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Why the Pentagon Failed

An interesting interview with a foreign perspective.

Why the Pentagon Failed
Sara Daniel Interviews Pierre-Jean Luizard
Le Nouvel Observateur

Thursday 20 March 2008

March 20, 2003, the war began.... Five years after the outset of the Iraq war, the country is still prey to chaos. Even the 30,000 additional men in 2007 have not sufficed to put an end to it.

Sara Daniel interviews CNRS sociology of religions researcher and Iraq specialist Pierre-Jean Luizard, author of "Laccitas autoritaires en terres d'islam" ["Authoritarian Secularism in Islamic Countries"] (Fayard, 2008) and "La Question irakienne" [The Iraqi Question] (Fayard, 2004).

Le Nouvel Observateur: What do you see as the results of the American occupation of Iraq?

Pierre-Jean Luizard: Five years after the American intervention, there is still no Iraqi state. Reconstruction of institutions under the occupation regime has proved a failure. That means the triumph of private interests - communitarian interests first of all, then, to an ever greater extent, local ones. All Iraqi political actors, without exception, have been caught up in an infernal mechanism that ends up emptying their actions and their speech of any political meaning. With no state to protect them, the Iraqis have, in fact, reverted to the lowest common denominator: the tribe, the clan, the neighborhood. It's a vicious circle: the foreign occupation bars any stabilization of a state and the absence of a state prevents consideration of an end to the occupation.

LNO: It seems that the agreements the American Army has made with yesterday's enemies, with the Sunni guerilla, to fight against al-Qaeda have resulted in a decrease in violence. What do you think of this American strategy? Is it the end of al-Qaeda in Iraq?

Luizard: Al-Qaeda never planned to take power in Baghdad. The international jihadists' sole objective is to trap the Americans on the banks of the Tigris and the Euphrates by perpetuating chaos as long as possible. In their eyes, Iraq is a choice battlefield against the Americans for stakes that far exceed the Iraq framework. Now the present situation offers them infinite possibilities for maintaining chaos. Up until now, al-Qaeda was curbed by its posture as defender of the Sunni community in Iraq. Today, the Americans have freed them from that "mission." In desperation, the Americans armed and financed their enemies of yesterday, with the immediate result of dividing the Sunni into a thousand rival allegiances, for the nature of any tribal policy is that it cannot satisfy everyone. When you make an alliance with one tribe, when you pay them, you alienate another. For every fire you put out, you fan ten others. Al-Qaeda prospers in this hotbed of rivalries, enjoying an inexhaustible pool of kamikazes who now act - not in the name of the Sunni - but in application of the lex talionis after a husband, brother or son is killed by the new American-armed militia. The consequence is that the Americans have precipitated the atomization of the Sunni community, the ranks of which are now as divided as the Shia.

LNO: So Bush's decision to send an additional 30,000 men to Iraq, "the surge," is a bogus success?

Luizard: In despair over the Iraqi situation in 2007, the Americans played their last card with "the surge." They bet enormous resources on "the surge." But the reversion to tribalism in Iraq cannot serve them the same way it served the British during the years 1920-1930. The Americans cannot continue to give 300 euros a month - almost twice a teacher's salary - to every militia auxiliary whom they arm. The temporary reduction in violence is due solely to this windfall. Wouldn't it have been better to have had a relatively homogeneous enemy to negotiate with on a political basis than these thousand allegiances that fight one another, mortgaging any political solution?

LNO: Is the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq that the Democratic candidates for president call for a realistic perspective?

Luizard: Today in Iraq, there can only be a pretence of withdrawal. Look at what's happening in Basra, where thousands of people demonstrated to demand that the British return to the center city! They can't leave their homes any more without risking death.... So we'll witness a bogus withdrawal, just as the surge was a bogus victory intended for the consumption of American public opinion. The Americans are betting heavily on private security companies. These mercenaries who come from all over the world are called to play a growing role in this conflict, with the dangers and unintended consequences we've already seen. But this privatization has its limits. Without the massive presence of a foreign army, it's the whole laboriously constructed system that risks collapse.


Iraqi Oil: A Planetary Sword of Damocles
By Pierre Veya
Le Temps

Thursday 20 March 2008

Without Iraq's black gold, the world rushes to its ruin.

The whole planet was able to live without Iraqi oil. Iraq possesses the second- or third-largest (depending on the source) reserves of black gold in the world, or the equivalent of half the deposits claimed by Saudi Arabia. Up until now, the country has remained an oil dwarf. Iraq has never been able to promote or develop its treasure. Consequently, from 1945 to 1975, Iraqi production went from being one percent of global production to four percent; in the same period, Saudi production went from one to 13 percent. In 2008, Iraq recovered its pre-intervention production of 2.4 million barrels per day, a level close to its historic industrial capacity.

In a market in which supply has trouble keeping up with demand, the interruptions and dips in the production of Iraqi crude have certainly played a role in the crude oil price surge, but they've never endangered the world's energy balance.

The Trump Card

That could change, and fast. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), China's and India's very strong increased demand for oil will be at its peak ten to fifteen years from now, or exactly at the time when production from non-OPEC countries will begin to decline. "If production in Iraq does not increase exponentially between now and 2015, we have a very big problem," Fatih Birol, economic studies director for the IEA, declared in an interview with Le Monde. No other producer country is in a position to increase its crude production "exponentially" - let alone crude of such good quality and low extraction cost - within such a brief period. Like a curse, Iraq undoubtedly holds the key to the famous Peak Oil that the optimists expect at mid-century, but which could occur earlier and provoke an unprecedented energy crisis. Avoiding it will become the obsession of the next decade. Scenting the contracts of the century, oil companies of every size are swarming by the dozens to Baghdad to land deals.

The Ideal Versus Reality

In an ideal environment, Iraq would be capable of supplying five percent of the world's global oil production between now and 2010-2015. And before the war, experts even advanced the idea that in 2020 the country could produce as much oil as Saudi Arabia. Those projections seem unrealistic, since the war and the lack of security have ruined the country's oil infrastructure. And, most importantly, the country still has no legal framework. The oil law, which determines conditions for exploitation and distribution of the windfall, is blocked. The Kurds, who have retaken possession of the great oil center of Kirkuk, have signed contracts with several oil companies - contracts the central government considers illegal. To complicate the situation, the Sunni community, which controlled the oil and gas fields under Saddam Hussein, is the only community to find itself without any oil-rich territory. The scenario of a civil war for the conquest of gas and oil that so haunted Winston Churchill's nights returns again and always as the nightmare it is.

Re: Why the Pentagon Failed

We could be a long way towards weaning ourselves of foriegn oil by 2015-20; but of course we won't do it. Alternative sources of energy, are becoming more attractive. With incentive and investments they could become far more efficient than they now are. It is a matter of improving technologies, and technology costs money to develop. Wind and solar energy plants have improved greatly since they were first discussed, and ridiculed, in the 1960s. In some small scale operations they have even proved practical. There is no reason the technology can't be improved to a point where it can supply the needs of large population areas.
The Europeans have had some successes with "tidal energy." Iceland runs on geo-thermal power. (What to you think powers the geysers, and hot springs at yellowstone?)