The "Occupation" of Iraq
The Saudi King seems to think that the US is "occupying" Iraq. The New York Times writes:
King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia told Arab leaders on Wednesday that the American occupation of Iraq is “illegal,” and he warned that unless Arab governments settle their differences, foreign powers like the United States would continue to dictate the region’s politics.Like the Democrats in Congress, I want the US out of Iraq. However, no part of our involvement in Iraq constitutes the occupation of that country in any useful sense of the word. Back in the day, Brittan, France, Belgium, Germany, and The Netherlands occupied various countries in the world, using military force to maintain control of these countries so that they could gain exclusive access to the natural resources of these countries. The US too has occupied a few countries, often liberating them from control by one foreign government and installing ourselves as the dominant force. This was true of Cuba, for instance, which we liberated from Spain. We installed a permanent military base there but do not control the politics of the country as a whole. We also have bases in other countries in the world usually either at the invitation of the government or by leasing the space from the government of both. But as far as I know, we do not have the kind of political control over any country that rises to the level of an occupation of that country.
Contrary to the Saudi King's claim, the US does not have political control over Iraq and I am not even sure how much political influence we have. Moreover, I see no evidence that the Iraqi government wants us out. If it said it did, it is difficult for me to see how Bush could not withdraw our troops.
Bush's "surge" depends for its success on the willingness and ability of the Iraqi government to continue to build up its military and police forces (and to rid them of sectarian thugs) and to join with American forces in suppressing violence in Baghdad and environs. One ofBush's major problems has been to get the Shiite-dominated government to suppress the Sadr Army. Never before has the Iraqi government done what it said it would do to share the burden of stopping the insurgents as well as squash the various militias and street gangs who are killing perfectly peaceful Iraqis. This inability of Bush to get the Iraqis to protect themselves demonstrates to me that Bush's influence over the government is quite limited. This is the real shame of Bush's war. Under Saddam, these people were safe so long as they behaved in ways Saddam wanted. Now that they are under our "protection," the citizens of Baghdad aren't safe.
It distresses me when people use terms like "occupy" as inaccurately as the King has when there are so many criticisms of Bush's Iraq policy that are true and very difficult to refute. All Bush has to do to counter this silly claim is point out that there is nothing about our presence in Iraq that is reminiscent of how Germany operated in Occupied Europe or reminiscent of the occupation of the Middle East, Africa, India, and elsewhere by European nations, nor of the Japanese occupation of Korea, the Philippines, and China. The King's claim is a distraction from the real job of demonstrating to a sufficient number of Americans that they should support the Democrats in removing Bush from Iraq. Saying that we are occupying Iraq and that the occupation is illegal is counterproductive.
There is one thing the Saudi King could do that would be useful and that would be to try to persuade Iran to join with them in attempting to persuade Iraq's Shiites and Sunnis to stop killing each other. If they accomplished that, then I think Bush would have to leave. There would be little for our military to do.