Thursday, June 5, 2008

Trapping the Next U.S. President in Permanent Confrontation With Islam

If the terms of the new U.S.-Iraqi security arrangement now reportedly under negotiation are being correctly reported, the implication is clear: a country that hosts another country's military with the guest army having the right to conduct military operations without the host country's permission and whose laws take precedence over the host country's laws is a colony. No more, no less.

Will the world be a better place with overt, permanent colonization of Iraq by the U.S.?

The answer to this question may be debatable. The urgent need for an open discussion of such a fateful return to 19th century politics is not.

Consider, for a start, the likely attitude of Iran. Iran has tolerated U.S. intrusion into its neighborhood these last five years with a mixture of cooperation, patience, and restrained resistance for several reasons, including:

  • its happiness at seeing its main enemy, Saddam, finally eliminated;
  • its recognition that patience was paying off since the Iraqi disaster was strengthening its own position;
  • its understanding that the U.S. presence was temporary.

If Iraq is turned into a permanent U.S. colony, exactly why should Iran continue to play ball, supporting the regime in Baghdad and intervening diplomatically to persuade various Iraqi parties to avoid violence?

Second, consider the propaganda victory this gives al Qua'ida, which will be able persuasively to present itself as the defender of Arab liberty in the face of a new crusade. Beware the confusion of religious extremism and nationalism in the Mideast. If American heavihandedness were to enable al Qua'ida to stand before all Sunnis as the accepted symbol of Arab nationalism, American national security would be truly at risk and the new U.S. administration might well face a term in office even worse than that of Bush.

Third, what would this mean for Iraq? How is a government to stabilize Iraq without legitimacy, and how can it gain legitimacy if it is so visibly a colonial client regime?

Colonial status for Iraq would open the door to war with Iran, reinvigoration of al Qua'ida's position throughout the Mideast, and endless civil war in Iraq: in short, a very neat gift from Bush to his replacement.

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