US out of Iraq, but Peace remains Elusive

The Iraq War is over except for the packing, President Obama announced on Friday. He held out hope that the US would be at peace for the first time since 2001 in the coming years. The Libya war is ending, and US troops will steadily come out of Afghanistan through 2014.

Alas, the peace will be illusory. It is not clear that we have learned the lessons of the Iraq fiasco, including, as I told Dan Froomkin, how to avoid being stampeded to war by unscrupulous politicians.

The US is entering an age of perpetual drone wars. The US is hitting targets in Yemen and the tribal belt in Pakistan. When will the drone wars be over?

The huge, bloated military budget, higher than in the Cold War, keeps us forever on a war footing.

The US is also arming Israel to the teeth and stoking an arms race in the Middle East, even as Washington seeks de facto to deny Palestinians their right to a state and to the basic human rights that only a state can back. That is, the US is deeply involved in the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a partisan. 9/11 was in part a skirmish in that war.

US sanctions on Iran are becoming so severe as to constitute a blockade, which in international law an act of war. The war party in the US is salivating for that war with Tehran, which is halfway begun as we speak, and it is freely acknowledged as a goal by most Republican presidential candidates.

If Obama really wants a US at peace, he has much more work to do– as do we all.

23 Responses

  1. Using drones I think IS one of the lessons of Iraq. As long as we can achieve our goals (limiting the threat of terrorism) by drone strikes or one-off military operations, we don’t need to wage a full-scale war.

    Supporting Israel is not what fuels tension. The neighbouring states not accepting the existence of this state is what causes tension.

    There is no blockade against Iran because the US are not controlling any of Iran’s borders. While US sanctions are a bit stiffer than EU and EU sanctions, the US is by far not alone in trying to nudge the Iranian government into allowing UN inspections to its nuclear program.
    This is not an act of war.

    • This stuff is naturally arguable, otherwise there’d be no issues at stake. However,

      1) Your’re splitting hairs in saying ongoing infringement of another nations sovereignty, in the form of ongoing surveillence and regular air strikes is not an act of war, perhaps because war has not been declared or the pilot is doing his work by remote control.

      2) An even-handed approach to both parties in the A/I conflict would be a good start toward reconciling a problem that many thoughtful people simply cannot imagine being reconciled. The neighboring states not accepting Israel is no more the problem than Israel not being able to accept the legitimacy of Palestinian grievances. You can argue extremist on both sides are the root problem, but one-sided support of Israel by the US is part of the problem, not the solution.

      3) The Iranian bogeyman has the potential of becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. Sure, the US has support of other countries, but there is a clean continuum between what is going on now and the degree of additional sanctions that would qualify, legally, as a blockade. Again, there is the splitting hairs on what is being down, when the underlying problem is a failure to recognize the legitimacy of Iranian interests and sovereignty of action.

      None of this is to say we should necessary do anything differently. But if you start from the position of bending others to your will, versus reconciling points of conflict and building relations based on mutual self-respect, events will unfold differently. And it doesn’t mean being a wimp, merely looking after YOUR OWN enlightened self-interests.

      The point I took from this post was the one about unscupulous politicians. Right-wing Israelis, the US Republican part, and the Ayatollahs (this is arguable, but lets just say the powers that be in Iran), all have an interest is maintaining or building politica/military tension. In addition to which, there is very legitimate inherent conflict between the Sunni/Shi spheres, namely between the KSA and Iran. In this view, the A/Israel conflict is more like a festering side-show: messy, but ultimately more of chronic sore.

    • Andreas,
      I find your perspectives on these issues very interesting.
      On these three points, I disagree with you and agree with Professor Cole, but perhaps you can point to a website where your interesting perspectives are explicated ?

    • Andreas Moser as above writes: “Supporting Israel is not what fuels tension. The neighboring states not accepting the existence of this state is what causes tension.”

      This certainly what Mr. Moser would have us believe, but it is false. Zionism is the central and fundamental cause of America’s conflict with militant Islam. And not because some Internet poster thinks or says so:

      From September 14, 2009 Bin Laden audiotape translated: edited: in part:

      “American people: This address to you is a reminder of the causes of 11 (September) and the wars and consequences that followed and the way to settle it once and for all…

      At the beginning, I say that we have made it clear and stated so many times for over two decades that the cause of the quarrel with you is your support for your Israeli allies, who have occupied our land, Palestine. This position of yours, along with some other grievances, is what prompted us to carry out the 11 September events. Had you known the magnitude of our suffering as a result of the injustice of the Jews against us, with the support of your administrations for them, you would have known that both our nations are victims of the policies of the White House, which is in fact a hostage in the hands of pressure groups, especially major corporations and the Israeli lobby.”

      “If you thoroughly consider your situation, you will know that the White House is occupied by pressure groups. You should have made efforts to liberate it rather than fight to liberate Iraq, as Bush claimed. The White House leader, under such circumstances, and regardless of who he is, is like a train driver who cannot but travel on the railways designed by these pressure groups. Otherwise, his way would be blocked and he would fear that his destiny would be like that of former President Kennedy and his brother.”

      “In a nutshell, it is time to free yourselves from fear and intellectual terrorism being practiced against you by the neoconservatives and the Israeli lobby. You should put the file of your alliance with the Israelis on the table of discussion. You should ask yourselves the following question so that you can determine your position: Do you like the Israelis’ security, sons, and economy more than your security, blood, sons, money, jobs, houses, economy, and reputation? If you choose your security and stopping the wars — and this has been shown by opinion polls — then this requires that you act to stop those who are tampering with our security on your end. We are prepared to respond to this option on sound and fair foundations that have been mentioned before.”

      “Once again, if you stop the war, then that is fine. If you choose not to stop the war, then we have no other option but to continue the war of attrition against you on all possible axes, just as we did with the Soviet Union for 10 years until it disintegrated, with the grace of God. Continue the war for as long as you wish. You are fighting a desperate, losing war that is in favor of others. There seems to be no end in sight for this war.”

      From January 24, 2010 Bin Laden audiotape: in part:

      “America will not even dream of security until security becomes a reality in Palestine. It is not fair that you enjoy your lives, while our brothers in Gaza live in hardship. Therefore, our raids against you will continue, Allah willing, as long as your support of the Israelis continues.”

      Unpleasant as the truth may be, we should have the courage to face it squarely. OBL is dead, and that is fine with me. Justice done. But if you do not know or may care to blind yourself to the truth, the war can go on forever. Or until we collapse.

      For my part, I just want America off this bus before it goes over the cliff.

      • Bin Laden says a lot of things, but I can’t help but notice that al Qaeda doesn’t attack Israel. It attacks Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, the U.S., Bali, Jordan, Tanzania, Spain…but not Israel. Don’t you find that odd?

        Politicians often try to gin up popular support for themselves and their movements by latching onto popular causes. Opposition to Israel and to America’s support for Israel is a popular cause in the MENA region.

        Looking at bin Laden’s actions, and lack thereof, towards Israel, I’d say that his assertions about Israel-Palestine being an issue he and his movement care about should be taken with about as much credibility as George Bush’s statement that he wanted a more humble foreign policy. It’s just something he says to look good.

        • Bin Laden had a policy of not interfering in places with a well developed insurgency. But he and his circle were obsessed with Jerusalem and he wantef 9/11 moved up to punish Ariel Sharon for his provocative visit to the Temple Mount.

  2. The best way to work for peace is to reject “demopublicans” like Obama and “republicrats” or wing nuts. It was clear from Obama’s statements in 2007-2008 he was going to ramp up the “good wars” and provide Israel with a blank check.

    The two parties have consensus on feeding the fat pig of the DoD and the national security state. Just like they have consensus on feeding the fat pigs on Wall Street.

    Out with the two party system.

  3. Some of the MSM is spinning this withdrawal as Obama fulfilling an Obama initiated promise.

    But wasn’t the withdrawal timetable negotiated by the Bush administration?

    And whilst Obama presumably made a commitment to follow the Bush timetable before he was elected, he seems to have been trying to back away from it just about ever since. No doubt in response to a Saudi dog-whistle.

    Juan – why are you silent on Syria ?

    • Bush was backed into a corner when he signed the SOFA with that timetable. He and his administration had spent literally years arguing against it.

      As opposed to Obama, who had been calling for a date-certain for the end of our presence in Iraq for years.

      As for “he seems to have been trying to back away from it,” he has hit every single milestone identified on that timeline, on time, since he came into office, and now he’s hit this one, too. It’s clear that there were a lot of people in the Pentagon who thought we should stay longer, but Obama himself certainly never gave any indication.

  4. Everytime I see the Occupy Wall Street group, I wish there was a similar group protesting the neocon warmongers and their push to get us into yet another PNAC inspired war.

    I can see such a group handing out applications to join the army, at the next APICA convention, along with signs saying, “You want war? Send your sons into battle!”

    Nine soldiers lost their lives in Afghanistan this week, and the Kagans and Kristols still push for more insanity.

  5. Juan, could you answer my questions below?

    Are the drone wars necessary and in the best interest of the United States and the world? Why are they occurring?

    War with Iran seems to be another historical inevitability. Is it? What country is America’s most dangerous enemy (besides itself)?

    From which countries should the U.S. extract military bases?

    Thanks Juan!

    • Mr. Squier,
      I believe that the answers can be found by examining what America stands for.
      I offer the 4 July 1776 Declaration as a good place to start.

  6. My impression is that Iraq is rapidly becoming a vassal of Iran. Which means that the war was probably the biggest military blunder since Gallipoli.

    • Well, on the other hand, we also gave up our military presence in Saudi Arabia and then failed to replace it with one in Iraq.

      So…there’s that.

  7. “The Iraq War is over except for the packing”

    well, let’s hope that they manage to pack the security contractors, trainers, and so on. Perhaps Christo* can help with the packing of the Vatican city size “embassy” complex? [*that’s the artist who shrouds buildings such as the Reichstag]

    also let’s work together to deal with the baggage the planners, troops, and contractors have been bringing back with them: everything from PTSD to the mindset of invading and controlling a population with checkpoints, iris scans, and the like.

    • 5000 security contractors can’t fight a war in a country the size and population of Iraq. They can provide security for a small number of locations, and escort motorcades, and that’s about it.

  8. “US sanctions on Iran are becoming so severe as to constitute a blockade, which in international law an act of war.”

    The above-cited quote is incredible, coming from one who considers himself a scholar, an expert on history and international relations, and who, most egregiously, refers to international law. To suggest that U.S. sanctions on Iran “are becoming so severe as to constitute a blockade, which in international law is an act of war,” reveals a complete misunderstanding of sanctions, blockades, and international law.

    Sanctions are legal and legitimately applied by countries such as the U.S., the EU nations, and others in cases such as Iran, Burma, North Korea, and other nations that flout basic human dignity and international law. A blockade is most often maritime in nature, preventing ships from entering or leaving a country’s ports, but can be applied to aircraft as well. Blockades are indeed acts of war under international law. Under internation law, however, there is a clear distinction made between sanctions, which are not acts of war (regardless of how severe) and blockades, which are. To conflate the two is to seriously mislead the readers of this piece.

    • AIPAC has more than once tried to get a Congressional resolution going calling precisely for a naval blockade on Iran, which have been greeted enthusiastically on the Hill.

      If the US Treasury manages to make it impossible for Iran to get paid for its petroleum, stopping the exports, I can’t see how that differs from a naval blockade.

  9. I would love to submit a substantive and meaningful comment. But alas it is not going to happen. But I would love to follow this thread and the follow up comments. I don’t know how to do this other than writing something here and clicking the “Notify me of followup comments via e-mail” box below.

    I will add I find your blog very informative and thought out.

    Thanks,
    dave

    • Dave – Last item in the list at top left is “FEEDS”

      In there you can get notifications into various News Readers,

      I use RSS feeds, which go into my browser sidebar – click the _View Feed XML_ link at the bottom of the Subscribe Now box on the FEEDS page. You can also get email notifies.

      Hope this helps

  10. The US is hitting targets in Yemen and the tribal belt in Pakistan. When will the drone wars be over?

    The “drone wars” are, in actuality, the single war against al Qaeda. When will that war be over? Leon Panetta had some interesting comments when he became Secretary of Defense:

    link to articles.latimes.com

    We seem to have whittled that 10-20 number down a bit over the past few months.

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