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Troop Surge in Iraq will deepen Quagmire
It looks like President Bush is going to announce a “temporary increase” in the number of American troops serving in Iraq. The President is adding complexity to a series of wrong decisions he has made since the beginning of the invasion. It is difficult to imagine how a surge in American troops can fix a self-created problem?
We have made the same mistake that five star General Douglas MacArthur warned about with regard to Asia, “Never get involved in a land war in Asia.” Presidents Kennedy and Johnson didn’t heed the advice, and the rest is history. Now once again, we have a President who has involved us voluntarily (the US was never attacked directly or indirectly by the evil Saddam Hussein) in a land war in an Arab country where suicide bombers are as common as a cup of coffee.
The basis of General MacArthur’s advice was that life is cheap in Asia. Our country will tire, and the public will to continue the effort will wane before the opposition will tire of losing lives. The same advice applies to the Middle East as it did to Asia. Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, and the Mullah’s Iran lost several hundred thousand men in the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980’s, and neither felt the loss. The United States openly backed Saddam Hussein during the war, and prevented an Iranian victory by stepping in with arms and intelligence information.
Our President on the other hand continues to get very bad advice from the same people that initiated this effort. Let’s look at history to understand what’s going on. Saddam Hussein was a tyrant just like all the other tyrants in that section of the world. Goggle “Hama Massacre”, and you will see how the Syrian leadership killed tens of thousands of their own people in 1982. When the Mullahs took over Iran and deposed the Shah, perhaps several hundred thousand people died as a result.
The history of the entire region is one of violence, instability, anarchy, and uncertainty. In that simple sentence you will understand why our President’s desire to install a democracy in Iraq cannot work. Every country in the Middle East has an unstable regime ruling a society whose members have low tolerance for one another, and are inherently volatile. Even if our President were successful in forcing our democratic principles on the people of Iraq, the whole system would of necessity fall apart in a matter of months to a year or two, as a new equilibrium would be formed among the warring factions.
This is not George Bush’s fault. He has simply allowed himself to be misguided as to the reality of the day to day situation in Iraq. His advisors have failed him miserably, and he has failed America in not changing his advisers quickly enough to understand what he is dealing with.
The primary goal of all American Presidents and not the Congress is to determine for our country what our interests should be. The President then must create policy to advance our interests. It is not a coincidence that the first invasion of Iraq in 1990 took place shortly after the fall of the Soviet Union. Our Middle East policy up until that point was to prevent Soviet penetration, and domination of the OIL RICH Middle East.
With the fall of the Soviet Union, our policy became to PREVENT any one country in the region from creating hegemony over the region (the reason being OIL). This was Saddam’s SIN. He attempted to control the oil wealth of the region by invading Kuwait, and therefore neutralizing Saudi Arabia. This had to be prevented at all costs. In 1990, the cost was a US led coalition to remove Saddam as a threat to the oil stability of the region, and that is why the first President Bush never marched to Baghdad. Saddam’s removal from Kuwait was enough to insure that hegemony would not be created.
Somehow the current President Bush got it into his mind Saddam still represented a threat to the stability of the region, and therefore invaded again. In doing so, he has opened Pandora’s Box. Once that box was opened, no one can predict with any accuracy how this is going to play out. We have certainly done a number of things, none of which play to our favor:
1) We have strengthened and emboldened Iran. We are no longer in a position to threaten Iran with invasion for continuing its nuclear program. We do not have the force structure to back up our threats.
2) We have strengthened Syria in the same way as Iran.
3) We have aggravated the Arab-Israeli situation by weakening our own image as an honest third party to the conflict.
4) We have destabilized Iraq as a country, and as a functioning state, with no endgame in mind.
5) We have placed our prestige on the line, and are at the lowest level of respect in our allies’ eyes since World War II.
6) Our position as the moral guiding force of this planet is in jeopardy.
7) We have started a war that we do not know how to finish.
What the President must do RIGHT NOW is recognize where we are at. This is why he lost the Congress in the last election. Americans are never sitting stay, or watch idly. We are an active nation. If the President isn’t moving fast enough, the people will elect others who will?
Our current troops should be used only to train Iraqi forces, both police and military, and not act as combatants in a country whose government we already defeated. If the President finds it mandatory to deploy additional troops, again these additional forces should only be used to train Iraqi forces, not to intervene. This is no CIVIL WAR, with Moslem pitted against Moslem, and sect against sect. This is not about Catholic versus Protestant, or Jew versus Arab. This is all taking place within the context of the same religion. It is even taking place within the same sects. Sunni is also killing Sunni, and Shia is killing Shia. We could never hope to be able to intervene against such wanton killing.
We are after all a democracy, the beacon of light in world where there is much darkness. Our continued efforts in Iraq may weaken this country so much more that it could result in potentially nuclear Iran creating the regional hegemony that we tried to prevent Iraq from creating. Wouldn’t that be a sad state of affairs? We replace one monster with another.
Goodbye and Good Luck
About the Author: Richard Stoyeck’s background includes being a limited partner at Bear Stearns, Senior VP at Lehman Brothers, Kuhn Loeb, Arthur Andersen, and KPMG. Educated at Pace University, NYU, and Harvard University, today he runs Rockefeller Capital Partners and StocksAtBottom.com
Value Investing at StocksAtBottom.com