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Understanding US declaratory policy (by albert on 09/09/2003)

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From our old forum (September 2003). The first part is a comment on US strategy with regard to Palestine and the second part discusses why Bush et al lied about weapons of mass destruction.



[Bill] I get the impression that the US agrees with Israeli policy that Hamas terrorists must be eliminated before Israel starts serious dismantlement of settlements

[albert] Well, the US certainly gives that impression by continual public statements from US officials demanding that the Palestinian National Authority suppress Hamas (and similar groups) while not insisting on immediate serious dismantlement of settlements.

However public statements from US officials are seldom a reliable guide to US policy ;-)

My impression is that US policy certainly does want to eliminate Palestinian terrorists, but is aware that Israel needs to provide, either first or at least simultaneously, conditions that make it possible for the Palestinian leadership to take such action without risking civil war and loss of public support.

My main reason for that assumption is not extrinsic evidence but simply the logic of the situation. What other conclusion could any rational US policy maker reach given the whole history?

It is quite consistent with having such a policy that the US would want to present its policy is being more favorable to the Zionist extremists in Israel than it actually is.

A natural assumption people make is that the US wants to present its policies in the most favourable light to the majority of people and governments in the world (who are getting thoroughly sick of Zionist aggression). But that is merely an assumption.

On closer inspection it is in the interests of US imperialism to be seen as standing by its old allies in Israel, especially when compelling them to make major concessions.

The way I see it, what Bush has done is transform the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from a war for "Greater Israel" expansion into a "war against Palestinian terrorism". That appears to be more aggressively siding with Israel by mobilizing public opinion against the Palestinians. But when you look at it more closely, it actually completely undermines the Israeli position.

No matter how self-righteously they carry on about making no concessions to terrorism it is increasingly obvious to everybody that the occupation is counter-productive and that ending it (including dismantlement of settlements) is necessary to achieve the transformed war aim of "defeating terrorism". The fact that the war was originally aimed at expanding to "Greater Israel" and that occupation and settlements are actually critical to that war aim is simply forgotton.

This is very similar to what Nixon did in Vietnam. He redefined the war aim to "peace with honor" (ie return of all US POWs) and after a year or so of chest thumping about his absolute determination to escalate the war until this objective is achieved, people more or less forgot that the original war aim had been to maintain a US puppet regime in the south. He then achieved the new war aim by simply withdrawing all US troops, which was of course completely inconsistent with achieving the old war aim that had fortunately been largely forgotton by then.

In the latest stage Sharon and his entire cabinet (including the most fanatical "Greater Israel" extremists) have been forced to adopt a declaratory policy of establishing a Palestinian State (and dismantling some settlements).

They have of course continued to follow their old policy of obstruction, delay and provocation, but even paying lip service to the new declaratory policy completely undermines the whole idelogical basis for their war effort in much the same way that Nixon made the Vietnam war completely pointless with a goal of just getting the POWs returned.

Even token removal of some minor outposts has symbolically broken a fundamental taboo in Israel where basic state policy for nearly 4 decades under both "Labor" and "Likud" governments has been to expand settlements and never retreat. It makes serious dismantlement something "thinkable" where previously it was "unthinkable".

Once the Zionists internalize a policy of "defeating terrorism" instead of a policy of "Greater Israel", the settlements inevitably come to be seen as merely an obstacle to achieving that (new) goal. That is already the view of a majority of Israelis and will soon be a consensus.

Now there will be some more bloodshed while the Israeli government once again demonstrates to the complete satisifaction of its most hard line supporters as well as the rest of the world, the utter futility of continuing the occupation.

A US and international consensus is emerging that the US has to take the initiative to stop the bloodshed.

I cannot predict how many more crises there will be, but the whole logic of the situation points to the necessity for introducing an international force to "separate the 2 sides" (and supervise the orderly removal of the settlers).

If the US is not deliberately setting the scene for people to recognize and accept that necessity (already accepted by practically everybody except hardcore "Greater Israel" Zionists) then they would have to be doing it accidentally, since that is the inevitable result of US policy.

It is such an obvious result of US policy that I cannot believe it is accidental.

[Bill] Bush didn't follow "never take a policy step until it is obviously unavoidable" when it came to the actual invasion of Iraq so I'm not convinced that he is doing that when it comes to implementing the road map

[albert] Even if the US did not follow that policy concerning Iraq, that is not a strong argument concerning what it is doing about the road map. There just isn't much point committing the US to a road map unless something like what I am saying is what they have in mind. This is confirmed by the usual "analysis" of US policy on Israel and Palestine which simply describes it as completely irrational (ie confesses that the "analyst" hasn't got a clue what the rationale is). It isn't as though anyone has been able to put forward a more plausible rational explanation for US policy.

However I also think the Bush administration has been following a policy of "never taking a policy step until it has obviously become unavoidable" in Iraq as well.

That is less obvious because the US has in fact invaded and occupied Iraq at a time when most of the world thought that doing so was not merely avoidable but outrageous.

Nevertheless, look closely at the "policy steps" involved.

Today the Arab League has just accepted the US appointed "Governing Council" as the interim representatives of Iraq and the US Congress has just been asked for another 87 billion dollars. There is a developing consensus that the UN should take over responsibility for the occupation of Iraq and ensure both a full transition of sovereignty to the Governing Council and the reconstruction of Iraq as a modern democratic society. This is widely seen as "unavoidable" given the current realities.

The US Congress knows it will have to cough up the 87 billion and that failing to achieve a modern, democratic Iraq would now be a major national disaster for the US, having committed itself to doing so. The "opposition" knows it will have to continue the current policy and is merely sniping at "poor planning". Interestingly the opposition is pretending that the budget blow out reflects lack of foresight and realistic costing rather than the deliberate deception and witholding of critical information that was actually involved. Presumably they don't want to admit how easily they were conned (or how necessary it was to con them).

A couple of years ago there was a consensus that maintaining Saddam Hussein's Sunni/Baathist/military/tribal regime in power was "unavoidable".

How did we get from there to here?

Certainly not by any straightforward honest explanation of US policy, let alone of how much it would cost and how long it would take!

Even now, the US has still not admitted that the reason it now favors democracy and progress in the middle east is because of the total bankruptcy of its previous policy of supporting tyranny and reaction - a policy which included sponsoring Al Quaeda and directly resulted in 9-11.

Instead the Bush administration first won congressional authorization for military action as "unavoidable" in order to pressure the UN Security Council to threaten Iraq with "serious consequences" as the only means to avoid a war with Iraq.

That declaratory policy of "avoiding" war over WMDs by a firm stand (especially stressed by the British government) was put forward at a time when a decision had already been taken to occupy Iraq in order to achieve the sort of social revolution now in progress there as a way to modernize and democratize the whole middle east. A total focus on WMDs was achieved in the public debate to avoid the US foreign policy establishment debating the real issues about the costs of the actual war intended.

Then the Security Council responded to that pressure by making the required threats. This was "unavoidable" since otherwise the US would have proceeded in a way that discredited the UN while inspections still held out the possibility of avoiding war.

Then it became "unavoidable" to deploy an invasion force in order to compel the Iraqi regime to comply with inspections. Actually this was as much a case of "just do it" without having to convince anybody.

I'm still not clear on what happened then but I still think the US must have hoped the UN Security Council would see it as being "unavoidable" to authorize the use of force as it was really stupid to involve the UN at all if that was not the expected outcome. Anyway, it wasn't seen as "unavoidable" by the UN and that was a major setback for the US. Something went wrong and they blew it.

Nevertheless, (and US opponents on the Security Council understood this perfectly well) it was now "unavoidable" that the US would have to act without UN authority since otherwise it would have suffered a catastrophic defeat (and the Iraqi regime would have won).

The US foreign policy establishment is still opposed to the new strategy and still prefers the "traditional" alliance with Arab and Israeli reaction. Nevertheless it was outmaneuvered and really does have no choice but to go along now. At no stage were they able to debate the major commitments that were being made (and now they have to just cough up the next installment of 87 billion dollars while grumbling about it but unable to reverse course or avoid future installments).

This has a lot of similarities with the way Lincoln mobilized the union for war against slavery despite strong opposition from Congress and the Supreme Court.

Another precedent is FDR's maneuvering to get the US into the second world war despite overwhelming popular support for isolationism.

The tactics of the pro-slavery forces and the isolationists are also rather similar to the tactics of the "anti-war" forces today. There is certainly no resemblance to the tactics of the Vietnam solidarity movement.

Created by keza
Last modified 2005-01-19 06:40 AM

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