Friday, June 18, 2004

Close observers of the situation in Iraq have known for a long time that the June 30 sovereignty handover date, while it may look like a milestone in history, won't necessarily mark an historic and decisive break with the past. But simple people who think they live in simple times believe otherwise: Hey, only 12 days until June 30, the bright new day on which everything that is good about America will suddenly burst into flower in the desert.

Christ, I can barely type such nonsense.

TomDispatch has a great post on what Iraqi sovereignty is actually going to look like. Hint: not much like "sovereignty" looks in places where it really means something. The bulk of the post is devoted to an article by SUNY-Stony Brook professor Michael Schwartz, who demonstrates how much control the United States intends to maintain. Ultimately, he says, the Iraqi prime minister (currently Iyed Allawi, eventually somebody else after Allawi gets blown up by a car bomb) will be as much a figurehead as Hamid Karzai is in Afghanistan, where the real power is wielded by U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad. So even though Paul Bremer is hanging up his proconsul sword and buckler, John Negroponte will be putting a set of his own.

Khalilzad is a figure with connections deep into the oil industry. Syndicated columnist Ted Rall has insisted that Khalilzad's easy movement between the American government, the American oil industry, and oil-producing countries in Central Asia indicates that control of those oil supplies is an ultimate goal of Bush's entire Middle East project. Rall claims that the bombing of Afghanistan was done not so much to punish the Taliban for 9/11 as it was to clear the way for an oil pipeline deal that was postponed after the Clinton administration placed sanctions on the Taliban in 1998.

One of Rall's early columns about Khalilzad is here; a more recent one is here. Not everybody buys Rall's analysis--Spinsanity took it apart in this 2002 post. But regardless of who's involved, how deep, and why, it's clear that Central Asia's oil is something that gets everyone's attention. This week, leaders of Russia, China, and the former Soviet republics of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan met in Tashkent to "address regional concerns," including energy and security. At the moment, the U.S. has bases in some of the former Soviet republics, but we (and Vladmir Putin, for that matter) insist that they're temporary. (Temporary like the war on terror is temporary?) Afghan president Karzai attended the meeting as an observer, and you can bet that if the United States didn't want him there, he wouldn't have gone. So at the moment, everything's nice and friendly between them and us. But it's easy to imagine, as years pass, things getting a little more fractious. Clearly, Russia and China will have something to say about America's long-term plans in the region. And so we may end up in a familiar position at some future time: thinking of Russia and China as adversaries, and more formidable ones than the Afghans or Iraqis.

With everything that's gone on in the world in the last three years, the Chinese have been very, very quiet since the spy plane fiasco in 2001. Maybe the way you get to have a civilization that lasts for thousands of years is to resist the temptation to meddle, sit quietly, and wait for events to unfold until you have exactly the combination of circumstances that makes action the most useful course to you.

Recommended Reading: Conservative moral clarity: the most flexible substance on Earth.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?