Yesterday, the second term of President George W. Bush began. There is no doubt that the focus of his administration’s foreign policy in the next four years will continue to be the spread of globalization.
The front line of this struggle, of which the war on terrorism is only a part, will continue to be Iraq. At this stage in the administration’s original vision, just short of two years since the invasion, Iraq should be the locus of a secure and stable Middle Eastern democracy. However, the realities of invading and occupying a foreign land, coupled with the shortsighted and quixotic planning of the Neocon hawks in Washington has assured that Iraq will, for the time being, remain an enormous drain not just on our national resources, but also on our standing in the eyes of the world.
It is rare that one is able to describe a conservative agenda as one containing vision and idealism, but that is exactly what the Bush administration has fallen prey to in its dream of deposing Saddam Hussein and transforming Iraq into a model society for all of the Middle East, and a launching pad for the unstoppable change that will eventually sweep through the region. That is not to say that the world has no place for dreams and ideals. Indeed, President Bush’s goals in regards to spreading democracy around the world are laudable when taken at face value. Recent history has shown that democracies in general are the most stable and free societies on the planet, and they in turn become the nations most able to adapt to the initially jarring entry into global society. Where the president and the rest of his administration have failed is in the execution.
Stating that the world is a better place now that Saddam Hussein is no longer in power, a constant refrain from varying members of the administration during the election, is an empty statement at best. There is no arguing the fact that the world is better off every time a brutal dictator finds himself either dead or suddenly unemployed. In addition, men such as Saddam Hussein are roadblocks to progressive societies that must be removed, in order for the nations of the world to continue to develop, allowing the new information age to spread to all corners of the globe. It would be foolish to argue that Saddam needed to stay in power either for the stability of his country or out of some misguided respect for his sovereignty. From a purely strategic view, there is a strong argument that the war in Iraq eventually needed to be fought. The motivations for the war can easily be understood, but there is a growing rift in this country between much of the populace, which believes that war is a last resort, and those running the country, who believe that pre-emptive war, even with a country that has been successfully contained for a decade, is essential to furthering the security aims of not just the United States, but the global community as a whole. Here is where things began to go wrong for the administration.
What the Bush administration, and every other administration has known, is that war cannot be fought without the will of the people behind the effort.
The Bush administration came to power in January of 2001 with Iraq on its hit list. Although no one in the administration will admit it, they and many members of the Republican Party hierarchy have wanted Saddam to be deposed since the Gulf War was fought in 1991. All they needed was an excuse, a rallying point that the American people could get behind, a cause so lofty and so unassailable, that dissidence would be regarded as wholly unpatriotic. Unfortunately for the United States, the opportunity to put plans for Iraq into motion came with the attacks of September 11, 2001.
It remains hard for me to accept that the leader of this nation, in fact his entire administration, was complicit in spreading mass deception in order to justify a war that they considered necessary, but which the American people surely would not have, had they known the facts. It is hard to accept, but something I consider to be an undeniable truth.
The reasons cited for war by the Bush administration: Iraq has weapons of mass destruction, Iraq was involved in the 9/11 attacks, Iraq is developing nuclear weapons, Iraq continues to work with Al Qaeda to threaten the United States, were all untrue. It boggles the mind to consider the arrogance of the administration’s duplicity. There is a sense that the Bush administration thinks it knows best when it comes to whom to fight, but it is a chore for them to share this information with the people. It is hard to disregard the fact that there are countless numbers of policy analysts and others in this country who have a much more intimate knowledge of world security realities than the average American. We trust that those at the Pentagon, State Department, White House, and intelligence services, are constantly keeping an eye on and debating the realities of the current world order. We trust that when they say we have to go war, it is absolutely essential that we fight. We also trust that when they make their case for war, that they tell the truth. There was a breach of this essential trust when it came to the invasion of Iraq.
The Bush administration believes that it had to go to war for reasons that are more nuanced than absolute. They feel that the global security situation is improved by the removal of Saddam Hussein, but they failed to trust the American people with their true reasons for wanting war. They claimed concrete reasons where none existed. They claimed necessity but were applying new theory. The fact remains, the American public will not accept a war, especially a pre-emptive war, unless an absolute, definable threat exists. It is not sufficient that toppling a rogue regime will help to further globalization in a dangerous region of the world. It is not sufficient that Iraq is essential for future force positioning for as yet to be determined crises in the region. The Bush administration did not attempt to explain even once its true motives for fighting this war. Instead it whipped popular opinion into a frenzy over Iraq to such a maniacal effect that to this day, more than a month after the fruitless search for WMD has ended in Iraq, forty percent of the general population of the country believes that we found WMD.
The closest the administration has come to revealing its true intentions was the new direction of spin that came out of the White House after it became clear there were no WMD to be found in Iraq. Not long after the “Mission Accomplished” fiasco, WMD and ties to Al Qaeda began to fade into the background behind the rhetoric of spreading freedom and democracy to an oppressed people. For anyone who had not noticed until then that we had invaded another country, it was, of course, clear that we fought Saddam Hussein because he was an oppressor. In a further bout of Orwellian logic, members of the administration, most notably Vice President Dick Cheney, returned to the fear mongering of an Iraq/Al Qaeda connection almost immediately following the release of the 9/11 Commission’s report and in the months leading up to the election in order to keep support for the president high.
Yet perpetuating this deadly farce was not enough.
The assumption within the administration that the oppressed peoples of Iraq would welcome their American liberators with open arms has turned out to be patently false. This hopeless optimism stems directly from American idealism. We have all been victims of this type of thought occasionally. A little pessimism when planning a war would have been prudent, however, and there was a fair amount from active and former high-ranking officers, most notably then-Army Chief of Staff, General Eric Shinseki.
The Bush administration proceeded with its Iraq plans assuming the conflict with Saddam’s forces would be quick and relatively painless. It was, but the military has shown that it is still incapable of dealing with insurgent forces.
Another factor the Bush administration failed to take into account was the lack of a nascent democratic movement within Iraq that could be built upon to create a stable government once the Hussein regime was deposed. In addition, the political infrastructure of Iraq was disbanded upon Hussein’s toppling, with nothing left in its place but a power vacuum. The United States has found out that deposing a dictator is one thing, but unless there is something, anything, readily available to fill the power vacuum until a long-term, stable government can be formed, establishing that government will be a long, hard-fought struggle.
The Iraq war has not gone well. It has nothing to do with the quality of our fighting forces versus the insurgents. It has less to do with resentment toward Americans in the region, and more to do with bad plans for victory. More than anything, however, it has to do with the administration’s love affair with globalization.
I, for one, agree with the Bush administration that the world needs more countries that contain interconnected, free societies, i.e., democracies. Where I believe their idealism is flawed is the perception that the military is a fix-all when it comes to spreading democracy. Democracy cannot be imposed. It has to come from the people. This sounds obvious, but our foreign policy indicates that democracy comes only from the United States, as our great gift to the world.
The Middle East, Southeast Asia, Africa, would all benefit from their peoples being an integral part of the world economy. Military force should remain an option (as in the case of Afghanistan, the most prudent), but only one among many. It is important that the United States remain the country most able to provide for the security of the emerging countries in these regions, and for itself, but it is foolish to believe that this great force we have can be used as a cudgel to bring the disenfranchised of the world into prosperity.