Stratfor’s analysis of US reasons for invading and occupying Iraq

Strategic Forecasting, Inc. (aka Stratfor) has built a well-deserved reputation for reporting, analysis, and forecasting geopolitical events.  But just as valuable, I believe that they provide a reliable window into the thinking of US corporate and political elites.  In this respect they have proven especially prescient about Iraq.  Five years after the invasion most Americans do not understand why we are there, which Stratfor clearly saw even before the first airstrikes.  We planned to occupy Iraq and build bases from which to project power throughout the Middle East.  For more on this see yesterday’s post.

This widespread blindness of Americans about the goals of this long and expensive war is one of its many anomalies.  Needless to say, none of this has surfaced in the Presidential campaign — despite its record length and unprecedented media coverage.  Best not to confuse and upset the proles.

Here are excerpts from Stratfor’s reports on Iraq, from before the invasion.  Note the increasing focus on bases.

“Smoke and Mirrors:  The United States, Iraq and Deception” , 21 January 2003

However, attacking and occupying Iraq achieves three things:

  1. It takes out of the picture a potential ally for al Qaeda, one with sufficient resources to multiply the militant group’s threat. Whether Iraq has been an ally in the past is immaterial – it is the future that counts. 
  2. It places U.S. forces in the strategic heart of the Middle East, capable of striking al Qaeda forces whenever U.S. intelligence identifies them. 

The Bush administration … has excellent strategic reasons for wanting to conquer Iraq.  The government has chosen not to enunciate those motives for a simple reason: If it did, many of the United States’ allies would oppose the war.  Washington’s goal – the occupation of Iraq – would strengthen the United States enormously, and this is something that many inside Washington’s coalition don’t want to see happen.  Therefore, rather than crisply stating the strategic goal, the government has tried to ensnare its allies in a web of pseudo-legalism.

“Iraq: Is Peace an Option?”, 25 February 2003

The strategic challenge is tremendous.  After Sept. 11, the United States did not have a war-fighting strategy.  The strategy that was first adopted – a combination of defending the homeland and attacking al Qaeda directly – has proven difficult if not ineffective.  Al Qaeda is a sparse, global network operating in a target-rich environment.  A defense of the homeland is simply impractical …

Washington’s decision to redefine the conflict was driven by the ineffectiveness of this response.  The goal has been to compel nations to crack down on citizens who are enabling al Qaeda … Invading Iraq was a piece of this strategy.  Iraq, the most strategic country in the region, would provide a base of operations from which to pressure countries like Syria, Iran and Saudi Arabia. 

Iraq was a piece of the solution, but far from the solution as a whole.  Nevertheless, the conquest and occupation of Iraq would be at once a critical stepping-stone, a campaign in a much longer war and a proof of concept for dealing with al Qaeda. 

“Iraq War Plans” , 11 March 2003

In early September 2002, Stratfor published a war plan series in which we laid out four possible U.S. strategies for invading Iraq. The war aims listed at that time consisted of 

  1. Replacing Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein’s regime with one compatible with U.S. interests.
  2. Maintaining the territorial integrity of Iraq so that it remains a counterweight to Iran, and so that nationalist ambitions by ethnic Kurds in northern Iraq do not disrupt U.S.-Turkish relations.
  3. Eliminating the threat of weapons of mass destruction by having total direct access to all of Iraq.
  4. Changing the perception of American effectiveness in the Islamic world.
  5. Destroying collaboration between Iraq and al Qaeda.
  6. Minimizing U.S. casualties.

We since have added a seventh war goal, which is to create bases within Iraq for future power projection in the region. 

“After Iraq: The Ongoing Crisis”, 23 April 2003  — This the formula for our goals that they have used since this date.

Stratfor has argued that the United States had two fundamental reasons for invading Iraq:

  1. To transform the psychology of the Islamic world, which had perceived the United States as in essence weak and unwilling to take risks to achieve its ends.
  2. To use Iraq as a strategic base of operations from which to confront Islamic regimes that are either incapable of or unwilling to deny al Qaeda and other Islamist groups access to enabling resources.

This does not mean that Stratfor’s people are magicians.  Our intentions have been clear from the beginning, which is why I say we are blind not to see it.  From “Pentagon Expects Long-Term Access to Four Key Bases in Iraq“, New York Times, 20 April 2003:

The United States is planning a long-term military relationship with the emerging government of Iraq, one that would grant the Pentagon access to military bases and project American influence into the heart of the unsettled region, senior Bush administration officials say.

American military officials, in interviews this week, spoke of maintaining perhaps four bases in Iraq that could be used in the future: one at the international airport just outside Baghdad; another at Tallil, near Nasiriya in the south; the third at an isolated airstrip called H-1 in the western desert, along the old oil pipeline that runs to Jordan; and the last at the Bashur air field in the Kurdish north. 

Closing notes

Stratfor’s reporting is often penetrating, but sometimes oblique about sensitive matters.  Such as in this quote from “Ahmadinejad Among the Iraqis”, 3 March 2008

It is interesting to note that the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, showed up unannounced in Iraq on March 1.  There is not the slightest evidence that Mullen met with any Iranians, but his dropping in reminded everyone that the chairman of the Joint Chiefs comes and goes in Iraq without anyone’s permission.  The message: The Iraqi government is formally sovereign, with emphasis on the word “formally.”

In the plain language, Iraq is not sovereign.  But why does anyone in America believe otherwise (I doubt anyone in Iraq has delusions about their independence).

Update:  Stratfor again tweaks its view of the reasons for the war

“Stratfor’s War:  Five Years Later”, 18 March 2008:

The motivation for the war, as we wrote, had to do with forcing Saudi Arabia to become more cooperative in the fight against al Qaeda by demonstrating that the United States actually was prepared to go to extreme measures. The United States invaded to change the psychology of the region, which had a low regard for American power. It also invaded to occupy the most strategic country in the Middle East, one that bordered seven other key countries.

… The United States is now providing an alternative scenario designed to be utterly frightening to the Iranians. They are arming and training the Iranians’ mortal enemies: the Sunnis who led the war against Iran from 1980 to 1988. That rearming is getting very serious indeed. Sunni units outside the aegis of the Iraqi military are now some of the most heavily armed Iraqis in Anbar, thanks to the Sunni relationship with U.S. forces there. It should be remembered that the Sunnis ruled Iraq because the Iraqi Shia were fragmented, fighting among themselves and therefore weak. That underlying reality remains true. A cohesive Sunni community armed and backed by the Americans will be a formidable force.

… The irony is that the war is now focused on empowering the very people the war was fought against: the Iraqi Sunnis. In a sense, it is at least a partial return to the status quo ante bellum.

The last two paragraphs display a stunning inability to recognize that Iraq has fragmented.   Unless the situation changes — as it did following the US invasion — neither the Kurds nor the Shia Arabs will again be dominated by the Sunni Arabs — nor will the the Sunni Arabs in “Iraq” have the ability to threaten Iran. 

For more information from the FM site

To read other articles about these things, see the FM reference page on the right side menu bar.  Of special relevance to this post:

Reference pages about other topics appear on the right side menu bar, including About the FM website page.

Posts about the war in Iraq:

  1. The Iraq insurgency has ended, which opens a path to peace, 13 March 2007
  2. Beyond Insurgency: An End to Our War in Iraq, 27 September 2007
  3. Iraq, after the war, 20 May 2008
  4. Slowly the new Iraq becomes visible, 18 July 2008
  5. Brief update about events in Iraq, 8 April 2009

Afterword

Please share your comments by posting below. Per the FM site’s Comment Policy, please make them brief (250 word max), civil and relevant to this post. Or email me at fabmaximus at hotmail dot com (note the spam-protected spelling).

19 thoughts on “Stratfor’s analysis of US reasons for invading and occupying Iraq

  1. To transform the psychology of the Islamic world, which had perceived the United States as in essence weak and unwilling to take risks to achieve its ends.

    I think they should have written, “To satisfy Israel, which had perceived the United States as in essence weak and unwilling to take risks to achieve Israel’s ends.” Israeli influence is the elephant in the drawing room. But Mearsheimer and Walt have written that already.

  2. ” to achieve Israel’s ends.”

    If that was one of the hidden reasons for George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq, it backfired and backfired big time. The big strategic winner of George W. Bush’s war in Iraq is Iran, not Israel. No wonder President Ahmadinejad smiles all the time. Even some Israelis have commented that Israel’s national security was better with Saddam in charge of Iraq. In those days the Iranians would have had to go through Saddam before they could get to Israel. Now they have Shia allies in Iraq that give them closer reach to Israel.

  3. I agree, it’s never really been a mystery as to the Bush administration’s true goals – especially after Wolfowitz’s Vanity Fair interview, where he admitted that the WMD threat was largely a facade. The reason why it hasn’t come up in the presidential campaign (so far) is equally clear – as you say, why confuse and upset the proles? They don’t get it. The mass public would rather hear crisp, strong messages about “fight ’em over there” and “the greatest threat to the United States.” The Rethugs will shrug it off as a “done deal” and emphasize the need to focus on the future, instead of the past.

    This discussion ought to be public, though, and I hope the eventual Democratic nominee (Obama) will take on McCain, who as the proponent for Bush’s strategy, ought to be called to answer to the failure to attain US strategic goals in Iraq at the least. I hope, however, that Obama uses the tactic of expressing the need for a broad Middle East strategy instead of the myopic, single nation focus that the Bush administration has used to date.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: At this point we can only hope. On the other hand, Obama might run with “Bush is bad, I am good, the little people need not know the details.”

  4. Sorry to disagree, but Iraq was just part of a ‘major Middle East Strategy’ and was only a starting point. Unfortunately it just turned to custard (as was predicted by many, including Bill Lind).

    Goals:
    (1) Help Israel, ah la its ‘Clean Break Strategy’. The oil pipeline to it would help as well.
    (2) Cement US power in the ME from its ‘enduring’ bases, enabling it to ‘dominate’ the region.
    (3) Lock Iraq oil into an exclusive US monopoly.
    (4) Destroy OPEC.
    (5) Regime change other countries, Iran obviously, Saudia Arabia also came up often in the wish lists of the neo-cons.

    The advantages were multifold: by monopolising Iraq oil the US could ride out any storms caused by its plans to destabilise Opec and forment ‘change’ in other countries. By dominating the ME, it could call the shots to the EU and China (controlling their growth and influence) and isolate Russia by dominating energy supplies and driving down oil prices. All part of the famed ‘full spectrum dominance’.

    The other part, not so well commented on, is all the pipeline activity, designed to isolate Russia and exert even further control over energy supplies, particularly from the Caspian Sea areas (all those colour revolutions, ha). Afghanistan is a key part in that of course (what, you actually think we are there to fight for women’s rights?). Favoured ‘allies’ get pipelines, the rest (especially China), suck on hind t*t.

    A great play, trouble is it hasn’t (and never could) work. We know about Iraq of course, but both China and Russia are running rings around the US, steadily locking in their supplies and their hold over transportation. India better get its finger out fast or its going to be shut out of the game and the EU is now facing dependence on Russia for the next 30 or so years for gas and ever increasingly oil.

    The best the US could have got (playing its cards very carefully) would have been to aim for a major slice of the action and just accepting that Russia and China would get a pretty big share. By going for broke, well it has broke (folly of maximalist objectives). In fact it is the US that is now facing lockout of supply, as less and less becomes available on the open market, more and more being tied up in long term supply deals, and its local suppliers (Mexico and Canada) running out of both oil and gas. With a weak dollar that will soon stop being the reserve currency….

    We haven’t seen a strategic plan fail so much, on so many levels, since Germany’s little forry into Russia.{In best Churchillian voice} Never in the history of human strategy, has so much been tried, and failed so badly, and been the fault of so few.
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    Fabius Maximus: Are we disagreeing? The bases are of course a means to accomplish strategic goals — such as your #1, #2, and #5 (e.g., Iran). Plus others you have not stated, such as prevent regime change in current allies (e.g., Saudi Arabia — which I think much more likely than the neocons intending regime change there). Turning Iraq into a neo-colony (as I have described elsewhere) would facilitate #3 and #4, although I think “destroy OPEC” might be an exaggeration of their goals. Note that I doubt all of this was coherently thought out or planned, just the vague intents of incompetents. Until the “tell all” books arrive, we can only guess about this things.

  5. FM, we are ferverently agreeing overall. But you underestimate the influence of the ‘Clean Break’ neo-cons on US strategy and their cohesiveness, persistance and world vision. They are incompetent at building or achieving a stated goal, but are very competent at creating chaos.

    The “destroy OPEC” came out of many comments from the leading neo’s over several years. “Drive down the price of oil to $5” is a rough paraphrase, smashing OPEC (and Russia of course). The interesting thing was when those comments (some prior to 9/11 even) were made, very few commentators picked up the implication that Iraq was going to be a colony, since we were going to use their oil and money to achieve a gain for us, at a great cost to them.

    The “Clean Break’ crowd (many appear in the Israeli one and the US one) have been pretty clear about their overall aims (ie strategy if you can call it that) and yes Saudia Arabia has came up (as did Iran, Syria, Lebenon, Somalia, etc). The idea floated being to seperate SA into 2 parts, the Shiite oil area and the Sunni religeous area.

    The CB crowd are not always cohesive in their plans, many other ideas got tacked on as time went by in a bizarre ‘mission creep’ sense and there are internal idiological disagreements as well. Some of the most grandeous are to completely break up the ME into small areas (the Likudists loved that one). A version of this theory actually went public a few years ago from the Pentagon no less. Instantly disavowed of course, but you can just see where this came from.

    To date we have directly, or through proxies, attacked and/or destablised: Somalia (just starting to come to together after decades of chaos), Afghanistan, Lebanon and Iraq. We have (or our proxies have) stated that we want to attack Syria and Iran (we actually have bombed Syria just recently). And Pakistan is under the gun, with statements by US officials that they would enter to secure nukes, kill Taliban, etc. That’s 7 nations, still a few more to go if Westmorland’s comment was accurate.

    Now Israel is shaping up for Lebanon #3, openly stating that the targets are really Syria and Iran(skeptics know that the water helps as well and that these plans have been around for 50 years or so). The US is within a hairsbreath of attacking Iran. To crown it off Russia is being baited almost daily.

    Of course this is all hubristic nonsense, but they are not yet stopping, let alone retreating. Like good little Troskites (that many of them once were), they have managed to fill many important positions in the US Govt (and especially the Pentagon) with acolytes. Their ideas are the new orthodoxy in many important, influential corners (where do you think ‘full spectrum dominance’ came from this is actual offical policy). The USAF particularly worries me, they have a real toehold there (the Navy seems to be more immune and the Army is split). Gates is also playing a clever game in holding back Chaney. But their greatest success has been in the intelligence areas which are now virtually all compromised (Pentagon, CIA, NSA, et al). Karen Kwaitkoski’s description of how they took over her area just after 9/11 is frightening in how easily it was achieved. Their endless message, under many different cover stories and with many different lies, is always the same, attack the ME (etc, etc).

    3 trillion $, 60,000+ casulties (at least that, when you add it all up), devastation and death everywhere they touch. Nope they are not stopping. They will fight on to OUR (and their victims) last $ and life. They cannot get their wet dreams, but they can still cause further massive disruption and death.

    Having studied these people for some years one thing is very apparent, they are nihilists at heart. They truely believe in creating chaos, because somehow, someway, what they want will miraculously come out of the rubble (creative destruction, birth pangs, etc). They are very adept at jumping ship, Bush a dead duck, jump to Giuliani then to McCain (and Clinton). Change message, easy, now we must stay in Iraq/Afghanistan to prevent chaos and stop drugs, hah, bit like a home invader saying they have to stay in your house because you might cause a mess by bleeding over the floor. If the current ‘big lie’ doesn’t work, create a new one (like when the Iran nuke message changed to arms supplies to Iraq).

    In fact they have many methodological similarites to the great bug-a-boo, Al Qaeda, in being able to morph, change, move and adapt to circumstance while still relentlessly pushing their agenda (always under different cover stories of course). More like a viral infection than normal political movements like the old left and right. They are not going away anytime soon, whatever candidate is elected they will still have significant influence and, more importantly, they will control the agenda and message.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: I suspect that the will blow away like last winter’s snow by this time in 2009. The consequences of the neocons’ time in power will last somewhat longer.

  6. I opposed the Iraq war from the outset. Why? I saw what happened in Algeria, 1955-63. I concluded if we pushed out Saddam Iraq would become a suzerainity of Iran. So it has. Brilliant, getting 4,000 Americans killed and spending $600 billion to win Iran’s war with Iraq which Iran couldn’t win in eight years, 1980-88. Why we went to Iraq? It’s a smokescreen to be seen as doing something, yet not attack Saudi Arabia. Bring “democracy” to the Arabs? Are you crazy? As far as I’m concerned, Stratfor is completely off base here. By the way, I heard the “base” argument years ago. I didn’t buy it then, I don’t buy it now.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: I see little evidence that Iraq has or will become a suzerainity of Iran (of course, it is possible). Even the Iran-supported Shiites appear to want independence, let alone the majority of Shiites (e.g., the Mahdi Army), Sunni Arabs, and Kurds. Also, it is nice to know your thoughts on these things, but please provide some supporting evidence or analysis. “I don’t buy it now” tells us nothing.

  7. Independent, a few things, beware of demonification and propaganda. The most democratic country in the Islamic ME: Iran. Not a perfect democracy, but, as the very vast majority of people want, getting there (roughly equivalent to 19th century Britain). Iran, GDP spent on war making, pretty low by ME and a lot of the rest of the worlds standards. Invasions of other countries in the last couple of centuries: none. Being attacked by others in the last couple of centuries (and/or ‘regime change’): well the British (several times), US and Iraq. Very conservative country, not a risk taker.

    Not a perfect country by any means (nice skiiing though and the women are stunning), but, judging by the standards of a lot of the rest of the world, getting there. Reasonable health system, good education, very high proportion of women taking degrees. Low birthrate. It wants its place in the sun, not just another ME oil country with nothing else, it wants to become a part of the 1st world nations. Potentially reasonable ally (helped us greatly against AQ and the Taliban post 9/11), can reasonably be trusted with agreements. Definately wants some sort of influence over Iraq, just in case it gets attacked again and loses another million people. Prefers stability and business. Will try to have an Iraq that is stable and economically strong, but militarily weak (and no Kurdish country).

    Nuclear power it wants for very logical economic reasons. Nuclear weapons, ambivalent. If it really had wanted them, it would have had them at least 10-15 years ago (ah la Israel, South Africa, India, Pakistan, etc). Probably prefers the ‘can build them if they really, really need to have them’ approach, but prefers not to, which is the postion of virtually every other nuclear but non-weapon power (Holland, Japan, Germany, Australia, etc, etc).

    Can the West do business with them, sure. Will they do everything we say… nope. Will they run around and cause chaos and war .. nope. I’d rather deal with them than Saudia Arabia.

  8. I should just add that I’d rather Iran in the US/UK/EU sphere of influence (which is where they seem to want to be, judging by their penchant for shopping, cosmetic surgery and body piercing) than where we are pushing them into, that is the SCO (Russia/China) sphere.

    Actually FM, I take it back about how smart Russia & China are in running rings around us, they don’t have to do anything, we’re doing all the heavy lifting pushing actual and potential allies away from us (the big Russia/Turkey deal .. 2 years ?).

    ‘We’, may not always include Australia of course. I’ve long predicted that Oz would jump ships when it suited them (quite a logical strategy for a small country) as they did from the UK to the US. Getting close now, give it 10 years at tops, maybe even 5 if the US$ finally collapses. Plus, we are really, really fed up with being ripped off by our so called allies (ref: Sea Sprites and F-18 E/Fs) and chewing up our boys in weird adventures, we have real problems here.

    Oh and I think you are being very optimistic (part of your character I know, that I very much like and respect tremendously) that you have seen the last of the neo-cons (follow the names, like an epidemonologist follows an infection trail). When someone that I admire like Karen gets rehired, or you, Bill or William get listened to on the big areas, then I will begin to relax.
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    Fabius Maximus: Any neo-cons on Obama’s staff? Just guessing, of course, but I believe he will be our next President.

  9. Watching them laddie, watching them closely, they will make moves if they can. I’m sure you have some personal experience with them that was quite bruising (still serving?).

    What Obama needs is some neo-antibiotics to protect him, like youself (or Bill et al). I’ve said it a few times before , time for us ‘old’ left and old ‘right’ to get together and fight for what is right. There is total commonality between the Anti-War (Ron Paul right) and Counterpunch (left) that the current direction is completely wrong and there is broad (not perfect of course) agreement about where we should be heading.

    Maybe time to grab your retirement pay and get stuck in there laddie, or if you are younger .. take a chance, heck I’d vote for you.
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    Fabius Maximus: This is just my opinion, FWIW… one of the major roles of the power structure in western republics is to keep outsiders on the outside. Folks like Lind can get in only if allied with a powerful group. I doubt if he is wating for his telephone to ring.

    Sometimes elections feature “new and improved” brands, with a fresh face on the ceral box (e.g., Carter, Obama). But the players behind the scenes are not new. There are examples of a new team taking a chair in the big game (e.g., Andrew Jackson), but only after amassing much power.

  10. An update has been added that describes Stratfor’s latest view of our original goals for invading Iraq. Five years later we are still attempting to understand why we invaded, a powerful indictment of the foggy thinking of US elites at that time. Has the quality of their thinking about Iraq improved since then?

  11. RE: Invading Afghanistan and then Iraq

    Is it just me, or are America’s top political and military decision-makers abysmal strategic thinkers, who fail time and again to understand second and third-order effects of their actions? Where are America’s great strategists of the 21st century, and who are they?

    Did anyone in Washington ask before the fact, the following?

    1. What would be the consequences of removing the geopolitical couterweight to Shia Iran, when Saddam Hussein’s Iraq was toppled?
    2. Prior to the invasion, did any senior policymakers or planners read “Paris, 1919″ by Maragaret McMillan, or other similar works that detailed the precarious nature of nations like Iraq, created in the wake of WWI? Did no one foresee the house of cards might fall at last, if prodded?
    3. By chance, did President Bush or his team know the justified reasons for Afghanistan being nicknamed “The Place Where Empires Go to Die”?
    4. Did anyone in Washington, of either political party, prior to voting to commit U.S. forces long-term in either nation, know how to define the word “insurgency”? Could any of said policymakers discuss with any degree of confidence counter-insurgency campaigns of the past, and their relative successes and failures, prior to creating policy?
    5. Who among our leaders is an acknowledged expert, or even competent authority on what went wrong in Vietnam, and why? Were current or past senior leaders in the armed services who served in that conflict consulted prior to designing our operations in both theaters of the current war?
    6. Was due diligence done with regard to what support we could count in the U.N., NATO, and elsewhere – prior to taking action?
    7. Who counted the money in the budget for these wars? Wars cost money, and cannot be well-waged by insolvent nations; open-ended conflicts weaken our economic fighting power, and strengthen the hand of our foes.
    8. Many have read von Clauswitz and Sun Tzu, but who has a demonstrated record of putting their words into useable action? Were these leaders promoted or appointed into positions where they could make a difference? Why or why not?
    9. Who among our leaders demonstrates a good grasp of using non-military force geostrategically, as would a 4GW opponent? Have any senior policymakers and planners read Boyd, Van Creveld, or other innovators?
    10. Did anyone trouble to investigate the punitive raid as an alternative to getting bogged down in either place? Hit your opponent hard, and then leave, promising to return if necessary.
    11. Does anyone in the White House appreciate the value of information in war, of propaganda even, or the damage it can do our cause if neglected?
    12. Sometimes the best policy is to wait, to let things unfold. American foreign policy has for years been biased towards action, even when none is called for. See Sun Tzu, re: the wisest leader finds a way not to fight.

    One additional question to make a “baker’s dozen,” with a hat tip to William Lind:

    13. Did senior policymakers and analysts build into their scenarios the possible deterioration of the border with Mexico, or game the possible consequences of a 4th generation crisis on our Southern Border? How can sending forces halfway around the globe be defended on strategic grounds when one of our borders with a foreign nation is perhaps instable?

    Least anyone think I am targeting only the GWB administration with these comments, they could equally well be applied to Clinton, Bush Sr., and others on back to at least the early 1960s.

    My question stands; where are the great strategists when we need them?

  12. >Is it just me, or are America’s top political and military decision-makers abysmal strategic thinkers

    American’s don’t do strategy, special nations don’t need it as they have history and fate on their side. Strategy is for ordinary nations that don’t have America’s infinite power, money and prestige and who’s very objectives are not universal values shared by all good peoples.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: Some disagree with that, attributing the consistency in US policy during the past century (or more) to a US policy that it dare not speak. For a survey of the various viewpoints, I recommend “Illusions of Empire: Defining the New American Order“, G. John Ikenberry, Foreign Affairs, March/April 2004. Esp note:

    In “The Sorrows of Empire”, Chalmers Johnson advances the disturbing claim that the United States’ Cold War-era military power and far-flung base system have, in the last decade, been consolidated in a new form of global imperial rule. The United States, according to Johnson, has become “a military juggernaut intent on world domination.”

  13. I think in your last update you hit on the issue that amazes most of us (I think) – it’s not that STRATFOR didn’t correctly identify the goals of the Bush administration in this adventure, it’s that STRATFOR didn’t say “Oh and it’s a bat$*** crazy idea.” They’re too careful in their avoidance of any criticisms.
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    Fabiius Maximus replies: That’s one theory. Another is that thought this a rational plan. Which is more disturbing?

  14. @ Pete

    I have read your list of questions. You ask some very good ones, and they are well worth discussing. I will attempt answering a couple.

    1. What would be the consequences of removing the geopolitical couterweight to Shia Iran, when Saddam Hussein’s Iraq was toppled?

    Given the state of Iraq after the 1991 war and years of sanctions, I don’t really think it was much of a counterweight. There were serious arguments against invading Iraq. This is not one of them.

    10. Did anyone trouble to investigate the punitive raid as an alternative to getting bogged down in either place? Hit your opponent hard, and then leave, promising to return if necessary

    It was a possible option. I honestly do wonder, if it had been done, what the 4GW crowd would have said. I rather suspect they would be up in arms over the resulting collateral damage, and claiming that the friends and relatives of the dead would now be converted to jihadism because they hated us. They would also, I suspect, argue that the use of a punitive strike simply proved that the Bush Administration were a pack of brutes who did not understand the deep complexities of 4GW.

    12. Sometimes the best policy is to wait, to let things unfold.

    Not a viable option when we have a big smoking crater in lower Manhattan.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: I love your response to #13, so nicely illustrating why so many of the world’s people have come to see the US as a rogue nation. After 9-11 we had to do something, so invading and occupying two nations unrelated to the attack was “rational”. Bombing Hamburg or Miami would have been as relevant. Deleted as a misreading of his comment. See following comment for details.

  15. @ Fabius

    And I love how you attribute to me a position that I have not taken. (Not the first time you’ve done that, either.) I did not endorse or condemn what we did, I simply said that some sort of action had to be taken. In fact, I think history will judge our response to 9-11 rather harshly.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: My mistake, for which I apologize. Upon re-reading it, your meaning was perfectly clear.

  16. The US’s ‘strategic’ plans for Iraq (and you have to be charitable to call them strategic rather than a mish mash of neocon/Likudist nonsense**) was well known to everyone who could connect the dots (or even just read the neo-cons websites, duh)… before the invasion of Iraq.

    Andrew Wilkie was a ONA (Australia’s Office of National Assessments, our peak intelligence body) officer who blew the whistle here. Though limited by law in what he could say in his book, he made it clear that ONA’s report to our Prime Minister, prior to the war, that Iraq was an US geo-strategic push.

    Now if Oz could work that out, naturally China, Russia, et al could it as well.

    I think I brought to attention here ages ago to the geo-strategic responses (very big ‘blow back’). Such as Russia and China sorting out their border disputes, almost overnight. China accelerating their military build up (started after Kosovo). Russia playing a canny hand in pipelines (despite its initial weakness) and gaining influence in the ‘Stans and the ME.

    Now of course, moves away from the dollar, Saudi Arabia buying the S-400 system. Brazil buying the SU-35. And a lot of other etcs.

    For SA to come on board means they have made some very careful economic/strategic assessments and decisions .. and there are some real negotiations and deals being made under the table. I’m still sticking by my SA/Iran reconciliation and dealing forecast (observation?). Basically only Iraq can block a US invasion of SA if push comes to shove. But to do that means dealing with Iran and using them as a communications, or agents of influence, conduit (Iran doesn’t and never will control Iraq, but it will be a major influence).

    And Japan, which for me is the real surprise (Brazil is not so surprising, it expects to become the major power in South America (its Germany/France) or even the real France & Germany is not a surprise*.. don’t forget it was France and Germany that forced the US off the gold standard).

    Lots of (differing) motivations to clip the US eagle’s wings out there. 10, heck arguably 20 years of chaos is enough.

    To put it in simple terms and give an example. The EU is seriously thinking about investing hundreds of billions in North Africa to create massive solar thermal plants, to generate electricity for the EU. Now the last thing they want is some nut job in the Pentagon, or CIA, etc, stirring up trouble there chasing some ‘Islamic militants’ or just someone who stole a cigarette lighter. Now they will have, and based on past history a reasonable suspicion that the US might just upset the apple cart there to damage the EU economically (original neo-con plan remember).

    “Oops, sorry we got a CIA tip that Bin Ladin’s drivers son’s brother’s friend’s cousin was there, sorry about blowing up all your solar plants”. Or some sort of other nonsense, probably motivated by some US corporation getting its nose out of joint or Israel being scared of some Muslim countries making some money .. whatever … the motivations don’t count.

    But you would have to be a mug not to put it into your risk assessment.

    As for STRATFOR .. oh give me a break. They and all the others like them, the ‘think tanks .. you would get more sense out of ‘drunk tanks’ (including all the neo-liberal economists)are just fig leaves to create justifications for decisions already made.

    You can sum up the current US strategic ‘strategy’ like this:

    ‘Me rich , you poor, I’ll take your money’
    ‘Me big, you small, I’ll hit you with my club because I can’
    ‘Me big and rich, you small and poor, I’ll take your stuff after I hit you with my club’
    ‘Me big and rich. You rich but small. I’ll take your stuff or I’ll hit you with my club’

    Wow, 10,000 years of civilisation to produce this … listen…. if you turn off the TV, tune your ears properly, you can just hear Ben Franklin turning in his grave.

    * France’s nuclear targeting used to go go like this: 40% to Russia, 40% to the US and 20% to England. That was then. Today I expect 80% US, 20% England.

    ** Israel wants the Lantani river (Guerian’s original border plan). Tried for it many times. Got thumped many times .. has it stopped them .. will it stop them? Not until they stop getting unlimited military support from the US.

  17. >FM: Some disagree with that, attributing the consistency in US policy during the past century (or more) to a US policy that it dare not speak. For a survey of the various viewpoints, I recommend “Illusions of Empire: Defining the New American Order

    The existence of an empire doesn’t require a strategy for one. All empires I think are more a result of emergent behavior rather then deliberate strategy. The British governments’ attempts to halt the expansion of the empire into India are particularity hilarious in this regard.

    What the article is pointing out is the problems Americans have in understanding out how the empire arose, what it’s purpose is and how the rest of the world see’s it. The aspects are a bit mixed together which is both very American and understandable for an emergent system.

    The original post was a bit sarcastic but it is very noticeable that Americans don’t do strategy and it is not just hubris. Actually I think hubris just dovetails nicely and makes the absence of strategy acceptable and isn’t really the root cause. Instead it is a very deep cultural inability to understand other points of view and relationships. There is some psychological research that’s shows that this may have a psychological basis with Americans showing a high proclivity for categorization and low ability to see relationships.

    Regarding Petes list of questions. Yes – all of the above was considered. It’s easy to put it all down to mistakes and incompetence and although the Bush admin was particularly incompetent it does not explain what happened.

    Here is the paradox Pete – I would wager that you would find the reasoning behind every one of the answers to the questions both logically consistent and reasonable at the time, and yet you don’t like the result.

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