Sunday, May 16, 2004
Strategic Withdrawal: The New American Century Revisited

Strategic failure is the term discussed amongst military and political circles - both in Britain and the United States; in the paradigm of the Iraqi War, it will be viewed as a figleaf for military failure by the antiwar campaigners, the sceptics and the Left; as a change of direction and a retrenchment away from formal occupation by the more farsighted in the Pentagon and State; and as closure for the neoconservative "project".

It is unlikely that the United States will countenance an immediate withdrawal from the Middle East. This area is increasing in strategic importance, as other sources of oil decline and dependence upon Arabian petroleum grows. The advent of new players from Asia, both China and Japan, as well as the EU's ever greater need for oil presages more involvement from the West, year after year, until alternative energy sources come onstream.

The outspoken critics (anonymous whisperers of dissent) of the Rumsfeld-Wolfowitz regime are scathing in their belief that the United States entered the war without a flexible plan of occupation and a clear exit strategy.

Asked who was to blame, this general pointed directly at Rumsfeld and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz. "I do not believe we had a clearly defined war strategy, end state and exit strategy before we commenced our invasion," he said. "Had someone like Colin Powell been the chairman [of the Joint Chiefs of Staff], he would not have agreed to send troops without a clear exit strategy. The current OSD [Office of the Secretary of Defense] refused to listen or adhere to military advice."

For any British politician supporting the war, this must be the most worrying development. The British Army is occupying Shi'a dominated southern Iraq, with no end in sight or viable security replacement on the horizon. They will remain in place whilst the United States attempts to obtain one of two solutions: an 'independent' Iraqi ally that invites US troops to stay and further undermine rogue states in a long-term reconstruction of the Middle East as a vindication of neoconservative ideology; or a massive expansion of troops to obtain a Nixonian withdrawal under Bush or Kerry, peace with honour.

Under the former outcome, it is doubtful that Abu Ghraib will be offered as a base. (As an aside, any halfway decent colonial would understand the symbolic advantages of razing this Bastille of Saddam's regime, rather than applying a utilitarian calculus, and maintaining the fortress of evil as a prison. They do not do empire well!).

If the United States does withdraw from Iraq without gaining the objectives of neoconservative ideology, this does not portend the beginning of the end of US hegemony or its upward ascent towards even greater global dominance. The strategic trends remain the same; only the methods will differ. There will be a turn towards 'imperialism without empire' and a use of proxies and patsies (such as ourselves) to achieve American ends without formal occupation. The future of American political and military reach lies in the lessons learned in Afghanistan and Iraq. There is no doubt that the US Army is now strategically, technologically and tactically without peers.

Military withdrawal by Great Britain, especially under political pressure from Parliament, would be welcome at this juncture. It would divest us of a burden that has revealed our own military weaknesses in equipment and manpower. If Blair were forced to reverse his military policy, via a vote on Iraq in the House of Commons (perhaps even a vote of confidence), the incalculable damage would end his premiership. Such a goal, kicking out this bloodthirsty, messianic, self-righteous socialist, is worth the withdrawal of our troops from Iraq.

(10.10, 16th May 2004)


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