by Crescent International (Editorials, Crescent International Vol. 36, No. 6, Rajab, 1428)
The fact that the US has suffered a massive defeat in Iraq is no longer disputed by any but the most slavish apologists for the Bush regime. As the reality of the US’s position first became apparent, many Western commentators went through a process of retroactive redefinition of the justifications and objectives of the war, to try ways of making the war look less disastrous that it actually is. Now few even try that. Even Bush and those closest to him have abandoned claims that they are liberating the Iraqi people, or building a model democracy for the Middle East; instead they have reverted to the most simplistic argument put forward for the war, originally intended only for the most gullible of American voters, that they are “fighting terrorism”. The fact that much of the “terrorism” that they are fighting has actually been generated by the war itself has not escaped caustic comment.
Accepting the reality and accepting responsibility for the reality are, however, two different things. Western papers are now full of articles attributing blame for the fiasco, many of them by previous supporters of the war. George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and the neo-con clique around them are generally blamed, with American politicians keen to limit the blame to as small a circle as possible, so the failures can be written off as an abberation rather than reflecting fundamental failings in the broader American system and worldview. But these politicians need someone else to blame, and Republicans more broadly know that blaming their own leaders is poor politics when they need to put a fresh candidate up for the presidential polls next year; hence the increasing search for scapegoats outside the country. Favoured candidates include Western countries that refused to support the war; neighbouring Iran, for “interfering in Iraq”, as though the US could not possibly do any such thing; the Iraqis themselves, for being ungrateful for the US sacrifices on their behalf and, according to some commentators, for being pathologically incapable of working the sophisticated democratic systems established for them; and, most recently, the Saudis for their alleged support of Sunni insurgents responsible for much of the disorder in Iraq.
Seeking to blame others for our own failings is, of course, a human instinct. But the implications are potentially serious. Few doubt that the neo-cons plan some sort of action against Iran in the run-up to next year’s presidential elections. The Muslim world may well pay a high price for the Americans’ stubborn refusal to learn the real lessons of Iraq: that they simply do not have the power they thought they had, and cannot impose their will on the world by force.