The president's real goal in Iraq
October 3, 2002 3:29 AM   Subscribe

The president's real goal in Iraq Assumption is that this is to be an undeclared true beginning of American imperialism, as America takes on role of the policeman of the world. Overwrought or spot on?
posted by Postroad (43 comments total)
And I, for one, welcome our new American overlords.
posted by MiG at 3:47 AM on October 3, 2002

One is the effect on our allies. Once we assert the unilateral right to act as the world's policeman, our allies will quickly recede into the background. Eventually, we will be forced to spend American wealth and American blood protecting the peace while other nations redirect their wealth to such things as health care for their citizenry.

Is this the only reason for not completing the plans? What if Europe objects to American domination of their own security? Surely that point might arise?

If we do decide to seize empire, we should make that decision knowingly, as a democracy

This article seems bizarre. It starts out as pseudo-conspiracy theorist and ends up supporting Pax Americana but claiming that the move towards a global autocracy should be open to discussion. Seems a bit odd to me. But then, I'm British.
posted by Kiell at 4:17 AM on October 3, 2002

The document he refers to, I think, is this one.
Which was linked to back in September.

Personally I believe that the up-and-coming war on Iraq was never about weapons of mass destruction or links to Osama Bin Laden, and that it was all about establishing a strong permanent presence around one of the most precious resources, Oil.
I think that at least some of the members of the government are trying to follow the plan.
If the U.S. does turn to empire building, I don't plan on sitting by and doing nothing about it, and I would hope the rest of the world feels the same.

Q1. Is an American Empire in the cards?

Q2. If the rest of the world attacked America, who would win?
posted by Dillonlikescookies at 4:28 AM on October 3, 2002

People worry a lot about how the Arab street is going to react," he notes. "Well, I see that the Arab street has gotten very, very quiet since we started blowing things up.

posted by Beholder at 4:31 AM on October 3, 2002

Sorry, that wasn't a direct link, that was just a summary. My bad. The whole document can be found here:
I beleive this may be the Bush revision of the original document, but someone will probably correct me.
posted by Dillonlikescookies at 4:35 AM on October 3, 2002

To think this is an imperial land grab is ridiculous.

The invasion of Iraq is nothing more than the political stabilization of the American energy supply up-lines.

posted by jazzkat11 at 4:40 AM on October 3, 2002

Is this news? Is anybody surprised? I'm not.
posted by ugly_n_sticky at 4:46 AM on October 3, 2002

I agree, it is the beginning of Empire (article first cited here)
posted by dash_slot- at 4:49 AM on October 3, 2002

Assuming you're right, I'm looking forward to the EU trippling, or quadrupling its spending on defense to combat the US threat...
posted by ParisParamus at 5:00 AM on October 3, 2002

Fuck it, why bother? Most of us have had Empires, we're quite content to sit back and watch the US make an arse of itself on the world stage, put our metaphorical feet up, open a metaphorical beer, have a non-metaphorical laugh.
posted by Grangousier at 5:09 AM on October 3, 2002

I think most of those outside the US have already accepted that Pax-Americana is what it's all about - at least amongst the US ruling elite. Bush and fellow chickenhawks have managed to create a 'with us or against us' mentality that conveniently ignores the fact that pre 9/11 and immediately after, those with the US (ie. most of the world) never supported the imperialism that we now see.

For those who regularly come on here polarising the anti-war argument as anti-US, pro-gassing, anti-plucky Kurds, etc - look at the reception that Clinton received at the Labour pary conference yesterday and you'll get a far better idea of the current British public mood (and I'd guess pretty much the European and liberal Islamic opinion too).

It's in Bush's interest to create the US versus the rest but these 'US-hating', 'Iraq appeasing Europeans' you love to depict are the same people who yesterday greeted Clinton's 'America can lead the world, but not dominate and run it' speech with " great gusts and gales of applause and cheering and ecstasy."

Assuming you're right, I'm looking forward to the EU trippling, or quadrupling its spending on defense to combat the US threat...

Just the suggestion would trigger chickenhawks to consider European 'regime changes'. Germany can't even disagree with your Presdient without being labelled treacherous. Clinton can work 'with' allies, Bush can only alienate them.
posted by niceness at 5:12 AM on October 3, 2002

Metaphorically nodding...
posted by dash_slot- at 5:12 AM on October 3, 2002

...Yes the American people want nothing more than to foot the immense cost of providing social services to yet another entity...

This sort of snarky anti-american rhetoric disguised as geo-political theorizing does nothing but create more international rift.

If you want to delude yourself into thinking that this is the start of a new imperialistic age, then so be it. But there are very few, if any Americans that want to annex yet another area.. especially one rife with stability such as Iraq...
posted by jazzkat11 at 5:12 AM on October 3, 2002

jazzkat: But there are very few, if any Americans that want to annex yet another area

Unfortunately, those very few appear to be in control of small but critical entities like the White House, the Armed Forces and half a dozen or so multi-gazillion-dollar oil conglomerates. One thing that should be very, very clear by now: the current Administration is unconcerned with the opinions or wishes of their Fellow Americans. It's hardly delusional to look at what's happening in Washington today and extrapolate the conclusions of the linked article.
posted by JollyWanker at 5:25 AM on October 3, 2002

Why does the administration seem unconcerned about an exit strategy from Iraq once Saddam is toppled? Because we won't be leaving.

I don't think the American empire works like this. What has been learnt from previous empires is that if you take over a country, sure you have unlimited access to it's resources but then you also have to pay for more military, maintain another country and involve yourself in local problems. If you run franchises all of those things are someone else's problem.

You get to suck out all the stuff you want. The people you're oppressing are paying for the army to oppress them. If the guy running the country is a murderous bastard then that isn't your fault. If the locals are having a civil war that leads to them slaughtering each other, you don't have to keep wading in and breaking them up - in fact the more locals that kill each other the fewer locals can start causing troublesome uprisings.
posted by dodgygeezer at 5:26 AM on October 3, 2002

...Yes the American people want nothing more than to foot the immense cost of providing social services to yet another entity...

Call me naive but I'm pretty sure the British Empire wasn't about providing social services to India, Malaysia and half the world. Let me break it to you softly - it won't cost you, empires aren't about spending imperial money helping those in need - all that oil, it will be yours!
posted by niceness at 5:30 AM on October 3, 2002

Jazzkat1: Apologies if I missed your sarcasm?
posted by niceness at 5:32 AM on October 3, 2002

"especially one rife with stability such as Iraq..."

Love that statement

Jazzkat11, the U.S. is definately making the modern super power version of a land grab. If the U.S. attacks Iraq then the U.S. is going to be paying the costs it incurrs to do so, unlike the Gulf War.

How is the U.S. going to recoup those costs? Why by securing developement rights to oil country in Iraq. This way we are not kicking anyone off their land and we don't take responsibility for running their country.

posted by Wong Fei-hung at 5:39 AM on October 3, 2002

It doesn't matter what the masses want. If all military action was chosen on by popular vote, do you think much of it would still have happened?

No one's deluding themselves, jazzkat11, It's a prediction, one that some people believe. You can't be sure either way so we might as well respect each others opinions, rather than calling it "snarky anti-american rhetoric" I can't speak for everyone, however so you might be correct.

"Why of course the people don't want war ... But after all it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship ...Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger."
Hermann Goering, Nazi leader, at the Nuremberg Trials after World War II

Forgive the accidental invoking of Godwin.

On preview, Jebus we are all bashing Jazkat11. Guess we are liberal pinko america hating scum®
posted by Dillonlikescookies at 5:47 AM on October 3, 2002

When the British Empire was becoming Empire to the point where Queen Vic' would be thought of as Empress rather than Queen, there wasn't any majority vote for it or particularly in favour of it. In actual fact it was a contentious issue that did not enjoy cross party support.

At the critical moments however the parties that were in favour of outright Empire were in power, and the arguments were cast in terms of patriotism, free trade and self defence depending on the situation. Empire's an organic thing. It was for the Romans, it was for the Russians and it was for the British. None of these empires started out as Empires. For the first two it was protecting the existing borders by adding buffer space and transformed slightly into trade. For the latter it began as free trade and transformed slightly into protecting what they had.

There comes a point where the actors involved quit screwing around and start to recognise it for what it is.
posted by vbfg at 6:04 AM on October 3, 2002

This article is spot on. It is enormously disturbing to realize that the United States government, under the sway of multinational corporations, is attempting to break the back of OPEC by taking over Iraq: union busting on a global scale. it was not accidental that the "Saudi Arabia is the real enemy" briefing by the ex-LaRoushie was leaked by Perle et al. because the Saudis are the ultimate target of what is going on here.

Prince Bandar, be afraid. Be very, very afraid.
posted by rdone at 6:10 AM on October 3, 2002

I blogged this a while ago and would disagree that Bush wants an American empire. It's more likely Bush wants to install the concept of Neo Sovereignty.
posted by revbrian at 6:14 AM on October 3, 2002

"Rome did not stoop to containment; it conquered. And so should we."

The Visigoths did not stoop to containment either; they sacked Rome.
posted by Ljubljana at 6:33 AM on October 3, 2002

Q2. If the rest of the world attacked America, who would win?

posted by bifter at 6:39 AM on October 3, 2002

Thanks for posting this, Postroad. It does indeed make all the pieces fit together. Unfortunately, we may only be able to find out the truth in retrospect. And then it becomes a fait accompli.

It makes the stakes even higher for the next Presidential election as well.
posted by norm29 at 7:33 AM on October 3, 2002

Sorry, long post.

The way I see it the war with Iraq is about four things:

1) WMD. These things are scary, easy to put in a container ship and are a symbol of power. A lot of people saw Gulf War I and came to the conclusion that you shouldn't take on America unless you have nukes. A lesson to be taught by Gulf War II is you shouldn't take on America even if you have or will soon have nukes.

2) Promoting democracy by shaking up the region. Regional stability is the problem, not something to be preserved. By reshuffling the deck, the US hopes to create a place where Arabs get to decide their fate and are responsible for it. This isn't altruism. Democracy in the Arab world is in the US interests. Extremism requires that people's lives get worse in the short term to bring about the eventual end of history and reign of righteousness. Voters rarely go for that kind of thing and prefer incremental improvement. (This may be the end of the "stability at any price" argument and the beginning of the end of the US supporting whatever dictator for the sake of geopolitics. Thank God!)

2a) What if extremists seize control of Saudi Arabia or Egypt? Let them. Right now the US has the most advanced apparatus for pounding the stuffing out of states, but is worthless when confronted by non-state violence and timid support from allies. A radical Arabian state could be more not less susceptible to pressure than the Saudi Arabian state is.

3) Oil. By undercutting Saudi dominance of the markets, the US has an opportunity to gain leverage and deliver the attitude adjustment needed to make the WOT stick. Also, this will deprive the Saudis of the cash they used to build their neo-Wahhabi global network. It is too late for Pakistan and Algeria, but maybe not for Indonesia and Nigeria.

4) Basing. Everybody wants to get US forces out of Saudi. The Saudis don't like it, the US doesn't like it. Some airbases are going to Bahrain, but BH is a pretty small piece of real estate and is not as dependent on Washington as a post-Saddam regime would be. Iraq looks like a much better alternative and with Saddam gone, would allow for a much smaller US mid east presence once the initial occupation period is over.

4a) Bases against Iran? Maybe, but when was the last time Iran did anything against the US? Their leaders know that the US could stomp their military if it wanted to so like the potential radical Arabian state discussed in 2a above, it is susceptible to deterrence.

Sorry for the huge post, but I have been thinking about this for a while and I don't think there has been a lot of defense of the Iraq war on its merits. Some of this is imperialism, but so was occupying Germany and Japan and like those examples, it is the right thing to do.
posted by ednopantz at 7:55 AM on October 3, 2002

Europe cannot and will not double or triple it's defense budgets in an attempt to counterbalance the United States. This is for several reasons:

1) No political will
2) Too much invested in social security programs
3) Europeans have an aversion to military use and are pushing the implementation of international law as a method of 'moving away' from military force.

Of course, #3 could really be stated as the reason why there is no desire to build up the military. Europe knows it cannot compete against the US militarily-why bother trying to do so? Balance of Power Politics is SOOOOOO 19th century.
posted by tgrundke at 8:01 AM on October 3, 2002

ednopantz a quick response:
1. "you shouldn't take on America even if you have or will soon have nukes". That is self-evident and doesn't require a "war" with a country that has already been bombed to the stone age to make the point.
2. "Promoting democracy by shaking up the region." That is incredible: democracy in Iraq would mean a. the Shiites take control of southern Iraq and b. The Kurds create their own independent state. None of which will be allowed to happen. Plus the US has a long history of opposing democratic regimes in the region (see Mossadeq in Iran) and supporting brutal dictators (see the Shah in Iran and the current Pakistani regime).
3. Oil: As long as the (brutally undemocratic) regimes in the Gulf and Saudi arabia are payed for, the gulf oil is in friendly hands anyway. The international oil cartels are quite happy with things as they are and I don't expect their pan in the White House to change anuthing there. BTW Algeria is a secular regime at war with the ISlamic fundamentalists (who won the last free elections there and were prevented from taking power by the military).
4. Bases. The idea that the US has a right to employ bases wherever it pleases, sovereignty be damned, is the very definition of rather arrogant imperialism.
posted by talos at 8:15 AM on October 3, 2002

Both the PNAC document linked to by VulcanMike and the National Security Strategy are linked to by the AJC article (blue text, upper right of the column). They are related, but not the same thing; among other aspects, the administration document is necessarily more moderate. (Title of one section: Develop Agendas for Cooperative Action with the Other Main Centers of Global Power.) Certainly the legislature remains as a check on future implementation of this strategy, as well as those intermittent things they call elections.

Empire is a poor word for what these documents spell out. Pax Americana is better, since in its original formulation it extended our nuclear shield over the industrial democracies of Europe, and the clear aim of the broader version is to foster a similar paternalistic relationship across the rest of the world, beginning perhaps with key strategic areas like the Gulf region. Eventually we will want to either confront or assimilate recalcitrant powers like China as we've been able to do with Russia. Certainly we are not intending to multiply the areas we might have to hold by force; the primary strategy that allows us to avoid this is to neutralize the major powers -- like China -- who would seek to support resistance to a holding action. This basic strategy is not new, because it essentially restates the strategy successfully used against the USSR, which in the end abandoned its own bothersome adventurism in favor of rapprochement and trade with the West.

Indeed, it's easy to foresee that one of the major problems with a Pax Americana strategy is not going to be the emergence of serious rivals, or even the continuance of non-state challenges like al Qaeda, but the problem of inaction in the face of problems that do not concern us strategically: what one might call the Rwanda vs. Kosovo problem. In attenuated form these could take on the appearance of an Afghanistan problem, as well: a failed state where opposition to the Western/worldwide hegemony could fester.
posted by dhartung at 8:25 AM on October 3, 2002 [4 favorites]

...For just as no one predicted the bin Laden phenomenon, who can predict what will be the fallout of a new Gulf war?...

more than one of our allies have said the same thing, that the US's goal is to snatch up the oil to control the world energy markets
posted by Babylonian at 8:44 AM on October 3, 2002

but I have been thinking about this for a while and I don't think there has been a lot of defense of the Iraq war on its merits....

Thinking? more like daydreaming. That wasn't a defence, it was a personal wishlist with about as much supporting evidence as the current chickenhawk strategy. The hubris being bandied about is quite astounding: hypothetical situations with any number of outcomes just seem to fit into place. How cosseted are you?

Can you personally afford a war: got any stocks?, ready for regular terrorist attacks?, do you go abroad for holidays?, ready for some dead friends? Life doesn't go on as normal while a few foreigners get wasted.

Why is war so cheap to you?
posted by niceness at 8:45 AM on October 3, 2002


I'm only going to take on a couple of your comments:

I'm suggesting that the US is starting to realize (finally) the folly of backing any dictator instead of unknown alternatives. 9/11 illustrated that the stable mid east is dangerous to US interests and that friendly dictators are of no real benefit to the US against non-state actors.

Iraq will break up if the major groups cannot be persuaded, coerced, or bribed to work together. Given the amount of oil revenue at stake, and the wide concern for a break up, I see no reason why this revenue can't be used to hold the country together. All oil revenues could be paid to a national oil company, for example.

Conservative publications are starting to refer to the Saudis as "Our Saudi 'allies' " underscoring a widespread belief that they don't have US interests at heart. So don't put too much faith in the GCC-US relationship.

Algeria is an aggressively secular regime at war with neo-Wahhabists. Saudi money and the neo-Wahhabi movement have basically destroyed Algeria, as they have driven Pakistan into extremist (mainly anti-Shi'i) violence. In both cases, neo-Wahhabism has been a disaster for people unfortunate enough to live where these lunatics choose to bring their Islamist paradise.

Actually, the smaller Gulf states aren't really "brutally undemocratic." Autocratic, yes, with very limited and circumscribed opportunities for popular participation, yes, but the Kuwaitis have a parliament that is elected on a limited franchise, Qatar has low level elections, and Bahrain is on the same path. No one has been cut up into pieces lately because they insulted the amir of Bahrain, unlike Saddam's unfortunate subjects.

The US is going to get bases where it wants because it will have a lot of influence with the post-Saddam state. It will probably be negotiated process just like every other basing agreement, with the US, as the most powerful state in the world, holding most of the cards. What is so arrogant about recognizing this reality?

dhartung: good post. The FSS is quite a read and is one of the few things I like about this administration. I just wonder who actually wrote it.
posted by ednopantz at 9:05 AM on October 3, 2002

What is so arrogant about recognizing this reality?

Do you have this week's lottery numbers also?
posted by niceness at 9:11 AM on October 3, 2002

I think the U.S. has two options:

1) Pax America - Spend the needed money to assert our will on the rest of the world. On the positive side: done right, we would support democracies and be a "force for good". On the negative: since WWII, the U.S. has had a history of supporting fascists and dropping the ball on nation building, no world empires have yet succeeded.

2) Cut defense spending significantly - We aren't going to fight two major land wars by ourselves at once ever again. Re-tool the military for rapid deployment, anti-terrorism and multi-lateral operations. On the positive side: we save tremendous money that can be spend making the world a "better place". On the negative side: We will have to place nice with others.

The U.S. has been in a middle-ground between these two choices since the fall of the USSR. Bush and 9/11 have helped to make it clear that we should pick one path or the other. I am of the opinion that it is a choice that we should be making throught thoughtful open processes.
posted by jonnyp at 9:12 AM on October 3, 2002

I think most of us have seen the way Bush goes about building concensus and coalitions. Based on recent experience, the idea that we non-US citizens would welcome him as the world's supreme 'force for good' is nonsense.
posted by niceness at 9:26 AM on October 3, 2002

The United States has been the seat of empire for decades. It is always amusing to watch Americans try to avoid admitting that. The sheer arrogance of pretending it is not the case is such a wonderful example of why in 100 years historians will look back at the birth American Empire in the 20th century.
posted by filchyboy at 9:37 AM on October 3, 2002

Algeria is an aggressively secular regime at war with neo-Wahhabists.

Where did this "neo-Wahhabists" come from? I thought they were just plain Wahhabists, and they haven't really gone away since they appeared on the scene 200 years ago.
posted by laz-e-boy at 9:37 AM on October 3, 2002

"you shouldn't take on America even if you have or will soon have nukes"

Still, it might be best not to invade established nuclear powers just yet... Russia for example has around 6,000 operational strategic nuclear warheads launched by something like 1,500 different ICBMs, aircraft and submarines which can deliver around 2,700 megatons of explosive power. That figure doesn't include the damage they can inflict with their tactical nuclear arsenal either.

The United States, Russia, Britain, France and China all have the ability to cause such an enormous amount of damage to any attacker that any attack that may draw a nuclear response is essentially suicidal. Should any two of these nations engage in unrestricted warfare with each other they can only look forward to mutually assured destruction.

On a somewhat related note current US policy dictates that any military action against an opponent will involve overwhelming force. This means that any sensible nation that might expect US aggression should be attempting to become a significant nuclear power as quickly as possible. Significant in this case means that those nations need to be able to cause enough damage in any military encounter to tie the US into the diplomacy of mutually assured destruction.

Essentially current US policy is forcing any nation that espouses a dissimilar ideology to develop a significant arsenal of weapons of mass destruction merely to ensure its own survival.
posted by snarfodox at 9:45 AM on October 3, 2002

I recently had a few things to say about Empire on my weblog, here
posted by jaded at 10:46 AM on October 3, 2002

Forgive the accidental invoking of Godwin.

Maybe the invoking of Godwin's law will become this year's Godwin's law. : )

But anyway, you don't have to doubt that this whole strategy is the official strategy. You can get it straight from the horses mouth. Then you can look the horse in the mouth....

The thing that I think Jay Bookman (author of the article that started this thread) and I share in common is that I'm not so much opposed to this policy as I am to the fact that the American people are not having this layed out for them. We're being led by rhetoric of alarm and evil that doesn't play quite right.

I think it's because the leaders of the country sincerely believe the Pax Americana is the way to achieve security -- and the simultaneously believe that the American people by and large won't go for it. They may even believe that we're not smart enough to understand it. I think that's why while these documents are being produced, we're still getting the non sequitor arguments about the connection between Iraq and terrorism and the puerile "Saddam is a bad, bad man!" stuff. Shame on our leaders for not taking the full vision to the people. Good for journalists like Bookman who will tell the real story rather than simply parroting the soundbites those in power have chosen to give to the mass media.
posted by namespan at 11:08 AM on October 3, 2002

I think the "empire" issue comes in with the new Bush doctrines that 1) US will NOT permit the build up - anywhere on the planet - of any military force which might constitute a real challenge to US military might, and 2) the corollary which is a logical extension of the first doctrine, that the US will reserve the "right" of preemptive strikes against any nation which the US deems to be a potential the future.

If that's not empire, what is?

All of this was spelled out in the 90 page PNAC ("Project for a New American Century") document ("Rebuilding Americas' Defenses"
which has popped up several times on MEFI. This doc. originated during Cheney's last year as Sec. of Defense under Bush 1. The project - of envisioning the proper geopolitical role of the US after the Cold War - was taken up during the Clinton years by PNAC. Wolfowitz was one of the main authors. It was also reduced to a "Statement of Principles" which was endorsed by the following crowd: Elliott Abrams    Gary Bauer    William J. Bennett    Jeb Bush

Dick Cheney    Eliot A. Cohen    Midge Decter    Paula Dobriansky    Steve Forbes

Aaron Friedberg    Francis Fukuyama    Frank Gaffney    Fred C. Ikle

Donald Kagan    Zalmay Khalilzad    I. Lewis Libby    Norman Podhoretz

Dan Quayle    Peter W. Rodman    Stephen P. Rosen    Henry S. Rowen

Donald Rumsfeld    Vin Weber    George Weigel    Paul Wolfowitz

On page 72 of the PNAC report previously mentioned, you can read, by the way, of how "advanced forms of biological warfare that can “target” specific genotypes may transform biological warfare from the realm of terror to a politically useful tool." Does this advocate the possibility of genetic warfare? And against whom? Is there a gene/genes for liberalism? Fun stuff.

The document mentions that "although Iraq provides the immediate justification" (for a massive US military buildup in the mideast) Iran constitutes a larger threat. Meaning: first Iraq, then Iran. Who next? North Korea? Libya? Syria? Saudi Arabia?

I also like this Richard Perle quote concerning the new US foreign policy: "This is total war. We are fighting a variety of enemies. There are lots of them out there...If we just let our vision of the world go forth, and we embrace it entirely, and we don't try to piece together clever diplomacy but just wage a total war, our children will sing great songs about us years from now." Amen, bro.
posted by troutfishing at 12:10 PM on October 3, 2002

advanced forms of biological warfare that can target specific genotypes may transform biological warfare from the realm of terror to a politically useful tool."

like AIDS?
posted by matteo at 5:05 PM on October 7, 2002

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