Robert Kaplan is a throw-back to the late nineteenth century imperialists who believed in the inherent right of the United States to dominate the lesser breeds and believed that the manly art of war is good for civilization. In Imperial Grunts he talked without a trace of irony about the glory of U.S. soldiers taking up "the white man's burden".
Kaplan formed a one-man cheering section in late 2002 for the Bush project to take over Iraq and use its military bases to dominate the rest of the region. He confidently assured his readers that setting up a new government would be no big problem once the United States military was in control of the country. "Our goal in Iraq," he wrote, "should be a transitional secular dictatorship that unites the merchant classes across sectarian lines and may in time, after the rebuilding of institutions and the economy, lead to a democratic alternative."
That political insight ranks alongside Paul Wolfowitz's belief that Iraqi Shiites wouldn't mind foreign troops occupying Najaf and Karbala, because he didn't think Iraq had any holy cities like Saudi Arabia.
Kaplan is also a political attack dog for the imperialist right on Iraq. In his latest column he admonishes Obama that must change his stance on troop withdrawal from Iraq or face serious political consequences this fall. He suggests that Obama will become Iran's candidate if he does not accept the Bush administration position that the United States must maintain a major military presence in Iraq for the indefinite future.
Here is the full text of Kaplan's rather heavy-handed warning to the Obama campaign:
"A precipitous withdrawal may be the last chance the Iranians will have to dominate Iraq to the degree that they had thought possible in 2006. If Obama heads into the fall campaign without visiting Iraq, without acknowledging progress there, and without altering his time-table for withdrawal, the Iranians may decide to help his electoral chances by initiating a new spate of bombings."
The real point of Kaplan's warning is not what the Iranians will do about Obama. It is what the imperialist right will do about him. They are quite desperate to implicate Obama in the coming debacle in Iraq. They would prefer to have him share the responsibility for the existing policy. If he refuses, however, they evidently feel the need to create a new narrative which says that Obama and the Democrats are enabling Iran to snatch victory from the jaws of the defeat.
Kaplan is clearly hinting that the imperial right, which now controls the White House but McCain's campaign as well, will tag Obama as Iran's candidate in the fall. The further implication of this threat, of course, is that he will also be blamed for having "lost" Iraq to Iran.
The idea of linking Obama's troop withdrawal plan to the Iranian position in Iraq makes no sense objectively, but it is the logical political response by those who led the United States into a disastrous war. By doing so, they would hope to divert public attention from the Bush administration's central problem -- the fact that its invasion of Iraq put Iranian surrogates into power in Baghdad by removing Iran's primary enemy, Saddam Hussein, thus clearing the way for a Shiite state.
Those U.S.-sponsored elections in 2005, which were so glorified by the Bush administration and the U.S. media, made the Iranian leaders salivate. They opened the door for the Shiite political parties and paramilitary groups created by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in Iran during the Iran-Iraq war to get state power. The Bush administration had no choice but to play ball with the pro-Iranian Shiites in 2004 and 2005, because it desperately needed the help of their paramilitary forces to help fight off the Sunni insurgents.
Ever since then, the Bush administration and its imperialist right-wing allies have had to deny the obvious reality that the Iraqi regime we were supposedly protecting from Iran was actually a joint U.S.-Iranian condominium.
Kaplan's scenario of Iranian-orchestrated bombings before the election is, of course, utter nonsense. Rather than trying to stoke a war between Shiites and the Americans, Iran has simply convinced its Iraqi Shiite friends, whom Iran trained and put in its payroll in the 1980s, to ensure that the Bush administration's proposal for long-term access to Iraqi military bases is rejected.
Dick Cheney lavished praise on Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, the leader of the major pro-Iranian political party, for his cooperation when he went to Baghdad in March, but leading figures in that same party are now attacking the Bush administration's proposal for a U.S.-Iraq "framework agreement" as legitimizing U.S. occupation. So is Prime Minister al-Maliki's own Dawa party.
Now that the beneficiaries of the U.S. invasion and overthrow of Saddm are joining with Iran to reject the Bush administration's military demands, those who led this country into war must know that they stand to be blamed for having sacrificed all those American lives for the political benefit of Iran.
The political ploy of shifting blame for the failure of an imperial venture to the other party is an old story in American politics. Remember Henry Kissinger's masterful 1975 set-up of the stab in the back by the Democratic Congress, even as the old Saigon regime was already fleeing in panic? Kaplan is using the threat of yet another round of blame-shifting to blackmail Obama on Iraq.
This is only the first indication of just how ugly this campaign is likely to get on Iraq.