The PNAC strategy calls for a lasting presence and influence over places such as Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, Syria, and the like. But the scene on the ground in the first two of those experiments must inspire serious doubts about whether or not such a plan is feasible — whether nations in the Middle East will accept such a presence.
It’s worthwhile, as always, to look at history when trying to understand the events of the present. Here is an excerpt from HistoryChannel.com’s entry under “Iraq”:
In World War I the British invaded Iraq in their war against the Ottoman Empire; Britain declared then that it intended to return to Iraq some control of its own affairs. Nationalist elements, impatient over delay in gaining independence, revolted in 1920 but were suppressed by the British. Late that year the Treaty of Sèvres established Iraq as a mandate of the League of Nations under British administration, and in 1921 the country was made a kingdom headed by Faisal I. With strong reluctance an elected Iraqi assembly agreed in 1924 to a treaty with Great Britain providing for the maintenance of British military bases and for a British right of veto over legislation. By 1926 an Iraqi parliament and administration were governing the country. The treaty of 1930 provided for a 25-year alliance with Britain. The British mandate was terminated in 1932, and Iraq was admitted to the League of Nations.
In 1933 the small Christian Assyrian community revolted, culminating in a governmental military crackdown and loss of life and setting a precedent for internal minority uprisings in Iraq. Meanwhile, the first oil concession had been granted in 1925, and in 1934 the export of oil began. Domestic politics were turbulent, with many factions contending for power. Late in 1936, the country experienced the first of seven military coups that were to take place in the next five years.
That’s 21 years of tumult described there. A little over 20 years of further tumult later, the Ba’ath Party and Saddam Hussein began their rise to power.
The theory of the PNAC believers and neoconservatives must be that somehow, this time will be different. But the story on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan doesn’t seem to be bearing that theory out:
Smashed US Memorial Points to Deepening Iraqi Anger
By Scott Peterson
The Christian Science Monitor
Friday 20 June 2003
BAGHDAD – With tears in his eyes, US Army paratrooper Richard Bohr knelt down in the Iraqi dust and kissed a handmade memorial stone, bidding farewell to a brother in the US Marine Corps who was killed in action on the spot April 10, the day after Baghdad fell to invading American troops.
Draped with a necklace and pendant imploring, “St. Michael Protect Us,” the concrete memorial put in place by a US unit Friday morning measured two-by-three feet, and had been painted with a bright American flag, the Marine Corps shield, and the words “Operation Iraqi Freedom.”
But within 30 minutes of the American troops leaving, this tribute to a brother was no more – a casualty of the deepening resentment toward US troops here, at the hands of Iraqis who increasingly see those troops not as liberating friends, but as an occupying enemy.
Ms. Fadhel says that as much as she disliked the regime of Saddam Hussein, she could safely be out past 9:00 pm. Now, she says, any time after 6:00 pm is unsafe. Delays by the Washington-appointed administrator of Iraq, Paul Bremer, to create a new Iraqi government, adds to the resentment among Iraqis.
“If they don’t establish a new Iraqi government by August, Iraqi people everywhere will attack them. They must know that it will result in a civil war,” Fadhel says. “You will see bodies of Americans in the streets. They think we are silent, but we are agitated inside.”
That agitation is increasingly boiling to the surface. Signs are sprouting that US troops – and the ineffective new US-led authority they have ushered in – are wearing out their welcome. Graffiti sprayed across one highway overpass reads: “Go home Americans.” Spray-painted in red inside a downtown bus stop: “Go away, U.S.A.”
“The US has proved to the Iraqi people that it is an occupation force that wants oil, to protect Israel, and to build big military bases in Iraq,” says Mr. Hussein, who also worked in the Iraqi military. “Of course we wanted a change of regime, but not in this way, because we have gone from bad to worse. Then there was safety, and we knew when we would get our salary.”
(A story about the troubles in Afgahnistan is forthcoming.)