Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Rat trapped?

Or rat somethinged? I'm no expert, but Juan Cole is, and it is his opinion that the U.S. can't pull out of Iraq because of the likelihood of internecine war (in both its senses, within a society, and mutually ruinous) which would inevitably draw in neighboring states. Cole also knows that the U.S. occupation of Iraq is unsustainable, but he believes there may be a way out, which is to place the occupation forces (including U.S. troops) under U.N. command, whereupon Pakistan might be willing to send troops, and India might also send Muslim troops. Obviously, there is absolutely no possibility that the Bush administration would ever do this.

Now why is Prof. Cole so concerned about that internecine conflict? Many thoughtful observers argue that it's already happening anyway, that the human cost would be unlikely to be much worse than it is under the current situation, that the occupation is in fact a major irritant which only helps to sustain the violence and prevent a political resolution, and that the Iraqis are just going to have to sort it out, come hell or high water.

Cole doesn't necessarily disagree. The problem has to do with what has always been the real issue in Iraq, all along: that gooey black stuff under the sand. An ethno-religious conflict between Sunni and Shiite Arabs would inevitably pull in Iran and likely Iraq's predominantly Sunni neighbors. (And there are other complications, such as Turkey fighting Kurds and protecting Turkmen.) Such a conflict would include guerrilla attacks on Iran's oil facilities, as well as continuing attacks on Iraq's infrastructure, and possibly Saudi Arabia's. As Vince Taylor noted a long time ago, and as the conflict in Iraq has proved, oil infrastructure is essentially indefensible. The result? $100 or $150 a barrel oil, and global economic catastrophe.

I get it now. This is probably one reason why so few politicians have come forward to demand expeditious withdrawal. No sane person believes we are building "freedom" or "democracy" in Iraq, which does not have a political culture upon which a democratic, secular state can possibly be based. Nor would the Bush administration ever tolerate a truly legitimate Iraqi government in any case, since such a government would be inimical to its geopolitical ambitions. All that rhetoric, all of the terms on which this sorry situation is being discussed in public by politicians and pundits, are pure bullshit.

It's the petroleum stupid. Always has been, will be till it's all gone.

So what in the delta quadrant of the galaxy should we do?

addendum: Dr. Cole was kind enough to review this post to confirm that I had accurately represented his views. He informs me that the Indian troops wouldn't necessarily have to be Muslim, as the British used Hindu troops in Iraq in the 1920s. Of course, as Dr. Cole also notes, there were 300,000 of them. I would add that the British occupation wasn't notably successful.

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