Iraqi Patchwork

A patchwork of items on Iraq:

Paul Kennedy, The Perils of Empire

This brings us to the broadest question of all, that of defining America’s position in the world over the years to come. The clear victor of the Cold War, it no longer feels constrained from intervening in sensitive areas like the Middle East or Central Asia, should national security interests demand it. The United States is unchallenged militarily and sees no rival Great Power in sight. Yet it has taken little comfort from this. Since 911, it feels less secure and is spending massive amounts on armaments. It possesses the world’s single largest national economy but faces huge trade and budget deficits and economic rivalries from an equally large European Union and a fast-growing China. It has taken on military commitments all over the globe, from the Balkans and Kuwait to Afghanistan and Korea. Its armed forces look colossal (as did Britain’s in 1919), but its obligations look even larger. It is small wonder that while liberals protest soaring defense expenditures, the U.S. military repeatedly warns of overstretch and is dismayed at the hawkish calls for further adventures; in the recent war on Saddam Hussein’s regime, part or all of eight of the 10 U. S. Infantry divisions were tied down in Iraq or standing by to go there.

From across the ocean at Spiked-online, Next stop Syria? by Brendan O’Neill

Yet now, even while scrappy little battles continue in Iraq, US officials are turning their eyes to Syria, and issuing warnings to Iran and North Korea about learning the lesson of Iraq. This ongoing war talk suggests that the war on terror was not about Iraq, just as it wasn’t about Afghanistan, al-Qaeda, or the events of 11 September. Rather, the war is fuelled by America’s own uncertainties, not by real, tangible threats from the third world; by Washington’s desperate search for a means of asserting a sense of mission in the post-911 world, rather than by an old-style colonial agenda.

‘Where next?’ is a legitimate question to ask - not because America is out to retake the Middle East and remake the world, but because the war on terror is driven by domestic problems, and won’t be easily satisfied by ‘successes’ around the world.

The war is over but the confusion still remains and the Bush administration is jumping so quickly to economic issues the whiplash is painful.