Friday, August 12, 2005

Kissinger On Iraq

That friend of fiends, that war criminal among war criminals, Henry Kissinger, has an op-ed in today's Wash Post discussing lessons learned from the U.S. withdrawal of Vietnam -- a war he did much to unnecessarily prolong -- and its bearing on Iraq. While I abhor Kissinger, as anyone concerned with human rights should, he is no doubt a brilliant geopolitical strategist and it shows within the article. Nevertheless,his analysis of what occurred in Iraq strikes me as abysmally ahistorical. For instance:
History, of course, never repeats itself precisely. Vietnam was a battle of the Cold War; Iraq is an episode in the struggle against radical Islam. The stake in the Cold War was perceived to be the political survival of independent nation-states allied with the United States around the Soviet periphery. The war in Iraq is less about geopolitics than about the clash of ideologies, cultures and religious beliefs. Because of the long reach of the Islamist challenge, the outcome in Iraq will have an even deeper significance than that in Vietnam. If a Taliban-type government or a fundamentalist radical state were to emerge in Baghdad or any part of Iraq, shock waves would ripple through the Islamic world. Radical forces in Islamic countries or Islamic minorities in non-Islamic states would be emboldened in their attacks on existing governments. The safety and internal stability of all societies within reach of militant Islam would be imperiled.
There's no doubt that presently the largest problem in Iraq is that of radical Islam, its possible victory, and the domino effect it would have throughout the Middle East if it proved victorious in Iraq. Yet Kiss ignores the run up and subsequent invasion and occupation of Iraq, when radical Islam was not the problem. This was when our executive was telling us we had to topple Hussein to ensure he didn't restart his nuclear program or use what stockpiles of WMD he had to endanger our allies and us (which then changed to ending tyranny in favor of democracy). Since we can effectively rule out the executive's rationale for war now, the only reason for war is what Kissinger ignores: geopolitics.

To debunk this I'll reproduce what conservative Stanford professor, Hoover Institute fellow and senior advisor to the Coalition Provisional Authority Larry Diamond had to say concerning U.S. geopolitical strategy over at TPM Cafe:
It’s now pretty clear that the ambition to establish long-term American military bases in Iraq, in order to secure the Persian Gulf region, contain Iranian expansion, and enable us to draw down or withdraw altogether our forces in Saudi Arabia, was an important motivation for going to war. When we pressed so vigorously and relentlessly in the drafting of the interim constitution for the easiest possible means of ratifying a treaty, it became clear to me that we were looking to smooth the way for an eventual treaty with Iraq giving us long-term basing rights.
Let's also not forget to add oil explicitly into that geopolitical equation as well. I say explicitly because that's essentially what Diamond's saying when he writes "secure the Persian Gulf region."

So while much of what Kissinger writes in terms of strategy I find interesting, even wise, we shouldn't let him divert us from what really led us into Iraq: a new permanent military presence to ensure we control the dope the world can't live without.