Operation Iraqi Freedom: Just another chapter
Posted: Wednesday, June 18, 2003
By Matthew Riemer
Prior to attacking Iraq, the Bush administration was warned by everyone from CIA Director George Tenet to stereotypical anti-war demonstrators that any such invasion would lead to an increase in terrorist acts against the U.S. and its interests. In short, such invasion would not lead to a more secure America. It was also noted countless times that the war would also not help the U.S.' "image" in the Middle East and, more generally, in the rest of the world, and would only lead to further unwanted friction in future diplomatic efforts.
The recent concentration of suicide bombings stretching from northwest Africa to Chechnya is being pointed to as an indication that Director Tenet and the anti-war folk were indeed correct in their analysis. And while this is true in a broad sense, in another sense the bombings are more unconnected to the war in Iraq than one might at first naturally assume.
Washington's most recent military action in Iraq must be put in the context of other U.S. military and foreign policy endeavors and their effects before its impact can be discerned. Most importantly, it must be realized that the latest war is simply another act of aggression carried out by the United States against the Arab and Muslim worlds. Unfortunately, contempt for the U.S. has a long and rich history -- it wasn't born with the attack of several weeks ago.
If the United States had not attacked Iraq, it can only be assumed that these suicide bombings would have still taken place. Surely, abstaining from force on the United States' part alone would not have led to a cessation of terrorist acts. The events in Israel and Chechnya are, in a very literal sense, unconnected to the war and are fueled by their own conflicts, not by Iraq; even the bombings in Casablanca, Morocco and Riyadh were likely planned before the fighting in Iraq and would have occurred in any case. The attack in Riyadh stands especially well on its own because al-Qaeda and other organizations like it have long desired regime change in Saudi Arabia; this incident should be seen as targeting the Saudi monarchy as much as the more ambiguous "Western interests."
Because of this, analyses that focus on more simplistic and immediate cause and effect models and tit for tat themes will only be so revealing. The situation is best seen as comprised of two independent, self-contained streams -- U.S. foreign policy and terrorism -- that have developed over the last few decades.
Terrorism emerged and then burgeoned because of conditions found within the social and political environment throughout much of the globe during the twentieth century. As the conditions have remained, and in many cases worsened, terrorism has evolved not only as a method of resistance and reprisal but almost as a cultural tradition (though certainly one not embraced by the majority). Now, generations have fought against the Russians, Israelis, Americans, or Indonesians. Thus, because of terrorism's stature within certain ideologies and political systems, it cannot simply be eliminated or even "routed out" -- it's now an engrained way of life. And as long as there are those who wish to impose their will on others violently, there will be those who resist with "terrorism."
Terrorism will continue, much in the same way violence has since the dawn of time. The wish to eliminate terrorism permanently and completely is no less practical or idealistic than to eliminate violence in general. This is one of the streams.
U.S. foreign policy (especially with regard to, say, Eurasia since WWII) is another stream in the convoluted world of geopolitics. This, too, like terrorism, is something which has grown and been molded by decades of significant events and players (environment). It's doubtful, if indeed impossible, for a phenomenon like this to take too sharp of a u-turn or too radical of a refocus. So the war in Iraq, though unprecedented in many ways, is but another event in the wake of decades of others, which has now laid additional seeds for a new generation of terrorists.
The greatest significance of "Operation Iraqi Freedom," then, is its influence on those who will be young men and women in five, ten, or fifteen years -- as mentioned, today's bombings were already set in place by decades of war. The latest conflict is just another example of why terrorism exists and, now, why it will continue to do so.
Moreover, if the past two years are any indication, the United States not only shows no sign of changing its foreign policy of invasiveness in the Middle East and Eurasia but actually accelerating such a policy.
Politicians like to talk about peace, stability, or democracy like they are simple puzzles that can be solved with a single action or solution. But a societal, governmental, and cultural transition impeded by decades of influence is a process that must become a state of mind and an attitude. It must permeate everything that all participants do. No matter how morally superior the Bush administration felt in its insistence upon war, the effects certainly contribute to a stream of activity that acts as an incubator for unrest and terrorism in the Middle East, all but guaranteeing the existence of terrorism in another decade's time.
The attacks in Riyadh and Casablanca should be seen as a reaction to and result of decades of invasive U.S. policy in the region, of which "Operation Iraqi Freedom" is simply the most recent example. To define the attacks as an almost knee-jerk reaction to the latest war is to lessen their significance as a form of political expression -- however crude -- and representative of genuine social issues, which attempt to comment on matters that go far beyond Washington's treatment of Iraq over the last few months. Only after years, or possibly even decades, of a radical shift in foreign policy will what the U.S. defines as "terror" ever be defeated.
[Matthew Riemer has written for years about a myriad of topics, such as: philosophy, religion, psychology, culture, and politics. He studied Russian language and culture for five years and traveled in the former Soviet Union in 1990. In the midst of a larger autobiographical/cultural work, Matthew is the Director of Operations at YellowTimes.org. He lives in the United States.]
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