"Saeed Semnanian, the chancellor of one of Tehran's most conservative universities (said) the achievement that matters is that Iran is independent. As far as he is concerned, it might be yesterday, and not in 1953, that Kermit Roosevelt and the C.I.A. organized the coup that overthrew Mohammed Mossadegh, the prime minister who nationalized the Iranian oil fields. The regime's current drive for nuclear weapons is a search for an ultimate guarantee of its freedom from foreign interference." (Emphasis added)
-- Michael Ignatieff, the N.Y. Times Sunday Magazine, July 7, 2005
"Extending the ground war into an occupation of Iraq would have incurred incalculable human and political costs. We would have been forced to occupy Baghdad and, in effect, rule Iraq. The coalition would instantly have collapsed, the Arabs deserting it in anger and other allies pulling out as well. Going in and occupying Iraq would have destroyed the precedent of international response to aggression that we hoped to establish. Had we gone the invasion route, the United States could conceivably still be an occupying power in a bitterly hostile land".
-- George Bush Sr. and Brent Scowcroft, A World Transformed (Emphasis added)
"So far the democracy wave the Bush team has helped to unleash in the Arab-Muslim world since 9/11 has brought to power hard-line Islamic fundamentalists in Iraq, Palestine and Iran, and paved the way for a record showing by the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. If we keep this up, in a few years Muslim clerics will be in power from Morocco to the border of India". (Emphasis added)
-- Tom Friedman, NYT, 2/01/06
What is most disturbing about the failures of Mr. Bush's present Middle East policy is not just the erosion in U.S. influence that has occurred to date. It is that Mr. Bush has sown a whirlwind in which the long-term momentum is with extremist forces that hate the U.S. Mr. Bush has occupied a Muslim land for the first time in U.S. history, continues to fly blind through a gathering storm, and is clearly oblivious to the damage his present participation in mass mayhem in Iraq will likely cause the U.S. in the future.
We are today paying an increasing price for mistakes a previous generation of American policy-makers made in installing the unpopular Shah in Iran. We, our children and grandchildren will pay a far higher price for Mr. Bush's Mideast policy failures in the future.
President George Bush Sr. clearly stated the obvious when he warned against the kind of occupation his far less informed son has undertaken in Iraq. The damage done to our interests by the junior Mr. Bush is not primarily in the costs the U.S. has incurred to date: more than 2000 U.S. deaths and 16,000 wounded, the waste of $300 billion short-term and over $2 trillion long-term, plummeting favorability ratings throughout the Muslim and Allied world.
The real damage is in the anti-American dynamic that has been unleashed in a vast region inhabited by 1.2 billion people. The Administration's occupation of Iraq, and its highly visible torture and ongoing killing of Muslims, has made the U.S. a focus for decades of accumulated rage at foreign occupation and humiliation. Mr. Bush may have convinced many Americans that our killing and torturing Iraqis, many of whom are innocent, is justified - and that when Muslims kill Americans it is not. But he is hardly able make this case in the increasingly "bitter" and "hostile" Muslim world.
Secretary of State Rice is to be congratulated for her rare honesty in saying about the recent Hamas victory in Palestinian elections: "`I've asked why nobody saw it coming ... It does say something about us not having a good enough pulse.'" (NYT, 1/30/06) The question at this point, however, is how many even more serious developments will occur in the Muslim world that the pulseless Bush Administration does not see coming? As a result of the junior Bush's refusal to heed the wise counsel of his father, the following nightmare scenarios have become increasingly likely:
-- Increased arming, training and deployment of thousands of terrorists committed to violence against American civilians and U.S. interests, at home and abroad.
-- A coup or revolution in Pakistan which could bring to power the first Islamic extremist government armed with nuclear weapons.
-- Nuclear weapons for the Islamic theocrats in Iran who are increasingly infuriated at us.
-- The overthrow of the Saudi regime by an extremist government committed to using oil as a weapon against us, and/or officially supporting terrorism.
-- Increasing polarization between the Israelis and a newly-emboldened Hamas, leading to local and/or region-wide warfare.
-- Civil war in Iraq that could kill the hundreds of thousands predicted by Iraqi political scientist Kanan Makiya, ending up in a theocratic state closely aligned with Iran.
-- An Islamic alliance - composed of 2 or more of the Muslim nations listed above, with the ability to use nuclear weapons and/or its control of oil against Israel, Europe, and/or the United States.
Will any of these occur? Which are the most likely? How should and would the U.S. government respond?
While none can answer such questions at this point, two points are obvious:
1- Mr. Bush's occupation of Iraq has dramatically increased the possibility that nightmare scenarios like those described above will occur;
2- Mr. Bush has dramatically reduced America's ability to respond effectively to such future scenarios. As his father also noted, the junior Mr. Bush has also reduced the likelihood that allies will cooperate with us.
Our regular army is as close to the breaking point as the National Guard, a Pentagon study has revealed: "stretched by frequent troop rotations to Iraq and Afghanistan, the Army has become a `thin green line' that could snap unless relief comes soon, according to a study for the Pentagon." (AP, 1/25/06)
And according to the former head of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, this over-extension presages far greater violence. There has seen no single more alarming sign for the future than this report from the N.Y. Times on May 2, 2005:
"The concentration of American troops and weapons in Iraq and Afghanistan limits the Pentagon's ability to deal with other potential armed conflicts ... Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, informed Congress in a classified report that major combat operations elsewhere in the world, should they be necessary, would probably be more protracted and produce higher American and foreign civilian casualties because of the commitment of Pentagon resources in Iraq and Afghanistan." (Emphasis added)
The General's aides only told the press after the report was leaked that he meant that precision-guided munitions had been used up. But this spin doctoring does not really explain why he was predicting a more "protracted" war that would "produce higher American casualties." Did it mean that more U.S. troops will be forced to die storming enemy strongholds because precision-guided munitions will no longer be available to destroy them? Is he foreseeing extended U.S. ground wars in the Muslim world that will kill many more U.S. soldiers than have died in Iraq because we lack the proper weaponry? Is he saying a draft will be necessary because the army is so over-extended?
Although his meaning in predicting of higher U.S. casualties is unclear, however, it seems obvious why he is predicting "higher foreign civilian casualties." If the U.S. military is over-extended in Iraq and Afghanistan and is told to fight elsewhere, it will inevitably turn to the kind of mass bombing of civilian targets that occurred in Indochina, where the U.S. dropped 6.7 million tons of bombs, killing a high percentage of the 3.4 million Indochinese former Defense Secretary McNamara says died during the Indochina war.
And this is the "rosiest" realistic scenario. We can only pray that a future American President does not wind up threatening the use of nuclear weapons to cope with the nightmare scenarios Mr. Bush is making so much more likely.
Mr. Bush has a habit of dismissing criticism of him as "domestic politics." When it comes to analyzing his performance as Commander-in-Chief in Iraq and the Muslim world, however, we enter a realm far beyond politics. We are discussing the life and death of countless human beings - at home and abroad - stretching decades into the future.
We must understand the profound significance of Mr. Ignatieff's story. America's foreign policy elite still lauds the CIA's overthrow of Mossadegh as one of America's great Cold War triumphs, failing to acknowledge that it was a catastrophic error that led directly to the installation of the first Islamic theocratic state in the Middle East, a development that has only begun to threaten American interests and lives today.
Just as we today are paying the price today for the CIA's bungling 50 years ago, Mr. Bush's mistakes today will cause damage throughout the Muslim world that we, our children and grandchildren will still be paying for many years from now. Those who care about the national security of the United States have no higher priority than seeking to prevent Mr. Bush from doing any further harm.