(Otherwise it will end like Vietnam: a painful and ignominious fate).


The world has become skeptical of strictly American solutions, here, there, and everywhere. The American people should be too.

The legitimate gripes many in the Iraqi population have with the USA will keep on feeding terrorist resistance as long as US troops are prominently all over Iraq (that is why it’s a trap to keep significant US forces in Iraq to protect US personnel in Iraq: it would create the problem it claims to solve). Another difficulty about any strictly American “solution” to the occupation, is that Iraq needs huge Foreign Direct Investment, and economic help. The US has no money for itself, and a fortiori none for Iraq.

The most crucial part of an Iraq withdrawal plan is to replace US troops by UNITED NATIONS TROOPS. This is the method that was used systematically in Africa every time France and Great Britain intervened. First they went in, then after the shock military treatment, the United Nations approved the French and/or British intervention, and the United Nations took over with its own military means (with the European presence in the background as overlord).

Organizing the same in Iraq is a necessity, and should be amenable to approval by the Iraqi government. Bringing the UN in would force the world to approve US behavior, looking forward, and would be a clean break from the present acrimony. It would also solve the military quandary of the withdrawal of elite US troops (that method of transfer to the UN has worked well in Congo, Ivory coast, Bosnia, and many other places). . . Iraq is an international problem more than ever

United Nations troops cost less than a tenth per soldier than European or US troops cost. It would be easy for the US to make many countries of Muslim background an offer about sending troops to Iraq, that they could not resist.

Senator Obama has suggested to use the United Nations and the European Union to help solve the Iraq crisis. This is the way to go. France has engaged in combat with fanatical Quranist Islam for 17 centuries, and has scored the largest victories (Toulouse, Poitiers, Narbonne; then delivering North Africa from Turkish subjugation; then enlisting vast Muslim armies to help crush fascism, and finally Nazism, etc…). French know-how should be appreciated (France has special, bicultural agents who immerse themselves inside fanatical groups for decades; the Franks sent special agents to spy on the Muslims as early as the seventh century).   

In truth, the only possible victory in Iraq for the USA at this point, is to hide in a few remote bases, with as low a profile as possible leaving United Nations troops to enjoy the limelight (ready to call residual US forces for heavy intervention if needed).

By inviting other powers inside Iraq, as stakeholders, the USA could pose as the ultimate guarantor of security in Iraq (just as France does in Ivory Coast, and in a number of other African countries).

After killing hundreds of thousands of Iraqis directly or indirectly over the last 17 years, it is not difficult to find millions of young Iraqis who hate the USA. The present US forces in Iraq are made of more than 186,000 soldiers and 202,000 mercenaries paid by the USA (Source: Defense Department). If a comparable army occupied the USA in the same proportion, it would have nearly 6 million men.

Senator McCain wants “victory” with this gigantic force. McCain celebrates the “surge”. He is happy that this gigantic force is so successful. Would Senator McCain proclaim success if six million Iraqi soldiers and fighters occupied the USA, and the population was more subdued?

In truth, it seems that a lot of the success of the quote unquote “surge” was a victorious surge of money towards the appropriate hands, just as Saddam Hussein used to do. U.S. Army General Petraeus paid Shiite fighters as if they were US mercenaries, and ordered the US army to cooperate with them. Surely one could “win” over the Taliban, with the same trick.

During the Vietnam war, US presidents were listening to American generals. It was a disaster. During the Korean war, US president Truman fired ignominiously the general who headed the US forces (the extremely famous MacArthur), and brought the United Nations in. Ultimately that war, that could have gone extremely wrong, went extremely well.

Involving the international community, and keeping purely military solutions in check is a lesson to remember in Iraq and Afghanistan. And, by the way, it’s not one or two billion dollars in civilian aid that are going to be enough to change the tide in Afghanistan. Nor a brigade or two. The Afghan poppy trade needs to be made legal to start with (the poppy trade, highest income earner in Afghanistan, is unlawful there, although it is legal in many countries, from France to Turkey, for pharmaceutical purposes; so why not Afghanistan, since it needs it more than the three trillion dollars French economy? GDP per head in Afghanistan is half of one percent of the French GDP per head). 

At this point Serbia, after much threats, accompanied by Russian howling, is calming down, although she lost Kosovo. Why? Well, military intervention by 39 united nations, including all the important ones, was crucial, but so was, afterwards, an offer Serbia could not refuse: future integration in the European Union. That will bring a much better society, economy, and foreign investment, and the Serbs know it. (Besides, the EU will be the way for Serbia to be reunited with its much beloved Kosovo). This is a good way in international politics; crush the obdurate, but then make offers that people of good will cannot refuse.

The international community needs to be brought in as a stakeholder in Iraqi peace and prosperity. In a way, since the USA has no money for itself and borrows from Japan, China, the EU, and Arab countries, to finance all things American, the international community is already supporting the US occupation of Iraq. It’s time for them to share the burden, and the fruits. No choice. Any solely Americano-American attempt at a solution would meet an ominous fate.

Patrice Ayme



Technical addenda:

1) Right now the USA is occupying Iraq under the cover of a UN mandate that expires next year. The Bush administration is trying to replace it by some sort of indefinite colonial arrangement (the Iraqi government vociferously disagrees, while knowing full well some foreign military muscle is needed). The plan suggested above is quite different. US bases in Germany are there in full agreement with the UN (for decades they were there with British, Russian and French forces). The UN was created during WWII (as a replacement for the French inspired SDN that failed because the USA stayed out of it, after co-launching it!). The basic idea of the UN is peace through force, and Iraq is ideally suited for it.

2) Another advantage of the plan above is that, when UN TROOPS are in, the US can stay in the background, flying drones, and stopping to be a major irritant, while contributing to the stability of the region (by facing theocratic Iran).

3) The sort of UN military intervention we are speaking about here has nothing to do with the pathetic, but hare brained mission of Sergio De Mello (ending in 2003 with his death and the destruction of the UN headquarters). Indeed Iraqi resistance fighters could point out that the UN then was just a cover for the USA (as per the mandate). When the full UN intervenes militarily fully, as we suggest here, it’s not a cover for the USA. On the other hand, having United Nations cover and legitimacy will allow the USA to advance its economic and cultural interest more than if it were all by itself, all naked, and accused worldwide of having its own personal agenda in Iraq. So UN troops and cover in Iraq is the best way for the US in all ways.

4) Any Americano-American withdrawal plan under sole US authority smacks of something bound to perpetual failure, hence would become its own mechanism providing an excuse for staying in Iraq indefinitely (or trying to). Or then would ultimately incite an exasperated US to lurch out of Iraq. Such a plan would not work any better than its predecessor in Vietnam.

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