A Time For Truth: The War Is Over
By PATRICK J. BUCHANAN
Published on 5/23/2004
With pictures of the sadistic sexual abuse of Iraqis in Abu Ghraib prison still spilling out onto the front pages, it is not too early to draw some conclusions.
The neoconservative hour is over. All the blather about “empire,” our “unipolar moment,” “Pax Americana” and “benevolent global hegemony” will be quietly put on a shelf and forgotten as infantile prattle.
America is not going to fight a five- or 10-year war in Iraq. Nor will we be launching any new invasions soon. The retreat of American empire, begun at Fallujah, is under way.
With a $500 billion deficit, we do not have the money for new wars. With an Army of 480,000 stretched thin, we do not have the troops. With April-May costing us a battalion of dead and wounded, we are not going to pay the price. With the squalid photos from Abu Ghraib, we no longer have the moral authority to impose our “values” on Iraq.
Bush's “world democratic revolution” is history.
Given the hatred of the United States and Bush in the Arab world, as attested to by Egypt's Hosni Mubarak, it is almost delusional to think Arab peoples are going to follow America's lead.
It is a time for truth. In any guerrilla war we fight, there is going to be a steady stream of U.S. dead and wounded. There is going to be collateral damage — i.e., women and children slain and maimed. There will be prisoners abused. And inevitably, there will be outrages by U.S. troops enraged at the killing of comrades and the jeering of hostile populations. If you would have an empire, this goes with the territory. And if you are unprepared to pay the price, give it up.
The administration's shock and paralysis at publication of the S&M photos from Abu Ghraib tell us we are not up to it. For what is taking place in Iraq is child's play compared to what we did in the Philippines a century ago. Only there, they did not have digital cameras, videocams and the Internet.
Iraq was an unnecessary war that may become one of the great blunders in U.S. history. That the invasion was brilliantly conceived and executed by Gen. Franks, that our fighting men were among the finest we ever sent to war, that they have done good deeds and brave acts, is undeniable. Yet, if recent surveys are accurate, the Iraqis no longer want us there.
Outside the Kurdish areas, more than 80 percent of Sunnis and Shias view us as occupiers. More than 50 percent believe there are occasions when U.S. soldiers deserve killing. The rejoicing around every destroyed military vehicle where U.S. soldiers have died should tell us that the battle for hearts and minds is being lost.
Why are we so hated in the Middle East? Three fundamental reasons: Our invasion of Iraq is seen as a premeditated and unjust war to crush a weak Arab nation that had not threatened or attacked us, to seize its oil. We are seen as an arrogant imperial superpower that dictates to Arab peoples and sustains regimes that oppress them.
We are seen as the financier and armorer of an Israel that oppresses and robs Palestinians of their land and denies them rights we hypocritically preach to the world.
Until we address these perceptions and causes of the conflict between us, we will not persuade the Arab world to follow us.
What should Bush do now? He should declare that the United States has no intention of establishing permanent bases in Iraq, and that we intend to withdraw all U.S. troops after elections, if the Iraqis tell us to leave. Then we should schedule elections at the earliest possible date this year.
The Iraqi peoples should then be told that U.S. soldiers are not going to fight and die indefinitely for their freedom. If they do not want to be ruled by Sheik Moqtada al-Sadr or some future Saddam, they will have to fight themselves. Otherwise, they will have to live with them, even as they lived with Saddam. For in the last analysis, it is their country, not ours.
The president also should offer to withdraw U.S. forces from any Arab country that wishes us to leave. We already have pulled out of Saudi Arabia. Let us pull out of the rest unless they ask that we remain. Our military presence in these Arab and Islamic countries, it would seem, does less to prevent terror attacks upon us than to incite them.
A presidential election is where the great foreign policy debate should take place over whether to maintain U.S. troops all over the world, or bring them home and let other nations determine their own destiny. Unfortunately, we have two candidates and two parties that agree on our present foreign policy that is conspicuously failing.
The murderous strike of 9-11 electrified America-haters, but produced blowback and near total disaster for bin Laden. In weeks, Bush had united a great coalition, smashed the Taliban and almost finished Osama himself at Tora Bora. Then came Iraq.
Here Bush played straight into bin Laden's hand. By attacking a prostrate Arab nation that played no role in 9-11, we united Arab and Islamic peoples in hatred of America. We shattered alliances and ignited a guerrilla war.
According to a Pew poll, U.S. prestige in the Muslim world has never been lower. Bush is widely detested. In Pakistan, 65 percent of the people hold Osama in high regard, while 8 percent are positive on Bush. We are losing the hearts and minds of the Islamic young, creating a spawning pool out of which future terrorists will emerge.
Now, an attack in Madrid has left 200 dead and blown a hole in our coalition. A socialist has come to power who intends to pull Spanish troops out of Iraq. Poland, too, has begun to waver.
As Bush wins battles, Osama advances toward his strategic goals: Demonization of America as the enemy of Islam, isolation of America as an imperialist aggressor against Arab nations and the enabler of Sharon, and unification of Islam's young behind bin Laden's ultimate war aim: the expulsion of America from all Muslim lands.
The legendary Col. John Boyd described strategy as appending to oneself as many centers of power as possible, while isolating one's enemy from as many centers of power as possible.
Bush I did this brilliantly in the Gulf War, isolating Saddam. Bush II did it brilliantly in the Afghan war, isolating the Taliban. Now Bush has fallen into the trap his father avoided. He is letting Ariel Sharon create the perception that America's war and Israel's war are one and the same.
In the Middle East, Sharon has no friends. He does not care whom he alienates. But we are a world power with friends, allies and interests in 22 Arab and 57 Muslim countries.
To protect our interests, to win our war on Al Qaeda, it is imperative that we not let ourselves become as isolated as Israel is today.
Between America and Israel there are thus common interests and a collision of interests. Sharon does not want us to confine our war on terror to those who attacked us on 9-11. He wants us to expand our list of enemies to include his list of enemies: Arafat, Hamas, Hezbollah, Syria, Iran, Saudi Arabia. He wants us to escalate “the firemen's war” into an American war on Israel's enemies, so, together, we can establish joint hegemony in the Middle East.
If Sharon and his acolytes in the Bush administration succeed in conflating Sharon's war with America's war, we could lose our war.
Why cannot the president see what is going on?
Patrick Buchanan was senior advisor to Presidents Richard M. Nixon and Gerald R. Ford, and communications director for Ronald Reagan.