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Beyond Iraq


 

 

Harry Papasotiriou comments on the "Beyond Iraq" article:

"It would probably only take another attack like 9/11 in the United States to trigger new military operations. By the way, the US Army is astonishingly small for a superpower - not much larger in personnel than Turkey's. It would take some time to enlarge it (by offering better pay to attract more volunteers), but it would not require the draft. American military spending as a percentage of GDP is also rather low, at about 3%. In the 1980s it was more than twice as much (as a portion of GDP).

I think we need to address the question, why the Arab world has bred international Islamist terrorism. The Palestinian issue is a contributory factor. But one must also be aware, that out of 280 million Arabs, 65 million adults are illiterate. This is a simple indicator of the modernization failures in the Middle East, which forty years ago appeared to have a very bright future ahead, when Singapore could barely feed her population and Taiwan was amongst the poorest countries in the world. Four decades later the Arab and most of the wider Muslim world is stuck in a rut, while East Asia has forged ahead. Clearly the Arab world does not need economic aid - it sits on enough oil. What it needs is to reform its corrupt and failed socio-political structures, in which small minorities have all the wealth and power while the largely illiterate majority is in part swayed by medieval obscurantism and anti-Western xenophobia. Invading Iraq and forcing a swift pace of modernization is a highly risky policy of yanking the Arab world towards modernity - anti-Americanism has risen sharply - but sometimes high risks reap high rewards.

RH: Turkey has a notoriously large army. Is there something wrong with Islam? How widespread and deep rooted is the belief in fatalism? As far as illiteracy is concerned, surely the younger generation is more literate than the older one.


From the UK, Anthony Smith sent us the article "Beyond Iraq", on which Harry Paparotiriou now comments: "I have followed Friedman's arguments over the past few years and found them usually very plausible. As I argue in a paper soon to be published, the United States invaded Iraq as part of the process of dealing with the underlying causes of terrorism by a carrot-and-stick approach. Democratising Iraq in order to influence the Middle East in the direction of modernization is the carrot part. Demonstrating a willingness to use force, even with American casualties, and even with much of the world being diplomatically opposed, was an audacious means of coercing changes in state policies that either directly or indirectly aid and abet the international terrorists (the stick part). It demonstrated that the United States will not be as inhibited in using force as some of its opponents have supposed. Iraq's central location certainly makes it an ideal platform from which to coerce - or if necessary invade - other Middle Eastern states that build weapons of mass destruction or are tied to terrorism, including, in the latter regard, Saudi Arabia (its government presumably guilty more by omission than commission). Somewhat paradoxically at first sight, the more the American casualties in Iraq mount, the more credible future coercion becomes (so long as the American people see them as an acceptable cost for the task at hand). It is known that Milosevic and Saddam Hussein banked on American aversion to American casualties in embarking on their defiant policies. Qaddafi's change in policy shows how calculations in the Middle East are changing".

RH:
Harry does not exclude the possibility of the US invading Saudi Arabia.

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John Heelan writes: "I look forward to Harry Papasotiriou's paper on the US "carrot and stick "strategy in the Middle East and hope it will be available through WAIS. The "stick" element of the world's only (currently) superpower is self-evident. The "carrot" is perhaps more troublesome to understand. What is meant by US' "democratization"?

Firstly, does "democratization" assume the US system as the optimum model? Remember in that particular model, it seems that whoever has the largest war chest wins the Presidency and the Administration and "buys" representation in the Senate and the Congress. Sponsors of that war chest ($200 million for the Bush 2004 election?) expect a healthy return on that investment. The evidence of the last four years suggest that the US defense, energy, oil, media and their supporting industries have enjoyed substantial benefits from their sponsoring Bush in the last election. [The importance of the war-chest also seems to have been uppermost in the minds of Bush and Cheney who were apparently able to find time to attend 100 fund-raisers yet not have time to attend a funeral or a memorial for US dead in Iraq.] Some people might consider "democracy" of that nature to be somewhat corrupt and not necessarily a good model to proselytize.

Further, should a democratically elected Iraqi government choose to hinder US plans for controlling oil reserves and supplies (as could happen in an Iraqi government democratically elected by the numerically dominant Shia population), are we expected to believe that the US would respect that "democratization"? Or would the US work to destabilise that government and install a puppet compliant with US wishes? History shows the latter is more likely.

Surely, what the US wants is control. The form of the government providing that opportunity for control is irrelevant to the US in achieving that objective, despite the PR "democracy" message being preached from the White House. Thus it seems that the "stick" will continue to be a far stronger component of US foreign policy strategy than the "carrot" What do you think, Harry?"

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Cameron Sawyer comments on the "Beyond Iraq" article: "I am no less against the war than I was a year ago, but I have to say that the "Beyond Iraq" piece posted by Harry does articulate a coherent rationale and strategy for the war. I cannot support John HeelanÕs decadent, cynical and relativist view that just because democracy has flaws that it can be of no benefit to peoples like the Iraqis.

On the contrary, Iraq is a relatively advanced society, the most advanced in the Arab Middle East, and I do not believe that it is obvious that the Iraqi people would not be happy to be liberated from the awful Baath regime and to be given a chance to govern themselves and improve their standards of living. It may yet come to pass. The proposition that just because different peoples have different cultural traditions and values means that we should not assume that people want to free, or rich, is first of all wrong, and secondly, incredibly patronizing. This view is a colonial attitude which comes down to us straight from the Victorian era: "Wogs are wogs, and they like living like that, it gives them their peculiar charm."

The U.S. strategy was to create in the most strategic spot in the Middle East a strong, free, and generally grateful ally like Germany was after allied occupation, the Marshall Plan, a democracy imposed by the U.S.-drafted Grundgesetz. This is influence, not control.

I have a good friend who is a Parisian of half-Turkish and half-Russian origin, a leftist not much sympathetic to U.S. geopolitical aspiration or U.S. "cultural imperialism", who worked as a volunteer in Palestinian refugee camps in his youth, and who has many friends among Arab expatriates in Europe, including many prominent Iraqis. He and I have had a long disputation about this war: he thinks that the war is the best thing to happen in the Middle East in a long time and is the best chance the Arabs have had to evolve out of their vicious cycle of despair, poverty and subjection to authoritarian regimes. He always saw the U.S. strategy as Harry did, and was the first to articulate this idea to me, well before the start of the war. He said that on the eve of the war, many Iraqi expatriates were in Baghdad buying up real estate, in the expectation that the American victory would bring freedom and prosperity, and that this expectation was so widespread that real estate prices in Baghdad doubled and tripled in the month before the war.

But to say that the U.S. strategy in Iraq is coherent is not to say that it is right. As other WAISers have noted, the WestÕs real problem in the Middle East is Palestine, and the universal feeling of outrage and injustice engendered in the Arab world as a result of Palestine. We will never get anywhere in the Middle East until we solve that problem. Our costly war in Iraq might just help the Iraqis, in the middle or long term, but it wonÕt do the U.S. any good at all until we address the real issue".

RH:
We have discussed politically incorrect racial labels, and now we have "wog", which is not in Webster. TheOxford English Dictionary says: [Origin uncertain: often said to be an acronym, but none of the many suggested etymologies is satisfactorily supported by the evidence.] 1. A vulgarly offensive name for a foreigner, esp. one of Arab extraction. 1929 F. C. BOWEN Sea Slang 153 Wogs, lower class Babu shipping clerks on the Indian coast. Apparently the earliest use was in 1929. I think it has died ouit.

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Phyllis Gardner comments on the article "Beyond Iraq": "As a distinct non-expert in this area, I wonder what the experts feel about the reports that our army is over-stretched (and clearly we are doing things like extending service time for reservists beyond the expected), coupled with the fact that we are probably militarily under-committed in Afghanistan at this time. While the public may put up with more combat deaths (as well as serious injuries and civilian casualties), will they put up with the resurrection of the draft? I cannot imagine that we can invade any other countries in the next few years without something like a draft to swell the military. It seems unlikely that people will blithely go into the reserves as they did in the past with the now major specter of career and family upheaval. And will the public put up with the billions going to rebuild the Iraqi society, while important and necessary social programs are getting slashed in the US, particularly at the state level? I don't know - but I would not predict any other invasions soon unless catastrophe in the form of a WWIII intervenes".

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Harry Papasotiriou comments on the "Beyond Iraq" article: "It would probably only take another attack like 9/11 in the United States to trigger new military operations. By the way, the US Army is astonishingly small for a superpower - not much larger in personnel than Turkey's. It would take some time to enlarge it (by offering better pay to attract more volunteers), but it would not require the draft. American military spending as a percentage of GDP is also rather low, at about 3%. In the 1980s it was more than twice as much (as a portion of GDP).

I think we need to address the question, why the Arab world has bred international Islamist terrorism. The Palestinian issue is a contributory factor. But one must also be aware, that out of 280 million Arabs, 65 million adults are illiterate. This is a simple indicator of the modernization failures in the Middle East, which forty years ago appeared to have a very bright future ahead, when Singapore could barely feed her population and Taiwan was amongst the poorest countries in the world. Four decades later the Arab and most of the wider Muslim world is stuck in a rut, while East Asia has forged ahead. Clearly the Arab world does not need economic aid - it sits on enough oil. What it needs is to reform its corrupt and failed socio-political structures, in which small minorities have all the wealth and power while the largely illiterate majority is in part swayed by medieval obscurantism and anti-Western xenophobia. Invading Iraq and forcing a swift pace of modernization is a highly risky policy of yanking the Arab world towards modernity - anti-Americanism has risen sharply - but sometimes high risks reap high rewards.

RH:
Turkey has a notoriously large army. Is there something wrong with Islam? How widespread and deep rooted is the belief in fatalism? As far as illiteracy is concerned, surely the younger generation is more literate than the older one.

Ronald Hilton - 01.25.04


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