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On Sept. 23, former national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski warned pointedly:
“If we escalate tensions, if we succumb to hysteria, if we start making threats, we are likely to stampede ourselves into a war [with Iran], which most reasonable people agree would be a disaster for us...I think the administration, the president and the vice president particularly, are trying to hype the atmosphere, and that is reminiscent of what preceded the war in Iraq.”
So why the pressure for a wider war in which any victory will be Pyrrhic—for Israel and for the U.S.? The short answer is arrogant stupidity; the longer answer—what the Chinese used to call “great power chauvinism”—and oil.
But that’s okay, said the Post’s editorial side (which has done yeoman service as the White House’s Pravda) the very next day. Dominating the op-ed page was a turgid piece by Henry Kissinger, serving chiefly as a reminder that there is an excellent case to be made for retiring when one reaches the age of statutory senility.
Dr. Kissinger described as a “truism” the notion that “the industrial nations cannot accept radical forces dominating a region on which their economies depend.” (Curious. That same truism was considered a bad thing, when an integral part of the “Brezhnev Doctrine” applied to Eastern Europe.) What is important here is that Kissinger was speaking of Iran, which—in a classic example of pot calling kettle black—he accuses of “seeking regional hegemony.”
Consistency in U.S. Policy?
The Bush policy toward the Middle East is at the same time consistent with, and a marked departure from, the U.S. approach since the end of World War II. Given ever-growing U.S. dependence on imported oil, priority has always been given to ensuring the uninterrupted supply of oil, as well as securing the state of Israel. The U.S. was by and large successful in achieving these goals through traditional diplomacy and commerce. Granted, it would overthrow duly elected governments, when it felt it necessary—as in Iran in 1953, after its president nationalized the oil. But the George W. Bush administration is the first to start a major war to implement U.S. policy in the region.
Just before the March 2003 attack, Chas Freeman, U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia for President George H.W. Bush, explained that the new policy was to maintain a lock on the world’s energy lifeline and be able to deny access to global competitors. Freeman said the new Bush administration “believes you have to control resources in order to have access to them” and that, with the end of the Cold war, the U.S. is uniquely able to shape global events—and would be remiss if it did not do so.
This could not be attempted in a world of two superpowers, but has been a longstanding goal of the people closest to George W. Bush. In 1975 in Harpers, then-secretary of state Henry Kissinger authored under a pseudonym an article, “Seizing Arab Oil.” Blissfully unaware that the author was his boss, the highly respected career ambassador to Saudi Arabia, James Akins, committed the mother of all faux pas when he told a TV audience that whoever wrote that article had to be a “madman.” Akins was right; he was also fired.
In those days, cooler heads prevailed, thanks largely to the deterrent effect of a then-powerful Soviet Union. Nevertheless, in proof of the axiom that bad ideas never die, 26 years later Kissinger rose Phoenix-like to urge a spanking new president to stoke and exploit the fears engendered by 9/11, associate Iraq with that catastrophe, and seize the moment to attack Iraq. It was well known that Iraq’s armed forces were no match for ours, and the Soviet Union had imploded.
Some, I suppose, would call that Realpolitik. Akins saw it as folly; his handicap was that he was steeped in the history, politics, and culture of the Middle East after serving in Syria, Lebanon, Kuwait, Iraq, as well as Saudi Arabia—and knew better.
The renaissance of Kissinger’s influence in 2001 on an impressionable young president, together with faith-based analysis by untutored ideologues cherry picked by Cheney explain what happened next—an unnecessary, counterproductive war, in which over 3,800 U. S. troops have already been killed—leaving Iraq prostrate and exhausted.
A-plus in Chutzpah, F in Ethics
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