What is Washington’s Middle East strategy? Is it working?


Richard Moore

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Let's take a look at developments in Iraq, within the context of overall
US strategy. I want to do this because I've been disappointed in most of
the analysis I've seen. Most are distracted by the trees and miss the
forest. What I mean by "trees" are all the perceived setbacks: the high
casualties being experienced by Coalition forces, the widespread
uprising of the Iraqi people, the failure to find WMDs, signs of
declining domestic support for Bush's policies, the failure to create a
viable Iraqi entity to hand power over to, the urgent requests for UN
assistance, the stress on available US military manpower, etc.

Things seem to be going badly in the Iraqi theater, and that's what the
analysts are saying - in the media and on the net. Some even say the
occupation has been a "failure".  But how bad things are going depends
entirely on your perspective. From the perspective of official rhetoric,
for example, things are obviously going awry and officials have admitted
it - along with words to the effect that no one ever promised that the
War On Terrorism would be a piece of cake.

But of course we're all too savvy to give much credence to the
mainstream media. We look instead to reports and opinion on the
infinitely diverse net, from sources that have shown themselves over
time to be reliable and well informed.  I have several sources that I
rely on - some are email lists, and some are individuals (you know who
you are) who contribute to our discussion by sending me useful items as
they come across them.  (Thanks for that.) It is the analyses from these
more savvy sources that I respond to.

Within the context of the Iraqi occupation itself, these more savvy
reports are very good and I regularly post selected examples . They give
us hard facts, eyewitness accounts, reports of Iraqi sentiment "on the
ground" and various non-US viewpoints - all very useful.  But when these
sources try to judge the success or failure of the US mission,that is
where I say their view of the forest is often obscured by the trees on
which they focus their attention.

From their perspective, the difficulties experienced by Coalition forces
are a sign of poor planning, lack of understanding of the local
situation, and failure to understand the psychological impact of their
actions on the various parties in Iraq and the Middle East generally.
These failures are over-stretching Coalition resources, stirring greater
rebellion, and leading to widespread anti-US sentiment throughout the
region. The US is bungling both militarily and politically. All this
will bring adverse political and economic consequences domestically in
the US, in an election year, and Washington will be under pressure from
all sides to pull out, under some face-saving formula. This bungling has
most likely set back the White House neocons' plans for a New World
Order, perhaps permanently. Perhaps the decline of The Empire is at

That's the strain of analysis I'm responding to. I've seen it a lot, and
similar, from good sources. In my view, this line of thinking is way off
track, and I'll say why in a moment.  But first let's look at the
assumptions hidden behind this analysis.  I believe they are these...

The first assumption is this: that the US objective in Iraq is to
stabilize the territory, to consolidate it's expanded sphere of
influence. This seems to be a sensible assumption, and one that
historically has characterized occupation episodes. However, in this
actual case, everything the US has done on the ground has been contrary
to that objective. They began the occupation, for example, by
systematically destroying the still-functioning national infrastructure
- when they invited street mobs and organized thieves to loot the
government buildings This leads us to assumption number two: The US
planners in the White House are incredibly stupid. These two assumptions
lead to a certain perspective, and from that perspective the paraphrased
analysis above makes sense. These assumptions deserve, I suggest, a
critical examination.

My reading of US history tells me that one should never underestimate
the strategic thinking behind US policy, particularly when it comes to
imperialist adventures. Too often historical accounts give credence to
the diplomatic rhetoric of the time - the reasons for war - and the
actual geopolitical / economic transactions are under-examined.

My own latest analysis of US history can be found in the list archives
(http://cyberjournal.org), 21 Oct 2003, Subject: "How to Conquer the
World Without Really Trying".  For now, I'll just point out that the US
has been pursuing an imperialist adventure from day one. The separation
from Britain, for example, amounted to the seizing of a branch of the
Empire by its local big operators, so that they could further exploit
its potential for themselves. They expanded to the West, they
participated aggressively in international shipping and trade, and every
thirty years or so they mobilized the US military in some kind of war to
expand the scope of their imperial realms. Mainstream matrix histories
interpret this pattern as nationalist expansionism, motivated by this or
that accidental crisis or opportunity. My own interpretation is based
more on following the money. What I see is a regular pattern of economic
expansion, leading to a saturation of markets and declining growth - and
requiring a war to expand into new markets and to gain access to more
raw materials and cheap labor.  The regularity of the (approximately)
thirty year cycle is not that surprising. It's simply the predation
cycle of Tyrannosaurus Kapitalus Amerikanus, the time of rest while the
previous meal digests and before investor-developer hunger begins to
demand the next kill.

There have always been strategic economic objectives behind US
participation in wars, and in most cases those objectives have been
achieved. The only big exceptions are perhaps the War of 1812 and the
Vietnam War.

If we want to understand whether the neocons are "incredibly stupid" -
and whether it is or is not in their interest to achieve stability in
Iraq - then we need to investigate their strategic economic objectives.
In particular we need to place events onto a canvas of sufficient size
to reveal the whole picture to us.

Fortunately, the neocons themselves have provided us with a copy of the
specific game plan for their next series of predations, along with an
enumeration of the strategic economic objectives. And their canvas is
global, with Iraq being only a small piece. I believe my first posting
of their agenda was 20 Sep 2002, "secret blueprint for US global
domination" (available on the list archives). It may have been secret
once, but now you can find the agenda on the website of the authoring think
tank, The Project for a New American Century.

Cheney, Rumsfeld, and the other neocons sponsored the report, which is a
rehash of one they commissioned ten years earlier. They have been
champions of their vision for the past ten years, and now they're in
power in the White House. They got the "New Pearl Harbor" they said they
needed, and now they're implementing their agenda. If we want to
understand the meaning of events in Iraq, we need to understand it in
the context of their very large canvas.

On their canvas, Iraq and the rest of the Middle East are stepping
stones to larger objectives. They want to control all the oil in the
Middle East, not just that of Iraq. The US has exercised considerable
control for decades, in particular by supporting antiquated regimes
which in turn made favorable deals with US oil companies. But their
agenda calls for an upgraded level of control. They want permanent major
US military bases in the region, to use as a staging point for further
aggressions. They want secure control of oil sources, because of the
political and economic leverage that gives them over competing powers,
such as Europe and China. The GIs have come to stay, and Washington
intends to use the region as a home base for military forces and as a
global supply base for petroleum. The current conflict in Iraq is a
preliminary operation in a much larger campaign. If we want to judge the
success of that preliminary operation, we need to evaluate how well it
prepares the way for the larger campaign to follow.

To carry out their larger plans, they will need a considerably expanded
US military. We're talking about very major scale operations aimed at
total global supremacy in all theaters. Such large-scale expansion of an
already astronomical military budget is not easy to sell to Congress nor
to the American taxpayer.  You certainly cannot sell it by quoting from
your New American Century agenda in political speeches. The events in
Iraq however - particularly the perceived failures - ARE succeeding in
laying the groundwork for the required massive mobilization.

Although people don't like to see their boys coming home in coffins,
their response generally is to turn their grief or sympathy into
increased "support for our troops". This happened in the Vietnam War era
sufficiently to politically offset for many years the widespread and
vocal opposition to the war. People may not have sympathy for perceived
mismanagement of the war, but they will tend to support fixing that by
"giving the boys what they need" to succeed in their "mission of
democracy". As we saw with the handling of the story of the "civilians"
who were horribly killed by a mob, the war propaganda is going to be
hardball. The poor GI is being projected as an underdog, with hidden
bombs and evil terrorists able to strike him at any time. "We must run
to his rescue" (with more troops and equipment) is the obvious subtext.

Strategically, the only parts of Iraq that needs stability right now are
the well-guarded places where the permanent US installations are being
built (by corporations friendly to the neocons and which are reaping
huge profits). Only after those facilities are ready for occupancy is
there any need to extend "order" more widely. Not even the oil
production of Iraq is particularly essential right now - leaving it in
the ground makes it available for long term exploitation. Meanwhile, an
indecisive back and forth struggle - with significant US casualties and
plenty of atrocity stories about the other side - serves quite well to
continue the general mobilization process. As funds become available,
the neocon's will probably spend the money stocking up on the weapons
and equipment they'll be needing in the larger scale campaign, letting
the indecisive struggle go on as long as it can be milked to justify
further funding.

The perceived failures in Iraq are in fact helping the neocons to pursue
the massive mobilization that their agenda requires. There is no reason
for us to assume those failures are fortuitous. Tactics policy and the
rules of engagement are kept on a close leash from Washington. When you
see US military rooftop snipers targeting unarmed women and children in
Falluja, you must look to the neocons for that policy, and you are not
looking at something designed to promote stability or to quell the
spreading rebellion. You are looking at tactics designed to stir things
up as much as possible, to maximize hatred for the occupiers in the

This stirring-up policy serves the neocons' strategic plans in another
way as well. Besides facilitating mobilization, the policy also sets the
stage for the next level of military escalation. That next level is the
regional level. The Crusaders vs. the Infidels. Israel & Uncle Sam vs.
Syria, Iraq, Iran, and (a destabilized) Saudi Arabia. This is where
Samuel P. Huntington's Kulturkampf, as a thread of US geopolitical
strategy, weaves in with the neocon's own agenda. In Huntington's model
for world governance, the world is divided into seven or so competing
and ever-separate "Civilizations", one of which is Western and one is

I think it is clear that the neocons are consciously playing the
Kulturkampf card in Iraq, and that they are aiming for a regional
confrontation. Their actions on the ground are fueling widespread hatred
and condemnation all through the Muslim Middle East, as are the actions
against the Palestinians - by Washington's closest and best-loved ally.

Meanwhile their media propaganda continues to demonize Muslims and
continues to beat the alarmist drums about a terrorist-under-every-rock,
and maintains a high state of anxiety in the domestic population. When
fears and hatred are stirred up between two groups, there comes a point
where the process becomes self fueling.

Leaders begin articulating aggressive condemnations of "the enemy", and
the other side begins to respond in kind. Public feelings escalate. US
intelligence agencies have long experience in destabilizing regimes and
nations with these kinds of tactics. The effective application of these
tactics to the agenda of The New American Century is a simple matter of
policy choice, the implementation is routine. By fueling hatred and fear
between the "Muslim Civilization" and the "Western Civilization", the
neocons are setting the stage for a final solution to the "Muslim
Problem" - a regional conflagration.

There are certain ducks that must be lined up first: the permanent bases
in Iraq, the forward placement of sufficient campaign supplies, the
mobilization of sufficient military personnel, and the development of a
sufficiently hate-filled environment. When those ducks are all lined up,
the neocons can move us all into the next level of their game. All they
will need is an incident. There are many incidents that would do the
job. Perhaps the most likely candidate would be a tactical-nuke attack
by Israel against real or imagined Iranian nuclear-weapons projects.
Israel has already threatened publicly to do just that, and the US
response implied that it would be OK for Israel to "do what it needs to

If all other ducks are in a row, and if fear has induced all regional
parties to mobilize their militaries, then such an Israeli attack could
produce the desired conflagration. If Iran or Syria were to attempt
counter-attacks on Israel, then events could escalate very quickly. If
such attacks were to succeed, events might escalate much faster yet.
I've seen reports that Iran and Syria have been armed by the Russians
and Chinese with portable launchers for state-of-the-art cruise
missiles, supersonic missiles that can penetrate any defense. Israel has
made it very clear on more than one occasion that it would respond to
any attack with nuclear weapons, repudiating its policy of inaction
during the first Gulf War when attacked with SAM missiles. There is
little doubt that the US would back up its Israeli ally, and little
doubt that the media would be able to sell the justice of the Israeli
cause to the American people.

The "failures" in current US Iraqi operations are contributing to the
development of just this kind of scenario. And this is the kind of
scenario that can enable the achievement of the next level of neocon
objectives: secure control over Middle East oil and secure use of the
Middle East as a major forward military bastion. And yet, when the
planned conflagration happens - carefully timed and coordinated between
Israel and Washington - it will probably be perceived by progressive
analysts as yet another "failure" of policy. Something that "happened
due to errors", something that "got out of control" through continued US
"bungling and insensitivity"., a conflagration that "no one wanted".

And again, the analysts would be overlooking the strategic silver lining
in the dark cloud of tactical "failure". Besides the consolidation of
control over the region - which might not be immediately visible in the
media-reported aftermath - there is another critical strategic gain: the
precedent of publicly-accepted first-use of nukes in "preventive"
preemptive strikes by "our" forces. This is a Rubicon that must be
crossed if the US is to square off credibly against Korea and China, and
perhaps Russia if they stray from favor. The US - with its limited
military manpower and limited public will to accept really massive US
casualties - can rule the world only if it can selectively use nukes.

Such use could be justified in the same way Hiroshima and Nagasaki were
justified - by how many lives are saved through bringing an unavoidable
war to a swift conclusion. That myth proved to be very effective and is
still the mainstream story of those bombings, despite the fact that we
now know the Japanese were trying desperately to find a way to
surrender, and that their communications were intercepted by those who
wanted to proceed with testing both the U-235 and the Plutonium
prototype weapons on real populations and cities. Hiroshima and Nagasaki
had both been off-limits to bombers throughout the war for this very
purpose. The neocons of the day wanted to measure the impact on virgin
sites, unmolested by conventional bombing. And that's what they did.
Doctors were flow in immediately after the blasts, not knowing they
would be exposed to deadly levels of radiation, and were instructed to
catalog the variety and frequency of injuries and deaths, but not to
waste time helping anyone.

I believe it is critical that we take the neocons at their word. They've
told us what their agenda is about and they are obviously proceeding
with it, bungling or not. People laughed at Mein Kampf at the time -
grandiose visions of conquest by a deranged mind in a has-been great
power. But he meant what he said and when he got power he went the
course. Our neocons seem to be cut from the same mold, with the same
single-minded determination, the same kind of detailed grand agenda, and
the same willingness to innovate in the use of new categories of force,
terror, propaganda, and the suppression of dissent.

At the same time we must look at the record of US interventionism since
1945, and take due note of the diverse and sophisticated repertoire of
destabilization techniques that have been developed and fine-tuned over
the years. This repertoire is available to our neocons, along with the
services of the immense US Intelligence and special forces establishment
- despite the well-known animosity between the neocons and veteran
Intelligence personnel. When push comes to shove, people do what's
expected of them or they find themselves out in the cold.

We underestimate the subtlety and ruthlessness of these people at
our peril.




    "...the Patriot Act followed 9-11 as smoothly as the
      suspension of the Weimar constitution followed the
      Reichstag fire."  
      - Srdja Trifkovic

    There is not a problem with the system.
    The system is the problem.

    Faith in ourselves, not gods, ideologies, or programs.

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