U.S. Debacle in Iraq? Part 1

This might eventually be followed by, “How the Giant Got His Foot Caught in the Door.” (CNN)US strikes 5 facilities in Iraq and Syria linked to Iranian-backed militia and (CNN) Iran warns of ‘consequences’ after US strikes in Iraq and Syria.

Missile attacks were anticipated in Iran warns U.S., Israel of revenge after parade attack; Missile Attack on U.S. Forces? Attacks did not immediately result, though supply of missiles to militia occurred around that time. (Reuters)  Exclusive: Iran moves missiles to Iraq in warning to enemies.

In Trump wants U.S. military in Iraq to ‘watch Iran’: CBS interview, I wrote,

The far west locations of the bases provide some insulation against sectarian strife. But how Iraq will fall apart is as hard as predicting how a goblet will shatter when dropped.

      • For a clean break into a few large pieces, the bases are an asset.
      • Bases are useful if there is enough coherence to request U.S. assistance, but the U.S. response would have to be massive.
      • With total shattering, and  many sharp pieces, the bases become “Mortarvilles”, exposed to grinding attrition.

This is the evolving threat. In anticipation,  Plan to Defeat ISIS Part 3; 1000 Troops to Kuwait; New Doctrine  proposes the Doctrine of Ephemeral Deployment. A legitimate objection is increased cost, for less force projection, than fixed support and fire bases.

But these issues are tactical to the Game of Nations, which involves every aspect of diplomacy, threat and use of force, with overt and covert strategies.

Our play of the game of nations has been a complicated mish-mash of strategies and tactics.  With the notable exception of the Marshall Plan, U.S. foreign policy was neither driven nor fettered by moral considerations, which were drowned out by “Communism versus the Free World” . This began to change with the (full text pdf) Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, (Wikipedia summary) Foreign Assistance Act.

This legislation was motivated by  a Cold War foreign policy in the 1950’s with highly immoral or amoral notes, which continued with only mild abatement until the  Iran-Contra affair. A separate law, (CRS, pdf) “section 2008”, further restricts aid to governments that assume power by coup.

The curtain on how things worked was lifted by CIA plank owner Miles Copeland Jr., in his book The Game of Nations. It’s expensive now, but a hint of its value is given by the question surrounding publication: Why did the CIA allow it?

Some express nostalgia for those days, while others note that the major “successes” that shared Copeland’s amoral mindset boomeranged badly:

  • Egyptian revolution of 1952, when, as told by Copeland, CIA money supported Gamal Abdel Nasser. To fuel his populist regime, Nasser would for decades skillfully play the U.S. and Soviet Union against each other.
  • Afghanistan proxy war with the Soviets resulted in Soviet defeat, and the birth of modern, “weaponized” terrorism.
  • The joint  CIA- MI6 venture which deposed the democratically elected prime minister Mosaddegh in 1953. This enabled Shah Reza Pahlavi to suppress democracy and remain in power until the 1979 revolution , his tenure directly responsible for the hostility of today’s Iran.

The Vietnam war is not listed here because, although an enormous waste of blood and treasure, it left a remarkably slight trace in the current world. The same goes for other misadventures, such as the Bay of Pigs. Neither does this list include numerous clandestine programs, which include small successes and small failures.

Even the short list is an important reminder. Headline news is a problematic informer. Without context, the headlines offer little more than a punch in the gut, eliciting instinctive reaction, which variously draws from politics and morality.  The media characterize our opponents as rivals. This is wrong. Rivals vie for the same cup, usually called “influence.” This, too, is a worthless term. Today’s world is a collision of interests, which are different for each power.

In what follows, I do not advocate an amoral or immoral foreign policy. But it is a game. This has been understood since the year 1513, when Niccolò Machiavelli published The Prince. PDF here.  Your opponents play according to his rules, not yours. You have three choices:

  • If you choose to play according to your moral imperatives of your system against your amoral /immoral opponent, loss at great cost is almost inevitable. The exceptional wins are commemorated by holidays.
  • To step away, to lose at slight cost. Great future costs may be claimed by your detractors.
  • To play by Machiavelli’s rules is to accept the condemnation of history. With this choice, you may win, or still lose. Victory may lessen condemnation.

In (Nov. 2016) Is Iraq Headed for Another Civil War? I wrote,

The Shiite Iraq that follows the passing of Sistani will not be a permissive setting for American operations. Other parts of it, such as the Kurdish area, might be. But the kinds of cultural shift and political combinations that would make a viable rump state are prohibited by the strange-to-us cultural animosities. Iran, a unified and disciplined state, would steamroller it.

I didn’t write this stuff to be oracular. Maybe we can beat the odds, maybe not. What does it take?

To be continued shortly.

 

 

 

 

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