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it’s all about power

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Back in 2003, the war in Iraq continues apace, with the added complication of the Kurdish Army trying to carve out a new Kurdistan in the north of Iraq. Turkey is very concerned by this, knowing that a large chunk of eastern Turkey is also part of the Kurdish territorial claim. As before, more Allied soldiers have been killed so far in crashes and other incidents than by the enemy. Last night a disgruntled US Army sergeant used grenades on his commanding officers, after he had been reprimanded and told that he “might not get to see any action”. Maybe he has now, but that’s as far as he’s going in the army.

I’m surprised that I haven’t heard any commentary discussing the similarities between modern Iraq and ancient Babylon. The ruins of the city of Babylon are just 80km south of Baghdad, and the Kingdom of Babylon covered all of modern Iraq and large chunks of Iran. The history of the region is one of near-constant warfare, with only the early Islamic era as a respite after their initial expansion from Mecca across the region, before Islam was factionalized and it all went downhill again.

The 1980-90 Iran-Iraq war, on the other hand, is a more useful guide. It illustrates what Saddam Hussein was capable of before the USA was involved. He invaded Iran in search of oil and out of concern about the ambitions of the new hard-line Islamic regime in Iran – so much for his claims that he’s a defender of Islam. His war included the use of chemical weapons against Iranians and against his own civilians.

So, what is my position on this war? I’m not sure that I have one. I’m not in possession of all the facts, pro and con, and have little patience with people who are so sure they know what’s right based on what they read in the media. I’m left juggling multiple sources of information, some of which may be biased or revisionist. My previous paragraph on the Iran-Iraq war, for example, was informed by encyclopaedias, new and old media reports, and a “what is more likely” analysis of the current situation.

I don’t put much stock in the protests that this is about oil: the USA has its own oil, and access to more, closer to home. If oil was really the issue, they would invade Venezuela first. What I do expect to see, however, is immense relief on many sides once this particular itch has been scratched, heartless as that may sound. The world’s stock markets are already creeping up in anticipation. It remains to be seen whether a clear-cut result will come from all this, though – the same was said twelve years ago.

  • Why is the USA doing this? Because it can, it has the power. It sees a threat, and is trying to neutralize it.
  • Why is the USA the most powerful nation on the planet? Because it has enormous wealth. Some of that wealth has been channelled into weapons production, without the need for outside approval.
  • Why does it have enormous wealth? Because capitalism, like it or not, is best at generating real wealth. People like making and spending money, and capitalism is what happens in the absence of a planned economy (and sometimes beneath a planned economy).

Unlike a dictatorship, however, the USA is vulnerable to worldwide public opinion. It is going to pay an economic price for its actions, and it is all too aware that the magnitude of that price will depend on its actions and how it justifies them. Hence the emphasis on minimizing casualties on both sides, and the talk of relief efforts for the region. Iraq has enough oil of its own to sell at a fair price, once trade relations are restored.

I didn’t get much chance to read Jerry Pournelle’s Chaos Manor site last week, but I was shocked to see he’d published a letter written by an American that basically advocated the destruction of Islam and all Muslims, mixed in with more sensible remarks. Jerry didn’t comment further – I think he’s waiting for others to rebut this correspondent – and I’ll see what happens tomorrow. As if Islam would go away if attacked directly? I admit to concern about religions that advocate literal application of teachings that include the killing of non-believers, but Islam is not alone in holding such views – just ask the Crusaders.

This is not Truth; it’s not even exhaustive analysis, but it doesn’t need to be for my purposes (this Blog). Getting it wrong has no serious consequences. If it did, it would take much more research time before I could say or type a single word, assuming I had the luxury of time.


Written by brian t

March 23, 2003 at 3:30 pm

Posted in america, history, politics

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