Tuesday, January 9, 1996

War as political theater

PBS aired a FRONTLINE documentary on the Gulf War. In some respects, the war ushered in a new era, an era of American dominance. At least that what some pundits argued. The war began at the end of the Cold War, when the Soviet Union was collapsing. America promised a new world order in which she would lead. This war would be the first test for America in this new era.

Before the war, many people would have laughed at you if you told them that America would dominate the coming era. The Vietnam War had proven to be a crushing defeat for the West and the U.S. military in particular. In fact, the ghost of Vietnam continued to haunt America throughout the seventies and eighties.

“The Persian Gulf War didn’t last for six weeks, it lasted for 20 years,” said Rick Atkinson, an American journalist. “Vietnam is a poltergeist through this whole thing. It had a psychological dimension, as a consequence of Vietnam, that transcended Saddam Hussein and the invasion of Kuwait, somehow, in ways that made this war larger than it really was.”

The road to war began in the spring of 1990 at a meeting between the emir of Kuwait and Saddam Hussein, the president of Iraq. Saddam accused Kuwait of participating in an American conspiracy to drive down the price of oil. He accused the emir of flooding the market with oil and he told him to stop it. Saddam had every reason to try and prevent the price of oil from falling. Iraq lost $1 billion in annual revenue every time the price of oil fell by a dollar. Of course, Kuwait also lost money when the price of oil declined, but nevertheless, the emir continued with his efforts to suppress the price of oil.

The situation continued to escalate after the meeting. Saddam demanded that the emir give him $10 billion or else he would invade Kuwait. Again, the emir refused and so on July 16, Saddam ordered his Republican Guard to move south, near the Kuwaiti border. In an effort to ease the crisis, a week later, Hosni Mubarak, the President of Egypt, flew to Baghdad and met with Saddam. After the meeting, Mubarak sent a message to Washington: Saddam had told him that he would not invade Kuwait.

A day after the meeting with Mubarak, Saddam met with the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, April Glaspie. Hussein wanted to know what America would do if he invaded Kuwait. Glaspie practically gave him the go ahead to proceed with the invasion. She said America had no direct vested interests in the dispute. And so at the end of the meeting, Saddam simply said he would pursue further negotiations with Kuwait. After the meeting, Glaspie sent a cable to Washington urging our government to “ease off” on the public criticism of Iraq.

According to Richard Haass, after receiving the cable, the White House believed the situation would soon deescalate. He was probably lying, however, because Iraq continued to deploy more of her forces near Kuwait. Our government knew this, but they kept saying that all would soon be well.

However, surprise, surprise, on August 1, the Iraqi delegation walked out of a meeting with the Kuwaitis. The negotiations were over. Colin Powell claims this was when he first realized that Kuwait might be in serious danger. The next day, Iraq invaded Kuwait.

“Saddam thought any reprisals would be limited and would tail off with time,” said Wafiq al-Samarrai, an Iraqi intelligence official. “He thought that America’s involvement in Vietnam had badly damaged its willingness to use military power.”

After the invasion, President Bush held a press conference in which he implied America would not intervene in Kuwait. But later that day, he met with Margaret Thatcher and asked her for her opinion. Apparently, that changed everything.

“I told him that aggressors must be stopped, not only stopped, but they must be thrown out,” said Thatcher. “An aggressor cannot gain from his aggression. He must be thrown out and, really, by that time, in my mind, I thought we ought to throw him out so decisively that he could never think of doing it again.”

During their little chit-chat, Thatcher compared Saddam to Hitler. That, apparently, was enough to convince President Bush into going to war and so a few days later, on August 5, while in front of a group of reporters, President Bush said the now infamous words, “This will not stand, this aggression against Kuwait.”

That comparison to Hitler must have really made an impression on President Bush, because in his subsequent speeches, he often compared the situation in Kuwait to the situation that existed in Europe during the thirties.

“If history teaches us anything, it is that we must resist aggression or it will destroy our freedoms,” said President Bush. “Appeasement does not work.”

In an effort to drum up support for the war…err, um, I mean…in an effort to intimidate the West, Saddam began rounding up foreigners in Kuwait. He held them as hostages, for a while. The West was outraged. So then Saddam did the logical thing and he released the hostages. I guess he wanted to make our subsequent invasion easier. Nice guy. Thanks.

“He was a man who miscalculated in taking hostages and then compounded his miscalculation and made Schwarzkopf’s military efforts much easier by letting them go in December,” said Atkinson. “Every time he had to make a major strategic decision, Saddam guessed wrong.”

The international community imposed sanctions on Iraq. Some argued that these sanctions would be enough to force Saddam into leaving Kuwait. Apparently, Colin Powell made this very argument to President Bush during a meeting on September 24. But President Bush wasn’t buying it. He refused to wait and see if the sanctions would work. FRONTLINE never explains why he couldn’t do that.

A few weeks later, Colin Powell met with Sir Patrick Hine, a British Air Chief Marshall. Again, Powell argued that they should give the sanctions a chance to work. When Hine asked Powell how long he wanted to try sanctions, Powell replied by saying he would like to try them for two years. Hine was astonished by this answer. I guess that meant Hine wanted fewer sanctions and more explosions. Britain, apparently, was really gung ho about going to war.

And so were Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey, apparently. They tried to convince the White House that removing Saddam from Kuwait would be easy. But the U.S. military didn’t agree with that assessment. In October, the military briefed the White House on a potential plan of attack. Had America used this plan, our forces would have suffered as many as 10,000 casualties. Robert Gates believed the military came up with this plan in an attempt to persuade the White House that going to war was not a good idea.

“I think that there was very little enthusiasm in the American military for, in fact, throwing Saddam out of Kuwait militarily,” said Gates.

So back to the drawing board. Powell began working on a new plan of attack. This plan, which he presented to the White House on October 30, required the use of the two heaviest divisions in Europe. According to Robert Gates, their withdrawal from Europe “totally weakened NATO.” Like, no way dude. I’m sure the Europeans were like totally pissed when they learned what the plan was, huh-huh-huh. Presumably, we took those two divisions away from Europe for a reason. We wanted to persuade Europe to not screw up our mission in Iraq. Had we gotten bogged down in Iraq, those two divisions would not be able to defend Europe for a long time. In any event, the plan also called for the use of the National Guard and the Army Reserves. President Bush agreed to the plan.

Congress held hearings on the potential ramifications of going to war. In one of the hearings, Robert McNamara pleaded with Congress to stop the warmongering Bush.

“The point is it’s going to be bloody!” said McNamara. “There are going to be thousands and thousands and thousands of casualties!”

Congress, however, apparently felt differently. To convince the American public of the necessity of going to war, Congress brought in a 15-year-old Kuwaiti girl. This girl told Congress that Iraqi soldiers were stealing the incubators from hospitals. She said there were babies inside these incubators; that the soldiers were taking them out of the incubators and dumping them on the floor to die.

But…

That girl turned out to be the daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador. And it would later be revealed that her story was a bunch of bullshit.

Aside from this bullshit story, our government used a variety of other arguments in order to justify the war. They said allowing Saddam to control much of the world’s oil was a bad idea. They said Saddam had a weapons of mass destruction program. Despite these arguments, the American public remained skeptical. The international community, less so. On November 29, the UN passed a resolution which authorized the use of force if Iraq did not leave Kuwait in another six weeks. Actually, despite their pleas to intervene, we did have to pay off a few Muslim regimes in order to get their votes.

“There were various concessions made to different countries whose support was critical. Egypt was forgiven $7 billion in various debts,” said Atkinson. “Syria was forgiven many of the same sins of which Saddam was accused. Turkey was basically granted certain trade concessions in return for their very important support.”

At the end of the year, President Bush made a few phony attempts to prevent the war. On January 9, six days before the UN deadline, he sent James Baker to Baghdad to meet with Saddam. At the meeting, James Baker would hand Tariq Aziz a letter written by President Bush. In the letter, Bush demanded that Saddam remove his forces from Iraq and he reminded him that America had nukes.

The administration needed the meeting to go well. The public was still skeptical about going to war. According to Richard Haass, the administration feared that Saddam might offer a deal which would cause the coalition to fracture. Before the meeting, the administration had a dozen or so different scenarios which they thought Saddam might use against Baker. Perhaps Saddam might offer to pullback some of his forces from Kuwait. Perhaps he might promise to remove his forces at a later date. And if he made these offers, would the American public still support the war? Would our international partners still support the war? We’ll never know. Instead of doing the smart thing and making us a halfway decent offer, Saddam made no offer at all.

“I could never figure out why he didn’t do it,” said Scowcroft. “He could have just given us fits and that was what I was worried about happening as a result of a meeting like this.”

“Even to this day, I am stunned by Saddam’s failure to exploit all of his options,” said Richard Haass. “Time and time again, Saddam, by opting for the maximum, actually made it relatively – I hate to use the word ‘easy,’ but made it much less difficult on the United States and the coalition to sustain itself. And, you know, I’m not sure, at times, so much whether we won it but, clearly, he lost it.”

Negotiations had failed. The air campaign against Iraq would soon begin. The ghost of Vietnam continued to haunt the U.S. military as the war began.

“We were filled with uncertainty,” said General Chuck Horner. “Our press had been telling us that our generals couldn’t general, that our technology didn’t work and our young people were no good. Now, we didn’t believe it, but we worried about it because it was sort of imbued in our whole national psyche. Vietnam was a ghost we carried with us.”

After the air campaign began, one of the first news reports was an interview with an American pilot. His name was Jet Jurnigen. Colin Powell thought his name was “right out of Hollywood central casting.” Jurnigen told reporters that he was fortunate, that he wanted to thank God because he completed his mission and came home safely. Colin Powell was pleased. He wanted the public to see a confident, young American pilot. When the pilot said that he wanted “to thank God that I’m an American fighter pilot,” Colin Powell just about swooned.

“The American people saw this spirit of confidence, spirit of professionalism,” said Colin Powell. “It was a feel-good that we had not seen since the end of World War II.”

On the first day of fighting, Saddam fired his Scuds at Israel. Saddam wanted to provoke Israel into joining the fight. Were Israel to attack Iraq, Saddam reasoned, the other Arab states in the coalition would abandon the coalition. They would not fight along side of Israel. But Saddam didn’t try too hard at provoking Israel. None of the Scuds he fired had chemical warheads.

Nevertheless, Israel was not pleased. Israel demanded America do something to stop the Scuds. We needed to destroy those Scud launchers! And so we sent our bombers into Iraq and we had them destroy… some oil trucks and possibly milk trucks. We recorded the destruction of these vehicles on video and showed it to the media. Here, we said, was our military destroying Scud launchers. Yippee!!!

America deployed the Patriot missile system in Israel. President Bush praised the system for its effectiveness in destroying the Scuds. But in reality, the system didn’t work that well.

“When the Scuds started falling, the Americans didn’t realize that they were, in fact, breaking up as they were reentering the atmosphere,” said Atkinson. “The Patriot would see not only the warhead falling, but pieces of fuel tank, pieces of missile that were disintegrating. And the Patriot was designed in such a way that its radar would lock on an incoming object and fire two missiles at that object. Well, that’s fine if you see one warhead coming in. It’s not so fine if you see six or seven pieces of junk coming in.”

The air campaign against Iraq lasted about a month. We destroyed a bunch of targets in Iraq. Our air force sustained only a few casualties. But Saddam didn’t surrender and so we decided to use our ground forces to finish the job. A couple of weeks before the ground campaign began, Yevgeni Primakov, a Russian diplomat, traveled to Baghdad to meet with Saddam. Primakov urged Saddam to cut a deal to end the war.

“I’m not a military expert, but if a land offensive begins, your troops in Kuwait will be wiped out,” said Primakov. “You have a great burden of responsibility.”

Then, to everyone’s surprise, Saddam told Primakov that he was willing to withdraw from Kuwait. This set off a flurry of negotiations which climaxed on February 21, two days before the ground offensive was scheduled to begin. On that day, the Iraqi foreign minister visited Moscow. He made the following offer to end the war. Iraq would not recognize the independence of Kuwait. And Saddam would not pay Kuwait any reparations for the war. However, Iraq would withdraw from Kuwait. Gorbachev thought the deal was good enough. But President Bush declined the offer.

Other felt differently, or at least they wanted to maintain that appearance. The president of France, Francois Mitterrand said he wanted more negotiation. But during a phone call between him and President Bush, someone had told Robert Gates that Saddam was destroying the oil wells in Kuwait. Madness, MADNESS!!! Gates immediately went to see President Bush and told him about what Saddam had done. President Bush then relayed this information to President Mitterrand and said that God only knows what Saddam will do next.

“That pretty well resolved that issue,” said Gates.

Before the ground campaign began, American military officials worried that Saddam would use his chemical weapons against them.

“My nightmare scenario was that our forces would attack into Iraq and find themselves in such a great concentration that they became targeted by chemical weapons or some sort of a rudimentary nuclear device that would cause mass casualties,” said General Norman Schwarzkopf. “That’s exactly what the Iraqis did in the Iran-Iraq war. They would take the attacking masses of the Iranians, let them run up against their barrier system, and when there were thousands of people massed against the barrier system, they would drop chemical weapons on them and kill thousands of people.”

Some predicted that America would suffer 10,000 casualties in the first week of fighting.

“We were outnumbered when we attacked into Kuwait,” said General Walt Boomer. “Sometimes people have lost sight of that.”

Right before the ground campaign was scheduled to begin, Schwarzkopf got word that the weather conditions might soon prevent the use of airpower.

“Weather conditions were absolutely critical and the weather predictions that we were getting at that time were very mixed,” said Schwarzkopf. “The Marines do not have a lot of heavy artillery and depend upon their aircraft to provide the close air support to replace the artillery. And Walt Boomer came to me and said he was very concerned about launching his attack when the weather was predicted to be so bad.”

Schwarzkopf called Colin Powell and told him that they should delay the ground campaign. Powell replied that President Bush was anxious to end the war and that it was “getting hard to explain” why they needed to start the campaign now. Schwarzkopf began yelling at Powell.

“You do not understand my problem,” yelled Schwarzkopf. “You’re talking in political terms. If you don’t care about the live of young people, well, I do.”

And so Powell began yelling back at Schwarzkopf.

“I care as much as you do, but there’s a limit and I have to work in both the political world and the military world,” said Powell.

At this point, apparently, Schwarzkopf came to the conclusion that yelling at your boss was not a good idea and so he told Powell that he felt as though his head was in a vise. He thought he was losing it. Hmmm…I’m not sure that’s what you want to tell your boss either. Anyways, fortunately for him, about a half an hour later, the weather cleared up.

The ground assault began just before dawn on February 24. The Marines were expecting heavy casualties, perhaps as much as 30% of their soldiers. But when the invasion began, the Marines entered Kuwait almost with little or no resistance.

“There were essentially no firefights, essentially no battles,” said Colonel John Admire. “The Iraqis were there, but they chose not to fight. In many respects, they could retreat and they could surrender much faster than we could attack or advance and the war really became a war of collection of enemy prisoners of war.”

According to General Walt Boomer, only a quarter of the Iraqi soldiers actually fought. The rest simply surrendered. Coalition forces captured 8,000 Iraqi soldiers in the first few hours of the operation. Saddam never used his chemical weapons. According to Wafiq al-Samarrai, when the ground campaign began, Saddam ordered his forces to withdraw.

Reading through the transcripts of the documentary now, I didn’t find anything which contradicted this statement. However, I originally read the transcripts for this documentary about a year ago. And I seem to remember something about how Saddam called his forces a bunch of cowards (or something to that effect). That seems to be missing from the transcripts now. It looks like, once again, the government has altered the content of a document in order to rewrite history.

But regardless, both versions clearly stated that the Iraqi forces chose not to stand and fight against the oncoming coalition forces.

“It doesn’t seem like it’s their war,” said one U.S. soldier. “I just feel sorry for them, you know, and it doesn’t seem like they want to fight.”

Instead of ten thousand casualties, by February 27, the Marines had only suffered 28 fatalities. And when they drove into Kuwait City, the Kuwaitis greeted them as liberators.

“The outpouring was something I'll never forget,” said Walt Boomer. “I don't know where all the people came from. They came down to the side of the road by the thousands and they had Kuwaiti flags and some had American flags. Vehicles that the Iraqis hadn't stolen or destroyed, they had acquired some of those, so they were driving around us in this mad circle and I thought sure we were going to crush a vehicle.”

“God bless you, America,” said the Kuwaitis. “God bless you. We love you.”

Meanwhile, in Iraq, Saddam was moribund.

“He sat in front of me and he was almost in tears, not crying but almost in tears,” said Wafiq al-Samarrai. “He said, ‘We do not know what God will bring upon us tomorrow.’ He was virtually collapsing. He had reached the depths.”

As the Republican Guard continued to retreat, they left behind a rear guard to stop the advancing coalition forces. When they engaged coalition forces at the battle of Medina Ridge, coalition forces destroyed 300 Iraqi tanks and armored vehicles. Only one U.S. soldier died.

Soon after Iraqi forces left Kuwait, President Bush ordered a ceasefire. This made Saddam happy.

“I phoned Saddam and told him that Bush had agreed to the ceasefire,” said Wafiq al-Samarrai. “He felt himself to be a great, great hero. He started to say, ‘We won. We won.’ His morale was from zero to 100.”

Schwarzkopf explained to FRONTLINE why America did not overthrow Saddam. None of the UN resolutions authorized his overthrow. Had we tried to overthrow Saddam, the French and the Arabs would have left the coalition. Only the British would have stayed with us. And had we removed Saddam, America would become responsible for administering the country (which we would have to pay for). We would not be able to leave Iraq. It would become Vietnam Part Deux.

And so after the war, we took a do-it-yourself approach to Iraq as President Bush urged the Iraqis to overthrow Saddam. In the south, the Shiites began a rebellion, as did the Kurds in the north. But Saddam was able to suppress those revolts, in part because of a critical mistake made by Schwarzkopf in the ceasefire negotiations. As part of the ceasefire agreement, he allowed the Iraqis to fly armed helicopters. Saddam used them to put down the Shiite uprising in the south. Tens of thousands of Shiites died. The revolt only lasted about two weeks. Margaret Thatcher, apparently, was not happy about that ceasefire agreement.

“They should have surrendered their equipment, the lot,” said Thatcher. “When you’re dealing with a dictator, he has got not only to be defeated well and truly, but he’s got to be seen to be defeated by his own people so that they identify the privations they’ve had to go through with his actions. And we didn’t do that.”

According to FRONTLINE, the uprising in the north had a better chance of succeeding. In fact, according to Peter Galbraith, had we signaled our support for the uprising, Saddam would have been overthrown.

“There were Iraqi generals who were, in fact, in touch with the opposition and who were sitting on the fence, waiting to see what would happen,” said Galbraith. “And when the United States did nothing, said nothing, sat on its hands, of course, they took the course of caution.”

The war did not end well for the Palestinians either. During the war, Yasser Arafat had supported Saddam Hussein. And so after the war, the Kuwaitis took it out on his Palestinians. They tortured and expelled many of them. In total, they expelled 400,000 Palestinians.

But the war ended well for the U.S. military. They came home to a hero’s welcome.

“I was in Vietnam twice and I couldn’t help but just think to myself, ‘This is the right way to come home to your country,’ and it tended to exorcise a lot of ghosts and a lot of wounds that all of us over in Vietnam carried with us,” said Schwarzkopf.

The Gulf War ended the so-called “Vietnam syndrome.” The war resurrected the idea that America could achieve its objectives by going to war. And that I think is the main reason why the West created the war – to repair the image of the U.S. military, to convince the American public that we could achieve something positive through the use of our military, and to convince the world that we were capable of leading it. Colin Powell said the war had shown that America had successfully rebuilt its armed forces in the wake of Vietnam. But I think that’s misleading. I believe the entire war was scripted. As opposed to Vietnam (which was not scripted). In Iraq, the West had a certain amount of control that they did not have in Vietnam.

I believe that the West controlled the actions of Saddam as well as the actions of others (such as the Kuwaitis). And we staged several events during the crisis to convince the American public that we should use war to achieve our aims. Let’s look at the evidence.

War as political theater
  1. Kuwait drives down the price of oil. This is not something that an oil producing country should do. Presumably, they did this at the request of the West.
  2. Before the war, we gave Saddam the green light to invade Kuwait. When he asked us how we would respond if he invaded Kuwait, we told him that we had no vested interest in Kuwait.
  3. We pretended to not see a threat even though Saddam continued to deploy his forces near the Kuwaiti border.
  4. While Saddam continued to mass his forces near the Kuwaiti border, we eased off on the public criticism of Iraq, even though we knew what Saddam was doing.
  5. Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey told us the war against Saddam would be easy. They must have known something.
  6. We had a 15-year-old Kuwaiti girl lie before Congress in order to convince the American public to support the war.
  7. We had an American pilot whose name was Jet Jurnigen act all “professional” before the cameras.
  8. We bombed some oil trucks and possibly milk trucks in an effort to placate Israel.
  9. We set up the Patriot system in Israel. We said it worked great. It didn’t.
  10. Before the ground campaign began, we apparently knew that Saddam would not put up a fight. How else could you explain the actions of Colin Powell, who was willing to proceed with the attack regardless of the weather conditions, regardless of whether the Marines would have air support?
  11. The chief of Iraqi military intelligence, the person who was interviewed for the documentary, Wafiq al-Samarrai, defected in 1994 and moved to London in 1998. This is a very strong indicator that Britain did in fact have influence at the highest levels of the Iraqi government. It seems likely that this official was involved in some sort of Project Artichoke type program which the West used to control Saddam. And based on the actions taken by Saddam, it certainly seems like he was controlled from the outside because, after all…
How many ways can you fuck up a war?
  1. Saddam decided to hold the foreigners in Kuwait as hostages. This act outraged the West and helped build up support for the war. But by taking hostages, Saddam did increase the cost of going to war and so I can understand why he did it. But then Saddam released the hostages. This is the dumbest idea in the history of the universe. After paying the price in public outrage by taking the hostages, Saddam should not have given up the benefit which was their deterrence effect on an invasion.
  2. Before the invasion, during the meeting with James Baker, he offered no compromise, he made no effort to fracture the coalition by trying to offer something in the hopes of drawing out the negotiations.
  3. For fear of getting nuked (which is laughable by the way), Saddam decided against using chemical warheads against Israel.
  4. Before the ground campaign began, Saddam made a decent offer to end the war but then he blew the oil wells in Kuwait which convinced everyone that we needed to begin the ground offensive.
  5. When the ground campaign began, he immediately ordered his troops to retreat.
  6. He did not use his chemical weapons during the ground campaign.
Obviously, the Vietnam War and the Gulf War were different in one important way. In Iraq, we only wanted to remove Saddam from Kuwait, a country in which Saddam had no legitimacy. Even if the West did not control Iraq, we could have driven Saddam out of Kuwait. But it should have been much, much harder.

Had, for example, Saddam hit Israel and our ground forces with chemical weapons, had we suffered thousands and thousands of casualties, the American public would have been much more reluctant to intervene militarily in other places.

But the “success” of the Gulf War allowed Europe to argue that America should intervene in places all over the world. Throughout the nineties, many Europeans complained that the Clinton administration refused to intervene militarily overseas. We didn’t intervene in Somalia. We didn’t intervene in Rwanda. We didn’t intervene in Yugoslavia. This one just boggles my mind by the way. Why would Europe expect us to intervene in Yugoslavia when Yugoslavia is in Europe! In any event, as you can see, despite our victory in the Gulf War, America was less than thrilled about the possibility of having to intervene military in third world countries. At least that was our position during the Clinton administration. Nevertheless, over the years, Europe has made great efforts to convince us of the necessity of bombing things. In the past, European officials have often used veiled threats against America to convince us that we really do need to intervene militarily. Listen to what Espen Barth Eide, a Norwegian politician, said during a discussion panel at UC Berkeley.

“If we leave Afghanistan, Sudan, Somalia, alone their people will attack us,” said Espen Barth Eide. “Since we don’t like that we have to do something else.”

In my opinion, it is not normal for a group of people to attack another group of people just because they were being left alone. Someone must have been forcing those groups of individuals to attack us because we left them alone. Presumably, that someone was Europe. And in fact Britain did want us to intervene in Iraq. And apparently, they wanted us to remove Saddam. Just listen to what Margaret Thatcher had to say.

“There is the aggressor, Saddam Hussein, still in power,” said Thatcher. “There is the president of the United States, no longer in power. There is the prime minister of Britain, who did quite a lot to get things there, no longer in power. I wonder who won?”

And remember the comments made by Sir Patrick Hine, who was “astonished” when Colin Powell told him he wanted to try sanctions for two years.

Of course, not everyone in Europe was enthused about us intervening in Iraq. France, for example, was much more leery about the Gulf War. But this is just theater. Ever since the Suez Crisis in 1956, Britain and France have been playing a good cop, bad cop game with us. On seemingly every issue, Britain would be on one side of the issue while France would be on the other side. Britain would be our “steadfast” ally. France would be a pain in the ass. This strategy offered several benefits for Europe. Europe could have good relations with our friends as well as our enemies. For example, France had relatively close relations with Iraq. Meanwhile, Britain had good relations with us. When you play the game this way, it means you can have good economic relations with everyone. And, of course, Europe didn’t just play this game using France and Britain. Really, every European country could get in on the act. If need be, each country could take a different position on a given issue. This policy means you never really have to impose sanctions on anyone, because there will be always be some European countries that will impose sanctions while other European countries will not.

And so when it came to Iraq, Europe had us in a no win situation. Britain wanted us to overthrow Saddam. France did not. America had no choice but to piss off one European country. And that would give that country an excuse to be mad with us. In the Gulf War, we decided to anger Britain by refusing to depose Saddam, but a decade later we would finish the job and thus piss off France. But Britain supported us. They had to. They had been clamoring for us to overthrow Saddam since the Gulf War. And Tony Blair had come into office supporting the concept of military intervention. And so when Bush decided to invade Iraq, Britain had noooo choice but to be our poodle.

And now you’re probably wondering why, if the West had so much control in Iraq, why then did the Iraq war turn out so badly. There are several possible explanations. The most obvious explanation is that Europe has a great deal of influence in Iraq (remember, after World War I, Britain acquired Iraq under the British Mandate for Mesopotamia) and unlike the Gulf War in which the Europeans wanted us to win, the second time around they wanted us to suffer. The second time around, perhaps, they thought we wanted to become an empire and so they used their influence in Iraq to oppose us.

In fact, when the war began, Josef Joffe, a German expert on international relations, gave a speech at UC Berkeley in which he explained why Europe opposed the war in Iraq. In that speech, he basically said Europe would organize an insurgency after we toppled Saddam. As for the reason why, Joffe explained that to Europe, America was a bigger threat than Iraq. Europe feared an American victory in Iraq would allow America to control the Middle East.

“Assume an American victory in Iraq that is not only swift but also sustainable, that will intimidate rather than inflame the other Arabs, that will relieve dependence on demanding clients such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt,” said Joffe. “Obviously such an outcome will install the United States as arbiter over the Middle East, over its oil and its politics. And that prospect can hardly enthuse the [Europeans].”

Joffe ended his speech by hinting that Europe might organize an insurgency in Iraq.

“Power shall be balanced,” said Joffe. “That is America’s great problem of grand strategy once this war is over and once the peace has to be conquered.”

Another possible explanation for why the Iraq war went so bad is the following. Perhaps Europe and America were only pretending to fight with each other. Perhaps they organized this stunt so they could destroy Iraq. Destroying countries in the Middle East seems to be something of a hobby for the West, and they certainly did that in Iraq.

There’s one final thing that I should mention about the Gulf War. In the run-up to the war, on the very same day Saddam ordered his forces to move south, Hisashi Owada, a Japanese diplomat, arrived in Beijing. During his visit, Japan agreed to restart her aid program to China. Japan stopped providing China with development aid after the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989. But this visit marked the resumption of aid.

It is not a coincidence that these two events happened on the same day. As you will soon see, the West has a “price tag” policy when it comes to China and East Asia. Whenever someone does something to aid the development of East Asia, the West does something violent and malicious. In the case of the Gulf War, the destruction of Iraq was the “price” that Japan had to “pay” for doing something which would aid the development of East Asia.

This will not stand.

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