For the Bush administration, Iraq is no longer a democratic test tube, or tabula rasa for geopolitical mapmakers, or even a Rovian opportunity to whip injured nationalism into a vengeful froth. It is way beyond that. Iraq has become, instead, nothing more than the administration’s tar baby of Hobson’s choices, Catch 22s, vicious cycles, and proverbial rocks and hard places amidst the desert.
The one bright spot is that Iraq as an immediate problem could very well be thrown out along with Bush’s other fetid bathwaters in 2008. The dark side, however, is that this criminal war has made an international rogue of the United States and the self-made image will linger in the world’s mind for years to come. Furthermore, the neocon Bushies who were intent on flexing America’s muscle to intimidate global girlie-men have instead shown (once again) that raw military power is a 98-pound, counterinsurgent weakling. Indeed, Bush’s excellent Iraq adventure has been an inspiration to the bin Ladens and Zarqawis everywhere waiting to kick sand in our face.
What’s more, Bush has demonstrated to the world that U.S. foreign policy is often more an instrument of political opportunism at home than that of grounded principles in play overseas. In brief, the U.S. can’t be trusted to do the right thing - only the momentarily popular thing, which can be easily fabricated and cynically marketed.
What’s worse is the Bush administration’s further destabilization of a region indispensable to the world’s economy, hence critical to the world’s political stability, nation by oil-dependent nation. Destabilization’s long-term downside is incalculable as well as unpredictable, the latter being the worst of all possible worlds for international planners.
Finally, the Bushies never understood there was no appropriate testing ground on which to reverse the lessons of Vietnam. Its lessons were transcendent. But in choosing Iraq - a tribal, ethnic and sectarian basket case in the midst of a regional basket case of global implications - to disprove those lessons, they gambled on the least amenable test case - and at a cost of thousands of innocent lives. Add to that the administration’s unprecedented but routine incompetence in the execution of a wholly wrongheaded policy and you have the makings of this nation’s worst foreign policy blunder ever.
The ever-lower depths of this uniquely disastrous policy are revealed almost daily. Merely the latest revelation is the dilemma posed by Iraq’s upcoming constitutional referendum. As the New York Times reported last week:
“Senior American officials say they are confident that Iraq’s draft constitution will be approved in the referendum to be held Oct. 15, even though Sunni Arabs in Iraq are mobilizing in large numbers to defeat it. In testimony before Congress on Thursday, the senior American military commander in Iraq, Gen. George W. Casey Jr. of the Army, said the most recent analysis of intelligence from across the country supported the Bush administration's optimistic predictions that the referendum would pass.”
Some good news after all, you say? Hardly. In terrible fact, it’s the opposite:
“But no matter how the vote goes, several officials said in interviews, the violence in Iraq is likely to increase significantly…. Officials say that if the constitution is defeated, insurgents will most likely believe that they have won a significant victory and be encouraged to fight on. Conversely, it is said, the insurgency will grow stronger if the voters approve the constitution, because that will anger Sunnis who opposed it and empower Sunni insurgents who can claim that their views were ignored.”
In their eagerness for war, the Bushies have forged a lose-lose, no-matter-what-lose situation. It is the naturally bitter fruit of a corrupt design and truly one for the history books - although we can’t yet know just how bad and how lasting the damage done will be.