This week's syndicated column is the first in a series on the impact of the Iraq "surge" strategy:
The main reason the "surge" in Afghanistan is on is because the conventional wisdom tells us the "surge" in Iraq "worked."
The problem is, the Iraq surge did not work. Yes, the U.S. military perfectly executed its share of the strategy -- the restoration of some semblance of calm to blood-gushing Mesopotamian society -- but that was only Step One. The end-goal of the surge strategy, Step Two was always out of U.S. control -- a fundamental flaw. Step Two was up to the Iraqis: namely, to take the opportunity afforded by U.S.-provided security (Step One) to bring about both "national reconciliation" and, as the powers-that-were further promised, the emergence of a U.S. ally in the so-called war on terror.
Step One worked. Step Two didn't. The surge, like an uncaught touchdown pass, was incomplete. The United States is now walking off the battlefield with virtually nothing to show for its blood, treasure, time and effort. In fact, another "success" like that could kill us.
Take the state of post-surge U.S.-Iraq investment lately in the news. Remember "blood for oil," the anti-war mantra of the Left? "Blood not for oil" is more like it. Not only did Paul Wolfowitz's prediction that Iraq would pay for its own reconstruction with oil revenue never come true; not only did the United States never get to fill up one crummy Humvee for free; but when Iraq staged one of the biggest oil auctions in history last week, U.S. companies left empty-handed. Russia, China and Europe came out the big winners.
"Strange," said industry experts, which is one word for it. What's also shocking is Iraq's apparent willingness to denigrate the United States by showing favoritism to hostile nations (that sacrificed nothing in Iraq's war), and disregard for American interests in the war's (supposed) aftermath.
Such benefactor-abuse fits a pattern of what you might call Iraqi de-Americanization. At the big Baghdad Trade Fair in November, for example, the United States was "not much evident among the 32 nations represented," the New York Times noted. In fact, of the 396 companies represented, only two or three were American -- "but I can't remember their names," the fair company director said. As the newspaper summed up: "America's war in Iraq has been good for business in Iraq -- but not necessarily for American business."
Leading the field is United Arab Emirates with investments in Iraq amounting to $31 billion, mostly from the last year, "compared to only about $400 million from American companies when United States government reconstruction spending is excluded."
U.S. government reconstruction spending, of course, equals taxpayer dollars. Beyond our incredible largesse -- which (not including the astronomical cost of the war itself) comes to $53 billion, much of which is headed down the drain as Iraqis show little capacity to maintain U.S.-provided public works projects -- one market analyst told the Times, "U.S. private investors have become negligible players in Iraq." Meanwhile, Turkey, the nation that prevented U.S. troops from transiting through during the initial invasion, has become a major commercial player in Iraq. Likewise Iran, the nuke-seeking, genocide-promising nation that fomented much of the war, particularly the IED war, on U.S. forces in Iraq.
The sour experience of FedEx is revealing. This fall, the shipping company announced it was suspending operations to Iraq. "The reason is that Iraqi officials gave RusAir, a Russian airline, exclusive rights to cargo flight," the Times reports. "FedEx was one of the very few American businesses that braved the risks of working not only on American bases but also in the Red Zone, back when it was particularly dangerous to do so. Now that the danger is much less, its business is being thwarted by an upstart Russian come-lately."
Emphasis on "Russian." And, with the oil auction, emphasis on "Chinese." "We all know that China is on track to become a major economic as well as technological power," an Iraqi oil ministry spokesman told the Washington Post.
And the United States? More like an old shoe now than anything else. Which reminds me: After that Iraqi "journalist" threw his shoes at then-President Bush, The Scotsman newspaper reported that the Istanbul-based shoe manufacturer received orders from around the world, including an incredible 120,000 orders from Iraq.
What's that old Middle Eastern saying -- The shoe of my enemy's enemy is my shoe?