Occurrences like that ghastly business the other day when the ISIS marauders executed journalist James Foley serve as reminders of the major wrong turn made by George W. Bush and the warmonger crew he assembled in Washington, when they decided that invading Iraq to dethrone Saddam Hussein was a smart foreign policy move. The Bush team’s total miscalculation of what “winning” in Iraq would entail – that there would be a “mission accomplished” in a matter of weeks, that U.S. troops would be welcomed as heroes, etc — was but one aspect. There was, too, the critical issue of prevailing hawkish sentiment in Washington presuming to be hip to Arab culture, sufficiently so to believe that if indeed there would be repercussions from taking out Saddam, they weren’t such that the Bushmen needed be unduly concerned. How thoroughly out to lunch they were about that!
Dick Cheney, who is probably in a tussle with the likes of Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz and others as the most obnoxious of the Bush administration’s “big stick” foreign policy advocates, declared not too long ago, with not a hint of shame, that when Bush left office, Iraq was “in good shape.” The former vice president’s fanciful take on a miserably failed Iraq policy is a boast that likely plays well with only the hard core support base for Cheney’s brand of rubbish. One would have had to be secluded someplace well removed from civilization, to be unaware that the U.S. invasion and occupation left Iraq a king-size mess. All because some hotheads in Washington chose to ignore the vociferously expressed views of millions in this country and around the world, that the “weapons of mass destruction” smokescreen offered as rationale didn’t obscure the bullying tactic that was in fact the trigger for such precipitous action.
For some of the players strutting the political stage here, American hegemony ensures the right to arbitrary intervention anywhere, even when more sober heads caution against it. As was clearly the case with Saddam’s Iraq. The misguided belief that military superiority translated to a victory dance battlefield finale, followed by U.S.-imposed democratic apparatus, was the sort of porous game plan upon which Bush administration strategists based their hopes for re-fashioning Iraq. One assumes that somewhere in the administration’s pipeline, a seemingly reliable Iraqi voice was consulted about pros and cons going forward. Either such a voice wasn’t listened to. Or didn’t say what needed to be said: that Saddam had the measure of Iraqi society in a manner that no intervening authority could. And that, attempting to employ an interloper’s westernized values to socialize a population largely polarized by sectarian division, instantly becomes an undertaking of high failure risk.
Of course, the protracted insurgency didn’t help those dreams of a quick surgical vanquishing of whatever materialized by way of armed Iraqi resistance. That unyielding insurgency, we have repeatedly said here, was significant if for no other reason than driving home to Bush administration masterminds that they had the scenario all wrong, and frustrating whatever else may have been incubating, as far as cracking the whip against perceived “non-conforming” regimes anywhere.
The Bush administration’s recklessness masquerading as Iraq policy reaffirmed for us that there are, among powers that be in the West, those who frown upon authoritarian rule as it exists elsewhere, thinking the supplanting of such governance with democratic models to be the one-size-fits-all panacea. But isn’t what has transpired in post-invasion Iraq a classic example of why leaving those unfamiliar cultures well enough alone may well be the wisest response? Iraq’s efforts to get with the program and do the democracy bit have produced a prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, who has recently been forced from office. And among the elements contributing to the country’s turbulent state ever since the invasion is ISIS, the savagely extremist group that made a spectacle of its killing of that journalist. On both counts, advantage Saddam, were he still in place as the Iraqi overlord. There would, of course, be no al-Maliki as a factor. And we suspect that ISIS, if it dared to be heard and seen at all, would have been a lot more circumspect than in this time of declared grand ambitions and advertised notoriety. One man’s suppressor of freedoms is another man’s controller of disparate rebellious factions.
We had somewhat of a mirror image of the Saddam syndrome when former French President Nicolas Sarkozy led the charge for Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi to be ousted in 2011 with NATO military support. In the wake of a departed Gaddafi came an even more destabilized Libya. And another object lesson on how best to keep the lid on factional tensions well beyond the comprehension of your typical Western operative. Not to mention that in the case of the obsession with Gaddafi, a different resolution of that plot would probably have saved us in the U.S. from having the name Benghazi become such an incendiary topic of political discourse.
From where we sit, the evidence is compelling enough that, absent really credible threat to self, leave well enough alone is as sound as it gets as foreign policy credo.