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Das Langweilige ist interessant geworden, weil das Interessante angefangen hat langweilig zu werden. – Thomas Mann

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Sunday, October 29, 2006

In my last post, I reprinted one from 2003 about Iraq in which I played the combinations from the American p.o.v. – that is, I listed some basic possible states (all of them combining different possibilities) that the American war in Iraq could move to. I wrote that the American policy of that time was to bet everything on one of those scenarios, and that the bet was made regardless of the fact that the combination of possibilities seem to rank it pretty low among possible outcomes. And that even then, the Americans were not resourcing or acting in such a way as to make it more possible, or patch over the internal incompossibilities –if anything, American behavior contradicted the America’s preferred goals.

The number one goal, in 2003, was this: “1. American troops withdraw. We leave behind a stable, American friendly democracy, that pays America back its 200 billion dollars [spent on the war], with interest, in a timely matter.”

By the terms of this goal, America lost the war in Iraq in Spring of 2004. In fact, winning and losing are, in a sense, stupid terms for what happened. America became irrelevant in Iraq in 2004. There was not going to be a stable state. There was not going to be an American friendly state. There was not going to be a democracy (in the broad sense – with an independent judiciary, a strong legislature, a unified chain of command over the army, etc., etc.). The Wolfowitzian promise that America would be repaid the money expended on this war was not only not going to happen, but was universally forgotten.

Now, incredibly, for the last two years the Bush administration and the majority of the governing class has pretended that America still has a chance 1. It doesn't. The impossibility is two fold: there is no will to do what would be necessary to achieve 1 in the U.S. And there is no possible way to go from the situation in Iraq back now back to a situation in which 1 is possible. It is like a cracked egg - you can't uncrack it.

In order to obviate the obvious improbability of America achieving 1, the discussion about America’s role in Iraq has been reduced to a question of staying – a wholly abstract question that tells us nothing about what the Americans are staying there to do, how they are going to do, what means they are going to use to do it, etc. Of course, whereever a vacuum of real thought occurs, ethical sentimentalism rushes in. The ethical sentimentalism of the moment is that America owes Iraq. Well, that's the fucking truth. But it is not going to 'repay' Iraq by staying and interfering in the only paths possible to peace in Iraq.

Now, I’d like to put forth another series of combinations, but it is much harder to do at the moment. My preferred combination is not from the American p.o.v. I’d like to see the Americans leave Iraq, and the Iraqis themselves hold unconditional talks between factions not to create an absolute peace, but to create the conditions for peace talks. I’d like to see the factions agree on lowering the level of violence in their areas, as well as agreeing not to attack other areas. As in Lebanon, the first step to peace is not an absolute solution to the question of power, but, first, a recognition of who has power. Only then will Iraq be able to move towards folding the militias into a reconstituted army and actually creating a new Iraqi state. I have a strong suspicion that the new Iraqi state will include Northern Iraq in name only.

It would be a D.o.G. [delusion of grandeur] to think that the Americans would cooperate on what Iraq really needs right now, however. The U.S. is still unwilling to accept reality – that is, the lesser degree of their power and influence in the Middle East. Just as Thomas Friedman and Paul Wolfowitz wanted, the Americans blindly smashed an order in the Middle East, but it turns out that this order was the optimal order for American influence. To try to prolong American hegemony in the Middle East in a new, Bushian order will sap the political will of the Americans and, in the long run, be a tremendous waste of their resources. It won’t work. However, that it won’t work still is not evident to the American governing class.

Anyway, I’m going to try to list some combinations with various American policy changes in Iraq, just to see what they would look like. In the next post, I think.

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