Chinese checkmate ?
September 4, 2002 6:00 PM   Subscribe

Chinese checkmate ? "Those who love to quote Sun Tzu might consider his nationality', says James Webb, as he offers still more cogent reasons why a 30 year "MacArthurian regency in Baghdad" is probably not in America's national interest. Why are the military men the ones who have to keep pointing out the unwisdom of an invasion of Iraq? Quoth Secretary Webb: "The issue before us is not simply whether the United States should end the regime of Saddam Hussein, but whether we as a nation are prepared to physically occupy territory in the Middle East for the next 30 to 50 years."
posted by rdone (18 comments total)
I'm so glad more general notice is being taken of the way in which the Bush administration pays lip service to respecting America's men and women in uniform, then roundly disregards their best professional advice every time it's offered.

In this case, it's those who have actually seen combat and otherwise had experience of military strategy that are the most vocal in opposition of the proposed invasion. What should that tell a polity?
posted by adamgreenfield at 6:42 PM on September 4, 2002

In general, this article has the right tone. But..

why call Iraq "the cradle of Islam", a term which only makes sense as applied to Saudi Arabia? Also, "the very seat of (Muslim) civilization" - in fact the territory does contain the ruins of the first documented civilisation anywhere in the world, in the Fertile Crescent of Mesopotamia [literally, 'between two rivers'], but surely it is rather ignorant to elide the facts so?
posted by dash_slot- at 7:07 PM on September 4, 2002

Iraq is the cradle of Islam in that the Caliphate was based in Baghdad during the reign of the Abbasid dynasty, and from which the Arabs centralized control over their vast empire and maintained it for hundreds of years. So, while it wasn't born there, it grew up there. Hence cradle, not birthplace, I suppose.
posted by risenc at 7:23 PM on September 4, 2002

And yet America is "land of the free"?
posted by acridrabbit at 7:23 PM on September 4, 2002

Well the entity of Saudi Arabia didn't exist as Islam was being cradled, so to speak, and Iraq is an Arab country, so I really don't think it's wrong to include it in the "cradle of Islam" so long as one is aware it is only a part of a greater picture. Sure it's a bit of a stretch, but I think it's a credit to the article if that's the only problem you can find with it.
posted by mogwai at 7:27 PM on September 4, 2002

Oh, risenc beat me to it and with a much better post, oops.
posted by mogwai at 7:28 PM on September 4, 2002

Yet another tick in the "no-war" column. How lopsided does this argument need to get before the bush administration backs off. This is interesting because it is the first "tactical" reasoning rather than moral/ethical Ive read (in mainstream media).
posted by Dr_Octavius at 7:46 PM on September 4, 2002

It's a great article. But it also points to something that always irritated me in polisci classes, and yet seems to be bearing out pretty much as the profs said it would. The course of empire, that the US, as the only hegemon, will spin itself out of control in a constant, resource- and morale-draining effort to stay there, like a geopolitical game of king of the mountain. Isn't one of Bush's main arguments for attacking "because we'll look weak if we don't"? (Partly, of course, because he's already brought us halfway.) That sort of fait accompli, begging-the-question logic is so flimsy it _can only be_ a stand-in for fate, or so it seems.
posted by risenc at 9:17 PM on September 4, 2002

Iraq plays a central role in the history of Islam.
Ali, cousin of the Prophet, initiated the split of Islam into Sunni and Shi'a ("the party of Ali") factions. Ali set up his capital in iraq at the garrison town of Kufa. Ali's son Husain was martyred in 680 at Karbala in Iraq, still a sacred site to the Shi'ites.

Baghdad was constructed at a strategic location between the Tigris and Euphrates by Caliph Mansur c. 760 CE--less than 130 years after the death of the Prophet. According to Bernard Lewis, the relocation of the Caliphate to Iraq moved the center of Islam "from the Mediterranean province of Syria to Mesopotamia, a rich, irrigated river valley and the intersection of many trade routes. . .From a tribal Sheikh governing by the unwilling consent of the Arab ruling caste, the Caliph now became an autocrat claiming a divine origin for his authority, resting it on his regular armed forces, and exercising it through a salaried beauracracy."
posted by rdone at 9:50 PM on September 4, 2002

I'd take Saudi Arabia first (especially take back our oil facilities there, which they nationalized), and then help the Iranian youth overthrow the islamist leadership in that country, but I do support getting rid of Saddam eventually.
posted by dagny at 12:40 AM on September 5, 2002

dagny, what I would do, is I'd invade Western Europe with about 20 armies from Greenland, and then I'd try to finish up taking all of Africa, and then move into the Middle East. I hope that I get a cannon card on my next turn, 'cause I could use the extra armies.
posted by mr_roboto at 1:11 AM on September 5, 2002

I'd take Saudi Arabia first...

posted by inpHilltr8r at 3:22 AM on September 5, 2002

Iraq was created by the British after the first world war as part of grander Imperial manouvering. The imperial draughtsmen created an unstable state with two significant minority problems (Kurdish and Shiite). It's been a mess ever since.
posted by grahamwell at 4:12 AM on September 5, 2002

mr_roboto, taking Africa is a bad strategy because it's difficult to defend. After W-Europe go for N-Africa and the Brazil to get S-America. It's so much easier to defend and such a cozy place to grow a big army. There are many of ways to try these strategies, and this is my favorite way (cool AI).
posted by ugly_n_sticky at 4:16 AM on September 5, 2002

What grahamwell says has deep implications: the root cause of iraqi Evildom is to be found in Britain and there should the War Against Evilâ„¢ start. Invade London!
posted by ugly_n_sticky at 4:21 AM on September 5, 2002

Not to mention India/Pakistan, Cyprus, Zimbabwe, Ireland, Ceylon, Palestine, ..... You want to fix a place and fix it good? Leave it to us.
posted by grahamwell at 5:51 AM on September 5, 2002

Invade London? Who's your travel agent, u-n-s? Everyone knows the place to invade this time of year is Paris!
posted by allaboutgeorge at 6:32 AM on September 5, 2002

...India....Pakistan... Burma (Myanmar).....Kenya....

Quite a scorecard!!
posted by dash_slot- at 6:42 PM on September 5, 2002

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