Mission improbable

In a longish “assessment(Financial Times—subscription required)”:http://news.ft.com/servlet/ContentServer?pagename=FT.com/StoryFT/FullStory&c=StoryFT&cid=1071251816954&p=1045050946495 of the Bush foreign policy entitled “Mission Accomplished?” Gerald Baker in the Financial Times [subscription] concludes that Bush policies may have started to regain credibility and popularity in December thanks to the capture of Saddam Hussein, the decision of Libya to renounce its WMD program and the success of James Baker in convincing France, Russia and Germany to forgive some Iraqi debt. Baker may be right about the electoral impact of these latest events. But do they justify a revision of the careful criticisms from the “right(link to the Cato Institute website)”:http://www.cato.org/pubs/pas/pa-502es.html and “left(link to the Carnegie Endowment website)”:http://www.ceip.org/files/Publications/IraqSummary.asp that were published in December? I think it’s questionable whether that there was a ‘mission’ in the first place in the sense of a rational and proportionate program to achieve defined and feasible ends. But even measured against their stated goals the Bush actions do not seem to me to be more justified in January than they were in November. # The capture of Hussein is iconic, certainly: a dictator crushed and dragged from his bolt hole. But it is strategically irrelevant. It has not added to any sense of security in Iraq or elsewhere. Saddam has been a spent force for almost a year; the security of Iraq continues monotonously to deteriorate, and US management continues to appear ad-hoc. Everything about the administration of post-war Iraq confirms that little, if any, thought was given to the aftermath of the inevitable “victory” by US military or civilian authorities. Iraq itself, like Vietnam before, was only a pawn in what they imagined was a larger game. They are now forced to manage an exquisitely difficult Iraqi reality for long enough, at least, to allow them to withdraw. They may also have begun to accept that the ‘game’ they thought they were winning is taking place elsewhere (although they don’t seem to know where).
# The Libyan announcement was a surprise, as is almost everything that Ghaddafi does, because it has no obvious antecedants. Although there are evidently elements in both Libya the United States that are kooky enough to entertain, and even to act on, the possiblility of a US ‘Iraq-style’ invasion of Libya, there is no evidence at all that the Libyan action on WMD was motivated by what happened in Iraq. Instead, the more likely motives are those that led Ghaddafi to offer up scape-goats for the Lockerbie bombing as long ago as 1999, to offer astronomical reparations last year and even accept (?) blame are more likely motives. Ghaddafi, may be unstable but he is not the irrational loser that Saddam was/is; he appears to want better relations with Europe and his own neigborseven more than he fears another “US bombing attack(link to BBC timeline site)”:http://www.hartford-hwp.com/archives/32/050.html.
# No evidence emerged in December that gives a more rational foundation in retrospect to the invasion of Iraq. There is still no sign of any threating WMD program in Iraq after 1991; there has been no damage to al-Quaeda as a result of the fall of the Saddam regime nor even any credible evidence of link between them; the situation in the wider Middle East continues to deteriorate both from a security point of view (terror attacks in Saudi Arabia), in the terrible attrition across the Israel/West Bank/Gaza boundaries, in the physical and economic decimation of Palestine and the moral destruction of both the Palestinians and Israelis. President Bush since his election has appeared unable to recognize, let alone define, his mission in the world beyond the borders of the United States. Before September 11, 2001 this was an irritation. Since then it has been a tragedy.

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