Power Flows from the Barrel of a GunMore depressing news about Iraq is running in today’s LA Times. The new government lacks support, and the role of the United States and its relative control over the nation remains unclear. Still I think the piece hints at, but never makes clear the real contradiction.
I think one quote in particular captures the problem, but accidentally:
One official said that although the Iraqis were "the ultimate determinants of their own destiny … we have 140,000 troops here, and they are getting shot at."
This official is trying to capture the contradiction between the U.S. putting pressure on the new government, while still attempting to preserve Iraqi autonomy. The U.S. has a vested interest in protecting its troops and so cannot be neutral. Consequently “red lines” are drawn, and the U.S. hesitantly plays a role in post-war reconstruction.
This is important, but there is another problem. How can the power that effectively controls violence in the region not be perceived as the real government?
As another official put it:
"There are many people in Iraq who want us to take ownership of some of these problems," he said. "We can't do it."
That problem is precisely that “we” can do it. We have 140,000 armed soldiers there. We can dictate terms if we so desire.
So how--with actual physical control of Iraq--can we not be perceived as the real government, or the real power responsible for the nation? I personally do not know the answer to this question, and am concerned that collectively neither do “we.”