Spotlight on Geopolitics

Nation-building fiasco

The 2003 military action against Saddam Hussein’s regime was supposed to lessen the danger, for the West and especially for Israel, of state-sponsored terrorism. If the military actions in Iraq and Afghanistan were successful however, what followed could rightfully be called a fiasco.

As of this month, for example, oil-rich Iraq has become a parliamentary democracy of sorts. The polls have confirmed premier Al Maliki’s electoral victory, whose authoritarian rule and that of the Shia Arab majority replace Saddam’s corrupt dictatorship. In other words, the Sunni dictatorship is being slowly replaced by a Shiite one, at the cost of thousands of Allied troops’ lives and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi victims.

Western statecraft skills have failed in Afghanistan and are about to be proven inadequate in Iraq. If after the 9 -11 attacks some American Republicans were advocating, in The Washington Times, nuclear strikes against the Talibans, the current outcome is, therefore, more in tune with previous Western post-war policies. Unfortunately though, the only beneficiaries of the two wars and the nation-building that followed are the mercenaries employed by the hundreds of thousands to “advise” and devise the strategic and military doctrines of Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the companies that are the core of the US military-industrial complex, whose performance in the Middle East more than justified General Eisenhower’s decades-old warning about its potential to undermine the US’s standing abroad. These companies have claimed the lion’s share of the taxpayer billions spent on stabilising Iraq and Afghanistan. They and their people in the field have a vested interest in the continuation of the conflict in these areas, especially in Afghanistan, to the desperation of the local inhabitants who are yet to see any tangible improvement in their lives.

The neo-conservatives in charge of the rebuilding taking place in the two countries did not even know what models to recommend. At one point, post-Ceausescu Romania was considered the closest such model in post-Saddam Iraq, the “experts” having papered over the huge differences in political culture, religion and historical traditions. It comes as no surprise, therefore, that Western-inspired and -designed institutions, political parties and electoral processes would not yield the expected results.

In Iraq, the Kurdish problem is far from being solved and federalism does not seem to work there. Most observers agree that the mishandling of the Kurdish autonomy issue by the Al Maliki government could result in renewed armed conflict in future. The disenfranchised Sunni minority might also create tensions after the US troops leave, while the Teheran-Baghdad axis seems to be in the cards. Thus, the Israeli state could find itself threatened by two, instead of one, Shiite dictatorships that the US-led alliance helped bring to power. As matters now stand, a future Maliki dictatorship or authoritarian rule could prove even more stable and therefore more dangerous to Western interests than Saddam’s Baathist party had ever been, given its much larger popular support. Ironically enough, both Saddam and Maliki were brought to power with American help, only to turn against their backers once their rule was secure.

The military actions in Afghanistan, “the empires’ grave”, and especially Iraq have destabilised the Middle East and have created more problems than they helped solve. As a result of these, the US is in the process of losing its global leadership and prestige in international affairs, a development confirmed by the EU, Latin American and even Asian plans to build separate security organisations. One can only hope that the “experts” and interrogators from places like Abu Ghraib won’t show up in future as “advisers” to presidential hopefuls in Paraguay, Honduras and other hotspots in Central and Latin America.

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