Wednesday, June 11, 2014

A Pre-emptive Strike

And so our once-promising Arc of Democracy in the Middle East is threatening to become a full-blown Arc of Murder-Crazed Executioners.

As always, you'd be best to check with other, better sources for background and analysis, but I'm always happy to hand out free inoculations for the inevitable viral outbreak of bullshititis that huge, horrible catastrophes like this always cause.  

I'm already hearing coughs and sneezes about how this latest disaster is e.g. Barack Obama's fault for being a great simpering jessie, or that Isis have annexed a huge chunk of Iraq because of a sudden outbreak of western isolationism and so on and as ever, the parts that aren't wishful thinking are just plain old magical-thinking, or naked opportunism.

With that in mind, let's check a few of the common assertions about how Everything Would Be Better With Much More War that we'll be hearing over the next few days off the list...

The US restored peace and order to Iraq...

A quick one here - there's a major difference between restoring peace and order and Putting almost all of a country's murderous militias on the payroll, arming them to the teeth and then having them root out the very worst of the head-chopping nutters with extreme violence, all the while presiding over a vast programme of terrorisation by the same militias, resulting in a religiously segregated population across many of Iraq's urban areas.

Creating a war-ravaged country full of heavily-armed lunatics who all hate each others' guts but are willing to keep the atrocities a bit below the level of a full-blown national emergency, out of mutual self-interest, is certainly one way of restoring peace and order.  But it's not exactly like inventing Switzerland on the Tigris.

...And so a US military presence would've prevented these Isis victories.

 Again, let's deal with this quickly - the Americans offered to keep a substantial military force in Iraq to "maintain order", or whatever, and the Iraqi government politely invited them to fuck off, please.

The alternative to leaving would be to turn an army of occupation by a kind-of-mutual-consent into an actual army of occupation by accept-it-or-face-the-consequences.

Try as I might, I can't see how the situation would've been improved by, say, Obama forcing the Iraqi government to comply by sticking 20,000 US troops up its backside.  And this is all before we ask how, exactly, another big Fallujah-style combined arms barbecue in e.g. Mosul would be received.

If you think "joyfully, with open arms, because of all the extremists", no cookie for you.  Staying in Iraq to help Iraq even though the Iraqis don't want the American military to stay and help them was not a particularly sane or practical plan but then, neither was invading in the first place.

And now over that porous border to Syria, where 

We should've intervened!

Which is a polite way of saying, We should've reacted to the Syrian meltdown by blasting hell out of the loyalist areas and flooding the country with even more guns and artillery.  

Notice though that the only "intervention" that was seriously proposed was this - basically, hurling a bunch of cruise missiles at Damascus like some kind of expensive, more professional Hamas halal picnic day-out or something.  I think we can guess how effective that would've been in preventing further chaos in Iraq.

But no!  We should've intervened properly! 

And this one is always vague, but we'll have to assume that "intervening properly" probably means at very least smashing fuck out of the Syrian army with a massive military invasion, toppling the Syrian government and destroying its entire political and security apparatus in the name of freedom and democracy, while keeping our fingers crossed that the nation's armed nutters don't start wiping each other out.

You may notice that this plan is quite similar to the one that we previously tried across the border in Iraq, and that it didn't work out very well the last time...  And that's only how it would go if you assume that any invasion came soon enough so that there was only one huge, well-armed opposing force who hates our guts, rather than two.

And let's not forget that all this time Iraq, far from agreeing with us on Syria, has actually been on the other side, supporting the Assads.

So yes, I suppose we could've repeated the Iraq invasion in a larger country in the face of determined resistance from almost every other nation on Earth, including Iraq, so that we could save the Iraqis from the fallout of the Syrian catastrophe, even though the Iraqis absolutely didn't want us to... But I'm not sure that this really helps.

Which leaves us with

Oh no, you are all evil isolationists who turn a blind eye/let people get killed etc. 

Which is a pretty ballsy statement to make, when your preferred policy has probably kickstarted not one, but three hideous sectarian bloodbaths, but the UK's warfans are nothing if they're not strident, swinging colossal sets of steel balls.

But it sounds like you're saying this is all our fault! 

And well, in large part it is, although neither Iraqis nor Syrians have ever really needed our assistance to rub each other out in vast numbers.  So no, it's not all our fault that the region has gone haywire, but that crazy invasion sure didn't do anything to dampen it all down.

Basically, I'm expecting quite a strong pushback against the idea that today's events are in any way linked with any previous insane invasions to promote democracy in the region.  And hey, it's possible that they aren't linked at all. 

I mean, it's possible that this bloodcurdling sectarian war, which arose from an ongoing bloodcurdling sectarian war in a neighbouring state, is wholly and entirely unconnected to Iraq's previous bloodcurdling sectarian war... Of which, the invasion of Iraq and subsequent near-destruction of its entire political and security apparatus was the proximate cause.

But you know, it is a bit of a coincidence that these wars have in large part been fought by similar - and often the same! - factions and people, using the same weapons and tactics, across much the same battlefields.

Which is all worth bearing in mind, next time some roaster starts wibbling about cowardly foreign policy, and so on. 


Justin said...

A comment piece that would delight me would be one title: "See, Saddam-lovers! Iraq can't have been all about the oil like you said because we haven't got the oil any more."

Aaro, Rentoul, Cohen, Tony, everyone's talking about cocks musing.

Anonymous said...

"We should have intervened in Syria"

I think that "we" (ie our governments) did intervene by not preventing the Gulf States from sending arms into Syria which are now in the hands of Sunni militants who have crossed over into Iraq.


Bruschettaboy said...

A version of the "Obama's fault" thesis seems about right to me - Simon Tisdall is quite close here.

Obama has been playing a fairly standard version of US foreign policy with respect to puppet states - handing over lots of expensive toys, while not concerning themselves overly with things like political legitimacy. From Thieu onwards, this policy invariably has the effect of creating a corrupt local strongman who never bothers to do anything about his own problems because he thinks that the USA will sort them out. (In fact, it can even be suggested that because the flow of toys and cash is often correlated to the amount of chaos, there's an incentive to the local partner to keep things simmering).

Anonymous said...

True. Though if it wasn't for Bush, The West wouldn't have any responsibilities in that area. Once you have invaded somewhere, when do your responsibilities end?

You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.


flyingrodent said...

...handing over lots of expensive toys, while not concerning themselves overly with things like political legitimacy.

Absolutely correct, although I don't expect Barry O to get much criticism on this front from people who have spent the last couple of years angrily demanding that we hand out missiles and machine guns to whoever wants 'em in the huge civil war right next door.

You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.

Aye, which reminds me of an old Hitchens column on how the US had a moral responsibility to invade Iraq, because the US had once been cozy with the Hussein regime. It was only right and just that the former crime be cancelled by the latter definite good.

Of course, Hitch declined to mention that it wasn't just the same country involved in both incidents, but largely the very same people. Quite why Hitchens thought the Iran-Contra crew were competent to rescue the Iraqis, I have no idea, but I suppose he thought that a lot of waffle about Moral Imperatives was probably more convincing than, say, waving that picture of Rumsfeld shaking hands with Saddam and shouting, This is why we must trust Rumsfeld now!

gregorach said...

Once you have invaded somewhere, when do your responsibilities end?

A very salient question, considering that none of these countries even existed before we decided to go play Empires... There's a pretty strong argument to be made that all of this mayhem is basically the long, drawn-out unravelling of a whole bunch of terrible decisions made by Whitehall bureaucrats drawing nice straight lines on blank maps with absolutely no knowledge of or regard for the local politics.