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Saturday, July 2, 2022

Can the strategic blunder in Iraq be reversed with an Obama win in November?

By Ardain IsmaCSMS Magazine Staff WriterJust this week, a lone suicide bomber in Iraq killed 51 and wounded scores, but yet the sentiment in Washington over the War in Iraq has been for some time nothing but an aloof optimism, even among flamboyant Democrats. The mood has been so tender that Republican presumptive presidential nominee, John McCain, now moves on the campaign trail without any embarrassment talking about the war while shamelessly bragging about a “victory” that he sees looming in the horizon.             No one seems to pay much attention to McCain’s prediction; nor does anyone cares when he is making false campaign promises about an eventual US military withdrawal from Iraq. He and estranged Democrat-now-turned independent, Joe Lieberman, have always been fervent supporters of the war in Iraq. Perhaps only die-hard Republicans and prospective profiteers from the Petro establishment would be solidly behind McCain’s elusive dream. This may be true, for National Public Radio (NPR) revealed yesterday that Exxon-Mobile is poised to return to Iraq after 36 years.            However, any news about a prolonged stay of US troops in Iraq is very bad news for family members of service men and women currently stationed there. It is also worse for the Iraqi people who are now living one of the hellish moments of their lives while longing for the day their country would be free from foreign occupation.            But the answer to these pertinent problems may very well rest with an Obama victory in November. The question remains: Could Barack Obama as Head of State fulfill his campaign promises of withdrawing US forces from Iraq shortly after he would take office?  There is a big difference between Campaign calculation and long-held conviction. He would no longer be able to hide behind his no-vote to send troops to Iraq. He would be Commander-in-Chief.            Brian M Downing, author of several works of political and military history, believes that if Obama is sincere about troop withdrawal from Iraq, he must be ready to go against the military establishment—an area from which he will undoubtedly face stiff opposition. According to Downing, Obama would need to put in place a foreign policy team “with figures whose records indicate philosophical opposition to war and to military force.”  Downing goes on to say that the Illinois senator must resist the pressure from his own party and expand his search beyond party lines, especially when it comes to strategic posts like secretary of defense, secretary of state, and the National Security Council.            To some extent and as a way to portray his statesmanship, Obama has already begun to assemble such a team. Last week, Obama revealed to the press his burgeoning foreign policy team made up exclusively of figures from the old guard like former Bill Clinton chief diplomacy Madeleine Albright, senator Christopher Dodds, retired general Anthony Zinni and a bunch of others. I’m not sure if that would constitute a fresh visage of American diplomacy. This could simply eye-up the sleepy eyes of average voters on the pertinent question of change, which has become the cornerstone of the Democratic campaign. It might also be indicative to voters that the change will at best be shallow and could in any way bring salvation to thousands of ordinary citizens whose misfortunes lie directly with the war in Iraq. Whether one believes that Obama is just an other conformist politician talking about change to attract new voters is a different story. The truth is that by displaying his team of advisors and by positioning himself ahead of the curve, he has once again proven that he knows how to play the Washington game.             Many agree that removing the troops from Iraq would not be an easy task. Obama would face serious resistance from high-ranking officers hardened by a chauvinistic militarism who would interpret the withdrawal as a capitulation and a victory for al-Qaeda and other resistance fighters in Iraq. However, in a genuine fight to get the US military out of Iraq, Obama would ultimately prevail for he would have the public solidly behind him and, more importantly, the support of many generals and disenchanted officers who now see the war as a protracted dilemma that is taking a heavy toll on the army and marines. Adding to that is the psychological blow the military faces at home for being perceived as an institution to avoid at all cost, but not something to be proud of as many felt in the past. Remember Fahrenheit 911? Michael Moore has skillfully portrayed this harsh reality. Army recruiters are having the toughest time of their lives, even within the most disenfranchised groups of society—African Americans and Hispanics. This has forced the army to waive the drug and criminal backgrounds for new enlistees.Lowering the bar to recruit may offer some headway, but at what price? This would undoubtedly create disciplinary problems reminiscent to the Vietnam era—something that dreads the Pentagon to the core, according to many analysts.An other avenue Obama can capitalize greatly on is the obvious worry that many generals now cultivate over the transformation of the US military. A good number of high-ranking officers worry that the military is being steadily transformed from being “a conventional warfare posture into a counterinsurgency one.”  According to Asia Times, “many generals dislike counterinsurgency because it politicizes the officers out with local indigenous forces and weakens the command structure. Asia Times continues to say that counterinsurgency hinders the logic behind the necessity to acquire new expensive and sophisticated weaponry designed for conventional warfare “on which the military has long organized itself.” This assertion was also made by Anthony Zinni—an avid outspoken critic of the war in Iraq—who sees the insurgency’s die-hard resistance in Iraq as a major handicap to the military posture for it is pulling away funding for strategic weaponry, exposing the US vulnerability and paralyzing the country’s ability to maintain commitments in other parts of the world.But will Obama have the guts to embark upon such daunting mission? It is hard to predict, but one thing is certain: he will try. We can at least give him the benefit of the doubt. Should he fail, he would probably follow the path of his predecessors like Lyndon Johnson who unleashed the Rolling Thunder campaign in Vietnam in accordance with the former Air Force chief of staff, fervent supporter of the war, Gen. Curtis LeMay, who suggested that the US “bomb them [the Vietnamese] back into the stone age.” Or perhaps a Richard Nixon who ordered in December of 1972 the cart-bombing of Hanoi, an atrocity that left thousands dead, but still failed to break the will of the Vietnamese people.Should all that fail, Obama could still declare victory by pointing out that Saddam Hussein is no more, al Qaeda’s influence is substantially diminished and now Iraq is reduced to ashes, and beneath the rubble, the Iraqi people will be so busy in developing their survival instincts that they will be in no position to “threaten” their neighbors, especially Israel. But in the aftermath of such an event, Obama would be clearly unmasked, and the whole world would finally understand that even Americans from humble origins with seemingly impeccable motivation to change the course can in any way win over an entrenched status quo on the one hand and an unbreakable people determined to live free of foreign domination on the other.            While the Vietnam syndrome looms, all we can now do is wait. Obama has not won the election yet, and he may very well succeed in orchestrating a smooth US withdrawal from Iraq should he win in November. Let’s hope the hypothesis here is not null in the end.Also see When will race seize to be the cornerstone of American politic?Blazing the trail from coast to coast with Barack ObamaHillary Clinton’s Paranoia and the Democrats DilemmaHillary Clinton wants to clinch the nomination at all costIs Barack Obama unstoppable after his stunning victory in Iowa last week?   The Obama campaign plunges deeper into the defensive after the Nevada lost last SaturdayNote: Dr. Ardain Isma is the chief editor for CSMS Magazine and the executive director of the Center For Strategic And Multicultural Studies. He also teaches Cross-Cultural Studies at Nova Southeastern University. He is a novelist and the author of several essays on multiculturalism and Caribbean politics. He may be reached at publisher@csmsmagazine.org.

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