Can politics learn from history? Or is it subject to a fatal compulsion to repeat the same mistakes, despite the disastrous lessons of the past? President Bush’s new strategy for Iraq has posed anew this age-old philosophical and historical question.
Ostensibly, President Bush has embarked on a new political and military strategy for the war-torn Iraq. Bush’s new course can be summarized under three headings: more American troops, more Iraqi responsibility, and more US training for more Iraqi troops.
If you apply this new plan to Iraq alone, two things immediately catch the eye: almost all the proposals of the Baker-Hamilton report have been ignored, and the plan itself – in the face of the chaos in Iraq – is quite simplistic. In light of the failure of all previous “new strategies” for stabilizing Iraq, there is little to suggest that the newest “new strategy” will succeed any better, despite the additional 21,000 US soldiers.
What is interesting and really new in the US administration’s recently announced policy is the way it reaches beyond Iraq, to deal with Iran, Syria, and the Gulf states. Here, unexpected and genuinely new decisions have been announced: an additional US aircraft carrier group will be moved to the Persian Gulf; Patriot anti-aircraft missiles will be stationed in the Gulf states; and the additional 21,000 soldiers far exceed what the American generals had asked for to deal with Iraq. So one wonders about the purpose of this military build-up? One might almost think that Saddam was still alive and in power, so his overthrow had to be prepared all over again.