Thursday, July 24, 2003

Who used whom?
Joshua Marshall recently reviewed the argument so far about the importance of the neo-conservative strategic worldview in bringing us to Iraq. Along the way he stops to poo-poo simplistic explanations of the real reason for the war:
Now some people on the left are saying, well, the real reason was the possession of Iraqi oil. Or, the real reason was to seal the 2002 election or the 2004 election. Various other real reasons have been and are being proffered. But these are at best secondary or tertiary reasons.

He makes a point that is well worth remembering. In fact I find it so worthwhile that I'm going to put on my pedantic professor's voice and thump on it a little longer.

When I taught history, one of the most important lessons that I tried to get across is that nothing is as simple as it first looks. An administration—this one or any administration—does not act monomaniacally and without interruption towards a single predetermined goal. The administration is made up of hundreds of individuals. They each have their desires and motivations, their personal hang-ups and pet projects. Some are driven by a concrete goal, some by an ideology. Some are careerists who don’t care about the objective or method as long as they can push to front while it happens. The balance within the administration is in constant flux. People leave and people arrive. People gain influence and people lose influence. External events change the very definition of what the issues are. And, of course these same divisions and struggles happen within individual psyches.

Any theory that wants to explain the administration’s goals must take into account the internal dynamics of the administration. Anything else gets a C minus and a recommendation that you consider changing your major to PE.

With Iraq, we know that many within the administration wanted to kick Saddam out of power and take over the country long before 9/11. Why? Wolfowitz might be, as many say, a student of the great neo-con plan to use American force remake the Middle East into a nicer, more democratic place. Cheney might be a cliquish corporate animal who wants to deliver contracts and wealth to his buddies in the construction and resource extraction industries. Bush might be a pathetic Freudian case study who wants to succeed where his daddy failed. Rumsfeld might be a mean SOB who just wants to kick some foreign butt. Who went along just to save or further their job? Who traded their support to advance some other project? The point is it’s not hard to bring all these disparate motives together behind a unilateral US invasion of Iraq.

So, who’s on first? Were the neo-cons using the corporate greed-heads or vice versa? Can we say for sure? Does it matter?

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