IRAQ AFTER WAR & OCCUPATION: A COMMENT
"The upheaval caused by the removal of the Ba'ath regime in 2003 was clearly a watershed in terms of how all aspects of the future Iraqi state would operate. In the domestic and foreign policy realms alike, the removal of the authoritarian structures of Saddam's regime gave space and opportunity to a range of previously structured actors to carve out power centres of their own. Yet, arguably, the pattern of how policies would be determined by each of these sets of actors, and how foreign relations would later be constructed, maintained striking similarities with those of Ba'athist Iraq. Considering the making of foreign policy under Saddam, Tripp offers a number of insights which tend to encourage a view of the situation as unique, including the control of the regime by Saddam and a small circle of men related through family or clan bonds....In addition to this clear dominance, foreign policy in Saddam's terms was very much defined as starting at the boundaries of the presidential compound---that is, everything beyond the inner circle of trusted figures was in effect 'foreign', particularly as those not trusted would almost certainly be from 'communities amenable to the machinations of outside powers'".
Gareth Stansfield, "The reformation of Iraq's foreign relations", International Affairs (November 2010), p. 1401.
"America's grand strategy in the aftermath of 9/11 shifted from that of a hegemonic hyperpower minded to manipulate the rules to that of an imperial power that regarded the rules and the institutions of the UN order as outdated and irrelevant. As we have discussed above, the Iraq war brought into question the extent to which the rules prohibiting the use of force retain legitimacy. Washington's 'assault on the international social structure built up mainly by the US over the previous half century' exposes a central paradox of hegemony. While hegemons possess material capabilities to act unilaterally, they 'cannot maintain this role if they do so at the expense of the system they are trying to lead'....The failure of unilateralism and the limits of US power projection became apparent as the policy failures became starker. Within a year, the WMD claims were revealed as bogus, and within two years the invasion had made the problem of jihadist terrorism worse than it was in 2003, provoking derision about the rationale for war."
Tim Dunne & Klejda Mulaj, "America after Iraq," International Affairs (November 2010), p. 1297.
On the occasion of the withdrawal officially of all American and allied combat troops from Iraq in August, the Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House), has devoted an entire issue to the subject of Iraq and America in the aftermath of the war and occupation. The articles are most interesting, and backs up my own contention that International Affairs, notwithstanding an at times excessive usage of International Relations theory & verbiage, is by far the best existing periodical dealing the foreign affairs now existing. The only one in fact which still provides the educated and cultured reader with an ultra-informed view of the ongoing currents in International politics. Something which unfortunately, the now withered and bowed down, American periodical, Foreign Affairs no longer does. The latter have given-in to the twin evils of moyen-vulgarization and commercialism. With all that being said, what does one say about Iraq and indeed the USA in the aftermath of the seven plus years that both have gone through? First, that even in retrospect, it seems scarcely believable that the Bush regime and its inner-circle of 'neo-conservatives', were able to use the national trauma felt by the American narod to invent a series of rationales to over-throw the rather nasty Ba'athist regime of Saddam Hussein. It particularly strains belief simply by virtue of the fact that the vast majority of the cabal who decided policy, both inside and outside of office, knew almost nothing about either Iraq or indeed the Near and Middle East region as a whole. Except in some fashion or other, the State of Israel. Second, following from the appalling ignorance mentioned above, it is not very surprising that this cabal, had no idea or concept of what the overthrow of Saddam's regime would cause both in Iraq and in the region as a whole. None whatsoever it would indeed appear. Indeed, the fantasies that were believed in, concerning post-bellum Iraq and post-bellum Near and Middle East appears akin to something out of Alice in Wonderland.
With all that being said, it is too reductionist to posit that the entire imbroglio has resulted in no lasting American influence in the new Iraq. As Gareth Stansfield, clearly shows in his article, it is only the Americans, not mind you either the Turks or the Persians who "'is the only party respected, if grudgingly by nearly all sides. No other entity has the same power to convene in Iraq---not Iran [Persia], not the United Nations'.1" Similarly, notwithstanding the pessimism which seems to afflict the American pays legal these days about American machtpolitik, the fact of the matter is, as Tim Dunne puts it, the USA still exists, in a universe of its own, in power political terms:
"The US pre-eminence in the current international system is an undisputed fact. American GDP roughly equals that of China, Japan, Germany, Russia, France and Britain combined, or alternatively, one-quarter of the global GDP. Morever, the US spends more on defence than any other country in the world by a very long way---its defence expenditure in 2008 amounted to nearly half the global total. Thanks to this material preponderance, the United States commands 'unassailable military dominance over sea, air and space'"2. 1289
Which is not of course to gainsay the fact that since 2002-2003, that the Persian regime in Teheran has not taken advantage, in particularly psychologically of the removal of the Ba'ahtist regime. It indeeds has. And its nuclear processing programme, as well as its ties to Syria and Hezbollah and give the appearance of having the wind politically at its back. But, I would argue that this is more tinsel than substance. At least until the Persians positively test a nuclear weapon. Or alternatively, if Syria and Hezbollah were to once again defeat (in the sense of fight to a draw) Israel `a la 2006. Or finally the eruption of another Intafada by the Palestinians against the Israelis. In absence of any of these events occurring the decline in the American position in the region is not as nearly great as many commentators, such as Joshua Landis of Syria Comment, erroneously assume. Even with the second-rate, American diplomatic effort coming from Mme. Clinton's (Dieu help us!) State Department 3. Or to paraphrase 'Madam Mere' (Bonaparte's mater): Let us just hope that this state of affairs lasts.
1.) Stansfield, op. cit., p. 1408.
2.) Dunne, op. cit., p. 1289.
3.) For an example of how second-rate, if not amateurish American diplomacy is at the moment, under Mme. Clinton, especially in the Near & Middle East, see: Roula Khalaf, "Israeli frustration deepens despite offers of fighter jets," Financial Times, 29 November 2010, p.2.