Though Iraq does not threaten us, has not attacked us, cannot defeat us, and does not want war with us, the United States is about to invade and occupy that country. If we do, it will be the first purely imperial war in our history, a war launched to reshape the domestic politics and foreign policy of another nation to conform to our own.
A war to convert Iraq into a vassal state in the Middle East is something the War Party has sought for a decade. Sept. 11 gave it the opening to foist its agenda on an outraged and untutored president.
But does George W. Bush share their vision? Has he, too, come to believe in the need for an American empire? Does he see in his mind’s eye a U.S.-occupied Iraq – allied with Turkey, Israel and Jordan – ordering Syria’s President Bashar Assad to pull his 35,000 troops out of Lebanon, so Sharon can go back in and settle scores with Hezbollah?
Does he share the War Party’s vision of an Iran surrounded by U.S. air power in Turkey, Iraq, Kuwait, the Gulf, Afghanistan and Central Asia being ordered to destroy its missiles and nuclear reactors, or face U.S. attack? Sharon sees it. Anticipating a U.S. occupation of Iraq, he has called on us to smash Iran next. After that, Libya.
But, again, the question remains: Has George W. Bush himself become an imperialist? Is the War Party dream of a Middle East and Persian Gulf where the United States is the hegemonic power that dictates to every capital and brooks no dissent now his vision as well?
To be blunt, is there a Bush-Sharon Grand Strategy for a Middle East where all resistance to U.S. hegemony is broken and all opposition to Israel’s occupation of Arab lands ends?
After Iraq, the War Party will demand that Bush confront Syria, Iran and Saudi Arabia. Will he? Or will he do as his father did after Desert Storm? Try to compel Israel to get off Palestinian lands and accede to a just peace with the Palestinian people?
President Bush contends that all he demands of Iraq is surrender of its weapons of mass destruction. If that is true, as it was true that all his father demanded was Iraq’s eviction from Kuwait, then there is simply an overlap of Bush policy and Israeli policy, and not some grand alliance or agreed-upon strategic agenda. Only after U.S troops enter Baghdad, however, will we learn the answers to these questions.
But if Bush is not an imperialist, why are we about to invade Iraq?
Bush’s case for war: Saddam is a murderous tyrant with a grudge against America who has gassed his own people and has weapons of mass destruction that will be used on us, or his neighbors, or given to terrorists. Let us disarm Iraq while we can, lest we confront a situation in the Gulf identical to what we confront on the Korean peninsula: one of the world’s most dangerous dictators wielding the world’s most dangerous weapons.
The case against war: Iraq had no role in the anthrax attack or 9-11. No terrorist attack of the last decade is traceable to Iraq. Iraq has invited in U.N. inspectors and told us to send CIA agents to accompany them. Not since 1990 has Iraq attacked a neighbor. No matter how evil Saddam may be, he has been contained, and none of his neighbors fear him or want us to invade.
Moreover, Saddam has three or four doubles who travel with him in a fleet of Mercedes, and he sleeps in a different bed every night. This is not a martyr – this is a survivor. Why would he attack a superpower when it would mean the certain destruction of him, his sons, his dynasty, his legacy, his monuments and his palaces, leaving him in the history books, not as another Saladin, but as the dumbest Arab of them all?
My view: When George Bush began his fulminations about the Axis of Evil, pre-emptive strikes and “regime change,” he had not thought it all through, but has now become a prisoner of his own oratory. After all that bellicosity, he simply cannot be the second George Bush to send an army to the Gulf and order it home with Saddam still in power. And with all those troops over there primed for war, would they not mock a commander in chief who declares that Hans Blix will do the job?
As of today, it would take greater courage for George Bush not to go to war than to go to war. And so, unless Saddam departs or is ousted by the Ides of March, we are going to war. The War Party, it would appear, wins this round.