It is time for the White House to come to terms with two central realities:There's more, including recommendations on what to do next, all of which comes from testimony Brzezinski will be offering before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee tomorrow. His statement is powerful for it's extreme clarity and forthrightness, and the directness with which he dismisses much of the absurd talk about the war that passes for "debate" these days. He is especially dismissive of this idea that the war in Iraq is some essential element of a world-spanning conflict with radical Islam that is on par with the war against Nazi Germany. Such an approach is so absurd that it should be self-dismissing (arguing for the importance of global war against Islamofascism should alone convince the listener that you have no idea what you're talking about) but unfortunately there are many who still cling stubbornly to the notion. Blunt talk from the likes of Brzezinski will not dissuade those who refuse to embrace the reality of Iraq, but it can be of invaluable guidance to the rest of us who desire an end to the protracted conflict in Iraq, and bring about peace in the Middle East in general.
1. The war in Iraq is a historic, strategic, and moral calamity. Undertaken under false assumptions, it is undermining America's global legitimacy. Its collateral civilian casualties as well as some abuses are tarnishing America's moral credentials. Driven by Manichean impulses and imperial hubris, it is intensifying regional instability.
2. Only a political strategy that is historically relevant rather than reminiscent of colonial tutelage can provide the needed framework for a tolerable resolution of both the war in Iraq and the intensifying regional tensions.
If the United States continues to be bogged down in a protracted bloody involvement in Iraq, the final destination on this downhill track is likely to be a head-on conflict with Iran and with much of the world of Islam at large. A plausible scenario for a military collision with Iran involves Iraqi failure to meet the benchmarks; followed by accusations of Iranian responsibility for the failure; then by some provocation in Iraq or a terrorist act in the U.S. blamed on Iran; culminating in a "defensive" U.S. military action against Iran that plunges a lonely America into a spreading and deepening quagmire eventually ranging across Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.
A mythical historical narrative to justify the case for such a protracted and potentially expanding war is already being articulated. Initially justified by false claims about WMD's in Iraq, the war is now being redefined as the "decisive ideological struggle" of our time, reminiscent of the earlier collisions with Nazism and Stalinism. In that context, Islamist extremism and al Qaeda are presented as the equivalents of the threat posed by Nazi Germany and then Soviet Russia, and 9/11 as the equivalent of the Pearl Harbor attack which precipitated America's involvement in World War II.
This simplistic and demagogic narrative overlooks the fact that Nazism was based on the military power of the industrially most advanced European state; and that Stalinism was able to mobilize not only the resources of the victorious and militarily powerful Soviet Union but also had worldwide appeal through its Marxist doctrine. In contrast, most Muslims are not embracing Islamic fundamentalism; al Qaeda is an isolated fundamentalist Islamist aberration; most Iraqis are engaged in strife because the American occupation of Iraq destroyed the Iraqi state; while Iran -- though gaining in regional influence -- is itself politically divided, economically and militarily weak. To argue that America is already at war in the region with a wider Islamic threat, of which Iran is the epicenter, is to promote a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Wednesday, January 31, 2007
Via Washington Note, some powerful words on the Iraq war from Zbigniew Brzezinski: