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Motives behind attacking Iraq?(12 posts)

Motives behind attacking Iraq?Leisure
Sep 15, 2002 3:44 AM
I'm curious to know what you all think GWB's real interests are here. What are his motives? Here are a few of my thoughts, some obvious, some not, but I don't think them comprehensive by any means. I'm interested in any additional ideas, what you think his priorities are. Is this whole thing a load of shit? I'm given to think so but maybe good things will come of it regardless. I don't mean to be insensitive to those who may see family members called into service here.

1. Fighting terrorism
2. Preserving US safety
3. Cleaning up a long-term thorn in the US's side
4. Frustration at not catching bin Laden
5. Ploy to distract US citizens from an otherwise seemingly mediocre presidency
6. Succumbing to Israeli political pressure
7. Indirectly reminding Israel of our own military power and proximity in light of Sharon's recent defiance of peaceful resolution
8. Making an example out of Saddam for other anti-US Islamics
9. Finishing off what his father did not
My responses...TJeanloz
Sep 15, 2002 11:34 AM
I think some things are being convoluted here, so here's my take on your list:

1. Fighting Terrorism. Does GWB, or anybody in America, really want to wast time and American lives fighting terrorism? No. It is tied to #2, preserving US safety. We aren't having a war on terrorism- just a war on terrorism that might effect US safety. We didn't drop any bombs on the Tamil Tigers, the Al-aqsa Martyrs, November 17, or any other "Terrorist" groups; just the ONE that attacked the United States. This war isn't about fighting terror, it's about protecting US interests.

2. Preserving US safety. This is really the crux of it. It is GWB's job to preserve US safety, and he's going to do his best to accomplish it.

3. Cleaning up a long-term thorn in the US's side. I don't know, what's thorny about Iraq? When was the last time they attacked us with anything but words? Maybe, cleaning up a long-term thorn in our allies' sides; but the Iraqi thorn is not pricking me.

4. Frustration at not catching bin Laden. I don't think so. If you're the government, I think you want to kill him, but not catch him or otherwise "confirm" his death. This way you get a wide degree of leeway in continuing to pursue him. It would be a tough sell to everybody to continue fighting Al-Quaida after their leader had been killed.

5. Yes and no. This isn't something that you can hold constant for. We have no idea what our situation would be, economic or otherwise, if not for 9/11. It's like asking what did Abraham Lincoln do with his presidency except win the Civil War? Not much, but it doesn't exactly mean that he was mediocre.

6. Maybe. I think Israel is already pushing their luck in Washington, and they know it. If Israel wanted Saddam dead, they would have killed him already- they seem to have no trouble with assassinating their enemies.

7. Israel isn't stupid, they know that the US military can squash everybody else like a bug.

8. Didn't we already make an example out of the Taliban? How many examples do we need? They know that if they do something really egregious that it will get ugly.

9. I don't see this as an issue. Maybe from the perspective that his father knew that there was a mistake made in not finishing the job, and he shared this with his son, but I don't think that he'd do this just to finish his dad's efforts.
My responses...Jon Billheimer
Sep 15, 2002 12:05 PM
There's an interesting feature article in today's Edmonton Journal, reprinted from The Boston Globe. It maintains that the hawks pretty much dominate middle eastern policy thinking within the Bush administration at this time, and that Iraq is just step one in their agenda. The hawkish agenda, so the thinking goes, is to take out Saddam and establish a U.S.-friendly regime in Iraq. This will give the U.S. leverage then against Iran, Syria, and the Saudis. A friendly Iraq will somewhat relieve the U.S.' dependence on Saudi oil, thereby enabling the U.S. to pressure the Saudis to withdraw their support of Wahabbi extremists. A definitive U.S. move against Iraq also will supposedly strengthen the hand of Khatami-led moderates in the Iranian government against the conservative clerics. Following the overthrow of Saddam, the U.S. will then pressure Syria and Lebanon to clamp down on the Iranian-sponsored Hezbollah. In short, this is Machiavellian geopolitics on a grand scale, with an aim to completely rearranging the political map of the middle east.

The more dewy-eyed of the administration hawks dream of establishing Western style democracies in the middle east, starting with Iraq. However, this is more, in my opinion, American-style policy fiction and fantasy than anything else.
Interesting article.....cyclejim
Sep 15, 2002 12:34 PM
Which begs the question... instead of the US trying to bomb, manipulate, and strongarm the rest of the world to be more like we want it- why don't we examine our foreign policy and try to understand why much of the world either dislikes, hates, or is ambivilant towards us? By the way, if you are going to bother questioning my patriotism don't bother. I love my country and I love the people, and I love being American. I just have a real problem with the way our government has dealt with the rest of the world in many ways. We have done a lot of good things, (perhaps more than most other countries) so don't get me wrong but we have also done some pretty crappy things too.
Yes, interesting...Leisure
Sep 17, 2002 1:12 AM
Probably cuts to the chase on any palpable motives, though I'm not sure about the means we're working through. Though I thoroughly support the idea of ousting Saddam, I think the timing and manner of how we're handling it will continue to be interpretted to the rest of the Middle East as indicative of our monetary and political interests realized through brute force, blind of any real desire to help the interests of Islamic citizens. What we're doing will likely help these people, yet we will still manage to look like the bad guys. Your observations below about Arabic hatred towards us may be stereotyping, but for the majority I think your observations are unfortunately fair, and this only makes it harder for us to improve our image.

It's just too bad, we should have done this during Desert Storm when it was appropriate and proper, but I will still support it if we in fact go to war and this time follow through with getting rid of Saddam.
Good stuff T.Leisure
Sep 17, 2002 12:49 AM
Some of it I agree with and some I'd debate, but the debate is what we're here for, right?

I agree with you on numbers 1 and 5; Bush may use "terrorism" to market the anti-Iraq agenda to the UN, but ultimately we're selective to our interests whether they be safety or financial. And any politician will act to some extent to further his career; whether or not Bush is "to blame" on other current US problems is another debate, but they'll get attached to him anyway. A war on Iraq is something he can expect will get executed correctly, and he'll get some of the credit.

I would debate with you between 2 and 3. I think Iraq HAS been a long term thorn in our (or more specifically, the government's) side. They are continually posturing and defiant to US/UN terms, and even if they do not have the means to seriously threaten us, (and face it, they didn't in the Gulf war and probably still don't now,) they have the ability to annoy our financial interests by threatening Kuwait et al, and Saddam seems to do a good job of at least putting up the image that he can hurt us. I'd say they are (or more accurately, Saddam is) a nuissance more than a threat to US safety. A definite thorn either way you look at it.

4 and 8. I think there is some frustration with not getting bin Laden. GWB promised that he would be caught. He hasn't been. And I doubt he's dead, either. As much as we'd like to believe the government is all-seeing and manipulative and has higher, unfathomable solutions in mind X-files style, they are really just a bunch of people no smarter than you or me (heck, most are considerably less intelligent), just trying to do their jobs with no more coordination than you'd see in any other big company. No cloak and dagger anonymous death for bin Laden; I say he's still alive and well and out of our grasp. No matter how much we go on about crushing the Taliban, ultimately they're a side-show where bin Laden was the real goal. Focusing on him anymore only highlights the fact that we're not all-powerful, something we've become afraid of admitting. On the other hand, making an example of Iraq would take the attention off bin Laden's escape. They're not related to him, they're bigger than the Taliban, and Saddam probably can't get away the way bin Laden did. We'll crush them and feel all-powerful again.

6, 7, and 9? Well, I made them up just to diversify the debate. I pretty much agree with you on all counts.
What has Iraq ever done to/for us?TJeanloz
Sep 17, 2002 4:16 AM
The only thing Iraq has ever done that could be construed as hurting US interests was joining OPEC. And even OPEC barely works anymore. It is true that our economy is highly dependent on the price of oil - but this is a variable that has been out of Iraq's control for some time. Saddam himself didn't think that he or Kuwait were important enough for the US to care about; he wouldn't have invaded if he knew what the result was going to be. And really, there's no reason for us to care about them. People make out like the oil is critical to US interests; it's not. If the middle eastern tap shut down, we'd see a price shock, but Venezuela, Mexico and Russia (and we'd get to drill ANWR!) would ramp up production to meet demand; these supplies, though smaller than the middle east, are enough to carry us through any short or mid-term embargo. I really don't know why we waste our time with Iraq, except that it may be a small first piece in the middle east puzzle (put a stable democracy in Iraq, then pressure Iran, S.A. etc. to follow).

On the bin Laden front, I agree that he is alive and out of our grasp - but I don't think we're trying to hard to get him. Killing him does absolutely nothing for GWB, and hurts his ability to continue "looking" for him. He's villified this guy as Dr. Evil, and he can now play the foil and have much more leeway in his policy directives, with the excuse that he's going after this "Evil" man.
Apparently enough for us to bother with them.Leisure
Sep 17, 2002 5:27 AM
We intervened when Saddam moved on Kuwait. We demanded compliance and he laughed at us. We say don't develop weapons, he seems to be doing so anyway, and we order teams to go in and survey their activities for it and he evades us. So again I say yes, he's a thorn in our side. We can paint ourselves immune to him all we want, if we were truly immune we wouldn't be responding to his posturing. Or perhaps you're right and Iraq is no real threat...not necessarily far off from what I think, but my point is that we find it worth our while to respond to him.

And the whole argument that we're in there to democracize the world just doesn't fly with me. Our intentions are just not so noble, though I hope that noble things may come of this. We're there for our own interests, and while that's not always necessarily wrong, let's at least be honest about it.

Finally, you give GWB far too much credit if you think he's intentionally stalling off catching bin Laden to justify him going off on headhunts in the Middle East. After this much time, we can't catch him...that's the ugly truth, and while I don't like it any more than you do, I don't need to rationalize about it.
Getting re-elected.Steve98501
Sep 15, 2002 9:20 PM
Although I like the speculation about rearranging the geo-politics of the middle east. Seems unrealistic, but it serves U.S. interests, and interests are what prompt both politicians and nations to act.
Bullying vs. Being LikedJon Billheimer
Sep 16, 2002 7:31 AM
I don't care for America's bullying unilateralism either. However, regardless of what the U.S. does it's not going to be universally liked, particularly in the Arab world which has a different cultural mindset and is xenophobically committed to the destruction of Israel. The U.S./Israel axis is an unalterable reference point for the Arab point of view.

I listened last night to an interview of John Manley, our Canadian deputy prime minister, who was our foreign affairs minister at the time of 9/11. He made an interesting comment about the danger of the U.S. now being the world's only super power. At least during the U.S./Soviet standoff the U.S. was constrained in its behaviour by the probable Soviet reaction. Now, there is no countervail to U.S. dominance, and this shows in the Bush administration's rather unbelievable arrogance and disrespect for international treaties, multilateral relationships, etc.
I disagreecyclejim
Sep 16, 2002 6:35 PM
I don't know why you think that regardless of what the U.S. does it's not going to be universally liked. Well, ok obviously not every country is liked by everyone regardless of what they do so in that sense, yes I agree. But I certainly believe that if the U.S. examines and makes some changes in our foreign policy- in particular as it relates to U.S.-Israel relations our stock will soar with many nations.

Heck, if I can't trust in that hope then why not bully everyone just because we can? If its not going to make a difference might as well kick their asses right? (obviously being sarcastic here to make a point)
I disagreeJon Billheimer
Sep 16, 2002 7:38 PM
Actually, your sarcasm does have an underlying point! I believe the thinking of the American government is that they might as well look after their own strategic interests first, and (to a point) to hell with everyone else.

The being liked issue I was relating primarily to the Middle East. If you've ever been around any Arabs you'd understand what I mean about their intractable mindset. The Arabs for decades have sought to displace responsibility for their conditions on others, first Great Britain, then Israel and the UN, and finally the United States. Rather than help their own people, despotic and self-serving Arab governments have sought to place all the blame on Israel and the United States. There's nothing like having a war to focus internal discontent outwardly. In short, the Arab point of view is, in my opinion, hopelessly distorted and paranoid. This is nothing new. 9/11 has simply rubbed our North American noses in an attitude that's been prevalent in the Middle East for decades. A friend of mine, who was a peacekeeper in Gaza in the 60s, says the attitude then was identical to today's.

Although I personally would like to see some changes in U.S. foreign policy including a genuine multilateralism, a more balanced treatment of Israel vis-a-vis its neighbours, I really don't think these changes would do much to alter the Arab viewpoint, at least in the foreseeable future. Just my opinion.