Bush’s Cakewalk into the Iraq Quagmire


In an important book first published in 1958 and unjustifiably underrated since- probably due to its title, The Causes of World War Three, referring to the tensest years of the Cold War-C. Wright Mills expressed views the relevance of which should be obvious today. I consider these views central to any understanding of modern U.S. politics. That is why I hope you will excuse me if I quote some of them at length:

“[I]n those societies in which the means of power are enormous in scope and centralized in form a few men [in the following sentences, we may now ad: “and women”­G.A.] may be so placed within the historical structure that by their decisions about the use of these means they modify the structural conditions under which most men live.”

“At the top [of the United States] there has emerged an elite whose power probably exceeds that of any small group of men in world history, the Soviet elite possibly excepted. The middle levels are often a drifting set of stalemated forces; the middle does not link the bottom with the top.”

“Corporation men move into the political directorate, and the decline of Congressional politicians to the middle levels of power is accelerated. The legislative function often becomes merely a balancing of sovereign localities and partial interests Behind the increased official secrecy great decisions are made without benefit of public or even of Congressional debate.”

“The leading men of the U.S. government–the political directorate-are neither professional party politicians nor professional civil servants; they are former generals and former corporation men or the hangers-on of the higher business and legal circles. The state in which we live, in its personnel and in its persistent outlook, does indeed appear at times as a committee of these ruling circles of corporation and high military.”

At the time of his writing, Mills ascribed to these ruling circles a foreign policy based on what he called “crackpot realism.” They are “so rigidly focused on the next step that they become creatures of whatever the main drift-the opportunist actions of innumerable men-brings In crackpot realism, a high-flying moral rhetoric is joined with an opportunist crawling among a great scatter of unfocused fears and demands.”

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What I would like to demonstrate in this presentation is that the administration of George W. Bush is also inspired by what I would call “crackpot idealism.” I am evidently referring here to the traditional dichotomy in International Relations Theory between “realism” and “idealism.” If “realists” are to be described as pragmatic opportunists and their “crackpot” variant is composed of those who combine unfocused “realism” with “high-flying moral rhetoric,” then “crackpot idealists” are those whose actions are directly inspired by the same “high-flying moral rhetoric” adopted as a guiding focus of foreign policy in a way that stands in blatant contradiction to pragmatic needs.

I am not insinuating here that the Bush administration is motivated purely and solely by ideology. Quite the contrary. I am fully aware of the very oily factors that underlie the slide of this administration toward establishing a direct military control of the area stretching from Central Asia and the Caucasus to the Arab-Persian Gulf-as I have explained elsewhere. My point is, however, that in pursuing this goal for obvious economic and strategic reasons, the Bush administration has been inspired in many of its concrete decisions-in the case of Iraq, and in this case exclusively -by ideological factors of the kind that every true “realist” could only consider as utterly disastrous. The Bush administration has acted on ideological views so contrary to the “reality principle” that they could only lead into this major nightmare of U.S. imperial policy, known since Vietnam as a “quagmire.”

I say “in the case of Iraq, exclusively” because this administration’s behavior is a peculiar combination of “idealism” and “realism,” with the “crackpot” character as the only constant feature. This combination was already obvious in the themes put forward by candidate George W. Bush in the presidential election of 2000. On the one side stood the man who blamed strongly the Clinton administration for its “nation-building” ventures, the candidate whose foreign policy adviser, Condoleezza Rice, wrote in 2000, in Foreign Affairs, the following sentence, which has acquired a peculiar ring since then:

“Using the American armed forces as the world’s ‘911’ will degrade capabilities, bog soldiers down in peacekeeping roles, and fuel concern among other great powers that the United Sates has decided to enforce notions of ‘limited sovereignty’ worldwide in the name of humanitarianism.”

On the other side stood the man whose close friends and allies signed the “Statement of Principles” of The Project for The New American Century that declared:

“Of course, the United States must be prudent in how it exercises its power. But we cannot safely avoid the responsibilities of global leadership or the costs that are associated with its exercise. America has a vital role in maintaining peace and security in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. If we shirk our responsibilities, we invite challenges to our fundamental interests Such a Reaganite policy of military strength and moral clarity may not be fashionable today. But it is necessary if the United States is to build on the successes of this past century and to ensure our security and our greatness in the next.”

The very history of the Bush administration illustrates perfectly this duality. During his first months in the White House, George W. Bush conducted a foreign policy that seemed to be a continuation of his father’s very “realist” legacy, with the exception of the son’s outstandingly high contempt for international institutions and treaties. The way he handled, at that early stage of his mandate, the relations with Vladimir Putin, as well as the issue of the U.S. Navy spy plane with the Chinese leadership, gave the impression that here was a sober administration, inspired by standard Kissingerian “realism.”

September 11, 2001, to be sure, changed the whole tone and pace of the administration’s foreign policy: the moment required grandiloquent rhetoric, and George W. Bush-though not as well trained in acting as his model Ronald Reagan-delivered some of those “great speeches” that inspire voters’ enthusiasm in times of crisis and anxiety. However, the highest priority on the agenda of the administration-higher than the “war against terror”-was to seize the opportunity of the shock provoked by 9/11 to lay U.S. military hands on the vast hydrocarbon area to the east of the Mediterranean Sea. In other words, its main concern was to establish in that area a long-term presence of troops, far beyond whatever time was needed to get rid of Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein. For that, a convenient pretext had to be given. The “neoconservative” discourse on democracy provided it, or at least it was deemed most appropriate for the purpose.

As time went by after the invasion of Afghanistan by U.S. troops and in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, the neocons’ crusade for bringing democracy-allegedly-to the Muslim world in general, and the Arab world in particular, came more and more to the fore. This related also directly to the great difficulties encountered by the administration in trying to convince the U.S. public and the world of the validity of its argument regarding “weapons of mass destruction” as legitimizing the war. The closer we got to the planned invasion, the more George W. Bush and his dedicated ally Tony Blair got entangled in political contradictions for having attempted to play the U.N. card, and the more the “democratic” argument was emphasized.

Thus on February 26, 2003, little less than one month prior to the assault on Iraq, the President himself delivered a neocon speech on democracy in the Middle East to a neocon audience: the American Enterprise Institute. He promised to bring freedom and democratic values to the peoples of the Middle East, but by the same token he provided the fundamental pretext for a prolonged presence of U.S. troops in Iraq. Referring to Germany and Japan, where U.S. troops are still stationed by the tens of thousands fifty years after they first occupied these countries at the end of World War II, he said:

“Rebuilding Iraq will require a sustained commitment from many nations, including our own: we will remain in Iraq as long as necessary, and not a day more. America has made and kept this kind of commitment before- in the peace that followed a world war.”

Yet, for the whole period up to the invasion of Iraq-and beyond, regarding the rest of the world-the truth of the matter is that we were facing a very classical combination of double-tongued speech with conflicting deeds. A classical case of “split presidential personality” as Thomas Carothers, from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, wrote in an excellent article:

“The war on terrorism has laid bare the deeper fault line that has lurked below the surface of George W. Bush’s foreign policy from the day he took office-the struggle between the realist philosophy of his father and the competing pull of neo-Reaganism.”

“‘Bush the realist’ actively cultivates warm relations with ‘friendly tyrants’ in many parts of the world, while ‘Bush the neo-Reaganite’ makes ringing calls for a vigorous new democracy campaign in the Middle East.”

In order to be fair, Carothers added:

“President Clinton made liberal use of pro-democracy rhetoric and did support democracy in many places, but throughout his presidency, U.S. security and economic interests-whether in China, Egypt, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Saudi Arabia, Vietnam, or various other countries-frequently trumped an interest in democracy. The same was true in the George H.W. Bush administration and certainly also under Ronald Reagan, whose outspoken support for freedom in the communist world was accompanied by close U.S. relations with various authoritarian regimes useful to the United States, such as those led by Suharto in Indonesia, Mobutu Sese Seko in Zaire, the generals of Nigeria, and the Institutional Revolutionary Party of Mexico.

“George W. Bush is thus scarcely the first U.S. president to evidence a split personality on democracy promotion.”

“Carothers could easily show the continuation of this pattern under Bush Jr.: the contradiction between the democratic proclamations, on the one hand, and on the other hand, in Carothers’s words, the “bear hug” to putsch leader General Pervez Musharraf; the friendship with “the autocratic leaders of Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan,” as well as with “the totalitarian megalomaniac running Turkmenistan”; or inversely, the eagerness to “accept” the April 2002 coup attempt against Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez; or the statements warning that the popular reelection of Palestinian President Yasir Arafat would be “unacceptable.”

We could add to this already long list the more recent instance of sharp contradiction between the Bush administration’s boast about its protégé’s democratic triumph in the Republic of Georgia-though there is a lot to say about the pattern of U.S. interference in the internal affairs of such countries-and what is happening on the other side of the border, in neighboring Azerbaijan. There, we find the traditional complicity between Washington and the despotic ruler of an oil-rich Muslim country: Ilham Aliyev, whose father has run the country for almost thirty years before handing him power. About Azerbaijan, The Washington Post has recently lapsed into what some might regard as “vulgar Marxism”:

“Pentagon officials argue that Azerbaijan is vital to the war on terrorism But a more obvious source of President Bush’s policy is oil. Over the last decade, Mr. Aliyev and his father granted billions in contracts to such companies as BP-Amoco, ChevronTexaco and ExxonMobil. He also has supported a $3 billion pipeline that is to carry oil from the Caspian to a port in Turkey. According to Mr. Aliyev, Mr. Bush once pronounced him an honorary citizen of Texas in appreciation of his support for American oil companies.”

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In all that, there is nothing new under the burning sun of the hydrocarbon-rich lands: it is the same old business as usual. The Iraqi case stands nevertheless as an exception to this general rule. Is it because the opposition that Washington faced before launching this war was the highest ever experienced by a U.S. administration prior to a military onslaught? Is it because they knew that their central argument about “weapons of mass destruction” would not stand the test of reality? Whatever the reason, the fact is that Bush Jr. and his collaborators have acted for a while in conformity with their democratic proclamations: they have played by the rules of their own pledges, so that they could uphold at least their subsidiary argument about “democratization.”

Against an impressive amount of warnings, from a wide variety of sources, including the intelligence community, as to the complexity of the Iraqi situation and the high risks involved in letting loose, imprudently, the long-compressed popular dynamics in that country, the Bush administration chose to listen only to a very specific set of “experts”: the Pentagon’s friends among the Iraqi opposition in exile. The most symptomatic of them in my view is Kanan Makiya-a man who has much been quoted as part of a neocon cabal led by former “Trotskyites” that took the helm of U.S. foreign policy, according to a somewhat phantasmagoric view propagated by both liberal and conservative circles.

Makiya was recruited at Brandeis University after becoming the anti-Saddam Hussein intellectual par excellence for the media, which-after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in August 1990-upgraded to the best-seller list his Republic of Fear, a labored description of Baathist Iraq inspired by both Arthur Koestler and George Orwell. He turned from Trotskyism and friendship with people like Tariq Ali (and myself) into becoming the house intellectual of Ahmad Chalabi, the famous Iraqi crook and Donald Rumsfeld’s buddy. Chalabi leads the U.S.-subsidized Iraqi National Congress and is now a key member of the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council, working under the Coalition Provisional Authority of U.S. “proconsul” Paul Bremer, as the London Economist likes to call him.

Kanan Makiya played a key role in urging the invasion and in designing the U.S. blueprint for post-Baathist Iraq. He has been involved recently in drafting the “interim” constitution meant to regulate the supposedly “sovereign” country under U.S. occupation. Makiya is one of those who made the most intensive use of the completely misleading analogy with Nazi Germany and post-1945 de-Nazification. Listen to what he said to the American Enterprise Institute in October 2002 -soft music to the ears of those longing to lay their hands over Iraq for a long haul.

In defining the assumptions he was making, Makiya insisted on the necessity that “the Government of the United States, further to a treaty with a new duly constituted Iraqi government, agrees to keep a military presence inside Iraq whose purpose is to guarantee the territorial integrity of Iraq for a period measured in years, not months.” As if they needed to be reminded of the importance of the booty at stake, he told his audience that “Iraq is not Afghanistan,” but “rich enough” to present the U.S. with “a historic opportunity that is as large as anything that has happened in the Middle East since the fall of the Ottoman Empire.” Then he went on describing his vision of future Iraq, very much modeled on post-war Germany and Japan, including the limitation of military expenditure and the renouncement to the “right of belligerency.”

At a joint press conference with Richard Perle, on the eve of the invasion in March 2003, Makiya gave a hint of what he and his friends had been telling the administration for a very long time with regard to the invasion of Iraq.

“I say to you that history will judge this war to have been a great turning point for the better in the affairs of the Middle East. If and only if the President and his Cabinet stick resolutely, doggedly even, to this idea for this democratic vision of a secular federal and democratic Iraq. Even if the President has to go into this enterprise alone, which of course is not the case, the judgment of the world, of history will overwhelm his critics the day after. Critics who are too short sighted for reasons of interest, intellectual laziness, and sheer lack of political imagination to understand the far reaching nature of what this President is about to do.”

And when asked if he agreed with the statement made the day before by Vice President Cheney that American forces will be “greeted as liberators” in Iraq, Makiya replied: “I most certainly do agree with that. As I told the President on January 10th, I think they will be greeted with sweets and flowers in the first months and simply have very, very little doubt that that is the case.”

And how could he disagree with Cheney? The latter himself had given Makiya’s expertise as his key reference in making his prognosis. That was on NBC’s program “Meet the Press.” When Tim Russert, the interviewer, insisted, asking what “if your analysis is not correct, and we’re not treated as liberators, but as conquerors,” Cheney replied:

“Well, I don’t think it’s likely to unfold that way, Tim, because I really do believe that we will be greeted as liberators. I’ve talked with a lot of Iraqis in the last several months myself, had them to the White House. The president and I have met with them, various groups and individuals, people who have devoted their lives from the outside to trying to change things inside Iraq. And like Kanan Makiya who’s a professor at Brandeis, but an Iraqi, he’s written great books about the subject, knows the country intimately, and is a part of the democratic opposition and resistance. The read we get on the people of Iraq is there is no question but what they want is to get rid of Saddam Hussein and they will welcome as liberators the United States when we come to do that.”

On one issue, the prognosis made by neocons-as well as by many other people over the whole political spectrum, myself included-was definitely right: the invasion of Iraq was, militarily speaking, a “cakewalk,” as neocon Kenneth Adelman put it, and could hardly be otherwise for a lot of obvious reasons. The crucial question, however, was: a “cakewalk” into what?

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Having known Kanan Makiya personally, I tend to think that he genuinely and naively believed in most, if not all, of what he said and wrote during the whole period before the U.S. invasion of Iraq. The world of the neocons is itself a mixture of naïve and ingenuous “idealists,” on one hand, and Machiavellian intriguers who typically use “democracy” as an ideological pretext for less respectable goals. When Kanan Makiya joins Richard Perle for a press conference, you get the two elements of the combination mingling together.

Pressing forward his blueprint for the de-Baathification of Iraq, expert Makiya advocated in the same March 2003 press conference quoted above the “complete dismantling of the security services of the regime” and the “decommissioning of the Iraqi army,” as well as the “dismantling of the forces of the republican guard.” I deem it probable that, in so doing, he was sincerely motivated by the liberal credo to which he turned after breaking with Marxism (but keeping in mind the Marxist concern with the dismantlement of the repressive state institutions as a requisite for a successful radical change of government). His chief, Chalabi, however, was certainly much less inspired by “ideals”: aspiring to a ruling position in the country but holding no real cards of his own-except his close relationship with Donald Rumsfeld-Ahmad Chalabi’s main concern was to dismantle any existing power structure that could marginalize him in a post-Hussein Iraq.

Now, this prospect was seriously threatened in the immediate prelude to the invasion: under State Department sponsorship, with CIA support, and with Saudi and Jordanian participation, attempts were made to reach a deal, whereby top circles of the Iraqi army would overthrow Saddam Hussein and seize power. One could guess that something along this line was going on, from the frenzy of Saudi diplomatic activity in January 2003 and a public statement by Colin Powell about granting amnesty to Iraqi generals who would rise up against the tyrant.

We now know better, thanks to an investigation conducted by the New York Times: in the three months before the war, from late 2002, intensive contacts were held with high-ranking Iraqi military leaders, including the Defense Minister, General Sultan Hashem Ahmed al-Tai, who offered to collaborate in ensuring a smooth transition into a post-Hussein U.S.-friendly era under Iraqi Army control. An Iraqi exile rival of Ahmad Chalabi-Iyad Alawi, like him a Shiite member of the U.S.-appointed Governing Council-played a key role in the operation. Alawi heads the Iraqi National Accord, a London-based opposition group of former Iraqi army officers who staged, with CIA assistance, an unsuccessful coup d’état against Saddam Hussein in 1996. He is quoted in the NYT report as saying: “Our idea was to take off the upper crust and leave the rest of the regime intact.”

The article related the outcome of the story as such:

“General Shahwani, the leader of the failed 1996 coup, said one of the early notions during the preparations for the latest war called for an uprising, at least partly within the army, prompted by Iraqi exiles and supported by American bombing.

The plan was abandoned, General Shahwani said, when the Bush administration decided it would send American troops. But as late as January, administration officials were apparently divided over whether they should try to cultivate members of Mr. Hussein’s government, and President Bush himself was undecided on the issue, administration officials said. The Iraqi exiles were split as well.

In a January meeting, Mr. Bush discussed the subject with three leading Iraqi exiles – Kanan Makiya, an author; Hatem Mukhlis, a New York doctor [head of the Iraqi National Movement, a State Department-backed group of Iraqi exiles-G.A.]; and Rand Rahim, head of the Iraqi Foundation [now “Iraqi Ambassador” to the U.S.-G.A.]. At the meeting, Mr. Makiya said, there was talk of a negotiated settlement that would keep the army in place. Mr. Makiya, who opposed any such settlement, said he had a similar discussion with Condoleezza Rice, the national security adviser.”

The Bush administration-or, more accurately in this case, President Bush himself, since his administration was divided on the issue, as it has often been on matters of foreign policy-was actually still wavering in early February, if not leaning toward the coup solution. This is at least the impression stemming from the fact that Makiya felt it necessary to ring the alarm bell: he published in mid-February a vehement warning under the title “Our Hopes Betrayed” urging President Bush to “support us.” Yet the article was published in the London Observer, as if Makiya wanted at the same time to push Tony Blair to intervene on his and his chief’s side. The subheading of the article was: “How a US blueprint for post-Saddam government quashed the hopes of democratic Iraqis.”

It is worth quoting at length:

“The United States is on the verge of committing itself to a post-Saddam plan for a military government in Baghdad with Americans appointed to head Iraqi ministries, and American soldiers to patrol the streets of Iraqi cities.

“The plan, as dictated to the Iraqi opposition in Ankara last week by a United States-led delegation, further envisages the appointment by the US of an unknown number of Iraqi quislings palatable to the Arab countries of the Gulf and Saudi Arabia as a council of advisers to this military government

“The bureaucrats responsible for this plan are drawn from those parts of the administration that have always been hostile to the idea of a US-assisted democratic transformation of Iraq, a transformation that necessarily includes such radical departures for the region as the de-Baathification of Iraq (along the lines of the de-Nazification of post-war Germany), and the redesign of the Iraqi state as a non-ethnically based federal and democratic entity.

“The plan is the brainchild of the would-be coup-makers of the CIA and their allies in the Department of State, who now wish to achieve through direct American control over the people of Iraq what they so dismally failed to achieve on the ground since 1991.

Its driving force is appeasement of the existing bankrupt Arab order, and ultimately the retention under a different guise of the repressive institutions of the Baath and the army.”

One month later, during his joint press conference with Perle, Makiya could boast of his role in persuading the President and Vice President to “liberate” Iraq. He was now confident that his views about the de-Baathification and demilitarization of Iraq prevailed. In fact, after the invasion of Iraq, his chief, Ahmad Chalabi, was put in charge of the De-Baathification Council, a decisive piece of the post-Hussein power puzzle in Baghdad. The clumsiness of de-Baathification, along with Paul Bremer’s dissolution of the Iraqi military, including even the border patrol, leaving as many as 30,000 party members and 400,000 former soldiers in disarray and wild anger, are now almost unanimously regarded as major blunders that contributed a great deal to turning Iraq into a quagmire for the U.S.

They were avoidable. Other options were possible with regard to exerting U.S. control over Iraq. These were the “missed opportunities” that the NYT report described in August 2003:

“In interviews in Washington, Europe and the Middle East, more than half a dozen people with direct knowledge of the events said the United States might have missed an opportunity that might have stabilized Iraq as the government crumbled.

“American and Arab officials said that as the war approached, the Bush administration was skeptical of the idea of cutting a lasting deal with high-level Iraqi officials like General Hashem. Washington, in the end, was reluctant to leave any high-ranking officials from the Hussein government in power after the war.

“Such an agreement, they said, might have required that some officials with ties to Mr. Hussein stay in power for a time, but might have eased the entry of American troops into Baghdad and helped keep Iraq’s infrastructure intact

“Still, a deal that offered the Bush administration something less than the complete dismantling of the Baghdad government in exchange for a more stable postwar environment has some appeal in hindsight, now that the guerrilla war against occupation forces has taken hold.”

Neither did Washington take heed of the precious advices of previous Iraqi ambassador to the U.N., Nizar Hamdoon, who died in July 2003. Given out to the administration a few weeks after the fall of Baghdad, Hamdoon’s memo was excerpted later in the New York Times. It included advice such as, “Don’t throw thousands of officers and soldiers to the street. Their families will be with no income. They may well turn into terrorists or thieves.”

Or, regarding the security services:

“Given [their] huge numbers (over 100,000), it will not be wise to throw those people in the streets and alienate their families. The top echelons should be removed now The people who run the torture and repression machines should be kept for trials. Others who were in non-oppressive and purely administrative jobs should be kept on Government jobs and payroll at least until they find other civilian jobs or get successfully integrated in the new system.”

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One could easily write a whole book about the mishandling by the Bush administration of the invasion of Iraq and the post-invasion management of the country-let alone their well known mishandling of the diplomatic prelude to the invasion. In all these instances, it is obvious that the administration has been mislead by its belief that U.S. troops will be “greeted as liberators” in Iraq and that the management of the country will run like a remake of that of post-1945 Germany. They woke up to the bitter reality of the so-called “democracy paradox” as defined by Samuel Huntington: “adoption by non-Western societies of Western democratic institutions encourages and gives access to power to nativist and anti-Western political movements.”

Allow me to repeat here what I wrote in July 2003:

“Either Washington will keep the country under its rule by brute force, exercised directly or through the mediation of puppets despised by the people and ‘legitimized’ by a travesty of democracy, on the model of what it is doing in Afghanistan; or the Iraqis will democratically choose their own government and elect leaders hostile to continuing US-British control of their country’s resources.”

The “mission civilisatrice”-now the “democratizing mission”-of the U.S. empire has turned sour: the project of the U.S. occupation to transfer formal power to a U.S.-appointed government was opposed in the name of democracy and universal suffrage by an old traditionalist Muslim theologian! Washington confronts the terrible prospect of sinking deeper into the Iraqi quagmire or loosing control of this oil-rich country that has already cost the U.S. taxpayers more than 100 billion dollars, and bleeds the state coffers for another one billion dollar per week!

There are attempts to make scapegoats of Chalabi and his folks. But they can’t be held responsible for the deeds of an administration that chose purposively and deliberately to disregard other advice and discard other options, pursuing its central goal-taking hold of Iraq-wrapped in “crackpot idealism” provided by Donald Rumsfeld’s friends. The Bush administration’s handling of the invasion of Iraq and the first phase of its occupation was a typical case of self-deception based on selective expertise: the “cakewalk” thus led directly into the quagmire.

History will probably record this venture as one of the most important blunders ever committed by an administration abroad from the standpoint of U.S. imperial interests. However, by one of those ironies that History is full of, the “crackpot idealism” provided by the likes of Kanan Makiya has opened the way for the Iraqi people to seize control of their own destinies. Much more effectively so, than what could have been the case had the Bush administration acted from a craftily Machiavellian perspective and managed to get hold of Iraq through an arrangement with the Iraqi army and other apparatuses of the Baathist state.

The clumsy overthrow of Saddam Hussein by the U.S. could thus become truly the first step toward this “democratization” of the Middle East that the neocons have advocated, though in a way deeply contrary to what they hoped. That could come only at the expense of U.S. domination of the region, starting with the withdrawal of all U.S. troops. It would be then, most probably, to the benefit of Islamic fundamentalist forces, somewhat on the Iranian pattern. The “democracy paradox” would then have prevailed again over the wild dreams of “crackpot idealism.” And Washington would have acted one more time as the sorcerer’s apprentice, unleashing forces it cannot master and which backfire on it.

GILBERT ACHCAR lived in Lebanon for many years before moving to France where he teaches politics and international relations at the University of Paris. He’s a frequent contributor to Le Monde Diplomatique and is the author of several books on contemporary politics. He is the author of The Clash of Barbarisms: September 11 and the Making of the New World Disorder and, most recently, Eastern Caulron, both published by Montly Review Press.