By Tom H. Hastings
Reinvade, reoccupy, and redestroy Iraq. That’s the solution to the inevitable civil war that happens when the US pulls out? Will we do it until either Iraq is remade in our image or until the US economy, political environment, and culture is also destroyed?
Eight years ago a group of Portland peace activists raised the funds to bring together a number of experts to produce an exit strategy from Iraq. Ours was done, as it turns out, at the same time that the Iraq Study Group did their work. We were just unaware that the government had at long last decided maybe it was time to think Exit Plan. Duh. I expect we were all simply inspired and challenged by the insightful and cogent strategy published shortly before in the widely cited peer-reviewed journal, The Onion.
Still, despite the obvious–and our group, which was informed by military experts and conflict transformation experts alike, noted well that no matter when the US left the Iraqis would have a bloody civil war and settle on a new autocratic government that shot its way to power and repressed its citizenry–it took the US three more years to begin to leave, longer to finish leaving, and now the correctly predicted violent settling-out process is happening in earnest.
Naturally, the US conflict industry is dismayed when the US isn’t spending every last centavo on weaponry and other military profiteering contracts. Time to respond! Go bomb! Send in “advisers.” No-fly attacks, hunt down insurgents with drones and war jets. Remobilize U.S. troops because if there is one glaringly blatant truth, proxy troops no longer work in this post-Cold War era. They seemed to be Just Fine and a great way to drain the American taxpayer when their loyalty was fairly dependable. But the era of “he may be a son of a bitch but he’s our son of a bitch” (ascribed a bit dubiously to FDR about our boy Somoza, the Nicaraguan dictator) is over. Our SOBs are now routinely driven from power by the ballot, the bullet, or the bodies–that is, by the elections we no longer control, by violent insurgencies, or by civil society nonviolent revolution.
Stop it. Stop interfering in other countries. Stop sending arms. Stop the drones. Just support civil society with helpful and requested aid, never guns or tanks or war jets or anti-insurgent helicopters or anti-government rocket-propelled grenade launchers. And for any chance of success, keep US troops at home. Let Iraqis work it through and then try to be a friend to their citizenry with our goods of life. It may not be as fast as the “I’ve got a gun to your head so go vote!” model of spreading “democracy” that is favored by our leaders and our military industrial congressional complex, but it is the only one that actually works. Can we please start now?Φ
Tom H. Hastings is PeaceVoice Director and teaches in the Conflict Resolution program at Portland State University in Oregon.