9 December 2006
Have the new centurians been hyped by their own propaganda?
The Coming Of Gulf War III
Even If We Leave Now, We’ll Be Back – By David Rothkopf, Washington Post, Sunday, December 10, 2006
“Staying the course”, the battle cry of the republic. Then comes the Iraq Study Group and predictably all the headlines parrot the news bites about a war ‘lost’ and a ‘change of course’. But is it a change of course or the same wolf dressed up as a dove creeping in through the back door of the biggest embassy on the planet?
The US Embassy in Baghdad covers about 100 acres and sits within the so-called Green Zone right in the heart of Baghdad, in effect a small town within a town, and not exactly a temporary dwelling, so regardless of whether the Marines et al continue to blow the country to pieces or not, you don’t build a gigantic piece of real estate costing billions on someone else’s land without every intention of staying (on the course). It’s the 21st century equivalent of one of those French Foreign Legion’s forts, built to police a colony and keep the natives in their place and, retreat to when under attack.
Thus all the talk about withdrawal within 18 months (or two years or four years or whenever, depending on who is speaking) is so much propaganda, designed to fool the public into thinking a ‘change of course’ is being planned.
Even those who opposed the invasion like Anthony Zinni, the former head of the U.S. Central Command argues that:
“Instead of taking troops out … it would make more sense to consider deploying additional American forces over the next six months to “regain momentum” as part of a broader effort to stabilize Iraq that would create more jobs, foster political reconciliation and develop more effective Iraqi security forces.” – International Herald Tribune, 14 November, 2006.
Revealing that what Zinni opposed was the strategy, not the objective. The military caste is always at the service of its political masters, where they may differ is in tactics.
“Regain momentum”, “stabilise Iraq” and “foster political reconciliation”? Every word written by those who claim to be presenting a change in direction hides the fundamental reality of an imperialist project that continues to be on track. The question to ask however, is whether the entire basis of the enterprise is based upon false assumptions about how best to achieve the objectives of US imperialism?
‘Withdrawal’ has to be viewed within the broader strategic concept that has been developed over the past decade or more, specifically the notion of ‘lily pads’ or floating bases, for example the US 7th fleet which consists of 21 ships including nuclear submarines, assault landing ships, aircraft carriers, missile destroyers, frigates, indeed the entire can of worms.
“The policy has involved not just resorting to military action, or the threat of action, but constructing an arc of new facilities in such places as Uzbekistan, Pakistan, Qatar and Djibouti that the Pentagon calls ‘lily pads.’ They are seen not merely as a means of defending the host countries – the traditional Cold War role of such installations – but as jumping-off points for future ‘preventive wars’ and military missions.” – See ‘Twenty-first century gunboat diplomacy’ by Tom Engelhardt, The Nation, 30/03/04. (See also ‘Coup d’Etat in Washington and – The Dollar Paper Tiger , Fiery Dragon in Asia and the Pacific’ by Andre Gunder Frank, globalresearch.ca/articles/FRA406A.html
“… the idea of creating offshore platforms that could serve as forward bases… Dubbed “lily pads,” these floating bases would function as a sort of cross between a land base and an aircraft carrier.” – Scripps Howard News Service April 29, 2003
Thus the concept of ‘withdrawal’ has to be viewed not only within the context of ‘forward bases’ (of the floating variety) which enables the US to strike with impunity without the need for land-based forces but also the simple fact that the objective of the decade-long blockade of Iraq and the subsequent invasion, effectively removed Iraq as an obstacle to US objectives in the region.
Seen in this light, the invasion and occupation is far from being a failure as it has secured its objective, namely, ensuring Israeli dominance of the region and removing the major obstacle to US plans, Iraq. So short of being physically driven from Iraq, the colonisers ain’t going nowhere, they are in for the long haul and indeed Bush’s 2003 performance from the deck of an aircraft carrier when he declared “mission accomplished” is closer to the truth than the critics claim, for the objective has been accomplished, namely massive profits for the arms industry and for the oil cartels. We should remember that arms manufacturers never lose regardless of which side ‘wins’. But this war isn’t about winning or losing in the traditional sense as there was no enemy to start with. It’s about economic domination by whatever means necessary or, as the US strategists describe it, “full spectrum dominance”.
However, if one reads between the lines, the criticism of the Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld strategy, especially but not exclusively by the military can be interpreted as follows: could the same objective have been achieved without the physical occupation of Iraq based upon the idea of the ‘lily pads’? But even the military caste is divided over how best to serve the interests of its masters; divided between the ‘old guard’ who still think in terms of the Cold War and those who think that technology can do the job.
However, overhauling a vast military-industrial complex, retooling it, essentially from the ground upwards is a vast undertaking in the logistical sense never mind the entrenched interests, both military, political as well as economic, interests which are far from agreement over the best way to preserve the rule of capital.
The criticism therefore by the ‘realists’ of the ‘neo-con’ approach is based upon the idea that they haven’t actually followed the ‘game plan’. All of the politico-military writings from the PNAC onwards indicate a strategy for global domination based upon the idea of highly mobile and heavily armed military forces that can be mobilised in a short time to any spot on the face of the planet (see also United States Space Command ‘Vision 2020’), the so-called rapid-deployment forces. The theory being that the mere threat of overwhelming force is enough to enforce US wishes.
However, the ‘game plan’ and the ability to realise it are seriously out of sync as the events in Iraq and Afghanistan so clearly demonstrate. It’s obviously a case of their eyes being bigger than their bellies. When a global strategic plan is run by technocrats who have been seduced by their overwhelming belief in technology as the ‘solution’ it reveals a very fundamental flaw in the thinking of the ruling political class, a class whose dominant clique, the ‘neo-cons’ still thinks in terms of the Cold War, of vast armies opposing each other. We should remember that the leading ideologues of the Bush administration are products of the Cold War period, from Nixon to Reagan (some are from an even earlier period).
It also reveals the limitations of a campaign based upon the idea of a ‘war on terrorism’, also clearly based on the thinking of the Cold War period. Thus we see that the US political class is in disarray, beset by its own contradictions, but divided not by objectives but how to best realise them.
There is however a further irony in the current situation, namely that in spite of the vast propaganda machine wielded by the US political class to justify the invasion, the chief obstacle to imperial plans still remains the US people. It’s all very well exterminating entire cultures from an armchair by remote control but quite a different matter when its their sons and daughters who are being killed, a lesson clearly not learnt from the Vietnam experience.
So perhaps in this sense, the invasion and occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan has been a failure if only because ultimately it can only be carried through with at the very least the acquiessence of the American and British public. But the days are long past when millions of working people can be sacrificed at the alter of capital. The ‘rules of the game’ have indeed changed but not in the way that Blair means. But having started out down a road that can only lead in one direction, the options are severely limited.
Thus the question we need to ask is whether the ‘great game’ by another name, full spectrum dominance or whatever you want to call it, is a realistic strategy for assuring imperialism’s rule and if not, could it be that the military failure of Iraq and Afghanistan signals the end? All depends on whether the road laid out broadly by the PNAC document can be achieved and at this point my crystal ball goes murky, for underlying all the grand talk of global strategies lies yet another reality, of an economy teetering on the brink of collapse, in which case, all the bets are off.