January 20, 2010

Why We Have War in Iraq

  I.       Introduction

The United States must promptly end its military occupation of Iraq. A military withdrawal will maximize America's ability to refocus its efforts on the fight against Al Qaeda and other anti-American terrorist groups with global reach and, at the same time, minimize the risks to vital U.S. national security interests.

The occupation is counterproductive in the fight against radical Islamic terrorists and actually increases support for Osama bin Laden in Muslim communities not previously disposed to support his radical interpretation of Islam. Given the failure to find weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in Iraq, and the similar failure to establish a linkage between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda, the military occupation of Iraq can be made to look like the second phase of a U.S. war of conquest by individuals such as bin Laden who hunger for a civilizational clash between Muslims and non-Muslims.

II.       Historical Background to the Conflict

A.     Iran-Iraq War

Iran-Iraq War was an armed conflict that began when Iraq invaded Iran in September 1980 and ended in August 1988 after both sides accepted a cease-fire sponsored by the United Nations (UN).  The war was one of the longest and most destructive of the 20th century, with casualties estimated to be more than one million.  Notwithstanding the conflict's length and cost, neither Iran nor Iraq made significant territorial or political gains, and the fundamental issues dividing the countries remained unresolved at the end of the war. 

Even though there had been border agreement, relations between Iran and Iraq continued to suffer periodic crises for two main reasons.  First, despite from the fact that Iraq is predominantly Arab and Iran is predominantly Persian, the border still cut across some political loyalties.  In the north, a large population of Kurds (neither Arab nor Persian) straddled both sides of the border.  Along the southern part of the border, an Arab minority inhabited the Iranian province of Khuzestan among a Persian majority.  Moreover, the largest portion of the Iraqi population is Shia Muslim, as is the majority of the Iranian population.  Shia religious leaders at odds with the secular (non-religious) government of their own country sometimes sought refuge in the other, straining Iranian-Iraqi relations. 

            Secondly, it was both countries that were politically unstable.  When either Iran or Iraq experienced a revolution or coup, the other country would exploit the troubled country's political weakness to gain a diplomatic advantage. As Western countries, especially the United Kingdom, gradually lost influence in the area in the mid-20th century, both Iran and Iraq felt freer to pursue more ambitious foreign policies, unhindered (and at times even supported) by external powers. By the beginning of the 1970s both Iran and Iraq sought broader influence in the region.

B.     Persian Gulf War

This was the conflict that begun in August 1990, when Iraqi forces invaded and occupied Kuwait.  The conflict culminated in fighting in January and February 1991 between Iraq and an international coalition of forces led by the United States.  By the end of the war, the coalition had driven the Iraqis from Kuwait.

Causes of Persian Gulf War

In 1961 Britain granted Kuwait independence, and Iraq revived an old claim that Kuwait had been governed as part of an Ottoman province in southern Iraq and was therefore rightfully Iraq's. Iraq's claim had little historical basis, however, and after intense global pressure Iraq recognized Kuwait in 1963. Nonetheless, there were occasional clashes along the Iraqi-Kuwaiti border, and relations between the two countries were sometimes tense.

Iraq claimed that Kuwait was pumping oil from a field that straddled the Iraqi-Kuwaiti border and was not sharing the revenue. Iraq also accused Kuwait of producing more oil than allowed under quotas set by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), thereby depressing the price of oil, Iraq's main export.

 

III.       Bush's Policy Towards the War

In his address, Mr. Bush sought to put the war in Iraq into a larger context of the global war against a radical Islamic movement that he said was a direct threat to U.S. security.  According to analysts, the speech was a refocused attempt to connect the war in Iraq to the larger worldwide war on terror that the Gallup Poll says still produces his strongest approval rating which is 52 percent. 

It would be hard for Americans to see the war in Iraq in its larger context while the president is just using the bully pulpit to educate the people on the war on terror.   The address makes a perfect sense that the president just want to convince Americans that this is a large part of a much larger global struggle. 

However, according to Michael O'Hanlon, a defense analyst at the Brookings Institution, the speech was "personally disappointing" (as cited in The Washington Times 2005 October 7). 

            According to Buckler Jr. (2006), the main reason behind all woes is America itself.  He quoted that everything that is going on between Sunni and Shiites, the troublemaker in the middle is America. 

            CRITICISMS

            The Bush doctrine, however, has met with significant criticism. The arguments against the doctrine expressed both before and since the invasion of Iraq, accuse it of leading the United States to act unilaterally and to behave arrogantly. The United States risks alienating world opinion, critics of the doctrine say, thereby jeopardizing the international cooperation essential to hunt down terrorist organizations.  The doctrine of preemptive war, these critics add, is likely to encourage rather than discourage the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and if adopted by other nations, could increase the likelihood of regional conflicts. 

"It cannot be in either the American national interest or the world's interest to develop principles that grant every nation an unfettered right of preemption against its own definition of threats to its security" says Henry Kissinger, former U.S. Secretary of State. 

            Two of the most prominent critics of the Bush doctrine are former national security advisors Brent Scowcroft, who served under President George H. W. Bush, and Zbigniew Brzezinski*, who served under President Jimmy Carter. An open policy of preemptive war, Scowcroft told the media, "tends to leave the door open to others who want to claim the same right. By making it public, we also tend to add to the world's perception that we are arrogant and unilateral." Brzezinski echoed a similar theme, saying, "Our doctrine of preemption may encourage others to preempt their neighbors, thereby legitimating increasingly indiscriminate use of power."

            Finally, as some so-called realist critics of the Bush doctrine argue, history demonstrates that nations tend to seek a balance of power.  By asserting that it intends to prevent other countries from "surpassing, or equaling, the power of the United States," these critics say, the Bush administration is simply encouraging other nations to band against America. They point to the fact that the first application of the Bush doctrine has already led to a rupture in relations with several long-standing allies, such as France and Germany, and was opposed in the United Nations Security Council by China and Russia.

Both opponents and proponents of the Bush doctrine, however, are likely to agree on one thing. It is the most radical change in U.S. foreign policy in more than 50 years, and it has led the United States to wage the first preemptive war in its history. 

IV.       For and Against the War

FOR

Supporters of the war have seen Saddam as the cancer of the world and needs to be eradicated.  Not only is he a threat to the U.S. but also a threat to world peace in general.  Moreover, these pro-war claimed that only America can preserve the peaceful world order that benefits all mankind.  They support the Bush doctrine as the only workable mechanism in this age of terrorism and asymmetric warfare. 

AGAINST

Even the veteran of Vietnam was nauseated by the concept that the U.S. government is conquering another nation for the right of the selected few to reap the rewards of Iraq's resources.  The war in Iraq in eliminating Saddam Hussein is just a front instead the war is against humanity at large. 

Anti-war supporters claimed on the morals and ethics.  They remarked the poor decision-making of the Bush administration that would have save lives and less damage to the U.S. economy and budgets.  Such poor decision is considered immoral, illegal, shameful action taken by the U.S. government.  The declaration of war proved Bush as much a criminal as those he denounces. 

V.       Conclusion

The U.S. troop presence in Iraq is burdensome, in terms of both lives lost and dollars spent, and completely unnecessary. The dollar costs are likely to exceed $50 billion per year. Rather than spend such vast sums over and above the $400 billion spent annually for defense, the United States should use the advantages that its military spending has purchased. The United States is capable of fighting Al Qaeda in a variety of ways, few, if any, of which require military invasion and occupation of enemy states. Even in those rare instances in which the use of overwhelming military force is warranted, such operations rarely require the stationing of U.S. troops in foreign lands. The recent war in Iraq and the previous operation in Afghanistan demonstrate the American military's enormous capability for power projection over great distances.

As with so many public policy issues, this means coming to grips with the problem of sunk costs. Some observers might argue that the United States has already spent so much on the Iraqi project that we must stay, that we cannot afford to leave. But for the person who finds himself in a hole, the best advice is to stop digging.

The same men and women who previously predicted that the war would pay for itself, and that postwar Iraq would quickly settle into peace and stability, will undoubtedly decry such measures as defeatism.

A decision by the Bush administration to quickly hand over full political power to the new government of Iraq, and to follow on that decision by removing all U.S. military personnel from the country, will minimize the enormous costs and risks associated with a military occupation and could eventually set the stage for a stable and sustainable relationship between Iraq and the United States.

REFERENCES

The Washington Times (2005 October 7). 'Bush Portrays War in Iraq as Part of a Global Battle. p. A13.

 

Buckley Jr., W. (2006 February 24). It Didn't Work. Universal Press Syndicate.

 

Preble, C. (2004). Why the U.S. Must End the Military Occupation and Renew the War against Al Qaeda. Report of a Special Task Force. Washington, DC. Cato Institute.


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