Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Follow-Up: Iraq was not Worth it.

I know we're done here, for this class etc. etc. but I just wanted to share a bit of data with everyone. After going on foreignpolicy.com almost everyday and reading their articles, I decided to subscribe to the magazine (you should do it too).

In their December issue, which is also their annual special issue, they once again comprised a list of the 100 top global thinkers of 2010. I am not going to debate the list, but they include a survey they ask 66 of the thinkers.

One of the questions was....Was the Iraq War worth it?

The answer (on pg 41, the participants listed are on pg 39):

81% No, it wasn't worth it
7% Iraq is better of today
6% History will judge
4% Probably
2% Yes, it was worth it

I think the fact that a majority 66 of the top global thinkers of 2010 say Iraq was not worth it, arguably the brightest people in the world today, communicates something about the policy leading up to and the handling of the Iraq War.

Let's do some more math. 7% of 66 =  is 4.62. So about 4 or 5 people, out of 66, said Iraq is better of today because of the worth (not necessarily that it was worth it). About 4 say history will judge. About 2 or 3 said "probably".  2% of 66 is 1.32. So 1 or 2 persons said "Yes, Iraq was worth it". Just 1 or 2 persons of 66. The majority 53.46 people of the top 2010 global thinkers agree that "No, Iraq was not worth it".

I am not trying to "toot my own horn", but c'mon, it says something when my position on the issue is in line with 53 or 54 of the world's top thinkers (which, those surveyed, come from all ideological, ethnic, religious, national, and economic backgrounds).

Not saying that the other side of the argument is wrong, but it certainly goes to show that unilateralism on such a large stage is going obsolete. Multilateralism and cooperation are here.

Happy Holidays.

Friday, December 10, 2010


So yesterday was the final class for International Politics of the Middle East; the reason why I have this blog. This class has honestly been one of the best I've taken so far in my college career. I learned new concepts and certainly have a clearer insight into how the region works than I did beforehand.

The two most important things I drew out of this course, if I had to choose, is the rentier state and the reasons how Islamist groups form in society. These two concepts are interconnected, and largely have to do with the neglect and authoritarianism of the state to its people. With so many rentier states comprised in one region, along with history, resources, and religion, the region is indeed exceptional. In my view the rentier state is a main source of the problem. The global dependency on oil fuels the rentier state. In turn the leaders often don't (or can't) respond to their people's needs; because they don't have to. Islamic grass root organizations fill this gap and win public support.

Once the rentier state problem is fixed/eliminated (look at my rentier state blog post) I think things will change in the region. However with the generation gap we are starting to see in many Middle Eastern states, that change may come sooner than expected.

I've had a great time learning in this class and I thank everyone for taking the time to read my blog. At first I didn't like blogging, but now I just need to find time to keep it up. Hopefully, I will continue posting on this blog on many different topics. Some may be partisan, some may not. I will probably stick to foreign affairs/domestic politics, but I am sure there will  a few different posts too. Thanks again for reading!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Was the Invasion of Iraq it worth it? No, it was not.

In our discussion in class today, the final question Professor Webb presented us was "was it worth it?" The class parted more toward yes, it was worth it. Myself and a few other students thought the invasion was not worth it. I tried to justify why I didn't think it was worth it, but had too many reason spinning around in my head to give a good, coherent answer. Let me preface my whole post, I support the troops, I support their safety, and I thank them for keeping us safe and giving their time for our protection.  I am not going to write a super long blog post here, but I am going to try my best to explain my reasons for why the invasion of Iraq was not worth it.

First, the invasion of Iraq was not worth it because of the way it was done. The Bush Administration had flimsy evidence that Iraq had WMDs and acted upon that evidence like it couldn't have been wrong. Colin Powell went to the U.N. and (essentially) lied. People can twist it any way they like, but the information given to him was not entirely true. One of his aides considered it the lowest point in his life. Even then, the U.N. Security Council did not approve of a resolution to invade Iraq. Some could say that the U.N. was corrupt (and still is), but the U.N. is viewed as a legitimate source  for action by a majority of the world; and that is what really counts. The Bush Administration took a handful of allies, basically said "screw you" to the U.N. and went into Iraq anyway. Now I know there are more details, facts, and other things that I am looking over, and I don't mean them to be less important. However, I am communicating that the Bush Administration use the massive amount of political power they received after 9/11 and basically shattered a careful international order past Presidents Clinton and his father created (see my previous blog post on the Gulf War, I go into this further). These flimsy claims decreased American legitimacy throughout the world. Our potential to do unilateral action when needed, with the international community accepting of it, has been almost shattered. The U.S. has begun to restore our image, but the damage has been done. I firmly believe, that in the modern world, multilateral-ism is key. Technology and the rise of the BRIC countries make the world a uni-multi polarity; the U.S. as the hedgemon, and strong regional actors. If one cannot see multilateral-ism is the function of the world as of now, they are going to have a hard time getting around. So no, Iraq was not worth it.

Another reason why Iraq was not worth it was the chaos it caused to the region. The balance of power in the region was no more balance. On one side, you have Iran gaining influence due to an Iraq no longer keeping it in check. Iraq may have not liked the west, but it certainly liked the west more than Iran. On the other hand, you have Turkey and Syria, who feared for their security due to a large American force so near. Wonder why Turkey did not let pass through in 2003? Because they were scared for their security (see pg 167, under "3."). Friends shouldn't scare other friends. The Kurds are clamoring for a new state, but no one in the region wants to give them one. Saudi Arabia has now stepped into Iraq's places as a rival to Iran, but isn't doing such a good job. The vacuum Iraq left its causing major change in the region. Aren't there enough problems already? So no, Iraq was not worth it.

 In the aftermath of the invasion, there was massive amounts of blood shed. Iraq was on the brink of a religious civil war. Our troops were giving their lives for a war which was not necessary, nor was right to execute. 4,429 Americans gave their lives. Those brave soldiers shouldn't have died in Iraq, as the war was not a necessary war. It was a choice. A choice that ballooned the deficit and cost us billions. I firmly believe that. Deterrence and containment is a powerful thing. We did the same with the Soviets, why couldn't we with Iraq? So many brave Americans shouldn't have died. So no, Iraq was not worth it.

 Some may argue that invading Iraq had benefits. It free an oppressed people, it gave more freedom of the press and other parts of civil society, and it produced a democracy. These are all true and valid points. The costs to get these benefits, however, were too high in my opinion. Too high in every aspect. It destroyed world opinion of us, made the region more unstable, and cost us lives and money. As of now, this is the situation. It could change in years to come, but the costs are facts, and those are written in history. So no, Iraq was not worth it.


Thursday, December 2, 2010

Afghanistan Panel Reflections

So I am a bit late on posting this, but I would like to also put in my two cents about the panel on Tuesday night. Overall, I thought it was very rewarding and very educational. The contrast between "state-building" and "nation-building" was very interesting, especially in the context of Afghanistan and its history. I thought "state-building" made even more sense when presented with anthropological evidence of how Afghans behaved in the past. Many people, including myself, did not know that the complexities between local and state rules, and Afghanistan's intricate foreign policy.

Now I understand that, in Afghanistan, the phrase "all politics is local" really goes home. The traditional way Afghanistan was governed was by locality and the tribal or village head, not a national figure. This would have been good for U.S. diplomats to know when helping form the new more-centralized government of Karzai. Though the west and other societies are used to a federal or semi-centralized nature of a state, that was totally opposite in Afghanistan. The Afghans have their own way of decision-making. This local concept provides a challenge to "nation-building" but not necessarily to "state-building". One can build a strong state, through infrastructure and technology, but not necessarily a strong nation. A nation is a more abstract concept. However, I do feel that the U.S. should take this into account (if they haven't already) and provide more aid locally to promote a higher quality of life in these villages. If "all politics is local", then it is smart politics to stay local.

In addition, I enjoyed the panelists discussion on the power vacuum that would be opened if/when the U.S. leaves. It was interesting to hear that India would step up and take charge. An emerging power, India has been overshadowed by China. However, this would be India's chance to make a stand in world politics, though lets see if it actually happens.

Though I enjoyed the discussion, I feel that Professor Commins should have moderated more, as a majority of the time the speakers spoke for a very long time on one question. I did enjoy hearing their thoughts, but I feel the panel could have hit on more issues as well as more time for questions.

On the questions issue, I personally feel the Clarke Forum should have allotted more time for them. Though 2 of the 3 questions were interesting I thought the 3rd one (something about troop presence) was from someone who didn't completely understand the issues (not to be mean, but really?). There were many people, including myself, which had questions and I am sure understood the situation more.

I did benefit a lot from the speakers, and now I have a more in depth view on a very complex situation.