Some right wing bloggers have declared today Victory in Iraq Day. I think this is a good idea, actually. If our goal was to kill Saddam, we’ve killed him. If it was to make sure the US wasn’t susceptible to a surprise nuke attack, that too was accomplished when we confirmed what weapons inspectors and the majority of intelligence insisted all along: that the WMDs never existed in the first place!
Even our improvised afterthought “to give the Iraqi people a chance at freedom” has now been achieved. And what better way to demonstrate independence than for Iraq’s democratically elected government to boot out its occupiers.
If we don’t declare victory soon, we’ll have to redefine our goals again.
I said something to that effect in an online forum the other day and got the following response:
So riddle me this…the war is won, and the people are free…we fought Germany and Japan, two countries who were far beyond the levels of infrastructure and civilization that Iraq was at the time…what’s the rush? We still have military presence in Korea, Germany, Japan, etc…none of which we have annexed…why the fear of colonization? They can boot us when they want, but I believe we will have a presence there for some time…
I’m not concerned about colonization because colonization is impractical. If we officially annexed Iraq, then we’d have to offer its citizens the same rights and benefits that we enjoy here in the U.S. And that’s not happening anytime soon, nor could it, after the debacle that ensued after we invaded. But that doesn’t mean our indefinite presence in Iraq benefits the Iraqi people.
The Germany/Japan/Korea argument was valid until Iraq explicitly told us to leave. They are in effect testing our claims that we respect their sovereignty. If we don’t leave, then we’ll yet again come across as disingenuous in the eyes of world opinion. More importantly, we forfeit our ability to claim we’re over there for the good of the Iraqi people.
Our military presence in the countries you mentioned was mutually beneficial both to the occupiers and occupied, especially during the Cold War. Our presence in Eastern Europe and Asia during the Cold War decreased the likelihood of a Communist invasion in the countries we occupied. On the other hand, our presence in Iraq lures terrorists into their country; who wish not only to inflict physical harm on American troops, but also attack the Iraqi people in order to create an even greater public relations nightmare for the US.
The damage to the infrastructure in 1946 Europe, was far greater than in Iraq today. While we helped save the economies of the countries we occupied after WWs, we are hurting the economy in Iraq. In post-war Europe, we employed the Marshall Plan. This created jobs for the European and Asian people. Germans construction firms employed German manual labor workers. This enabled the European people to actively take part in their own recovery, and it prevented the economies in these countries from self-destructing. In post-war Iraq, our overbearing debaathification policies left many of Iraq’s most competent men unemployed, forcing many of them to pursue less legitimate forms of work in order to feed their families. Any reconstruction efforts employ American firms, as does much of the war effort in general. KBR, Halliburton, Blackwater, Parsons, TITAN, CACI, etc. have been awarded no-bid contrasts for services ranging from laundry-washing to truck-driving to construction of military bases to firefighting. That some of these corporations are affiliated with Vice President Dick Cheney (and perhaps with high-ranking characters in Obama’s administration, too) makes this a conflict of interest. So not only does the Iraqi economy suffer as the war drags on, but the longer we stay in Iraq, the more money these war profiteers stand to make.
Some of the Asian countries rejected the Marshall Plan, saying that it amounted to economic imperialism on our part. We respected their wishes and did not impose our will upon them. If we overstay our welcome, as you and I agree that we probably will, then this shows yet another disparity between post WWII reconstruction and our current foreign policy.
When our occupation becomes solely about our interests, that’s when it’s time to go.