The new Art of War or how to turn a human tragedy into an imperial opportunity

''The events of 11 September 2001 killed thousands, left many thousands more bereft, and horrified countless millions who merely bore witness. But for a few, 9/11 suggested an opportunity. In the inner circles of the United States government men of ambition seized on that opportunity with alacrity. Far from fearing a ‘global war on terror’, they welcomed it, certain of their ability to bend war to their purposes. Although the ensuing conflict has not by any means run its course, we are now in a position to begin evaluating the results of their handiwork.

One point above all stands out: the rationale for the war had next to nothing to do with the threat posed by Saddam Hussein.

…For the war’s architects, ‘Iraq was not a danger to avoid but a strategic opportunity,’ less a destination than a point of departure. In their eyes, 2003 was not 1945, but 1939: not a climax but the opening gambit of a vast enterprise largely hidden from public view. Allusions to Saddam as a new Hitler notwithstanding, they did not see Baghdad as Berlin but as Warsaw – a preliminary objective. For the war’s most determined proponents – Cheney, Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz – toppling Saddam was the first phase of what was expected to be a long campaign. In Iraq they intended to set precedents, thereby facilitating other actions to follow. Although Bush portrayed himself as a reluctant warrior for whom armed conflict was a last resort, key members of his administration were determined that nothing should get in the way of a showdown with Saddam. ‘In crafting a strategy for Iraq,’ the undersecretary of defense Douglas Feith insisted to one baffled US general, ‘we cannot accept surrender.’ The object of the exercise was to demolish constraints on the subsequent employment of American power. Merely promulgating a doctrine of preventive war would not be enough: it was imperative actually to implement that doctrine.

By planting the Stars and Stripes in downtown Baghdad, Gordon and Trainor write, the advocates of war intended not only to ‘implant democracy in a nation that had never known it’ but to ‘begin to redraw the political map of the region’. As ‘a demonstration of American power for Syria and other wayward regimes’, Operation Iraqi Freedom would show the consequences of defying the world’s only superpower. Even beyond the Middle East, Saddam’s demise was likely to have salutary effects, letting ‘other adversaries know they should watch their step’. ''

After the collapse of the initial rational for war against Iraq we rae left with two premises:
1. 'Implant a democracy in a nation that had never known it'.

2. Letting 'Other adversaries know they should watch their step'.

Three years after Shock and Awe, the idea of democracy seems more elusive in Iraq now than what it has been under Saddam's rule. Why ? Because under Saddam people didn't know what democracy actually was and they could dream of a democracy in which voting for their representatives meant actually participation in the political process and in the development of their country. The way things are going in Iraq now have shown Iraqis an ugly interpretation of democracy in which the voting process is disconnected from the rest; fair political representation, political auonomy from occupation forces, security, civil participation in the political process and nation building.
We are then left to conclude that the number one objective of the invasion of Iraq having failed, Americans can claim success in the number two objective: Letting 'Other adversaries know they should watch their step' .
If the number one adversary is terrorrism as Americans claim, Objective nmber two hasn't worked so far. According to 2005 statistics, terror business is thriving.

But we have to look for the real adversaries if we have to allow Americans to claim victory in the number two objective. Who are then the adversaries who should learn a lesson from the America invasion of Iraq ? Here we realise that the US is giving us a large definition of the 'adversary' or a narrow one depending on which side you stand: indeed a US adversary is any country that does not abide by the US economic and foreign policy rules. This is why we are seeing more
governments bending over while their citizens dissents are mounting leading sometimes to a wave of rejection of the all American superpower, something Americans and their allies call 'anti-Americanism'.
The most accurate definition for the process of 'letting adversaries know they should watch their step' is 'State terror'. By invading Iraq and applying physical terror on its population, and by proxy on all middle eastern countries, the US is, at the same time, applying virtual terror worldwide. And it is able to do it without reproach, thanks to the human tragedy of September eleventh.

Cobra II: The Inside Story of the Invasion and Occupation of Iraq by Michael Gordon and Bernard Trainor, reviewed by Andrew Bacevich, London Review of Books.

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Since March 29th 2006