If there was a poll right now asking Americans whether the war in Iraq was a good idea, undoubtedly the vast majority would say no — the thousands of Americans dead, the tens of thousands wounded, many with life-long disabilities, the stratospheric, multi-trillion dollar costs.
And for what? Eleven years later there is sectarian/ethnically based violence with no end in sight. The neocons advertised a swift and easy victory, followed by joyous and grateful Iraqis eagerly embracing democracy and human rights . After all, underneath the surface veneer of sectarianism and tribalism, the Iraqis are just like us, or so said neocons like Prof. Bernard Lewis. Of course, he’s far from the only one (certainly the manufacturers of false intelligence working under Paul Wolfowitz at the DOD deserve a special place in Hell as well), but I find Lewis’s behavior as an academic to be the height of evil.
So I guess we can all agree that it was all a huge mistake and everyone regrets what happened.
But that would be dead wrong. The people who sold the Iraq war to George W. Bush and the American people are nothing if not Israeli patriots. And there can be little doubt that Israel is quite happy with the consequences.
The above illustration was published by Jeffrey Goldberg in 2007 in The Atlantic. Goldberg is a citizen of Israel, served in the IDF and may well still be in the Israeli military reserve. He has a “track record of penning articles that try to push the United States into Middle East wars.” With his access to the mainstream media, he is exactly the sort of person who fuels the idea that Jewish media in the influence is a major asset of the Israel Lobby. (Besides The Atlantic, Goldberg has written for the New Yorker and contributes to Bloomberg View; his Wikipedia page notes: Michael Massing, an editor of the Columbia Journalism Review, called Goldberg “the most influential journalist/blogger on matters related to Israel.” Think of him as presenting an unofficial Israeli government position on the Middle East.)
The illustration shows Iraq divided into three states, and there are a variety of other rearrangements based on smaller, more homogeneous groups. I guess that diversity thing hasn’t worked out too well.
But the benefits to Israel are obvious. Instead of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq able to control all that oil and with large populations, there would be three states, much less powerful—and much less of a threat to Israel.
Goldberg resurrected this map in a comment on the recent violence. His 2007 article stated:
Across the Middle East, and into south-central Asia, the intrinsically artificial qualities of several states have been brought into focus by the omnivorous American response to the attacks of 9/11; it is not just Iraq and Afghanistan that appear to be incoherent amalgamations of disparate tribes and territories. The precariousness of such states as Lebanon and Pakistan, of course, predates the invasion of Iraq. But the wars against al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and especially Saddam Hussein have made the durability of the modern Middle East state system an open question in ways that it wasn’t a mere seven years ago.
Right. The Iraq war was a blow to the entire status quo of the Middle East. And all the experts he talked to for the 2007 article (we must assume that they were mainly Israeli or part of the Israel Lobby) concluded that the invasion of Iraq would set off a fire storm in the Middle East:
The most important first-order consequence of the Iraq invasion, envisioned by many of those I spoke to is the possibility of a regional conflict between Sunnis and Shiites for theological and political supremacy in the Middle East. This is a war that could be fought by proxies of Saudi Arabia, the Sunni flag-bearer, against Iran—or perhaps by Iran and Saudi Arabia themselves—on battlefields across Iraq, in Lebanon and Syria, and in Saudi Arabia’s largely Shiite Eastern Province, under which most of the kingdom’s oil lies.
That is definitely not the message that the neocons like Bernard Lewis were feeding George Bush and the American people in 2003.
In the article, I was very critical of the imperial hubris that motivated the Sykes-Picot division of the Middle East by the British and French. But I’ve warmed to the argument that the Sykes-Picot arrangement was, in one sense, inadvertently progressive. The makers of the modern Middle East roped together peoples of different ethnicities and faiths (or streams of the same faith) in what were meant to be modern, multicultural, and multi-confessional states. It is an understatement to say that the Middle East isn’t the sort of place where this kind of experiment has been shown to work.
This would be an excellent prescription everywhere, not just in the Middle East. States, including the West, should respect religious and ethnic boundaries, but I rather doubt that Goldberg has any problem with multiculturalism as a paradigm for the West. Multiculturalism is a consensus attitude of the Jewish community throughout the West.
The idea that Israel would benefit from the breakup of states in the Middle East has a long history. In the early 1980s Oded Yinon, an Israeli journalist, wrote
The following essay represents, in my opinion, the accurate and detailed plan of the present Zionist regime (of Sharon and Eitan) for the Middle East which is based on the division of the whole area into small states, and the dissolution of all the existing Arab states. … Here I want to draw the attention of the readers to several important points:
1. The idea that all the Arab states should be broken down, by Israel, into small units, occurs again and again in Israeli strategic thinking. For example, Ze’ev Schiff, the military correspondent of Ha’aretz (and probably the most knowledgeable in Israel, on this topic) writes about the “best” that can happen for Israeli interests in Iraq: “The dissolution of Iraq into a Shi’ite state, a Sunni state and the separation of the Kurdish part” (Ha’aretz 6/2/1982). Actually, this aspect of the plan is very old.
2. The strong connection with Neo-Conservative thought in the USA is very prominent, especially in the author’s notes. But, while lip service is paid to the idea of the “defense of the West” from Soviet power, the real aim of the author, and of the present Israeli establishment is clear: To make an Imperial
Israel into a world power. In other words, the aim of Sharon is to deceive the Americans after he has deceived all the rest.
Again, this was written in 1982. And Sharon, as Prime Minister in 2003, was indeed deeply involved in the deceptions that brought about the war.
The Israelis and American neocons are doubtless quite happy with the results. The rest of America should be outraged.