Friday, December 23, 2005

Why Be in Iraq?

A commenter over at Feministe asks me how the invasion of Iraq serves the war on terror. My (slightly edited) response:

The specific enemy that the GWOT is most concerned with is a brand of militant Islamic irredentism/imperialism that has failed to make a sufficient foothold in the population to be democratically viable. (Think the Nazis if Hitler hadn't managed to squeak out electoral victory.)

Saddam Hussein's Iraq exemplified one possible variant of the state such folk would establish; Afghanistan under the Taliban, the other. Secular or religious in nature, it's essentially the Nazis, Islamic style. Some of the would-be tyrants, like bin Laden, have global visions. Others, like Saddam, were more regional in scope - so far as we know. (What proof would we have of Hitler's geopolitical intentions, if he had been stopped and deposed after knocking over Czechoslovakia in 1938-1939? None that would stand up.)

Deposing the Iraqi state and re-establishing it under at least reasonably republican principles drives a stake into the global aspirations of the bin Laden wannabes. Can I become a feared terrorist warlord? Sure, kid. Can I set up my own private empire with cities and palaces and nuclear bombs? Well, uh, no. Because if you do, the Americans will come and kick seven kinds of hell out of you.

Palaces, unfortunately for the bad guys, have fixed street addresses.


aaron said...

There is an unclear path from the militant antiwestern Islam and Arab nationalism in that argument. The common denominator seems to be Arabs and geography.

The Fascism premise is to take populist themes and combine them with existing power groups to form an aggressive militaristic version of the status quo.

That Fascist idea was very present in SH's Iraq, but not in radical Islamic theocracies. Afghanistan, for example, was mostly decentralized and run by zealots pushed by religious groups/leaders.

That leaves only one thought left. The global enemy is underground disenfranchised Moslem terrorists, and if they establish power, we can bomb them.

This doesn't jive with the GWOT in practice. The clear focal points in encouraging terrorism have been:
- Iran (an established theocracy)
- Syria (Fascism, needs populist cause of anti-Israel)
- Possibly Saudi Arabia (crypto-Fascist, needs popular cause of Wahabiism for popular cause and as a quid pro quo with clerics used as thought and activity police)

Given this, the interesting thing to me is that Iraq is the only state bordering on all.

flint cordoroy said...

I'm sure Americans are glad to hear(or pretend not to hear) about the Iraqi populist movement to reinstate the Sharia and get rid of those pesky civil rights Saddam's administration had granted women.

Not that it matters to any of us. Most of our allies in the region have worse civil rights records. We realistically don't care about them, and we didn't care about Iraqi's. We just tell ourselves we do to make ourselves feel better about blindly following George Bush.

The bottom line is the middle east is a violent region. Whichever political group is losing will resort to violence, and whichever is winning will retaliate with violence.

It's completely ridiculous to charge Saddam in court over things he did in the 1980s with the United States' tacit tolerance.