While almost the entire world other than President George W. Bush now views the American invasion and occupation of Iraq as a catastrophic failure, there is one notable exception.
During a visit to Washington last month, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, while affirming his categorical support for Mr. Bush’s Iraq war policy and his confrontational strategy toward Iran, said, according to Ha’aretz (Nov. 14), that “the Iraq war had a dramatic positive effect on security and stability in the Middle East as well as strategic importance from Israel’s perspective.” (Ominously for the future, Mr. Olmert added with respect to his meeting with Mr. Bush, “Iran’s role in the conversation was quite clear, very serious and very significant, and I left the meeting with an outstanding feeling.”)
No one should be surprised by “Israel’s perspective”. In their now famous “Clean Break” policy paper, written in 1996 for incoming Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israel-First neocons who were to be the principal advocates and masterminds of Mr. Bush’s Iraq war cited the destruction of Iraq as a major Israeli strategic objective. In its geostrategic position, Israel would understandably view as undesirable the existence in its region of any Arab or Muslim state which was strong and independent, rather than intimidated by and subservient to Israel/America. From an Israeli security perspective, it would clearly be highly desirable for any such state to be neutered (like Egypt) and, if possible, fragmented into mutually hostile pieces.
Even before the invasion, it was widely understood that the principal motivation for the invasion was not oil — there is no evidence of behind-the-scenes agitation or pressure from international oil companies in favor of war — but, rather, Israel. In pre-war polls, Israel was the only country in the world (other than the United States) where a majority of the population favored the war.
Iraq has now been effectively destroyed and may be fragmenting into pieces. It is therefore no wonder that Mr. Olmert should be delighted with how the war has turned out and should wish to confirm publicly how “thankful” Israel is to the United States and Mr. Bush. His wisdom and good taste in doing so on American soil when most Americans are less delighted with how the war has turned out might be questioned. However, his genuine appreciation for what the United States has accomplished for Israel’s benefit may suggest a better “way forward” than the 79 recommendations of the Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group.
Imagine this Recommendation No. 80: The President should explain honestly what the principal objective in invading Iraq really was, point out that, in terms of this objective, the political, economic and social collapse and chaos which the war and occupation have achieved in Iraq already constitute an outstanding “success”, unfurl a huge “MISSION ACCOMPLISHED” banner on the White House and bring the troops home in triumph as rapidly as the necessary transport can be arranged.
This recommendation might well appeal to Mr. Bush, since it would offer him the only realistic chance to claim “success” before he leaves office — presumably preferable in his eyes to his apparent current strategy of stalling (at enormous human cost to others) for the next two years so as to leave the recognition of (and, he must hope, blame for) “failure” or “defeat” to his successor. He could also be confident that no one in either American political party or in the American mainstream media would criticize him for having lied to the American people and the world as to his true motivation for invading Iraq if he made clear that he did so for the benefit of Israel.
The only potential drawback if this recommendation were to be implemented would be that it would free up the American military to give Mr. Olmert another “outstanding feeling” by attacking for Israel’s benefit one or more other states on Israel’s hit list, starting with Iran and Syria. Perhaps, next time, the American military, who don’t have to stand for election and can therefore afford to put America first, will “just say no”.
JOHN V. WHITBECK, an international lawyer, is author of “The World According to Whitbeck”. He can be reached at: email@example.com