Now that some form of winding down on the war in Iraq seems to be inevitable, the issue of what our exit strategy should be has become the critical subject about the war. In this connection, retired admiral William Fallon has written an OpEd piece in The New York Times, published on July 20, 2008, in which he says that "a long-term security arrangement between the United States and Iraq, . . . which the White House believes could be completed this month, . . . would be in the best interests of the governments of both countries, and of the people who live in a region of the world that urgently needs stability." While such statement may sound so obviously true as to be almost a truism, it is vague and actually disguises real issues regarding the subject of what our exit strategy ought to be. Worse, such proposed long-term security arrangement advocated here, unless structured carefully, can be a disguised plan for perpetuating the war.
Retired admiral William Fallon begins his analysis by rhetorically asking, "Are the desires of the American people and the Iraqi people different?" and then confidently answering in the negative. From this initial assumption, he then draws the general conclusion, mentioned above, that a long-term security arrangement between the United States and Iraq, of the kind that the Bush administration is currently trying to conclude with the Iraqi government, would be in the best interests of the governments of both countries, and of the people who live in a region of the world that urgently needs stability. At such a sweeping and abstract level, Mr. Fallon's initial assumption could not possibly be not true, and his general conclusion could not fail to be anything but the most logical. For what people would not desire peace, stability, security, viable economy for their country, etc., etc.? In that regard, there could not possibly be any difference between the desires of the Americans and those of the Iraqis, as retired admiral Fallon states.
However, such a seeming truism can disguise a plan for a perpetual war, rather than any kind of reasonable exit strategy. For once you scratch the surface even slightly (very slightly, indeed), it does not take a genius to realize that what they mean by "security", for example, may be radically different to the Americans and to the Iraqis. What the Bush administration (although not necessarily a majority of the American people) want is: (1) to maintain US military bases in Iraq more or less for perpetuity to facilitate continuing US military operations in the entire middle east, especially against countries like Iran; (2) to have a legal mechanism under which the US government will have a controlling influence over the government of Iraq indefinitely, especially, over the power to develop and exploit its oil reserves which are Iraq's most precious economic resources; and (3), moreover, in order to facilitate the above two goals, the US government wants to have the power to station very large numbers of US military and civilian personnel indefinitely without any interference or restriction from the Iraqi government and under explicit legal terms under which those US personnel will be completely exempt from Iraqi laws and can therefore act, within Iraq, like some kinds of overlords in the middle ages who were "above" the law.
To begin with, not such a small problem with the above plan is that, however you may look at it, it smacks of a typical colonial rule which was prevalent during the 18th and the 19th centuries but which are now generally considered "passé". In short, the time for such colonial rule is gone, for good! To take another potential problem, the US government wants security against Iran and its potential influence in the region, but the majority of the Iraqis (including the present Iraqi government led by Maliki), who are dominated by Shiites, probably rely, at least in part, on Iran for their own viability, survival and security.
In any case, the arrangement that would satisfy the Bush administration agenda will require the Iraqi people's de facto surrender of their national sovereignty to the US government. If we now ask, "What people will voluntarily and happily surrender their national sovereignty to another country?", will Admiral Fallon still say that the desires of the Americans and the desires of the Iraqis cannot be different? I doubt that even he, with all his experience and insight, would say so. The truth is that no country, however small and seemingly insignificant, wants to surrender to another country their national sovereignty and their power of self-determination on matters relating to their survival. And this principle of self-determination not only happens to be, in case someone didn't notice it before, the single most important core principle of democracy, as applied to individuals as well as to nations, but it is also very much operative in all practical indigenous politics everywhere in the world. It has always been that way, throughout the human history, although it has only been given the name "democracy" and has acquired real operative political forces unimagined in the past millennia relatively late in the human history. Thus, many writers even go so far as to argue that all guerilla wars generally are eventually won by the guerrillas if they represent the wishes of the predominant segment of the local people.
The proposed "long-term" arrangement with Iraq is said to resemble, in all or most essential aspects, the past arrangement that the British government had with Iraq for 34 years until the British rule ended with the brutal killing of most of the members of the Iraqi royal family who had ruled with the British support in a final riot in Baghdad some 50 years ago, which gave power to the now deposed and executed Sadam Hussein. The new proposed US rule over Iraq may or may not last as long as the British rule did, but the guerrilla warfare will never cease, or may even escalate and expands into adjacent regions, during the proposed colonial arrangement and it will face the same ultimately tragic end, which will forever be a moral stigma, not a pride, to the US with respect to its role in the world history.
Moreover, as Adam Smith, the granddaddy of modern economics, wrote in his illuminating analysis of the economic benefits and costs of the British colonialism in his historical Wealth of Nations, such blatant colonial rule by the US of the sovereign state of Iraq will never benefit the US citizens. For the overall economic costs of maintaining the military operations necessary to sustain the colonial rule are always far greater than the economic benefits that the colonial power derives from the colonial rule. Those colonial rules are nevertheless pursued, according to Adam Smith, only because the benefits and costs of the colonialism are not distributed evenly among the citizens of the colonizing nation: the costs fall upon all the tax paying citizens but the economic benefits accrue only to a very small, special group of people in that country who nevertheless have a disproportionately large influence over the decisions of their government: a small class of aristocrats in the Britain in the past, and, in our present case, the stockholders of Halliburton, Blackwater, et all, who apparently have special connections to the Bush/Cheney administration and enough clout to get huge lucrative government contracts, legally or illegally, without even public bidding.
The US economy cannot sustain itself if such bleeding, bankrupting expenditures continue on the part of our government indefinitely. Thus, we must bring our troops home as promptly as possible only consistent with the safety of our troops and with some measure of security within Iraq. The lynchpin of our withdrawal strategy must be that we will not stay in Iraq indefinitely as a colonial, occupying force only to steal the Iraqi oil at the overall costs which far exceed the market price we would pay if the Iraqis are allowed to manage their own oil fields and if we simply buy their oil in the world market. It is the supreme irony to see that the "free market" advocates have now become advocates for stealing another people's national assets at humongous costs (in human lives as well as in our own economic costs) and for transfer of wealth from the ordinary US citizens to a few wealthy, in such convoluted manner, by means of the governmental mechanism of taxation and the first major illegal invasion of a foreign country in the 21st century.