Slowly, President Bush’s war plan
against Iraq is emerging from the thick fog. At first it looked like a
collection of hazy slogans, but gradually it is becoming clear that it has
definite - if hidden - aims.
The plan is unconnected to the
famous “war on terrorism”, to the personality of Saddam Hussein or to the
weapons of mass destruction that Iraq is producing, like all the other
states in the region, from Pakistan to Israel and Egypt.
Critics of the war plans (including
myself) have pointed to the disastrous political results that must be
expected: Iraq would break into three parts (Kurds in the north, Sunnis in
the center, Shi’ites in the south), the Middle East would be exposed to the
onslaught of Iranian fanaticism, pro-Western Arab regimes would collapse.
Israel would be surrounded by aggressive Islamic fundamentalism, like the
Crusader kingdom with the advent of Saladin.
This evaluation is based on an
assumption that has been true for some time: the United States is not ready
to keep large numbers of troops in far-away countries. This would mean that
after the conquest of Iraq the troops would return home, leaving Iraq to its
fate. But it is quite possible that this assumption is not valid anymore.
The war plan of the Bushies makes
sense only if the US leadership is ready - more than that, is actually
longing for - the occupation of Iraq in order to remain there for many-many
Such an occupation will necessitate
a big investment of troops and resources. It will commit large military
forces for a long time. That is why the plan is opposed by the American
generals (including the Secretary of State, General Colin Powell). But in
the eyes of Bush and his advisers, this is a very worthwhile investment that
would yield immense benefits. Among others:
* The main objective of the American
economy (and therefore of American policy) is the oil of the Caspian Sea.
The exploitation of this gigantic reservoir, the biggest in the world, has
not yet started. Its control will ensure that America has cheap fuel for
decades to come. Bush, a typical oil man who despises alternative
“environment friendly” sources of energy, considers this a major aim.
* On its way to the market, the oil
must reach the open sea. There are several possible routes - via Afghanistan
and Pakistan or Turkey. Iraq is close to all of them, and American air and
ground forces stationed there will guarantee American domination over the
* The existence of a secure American
base in the heart of the Arab world will also enable Washington to bully all
the Arab regimes, lest they stray from the straight and narrow. The pressure
on Saudi Arabia will be immense. Not only will the American bases in Saudi
Arabia become redundant, but by manipulating the oil prices America could
bring the kingdom to the brink of bankruptcy.
* The new situation would finally
break OPEC. Washington will decide the price of oil and how it is
* The new situation will destroy the
last remnants of Arab independence. Even today, almost all the Arab
countries are dependent on America. A massive American physical presence in
their midst will put an end to any pretense of Arab power and unity.
* Neighboring Iran, too, will lose
its appetite for opposing the American Big Satan. Iran will be threatened on
both sides by the American bases in Afghanistan and Iraq.
* Total American control over all
the oil resources, from Kazakhstan in the north to Saudi Arabia in the
south, will put an end to any European hopes of competing with the economic
and political might of the United States. He who controls the oil controls
the economy. Increased oil prices might throw millions of workers into the
streets of Europe and East Asia.
How will the occupation function?
When Americans think of occupation, they rely on their experience in Japan.
There, after the capitulation, an American general, Douglas McArthur,
reigned without limits. The Japanese obeyed dutifully, because they were
instructed to do so by their revered emperor, the Mikado.
Now some people in Washington dream
of installing an Iraqi Mikado, somebody from the Hashemite dynasty that
ruled Iraq until 1958, when the last king was murdered. Why not put another
family member on the throne, some relative of the king of Jordan - or, come
to think of it, why not unite Iraq and Jordan under one crown?
A grandiose, world-embracing, yet
simple and logical design. What does it remind me of? Indeed, the style
sounds vaguely familiar. In the early 80’s, I heard about several plans like
this from Ariel Sharon (which I published at the time). His head was full of
grand designs for restructuring the Middle East, the creation of an Israeli
“security zone” from Pakistan to Central Africa, the overthrow of regimes
and installing others in their stead, moving a whole people (the
Palestinians) and so forth.
I can’t help it, but the winds
blowing now in Washington remind me of Sharon. I have absolutely no proof
that the Bushies got their ideas from him, even if all of them seem to have
been mesmerized by him. But the style is the same - a mixture of
megalomania, creativity, arrogance, ignorance and superficiality. An
Sharon’s grand design floundered, as
we know. The bold flights of imagination and the superficial logic did not
help - Sharon simply did not understand the real currents of history. I fear
that the band of Bush, Cheney, Rumsfield, Rice, Wolfowitz, Pearl and all the
other little Sharons are suffering from the same syndrome.
Iraq is not Japan, and the Iraqis
will not obey a Mikado brought in by the Americans as they now obey a local
nationalist dictator. Islamic fundamentalism is not an animal that can be
tamed easily. Hundreds of millions of enraged human beings all over the Arab
and Muslim world are a great danger, even for a mighty military power.
Sharon may believe that he will be
the big winner of such an American move, though history may show that he
brought a historical disaster on us. He may succeed in exploiting the
ensuing anarchy in order to drive the Palestinians out of the country. But
within a few years Israel could find itself surrounded by a new Middle East
- and not the one Shimon Peres is driveling on about. A region full of
hatred, dreaming of revenge, driven by religious and nationalist fanaticism.
And in the end, the Americans will go home. We will be left here alone.
But people like Bush and Sharon do not
march to the beat of history. They are listening to a different drummer.
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