'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Saturday, July 31, 2004

Chomsky on Cole on Cutting and Running 

A few days ago Juan Cole had the following to say on Informed Comment:

if the US troops withdrew tomorrow, I'd give Allawi and his "government" about two weeks to live, after which the Deluge. And the Deluge really would endanger US energy security (say, $10 a gallon gasoline, which equals de-industrialization, if the Persian Gulf region were destabilized) and possibly open us to further terrorist attacks, with a disheveled Iraq as a base

As someone who believes that the only rational course of action for the US in Iraq is to get the hell out soon and given my respect for Juan Cole, I had planned on writing a post about the above, but never got around to it because it was going to be a long post and I didn't have the time or energy. Coincidentally, however, someone asked Chomsky to respond to this exact Cole quote on the Znet sustainer forum ChomskyChat and most of Chomsky's reply is posted on Turning the Tide. Here's the whole thing:

Juan Cole is a very serious and knowledgeable analyst, and what he writes has to be given careful and considered attention.

These remarks, at least, are almost entirely restricted to the consequences of withdrawal for the US and the industrial societies. That's one consideration. Another consideration, scarcely mentioned in these remarks at least, is the consequences for the people of Iraq, and the region generally. On that matter we have neither the authority nor the competence to say anything: it's up to them. For what it's worth, polls in Iraq reveal very considerable and apparently growing support for withdrawal of the US occupying army, apart from the Kurdish regions. That doesn't mean withdrawal tomorrow. No one is talking about that, and it isn't even technically feasible. But expeditious withdrawal, with a clear deadline, and an authentic rather than merely nominal transfer of sovereignty to Iraqis. That isn't in the cards, but not because of concerns that the region will be left in chaos; rather, because it would mean abandoning the primary and quite crucial war aim of establishing the first stable military bases in a dependent client state at the heart of the energy-producing regions, a major lever of world control, as has long been understood. The US isn't about to do that.

There are other reasons. An independent Iraq would probably take steps to gain a leading position in the Arab world, which would mean confronting the main enemy, US-backed Israel. That would mean rearming, probably with WMD, to counter Israel's. It might also lead to improving relations with Iran. Not impossible is is a Shi'ite alliance with Iran and a majority-run Iraq, which might further stimulate moves towards independence in the nearby Shi'te areas of Saudi Arabia, where the oil is. That would lead to domination of the world's energy resources by an independent Shi'ite alliance. Nothing inevitable about any of this of course, but hardly impossible. Can you imagine the US tolerating anything like this? These are among the reasons why permitting democracy in Iraq, even if the rhetoric were meant seriously by Washington and Western commentators, is hardly a likely prospect.

Suppose that internal pressures in the US, and whatever pressures exist elsewhere, led to abandonment of the major war aims, so that there could be plans for expeditious withdrawal of the occupying army and transfer of authentic sovereignty. Would that lead to chaos in the region? Or would it reduce tensions and conflicts in the region? We cannot say much with confidence, of course, any more than we could have said anything with confidence about withdrawal of Japanese armies from much of Asia in the early 1940s, or of Russian forces from Afghanistan, and many other cases. But that lack of confidence is not much of an argument for military occupation.

Noam Chomsky

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