In the history books, the U.S. Republicans will never live down the fact that they “Iranified” Iraq, disrupting thousands of years of calibrating regional balance. That country long served as a buffer state for one purpose only — to suppress the implosion of the region. True, the Democrats who backed the invasion aren’t much better, because they were swayed by the idiotic “patriotic” fervor of 2003.
But at least they seem to recognize the error, even if it should have been visible at the time: Any U.S. leaders who take an action that, historically speaking, must inevitably hand Iraq to Iran and restore Iran as the dominant regional power needs to have their heads examined.
It is well known that John McCain, the former U.S. presidential candidate and prisoner of war, likes to pour oil into any fire he sees. It is in his nature to do so. The question is why we let him do so without at least first forcing him to pay penance for his past sins of warmongering.
Bomb, bomb, bomb
The senior senator from Arizona now wants to take his pyromaniac style of foreign policy into Iraq once more, echoing his “bomb, bomb, bomb” spirit of a decade ago. In that, he is guided not by any sense of patriotism, but by all the impetuousness of an anarchist that he can muster.
McCain is not only one of the chief propellants of the American pyromania that destroyed Iraq, but also one of the most senior still holding political office.
The most basic fact of the matter is this: Anybody who was out to topple Saddam Hussein — and thereby turn all of Iraq into a powder keg — at best showed complete ignorance of the history of the region.
A deep-seated sense of religiously fueled enmity throughout the ages has shaped life in West Asia for ages. Shiites and Sunnis, when pitted against each other, and then presented with an opportunity, have always been inclined to make a blood sport out of the pursuit of the other.
The crucial role that Iraq has traditionally played in that kind of highly combustible environment was that it served as a satellite buffer state that essentially separated the Levant and Asia Minor from Iran/Persia, providing a check on the expansion of empires from either direction.
Internally divided due to shifting borders and occupiers from repeated conquests, Iraq has often stood at the crossroads between large Western Sunni powers and the Shia Persian power to the east.
Even before the rise of Islam and its factions, the area was the dividing zone between western and eastern empires. Even Rome sometimes held Mesopotamia, during its long-running struggle with what is now Iran.
However, with the Cheney/Bush/McCain clan’s resolutely amateurish move into Iraq, that crucial buffer disappeared and turned itself into a wall of fire.
Their collective amateurishness is only superseded by the ahistorical U.S. foreign policy-making in the region.
The UK government failed
The whole Iraq episode and the current conundrum also show what a terrible ally the United Kingdom has been for the United States over the past decade or so.
True, the post-Empire UK has long made it a habit of punching above its weight class, usually by acting as America’s sidekick. But for all the immense ambitions that this points to, traditionally the UK government has at least usually been mindful of history.
To be sure, the British Foreign Office had enough smart people who knew about Iraq’s historic role inside the Muslim world as a buffer state — to keep religious emotions from exploding.
Evidently, Tony Blair was so eager to please his American master that this most critical advice was suppressed. Even if the American ally had been unprepared or unwilling to listen, it would have been all the more incumbent on the UK to speak out loud.
That is what good allies do. In fact, that is what Germany and its then-Chancellor, Gerhard Schröder, did at the time, when he warned the U.S. government publicly of an ill-advised “adventure.”
Which is exactly how this all turned out to be. But that public courage, of course, didn’t keep Schroeder from becoming the U.S. political establishment’s favorite bête noire. Yes, it is true that once he left office, he made some distasteful career choices.
But that does not in any sense invalidate the character he displayed while in office, when he warned the Americans of the inferno(s) to come.
Tony Blair, meanwhile, the snake-charming, bomb-throwing sidekick to George Bush, is still in the good graces of many Americans. The only promising step of sorts toward penitence that Blair has made since then is that he has converted to Catholicism.
While that is very unusual for a (former) British leader, he is at least on the right track. He has much to atone for. It will take a long line of Catholic priests to hear all the confessions Mr. Blair still needs to make.
On the U.S. side of the disaster initiated in 2003, however, it seems that all such confessions of guilt will go entirely unspoken. If the recent round of cheerleading for re-invasion is any indication, McCain and friends are not only unrepentant but still actively in denial that they ever made any mistake in the first place.