Why did it take the loss of Republican control of Congress to force even an iota of shift in President Bush’s Iraq policy?In light of almost universal consensus that a modern army cannot pacify a country rife with insurgents, the president’s now ridiculed phrase “stay the course” should have had meaning for Americans, at least those who were listening as the death toll mounted.Perhaps it’s because chaos, death and Shi’a-Sunni massacres are, in fact, why we’re there.You’ve heard it. “We fight them over there so we don’t have to fight them here.” Even the president has uttered this phrase.Consider this: Maybe our strategy is even more cold-blooded, even more cynical than that exceedingly cavalier sentiment, which suggests that Iraq exists solely to serve as our battleground.Could it be that the American strategy isn’t failing at all?Could it be the Iraqi adventure hasn’t been about weapons of mass destruction, the democratization of Iraq or even a grab for oil, but was engineered to turn the Arab world against itself and give us the pretext for a permanent military presence there?Does it make you wonder that the only two players in the region who could mediate the conflict–Iran and Syria–are the two nations that are absolutely, no way, not-gonna-talk-to-them, persona non grata in the Bush administration?Doesn’t this strike you as odd, considering how many Americans are dying?In The Art of War , the Chinese general Sun Tzu wrote of the calculations a commander must make before waging war. Among his admonitions, “If they are united, separate them.”There are many in the U.S. military who believe we have been at war with fundamental Islamists since the early ’80s. How to fight back has always been the nut they couldn’t crack. After 9/11 and Osama bin Laden’s call for worldwide Muslim jihad against the West, the need for a way to strike back became urgent.Take a minute and think back to those early post-9/11 days.U.S. officials worried publicly that Osama Bin Laden would become a modern-day Saladin, who would unite Muslims around the globe in a worldwide jihad against the West, our culture, our far-flung economic interests, our oil supply, our trade, our way of life.Jihad–stretching from Jakarta to New Jersey.It was a very real fear, and for the Bush neo-cons, Iraq was the answer.Iraq is unique in the Arab world–a nation containing large numbers of both Sunni and Shi’a Muslims, a nation that contains oil, yes, but more importantly, one that lies in the geopolitical and Islamic center of the Middle East. Ninety percent of the Muslim world is Sunni. Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Syria and Jordan are overwhelmingly Sunni. Eighty percent of the Iraqi people are Shi’a, as are 80 to 90 percent of Iran.But only Iraq was “available” in 2003. Only in Iraq did the fuel exist to allow George W. Bush to light a match and ignite an intra-Muslim conflict to counter Osama bin Laden’s call for creation of a pan-Islamic supra-nation capable of hurling wave after human wave of Jihadis against the West.If this sounds incredible, consider what we did and didn’t do once our army raced across the desert and sent Saddam into hiding.We didn’t preserve the Iraqi army, but watched it melt into the countryside. By purging Baathists, we dismantled all semblance of authority.We didn’t preserve order. Our troops stood by as the world watched widespread looting of Iraq’s treasures.We didn’t secure the weapons depots, which were raided by insurgents. Even large numbers of U.S.-supplied weapons now are unaccounted for.Four years later, George Bush’s “Crusade Against Terror” has sparked Arab-on-Arab butchery on a scale the Crusaders could never have imagined.In Iraq, at least, Osama bin Laden’s dream of a united Islamic supra-nation is in tatters.If this is the strategy for Iraq, it seems to be working, which helps explain the president’s “stay the course” mentality.But for how long? And at what cost in American lives does he plan to “stay the course?” And where do we go from here?How long will Americans be content with being lied to about what we’re trying to accomplish? How long will our military be content stuck in a middle of a shooting gallery, with no credible goal or exit in sight?On this score, across the ages, Sun Tzu has advice for George Bush: He writes that he has known military campaigns that were clumsy but swift … but never a military campaign that was skilled and protracted.Skilled or clumsy, George Bush’s Iraq policy is already out of time, America out of options and the American people out of patience with him and the sycophants in Congress who rolled over to allow this misbegotten war to be started.
Dan Vukelich is an independent producer and journalist in Albuquerque. The opinions expressed are solely those of the author.