It wasn’t quite a ‘cakewalk’, as a former US bureaucrat had predicted about the war in Iraq, but it wasn’t too much of a difficult job either.
In fact, the very shortness of the conflict may again raise questions about its need. Clearly, Iraq was no match for the hyperpower. Nor did it seem to have the dreaded weapons which provided the excuse for the invasion. Yet, undeniably, even the widely reviled regime did occasionally put up a stiff fight against overwhelming military odds — even after the ‘fall’ of Baghdad.
It may be sheer bravery or national pride or a realisation among the troops and the fidayeen that they have no friends in the country and so have to fight anyway. Whatever the reason for the brief (and continuing) show of resistance, the regime’s virtual capitulation suggests that it could have been brought to heel by less coercive methods routed through the UN. But now it may sound sacrilegious to say that the weapons inspectors could have been given more time and intrusive authority.
But that wouldn’t have suited the American objective based on new, post- Cold War foreign policy formations. These are that, after 9/11, the US will not wait to be attacked, but will take the attack even to a potential enemy, however weakened, as Iraq has been, through prolonged sanctions and deprivation of authority over large parts of the country.
The last 21 days in Iraq have confirmed that the regime may have been a potential enemy, but not a real and immediate threat either to the US or its neighbours. If the Americans, and the British, built it up as a genuine threat, it was clearly to justify their ‘cause’ by whatever means possible. Hence, also, the many-sided attack on the regime — about its past cruelty towards its own citizens and their continuing oppression. Much of these charges are true, of course, but whether they confer a right to invade is doubtful.
In the end, Iraq has proved to be a pathetic Third World entity — disorganised, without sustaining power and now descending into anarchy because it probably never had an adequate bureaucratic structure. So, the Americans had really taken a sledgehammer to swat a fly. But their ‘victory’ has served its primary purpose of warning other ‘rogue’ states in the region like Syria and Iran and perhaps even Saudi Arabia that Big Brother is watching.
The only flaw in this scenario, so far as the US is concerned, is that the ordinary Arabs have found a voice via their new TV channels which even a hyperpower will find difficult to ignore.