Bright Spot In The Middle East
Published on: June 4, 2012
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  • Anthony

    Given uncertainties in many regions around world, good news is welcomed despite conditions/stipulations WRM.

  • “Iraq: Bright Spot In The Middle East.”

    I blame George Bush. How ’bout you, Barry?

  • Jacksonian Libertarian

    People forget that after 9/11 we could recognize that cleaning out the el Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan was not going stop the Islamic Culture from spawning terrorists. Some kind of strategic cultural attack, which would change Islamic Culture was needed, it wasn’t good enough that we were swatting mosquitoes; we needed to drain the swamp. This is why I supported the Iraq war as its objective was to plant a seed of the superior American Culture in Iraq. This has worked, as the Islamic Cultures watched triumphant purple fingers raised aloft in Iraq, they were inspired to change that resulted in the Arab Spring. And don’t be so quick to claim the demise of this seed in Iraq to authoritarianism, Nouri al-Maliki is facing a vote of no confidence, and his fall would be a great thing for Iraqi Democracy and further inspire the Islamic World. The war in Iraq is the greatest example of strategic cultural judo in history, and Islamic cultures which were frozen for centuries are now in motion.

  • Chris

    The best thing to happen to Bush foreign policy was for Obama to get elected.

  • Mastro

    It may seem crass- but if Iraq becomes a reliable high volume oil exporter- the war might almost have been worth it.

  • koblog

    “…the strategic aims of the war have been largely achieved. Nine years after the invasion, an independent Iraq has a military that is linked to the United States.”

    This you say after proclaiming Bush was the worst ever.

    But how long did it take for Germany and Japan to come around? Especially considering we still, 67 years later, have military bases in both countries.

    I think you’re being politically correct in your criticism of GW Bush. Nine years to achieve such a sea change in an adversary nation is relatively short, actually.

  • Capn Dan

    Nicely balanced article. Thank you.

  • How long will it last?

  • “The clumsy diplomacy by which the Bush administration made our entry into the war as painful and divisive as possible will long be studied as a case study in incoherence and failure. The poor planning and worse execution of the occupation will also provide generations of scholars and policy analysts rich materials as they seek to develop an anatomy of failure.”

    You sound like John Kerry.

  • Louis Wheeler

    It is interesting that change produces opportunities. The autocracies and incompetent kleptocracies which blocked development and generated waves of hatred against the US and the West are being overturned.

    This means is that reality, which the old regimes prevented, can strike home. The Muslims cannot simply blame the West and Israel for their problems. War is not a path to prosperity. They must learn how to compete commercially with us.

    Most places in the MidEast do not have oil. Therefore, those countries must find goods to trade. Trade has always been a force for peace. If the young men in the MidEast have jobs and wives, then they are less likely to seek war despite their angers and resentments.

    A merchant will trade with people he hates and the Arabs are renown for being merchants. Thus, the Silk Road, at its height, was far more peaceful and religiously tolerant than Europe was.

  • InterestingBut

    Have you been following the Talabani saga? Or the showdown between Erbil and Baghdad? Or that Maliki is looking increasingly like a Shiite dictator? Or that Iran’s influence in Iraq is stronger than ever?

    I’m not saying that Iraq isn’t better off than it was under Saddam, but that’s a long way from being a geopolitical win.

  • Bart Hall (Kansas, USA)

    Iran will someday be a democracy, and a vibrant one at that, since it has long had more of a democratic culture than Iraq. Contemplate the result … India, Iran, Iraq, Israel all with functioning democracies. You could also argue Turkey.

    Caught in the backwaters one finds Pakistan, Jordan, Syria. Of these, only Pakistan is unlikely to become anything viable unless forcibly divided into at least three different nations, only two of which have any hope at all.

    We shall (eventually) see some reasonable semblance of democracy in the Maghreb (North Africa) west of Egypt.

    It is the southern Arabs — Egyptians, Saudis, Sudanese, Yemenis, Somalis, Omanis and what-not who are likely to remain the problem for some decades to come.

    Bush’s move into Iraq, clumsy though it was, has indeed made a brighter future possible for a few hundred million folks.

  • Jim.

    @Mastro-

    State needs at least some people capable of thinking that way. (And at least some people who don’t).

  • TravisMcGee

    I guess I must be some kind of foreign policy savant, because eight years ago I was telling anybody who would listen (and back then, few would) that Iraq would eventually be seen as a strategic accomplishment that would reap dividends for many years to come.

  • If we can prevent Syria from continuing to slaughter its people without an invasion, it would be good. If we can’t and need to invade, it will be interesting to discover the strong links between the Syrian WMD programs and Saddam Hussayne’s Iraq, facilitated by Russia in the days before the US led invasion of Iraq.

    That is what Putin fears most. Russian government fingerprints on the gassing of Syrian rebels. Russia has a substantial number of Muslims, and they have the highest birthrate of any ethnic group in Russia. Russian’s birthrate is 1.5 children per woman, so in mere 20 years, Russia will be majority Muslim. With evidence of Russian participation in murdering Muslims, the price that Russians will pay when they lose control to the Muslims will be higher, and paid earlier.

  • Ron W

    WMD
    “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

    We did find WMDs. Lots of them. We didn’t find nukes. Because not all WMDs are not nukes. You should really get a clue.

    WMD = Chemical, Biological, OR Nuclear.

  • Daniel W. Smith

    Oil production is up, so everything is fine? Holy smokes, where do you come from? It doesn’t matter whether blame or credit goes to Bush or Obama. What matters is that Iraq is a frightening police state with an ever-increasingly abysmal and violent human rights record. Talking about it as though it is a success without mentioning this is about as irresponsible as it gets. It doesn’t feel bright when you’re actually there.

  • richard40

    So basically Bush did almost everything wrong on Iraq, except for the surge, and the appointment of petreaus and Gates, where he finally did something right. Because of the success of the surge, he managed to save Iraq from a complete disaster, to a fairly limited, but high cost, success.

    You also make an interesting point that the foreign policy areas where obama had some success, like killing bin laden and other el quaida with drone attacks, he essentially did the same thing that bush 2 would have done in the same circumstance.

  • When did the war turn around in Iraq?

    When we stopped looking to minimize our footprint (when we were not looking for the exits) and instead stood up and demonstrated that we would actually stand with the Iraqi people and defend them from the thugs and fanatics in their midst.

    Of course, that flies in the face of 20th-century conventional wisdom about how powerful nations should act … but had we done that from the get-go, I think that the progress seen in Iraq would have come a lot sooner, and at a lot less cost in blood and treasure.

    That it took this long and cost so much, should be laid at least as much at the feet of the nattering nabobs that promoted that conventional wisdom since 1945, as it should be at those like Mr. Bush who listened to them when they shouldn’t have been listened to.

    This conventional wisdom was established because many of us sought to atone for past acts of “imperialism” and “exploitation”, so much so that we began to think that there was an equivalence between dictator and democrat when it came to respecting the sovereignty of each.

    As a result, we left Saddam in power for TWELVE YEARS after he invaded Kuwait … while Iran became the world’s leading sponsor of terrorism … and let Libya do their own dabblings in WMD …

    … and almost as bad, kept authoritarians like Mubarak and Assad in power per the “realist” view of politics. We are now reaping the whirlwind of those errors … just as we reaped the whirlwind of not curbing the Shah’s abuses before the Mad Mullahs exploited them to grab power.

    We told ourselves that fighting was inherently wrong … and kept the doors open for something even worse; the strengthening and spread of tyranny that is the true cause of “war without end”.

    Louis Wheeler above is on to something … when people are free to pursue happiness, they are far less likely to turn themselves, or airliners, into bombs. Those self-evident truths in our founding document are not merely American values … they are HUMAN values that transcend ethnicity, religion, and culture. And if we truly believe in those values, then tyranny is an inherently-illegitimate form of governance that does not deserve sovereign respect – WMD or no WMD …

    … for without freedom, and the respect for and protection of it by those charged with leading nations, peace is just an illusion … except for the peace of the graveyard.

  • Norm Hapke

    The views expressed of the Bush administration’s leading up to the war and its execution were a drive-by simplistic and ahistorical mess. The incompetence of Colin Powell’s State Dept. in aligning our allies and the UN was surpassed only by their stunning duplicity and back-stabbing. Any war where a country goes 10,000 miles and at the end of that kind of supply line defeats another country’s armed forces in less than three weeks says something about the conduct of the war that is not totally negative. Would Mr. Mead talk about our 1998 Philippine adventure or the first few months of our WWI or WWII playing? Have we ever fought in a more inhospitable domestic and international climate and media scrutiny where these are not the effects but major causes of the constraints we faced.

  • Kris

    “That peace process he was going to revive between Israelis and Palestinians? No US president since Richard Nixon has gotten less done on that front.”

    The following recent news takes the “peace process” fetish to new heights:

    US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Thursday rejected the notion of unilateral Israeli steps towards separating from the Palestinians.

    “We have discouraged unilateral action from both sides,” said Clinton when asked about the possibility during a press conference while on trip to Denmark. “The United States believes there is no substitute for direct talks between the parties.”

    Several leading Israeli voices, including most recently hints by Defense Minister Ehud Barak, have raised the possibility of unilateral Israeli withdrawals from the West Bank – though presumably they would not be as extensive as those sought by the Palestinians – in the face of a long-time stalemate in negotiations to reach a settlement.

  • I think the best thing the U.S. has going for it in the Middle East is the passing of the generations. Radical Islam must burn itself out and that takes time.

    We’re already half way there. Maybe?

  • Thank you very much for an interesting article.

    I don’t agree with your charges of execrable diplomacy and poor planning against President Bush. I don’t expect that you or I could have done much better, and I know we could have done a lot worse.

    Hindsight is twenty-twenty — if we could predict the future, all our problems would be quite manageable indeed. Just consider how Presidents Clinton or Obama would have handled or not handled Iraq. The U.S. was fortunate to have W at the helm during this time.

  • Woodrow

    “Of these, only Pakistan is unlikely to become anything viable unless forcibly divided into at least three different nations, only two of which have any hope at all.”

    So let me get this straight. The country that’s the biggest mess JUST HAPPENS to be the country with 100 or so nuclear weapons.

    Compared to that, the general celebration over Iraq seems pretty trivial.

  • Re Iraq, I still think it’s WAY too early in the game to start feeling vindicated (much as I would like to). But thanks for the encouragement all the same.

    While we’re on the subject of hunches, though, I do think Ritchie the Riveter’s comments @ 19 may end up deserving a good deal more consideration and appreciation than conventional wisdom is disposed to give them at the present time.

    And in the matter of 20/20 hindsight: I remember, quite early on, reading and talking to a fair number of people all of whom approved of the Iraqi invasion (as I did and continue to do). Their concern was NOT that Saddam already had WMDs, but that it was only a matter of time before he got and was able to use them. And all with the blessing, approval, acquiescence, etc, of a growing number of respectable international players. These analysts’ fear was that that outcome, combined with a groundswell of global sentiment in favor of trade normalization, would lend such legitimacy to an emerging quasi-fascist – and incipiently pro-Islamist? – dynasty as would permanently change the face of both Middle Eastern and world oil politics. And not for the better. I especially remember a number of these writers VERY early on – i.e., long before hindsight was even a point for discussion – CRINGING at the degree and kind of planning, or lack thereof, that went into the Rumsfeld-guided occupation.

  • srp

    The problem in execution of the Iraq invasion must, I am afraid, be left at President Bush’s door. Two competing concepts of the operation were allowed to co-exist ambiguously. The original idea was for a massive raid to topple Saddam’s regime and its Baathist infrastructure, followed by an Iraqi-exile/Kurdish/oppressed Shia struggle to establish a new more-representative government, supported only by U.S. intelligence, diplomatic, and financial support. No occupation was contemplated. An alternative concept was for the U.S. to occupy Iraq as it had Japan, with as heavy a footprint as was necessary. Either concept could be debated, but Bush’s failure to clarify which was the actual plan caused the effort to fall between two stools–too big a footprint to allow new and responsible Iraqi leadership to emerge at low U.S. cost, but too small a footprint to thoroughly pacify and overawe hostile factions of the population pursuant to an occupation strategy.

    The surge represented a belated commitment to the occupation strategy that retrieved the situation, and
    Bush deserves full credit for biting that bullet. In addition, he deserves credit for the overall judgment that Saddam’s continued presence in power represented a grave danger to U.S. national security in a world where we were appearing to be the weak horse unwilling to finish off a sworn enemy actively working against our interests and ideals while pursuing weapons of mass destruction.

  • @ 26:

    About as succinct, thorough and competent an assessment of the Iraqi ordeal as partisans like me (on this issue) could have wished for. Many thanks.

  • srp

    @27:

    Thanks. Upon further review, though, last sentence needs a little work.

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