Mike Indian, writing exclusively for Political Promise, on the (second) withdrawal of US troops in Iraq.
The United States has declared (for the second time) the end of combat operations in Iraq. After seven years, four thousand US military casualties, a hundred thousand civilians dead and a cost of three quarters of a trillion dollars, President Obama has been all too keen to draw a line under his most ungodly inheritance. However, before the blood soaked headlines fade into back page obscurity, one final thought should be given to the question that still rings in our ears. Why?
This was a question that was endlessly dissected during my university career, by lecturers and student colleagues alike. Throughout my second year, I was left with the distinction impression that a streak of anti-American sentiment was as popular as highlights in the hair. As I have written elsewhere, any resentment my generation feels towards America is understandable. The foreign policy pursued during the Bush years was deeply unpopular in Britain and only served to compound resentment to both President and people.
Nevertheless, there is a point where any dislike transcends the realms of logic entirely and becomes a purely emotive response. I am not positing that the process of emotion should be subordinate to logic or vice-versa. On the other hand, it is all too easy to develop an irrational hatred of a phenomena, person or entity based on an initially rational reason for dislike.
The most extreme and disdainful example of this I encountered in the case of the United States, was in a former lecturer of mine. His anti-American sentiment stuck out with little to bear it at times other than bitterly dark resentment. As a man of learning, I felt he moved out of his way to politicise his students against the United States. Whilst, his arguments bore the facade of academic reasoning and evidence, the overall presentation fell against a backdrop of deep antipathy.
His voice was one of a competing choir whose base point seemed to be tarring an entire nation with imperialist ambitions for the new age. For many, the war in Iraq is held up as proof of this element, an example largely viewed apart from the wider currents of history. The onset of the TWOT, the resurgence of an aggressive rightwing ideology and the ever present word of “oil” are among some of the factors held up as causes. Yet, for me, the roots in the causes of Iraq run past Ronald Reagan and the Eighties. They are deeper than any idea of American Exceptionalism or neo-conservatism.
Looking back to the nineteenth century, Simon Schama outlines the great hope for plenty for the American people held by President Andrew Jackson and epitomised in his push for his people to expand West in order to better their republic. The same hope and optimism for plenty has survived down the years, through Reagan brushing aside Jimmy Carter’s bleak forecasts on domestic prosperity. In the ideological roots of many on the American right is the optimistic belief of plentiful resources benefitting their nation and their people. When people speak of greed for oil fuelling the Iraq War, they are in actual fact referring to a greater historical constant, than simply one resource.
Current anti-American sentiment driven by the prominence the Iraq War is in danger of clouding the reality of the situation. Far from being seen in isolation and as something with which a line can be drawn under by the withdrawal of troops, it is part of a much larger undercurrent running through American history. Beneath the veil of ideology and vengeance, for the US the Iraq War was the latest attempt to preserve the buoyant glut of the most consumption driven nation on Earth in an era of tightening resources.
Far from being over, this type of conflict maybe all too common in our future.