Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

May 28, 2006

MERIP opines on immediate withdrawal from Iraq

Filed under: imperialism/globalization,Iraq — louisproyect @ 2:26 pm

Like NACLA, the Middle East Information and Research Project (MERIP) emerged during the radicalization that began in the 1960s and was designed to serve as an independent and radical alternative to mainstream journalism.

Apparently, based on the evidence of an article by Executive Director Chris Toensing titled "Why Exiting Iraq Won't Be Easy" in the current "In These Times", MERIP has evolved in the same direction as NACLA. As the 60s died down and as the principals involved with such publications become a bit longer in the tooth and more convinced of their usefulness to wonkish policy-makers in Washington, the more pragmatic and the more opportunist they become. Thirty years ago the target audience for MERIP or NACLA might have been undergraduates organizing teach-ins. Now it would seem to be aides to Hillary Clinton or Joe Biden.

After surveying the current military and political situation in Iraq, Toensing's article makes the case that "The United States, having done so much to break Iraq, has now become powerless to fix it." Those of us who are still foolish enough to adhere to the principles of self-determination that prompted us to organize antiwar demonstrations in the 60s can only stand with our mouths agape at the notion of the US "fixing" anything. There is absolutely nothing in Toensing's article that challenges the right of the US to send its troops anywhere to act as a police force.

To his credit, Toensing does explain the role of the US in creating the conditions of civil war that make "precipitous" withdrawal so problematic–at least in his eyes.

The CPA made its most damaging decision in July, when it allocated seats in the Iraqi Governing Council to Shiite Arabs, Kurds, Sunni Arabs, Turkmen and Christians according to estimates of their share of the population. For the first time, sectarian and ethnic affiliation became the formal organizing principle of Iraqi politics, exacerbating the tendency of Iraqi factions to pursue maximum benefits for their own community at the expense of Iraq as a nation.

But after creating such a terrible situation, the US regrettably stands by and refuses to separate the warring factions:

Yet the United States seems to be doing very little to stop the civil war that its continued presence is supposed to prevent. The military failed to intervene in the street fighting that followed the Askariyya shrine bombing, for example. Indeed, the military’s predicament is that it cannot intervene, because then it would appear to be taking sides more than the United States has done already.

So you see, dear reader, we are dealing with something akin to the Crown Heights riots of August 1991 when angry African-Americans and Hasidic Jews battled in the streets as Mayor Dinkin's police force stood by helplessly. Dinkin's perceived ineffectiveness during this period led to the election of Rudy Giuliani. By the same token, much of the criticism from the Democratic Party, even its flaccid left-wing, has to do with effectiveness rather than principle. One imagines that if the US military had operated "effectively" from the beginning and if the streets were quiet today, the Democratic Party would never have found anything to complain about. And presumably, neither would Chris Toensing.

In detailing why immediate withdrawal might not be feasible, Toensing draws upon the sage counsel of Jeffrey White, former chief of Middle East military assessments for the Defense Intelligence Agency:

From the Pentagon’s perspective, a helter-skelter withdrawal is the option of last resort. According to Wayne White, for the past two years, security concerns have impelled the military to airlift both troops and heavy equipment instead of using rail freight or large road convoys, meaning that the enormous planes built for transcontinental flights are used for in-country travel. But there are simply not enough planes to effect a precipitous pullout. A number of units would be forced to leave the country in land convoys, which could be attacked by either insurgents seeking to press their point or, White suggests, “some very angry people who thought you were going to stay.” While such fighting would be brief, heavy U.S. casualties would be possible. “Phased is the way to go,” White says. “Abrupt is not."

Now I admit to being a case-hardened Bronto-Marxist who still believes in hoary values like self-determination and socialism, but wouldn't progressives less wild-eyed than me question the value of anything coming out of the Defense Intelligence Agency, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of the US military whose goal, in the words of its website, is to: "Provide timely, objective, and cogent military intelligence to warfighters, defense planners, and defense and national security policymakers."

For fuck's sake, you might as well quote George W. Bush,

1 Comment »

  1. To neocons as Daniel Pipes, civil war is desirable. It would lessen US casualties.

    Comment by Renegade Eye — May 28, 2006 @ 11:34 pm

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