U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry thinks Iraq can be saved with a new prime minister to take the place of Nouri al-Maliki. The new one would make friends with the alienated and hostile Sunni citizens that make up some 40 percent of the country’s population, who in the past dictatorially ruled it, and were forced out of power and precedence by the ascendant Shiite majority. They can be convinced to forget all that, Kerry presumes — those who are not already members of the ISIL army, also known as the ISIS.
One must tell Kerry that it’s too late. (He’s the man who told us that he was going to fix up a two-state agreement between Israel and the Palestinians by next month.) Many other people in Washington have told the press about their equally unrealizable schemes for saving Iraq today: a new leadership, national reconciliation, appointment of Shiite, Druze and Turkman officials, a new parliament, a new and well-trained army, a national campaign drafted by the best American public relations agencies to convince Iraqis to love one another and look at their future with optimism. Or they want another American invasion.
The exhortations in Washington that President Barack Obama “do something” about the crises in the Middle East rest on the illusion that the United States already possesses the powers to which the Pentagon has aspired in its program to create a global system of regional commands that already cover Europe, the Americas, the Middle East and Central Asia, the Pacific, and now finishing off with “Africa Command” — all with the means to deploy American strategic ascendancy in every corner of the world.
Ready to be deployed to do what? Rescue the schoolgirls being kidnapped in Nigeria? Stamp out jihadism? Build a modern state for the separatist Tuareg people of the Sahara? Recover the flood of modern weapons looted from Libya by tribal and jihadist groups after the U.S. joined France, Britain and Qatar in liberating Libya from Col. Moammar Gadhafi? That was at the behest of the French “philosopher” and self-publicist Bernard Henri Levy, who convinced his pal Nicolas Sarkozy that the people of Benghazi were at risk of a “holocaust” in 2011 if France did not get NATO to save them. Americans are not the only people who formulate their foreign policy on what fools and fantasists think.
The U.S. Marines and the army’s Green Beret advisers are now deploying in Iraq to protect the anxious American officials, consultants, and mercenaries still in Baghdad’s Green Zone, and to counsel Iraq’s army — such of it as can be rounded up and sent back to the battle against the ISIL irregulars now controlling large parts of Iraq and Syria.
What are these American military advisers supposed to do? Iraq’s army has been disbanded, recreated, retrained, and rehearsed since soon after the American invasion of the country more than a decade ago (bringing Iraq, as U.S. President George W. Bush explained before he retired, freedom and democracy). Officially, there are a quarter-million U.S.-trained ready troops today in the Iraqi Army, and a half-million trained active reservists.
If this army cannot be convinced to defend its own country and religion, so as to block an invasion composed of an estimated seven to ten thousand highly-motivated volunteers making up the Sunni insurgency, there is nothing to be done. This is like Vietnam yesterday, and like Afghanistan tomorrow. If there is no real nation there — a vigorous and alive nation, or other civilization center — to which the majority of the population gives allegiance and loyalty — a highly-motivated insurgent movement is unlikely to be defeated, even at these odds.
Then U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney told Americans that the Iraqis would greet our troops as liberators, once we invaded their country. Where’s that liberation spirit?! Barack Obama could make one of his speeches to the Iraqis boosting the liberation spirit.
But that won’t work either. The Middle East now has been torn apart by American invasions and attacks, and careless ideas about how to remake other peoples’ lives according to our own ideas about how they should live and behave and believe.
It’s been like the Huns passing through: millions are dead, cities in ruins, the Muslims at war with one another. Iraq and Syria, and probably Jordan, as they exist today, and possibly Lebanon, may never recover from this.
The Arabs will survive, and one day Palestine and ancient Syria and Mesopotamia will undoubtedly be reconstituted. Israel? It has existed as a modern state for little more than six decades, although it too existed in antiquity. Will modern Israel still exist at the end of this century? After all that has, and will, happen? I wonder what the answer is.
William Pfaff’s latest book is “The Irony of Manifest Destiny: The Tragedy of America’s Foreign Policy.” © 2014 Tribune Content Agency