The “wars of interest and intrigue, of individual avarice, envy, and ambition…”
Angelo M. Codevilla’s August 17th post on the Library of Law and Liberty website takes a critical look at past and present U.S. policy toward Iraq. He argues that the whole idea of a “unified Iraq” is an illusion of western politicians and intellectuals:
President Obama’s order for air strikes that are to last “several months” against the northern and eastern edges of the Islamic State In the Levant (ISIL) is a small part of a political effort to promote a “more inclusive” Iraqi government in Baghdad. This undercuts the missions that American air power could accomplish in short order – namely strengthening Kurdistan, America’s only ally in the region beside Israel, and saving the masses of refugees now fleeing ISIL. Nor is it part of any strategy for dealing with ISIL.
U.S. policy toward the region, Codevilla argues, should be a limited:
But settling the quarrels of Mesopotamia’s Shia, Sunni, and Kurds is a fool’s errand. Since these peoples dislike one another and wish to live in (at least) three separate states, a united Iraq is possible only if one of them lords it over the others. America killed Iraq by introducing democracy, which has ensured separation of these three groups. Nothing that Obama might do can revive Iraq. Expecting new attempts to yield results different from those of previous ones is as good a definition of madness as any.
The United States was established as a federal republic with a national government intended to be limited by a strong Constitution. Why should the U.S. support a strong central government in Iraq rather than a decentralized system? All oil is “owned” by the central government and all oil revenue is to flow through the central government.
There is, however, no such thing as one set of persons whom “Iraqis” might recognize as leaders because there is no such thing as an “Iraqi” people. Power in Baghdad which once was in the hands of the Sunni minority is and will remain in the hands of the Shia majority. The Kurds are long gone. The governmental structure is a Potemkin village that exists as a receptacle of U.S. money. Nor is there an Iraqi army. What Americans called an army, composed as it was of multiple religious groups, disintegrated at first shock. Much of its American equipment is in the hands of ISIL. The people now defending Baghdad are Shia militia, … [Source.]
With the Iraqi government now in new hands, the U.S. Congress is eager to provide billions more dollars of aid. Yet Iraq should be flush with funds from surging oil exports:
Iraq raised total output to a 35-year high of 3.6 million barrels a day in February even with the nation still wracked by bombings that kill by the dozens, according to the International Energy Agency. While a dispute over revenue between the central government and northern Kurdish region and attacks on a pipeline to Turkey hinder shipments, export capacity in the south is rising with the addition of offshore loading points for ships.
Yet Iraqi government officials claim the government will collapse due to widening budget deficits, and they blame the Kurds for not paying the Iraqi government for oil exports the central government claims the Kurds could sell. (Weirdly, the Iraqi government claims the Kurds need to pay revenue from 400,000 barrels a day of exports, which Reuters reports is “a target industry sources say far exceeds Kurdistan’s current export capacity of around 255,000 bpd.”
And where is the revenue going from Iraqi’s estimated 3.6 million barrels a day of exports? Here, apparently:
state spending had risen sharply in the draft budget due to increases in pensions and the minimum public sector wage, child benefits and student allowances. (Iraq needs Kurdish oil income to avert budget collapse -lawmaker, Reuters, Jan. 19, 2014.)
No easy answers for Iraq, but maybe the U.S. has done enough and should at least make sure what it continues to do (support the central Iraqi government), doesn’t undermine the stability of Iraqi Kurdistan.
John Quincy Adams, along with other early American Presidents, were skeptical of foreign involvement, even in promoting freedom and independence. The warning below is from an 1821 speech by John Quincy Adams:
Wherever the standard of freedom and independence has been or shall be unfurled, there will her heart, her benedictions and her prayers be. But she goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own. She will recommend the general cause, by the countenance of her voice, and the benignant sympathy of her example. She well knows that by once enlisting under other banners than her own, were they even the banners of foreign independence, she would involve herself, beyond the power of extrication, in all the wars of interest and intrigue, of individual avarice, envy, and ambition, which assume the colors and usurp the standard of freedom. The fundamental maxims of her policy would insensibly change from liberty to force. The frontlet upon her brows would no longer beam with the ineffable splendor of freedom and independence; but in its stead would soon be substituted an imperial diadem, flashing in false and tarnished lustre the murky radiance of dominion and power. She might become the dictatress of the world: she would be no longer the ruler of her own spirit. (John Quincy Adams, July 4, 1821.)