to the election:

'The 'transitional' government will not exactly govern, any more than the interim government presently 'authorises' US strikes on Fallujah or Mosul. Its role will be to decide on a constitution for Iraq (doubtless with the assistance of that enormous US embassy currently under the management of John Negroponte). That may be ratified, and if it has, Iraqis might get elections for a proper government in December - after the rules of the game have been decided by the US, naturally.'


Finally, I do beat up on Johann Hari a fair bit, so it's only fair to note when he gets something right. A recent fairly decent piece of his for the Independent denudes Bush's talk of spreading freedom for the pack of porky pies that it is, and also does a fairly good job of exposing the structural-adjustment-on-steroids economic programme Iraq's occupiers are imposing on the country.

However, he's still far too young to be having a column in the Independent, a mon avis.