The Iraq Study Group and the White House don’t agree on what to do in Iraq and more generally in the Middle East, according to the news. Realpolitik vs fantasy? Both to my mind are fantasies, except that the one couched in careful terms by the bi-partisan commission led by Baker and Hamilton is designed to rescue the US from the terrible mess created by Cheney / Rumsfeld / Bush / neocons and give the US a fighting chance to continue to have an important role in the Middle East for a while longer. But the basic choices are the same, just less overtly missionary: maximise the financial and political position of the US, and therefore its military options, so as to neutralize possible competitors. After all, the members of this sedate Iraq Study Group were certainly in favor of whacking Iran in the eighties and making war to Iraq in 1991 to defend Koweit, to maintain an important “principle” of international law. This “principle” was little more than the continuation of imperial European and now American policies dating back in this case to the nineteen twenties.
What is most disconcerting in all of this is that little or no thought is given to the human catastrophe that is the Iraqis’ daily. One hears about our victims, but little about “theirs.” What is at stake is: control of the Persian Gulf and Indian Ocean, “democratic” access to oil and other wealth through modern means (stock exchanges and property structures), and therefore influence over neighboring countries (all of them!). When will human beings be at the center of our foreign policy? When it is not foreign, that is: when out of the realization of our own weakness and fragility we are able to recognize ourselves in any weak and fragile victim at the side of the road (I’m thinking of the Good Samaritan story of Luke 10.25–37). That takes some deterritorialization, accepting to see ourselves as foreign not only to others but to ourselves.