Monday, November 13, 2006

Huis clos

In Iraq, Bush has created a problem with no solution.

I used to think the removal of American troops would defuse terrorist motivations, but I think back to the Gulf War, when H.W. Bush made his famous quick exit. A few weeks later, he had to go back in, shamed into setting up the no-fly zones by a worldwide outcry about the massacres of Kurds and Shiites.

Then I thought that the historical lesson we should be paying attention to was the Marshall Plan: pull the troops out and step up aid several times over. But then I thought of the oil; Iraq and the US claim the country is pumping 2.8 million barrels per day (oil analysts have it at more like 2.0 million barrels, but that’s still $40-50 billion a year). This is a country that ought to be able to pay for its own Marshall Plan and have plenty left over to help where it’s truly needed, like in Sudan.

So we are left with no choice but to keep on with the status quo. Perhaps we can leverage that; announce that we are never leaving. Or announce that we’re leaving in six months / one year / you-name-it while all the while knowing that we’ll ignore those deadlines when the time arrives.

I take it back. There is a solution: using the UN. There has to be a means of preventing barbarism from prevailing, but it has to be one that does not itself constitute a provocation. Made-to-order for a UN peacekeeping force.

But what a magnitude such a peacekeeping mission would be! Even if the Security Council, in the course of time, eventually becomes disposed to mount a mission that it would never have had to, were it not for one ignorant and conceited US president, the force would have to be in the hundreds of thousands, dwarfing all previous peacekeeping efforts combined.

As Longstreet said (before releasing Pickett’s division for its doomed mission at Gettysburg), “But that’s Hancock up there, and he won’t run, so it’s mathematical after all.”