Two years after the invasion of Iraq, after the loss of 1,300 US soldiers, there is growing insurgency in Iraq and hardly a day goes by without new reports of killings. The Iraqi dead have not been counted, but is estimated to be in the region of 100,000, mainly civilians. Elections brought no legitimacy to a government that can only survive thanks to military occupation, and have certainly brought no peace or reconstruction.
Not reconstruction, but chaos
Iraq remains rich in crude oil, but production of oil shows no sign of reaching the pre-war levels of 2.5m barrels a day, let alone the peak of 3.5m in 1979. Oil production is taking second place to the fighting. Much of the country has an unstable electricity supply and large areas have regular problems with water supply. With the UN estimating $36bn needed for reconstruction by 2007, $32bn has been promised, but only $5.5bn disbursed, and much of that spent on security, not reconstruction.
Meanwhile the violence has escalated through April and May, with both the US operations near the Syrian border and the activity of dozens of ‘insurgent’ groups, sometimes fighting the US coalition, sometimes each other, and sometimes targeting civilians. If the occupation of the country is almost universally unpopular, it has certainly not united the country against it. The ‘Iraqi resistance’ is itself a factor of chaos and division. The ‘Islamic’ Sunni gangs have more and more been attacking Shiite Muslims, raising the spectre of bloody sectarian conflict.
What we see in Iraq is the clearest example of the tendency of states in the region to break up into a civil war between bourgeois factions. “The epicentre is Iraq, whose shock waves are spreading in all directions: constant terrorist attacks in Saudi Arabia, which are only the tip of the iceberg in a hidden struggle for power; open war between Israel and Palestine; warlordism in Afghanistan; the destabilisation of the Russian Caucasus; terrorist attacks and armed conflict in Pakistan; bomb attacks in Turkey; a critical situation in Iran and Syria” (IR 119). Far from being able to contain this destabilisation, the great powers are only exacerbating it, particularly with the new threats against Syria and Iran.
If each new conflict only causes more instability, why do they do it? Each power has to defend its imperialist interests against its rivals. The USA, the world’s only remaining superpower with massive military dominance, needs to assert itself against all potential rivals. To do so it has employed the strategy of making massive displays of force for the last 15 years, starting with the first Gulf War in 1991. But if these demonstrations of military power may initially make its rivals hesitate, they later return with renewed determination. So the first Gulf war was soon followed by Germany’s encouragement of Croatian secession from Yugoslavia, pushing forward its interest in gaining access to the Mediterranean. This set in motion a whole series of interventions by all the major powers, each defending its interests regardless of the disintegration of the region into war.
In the Middle East the USA wants complete domination of this region for two strategic reasons. Since this is a major oil-producing region, it can use it to control the supply of oil to any potential rivals in Europe or Japan. It is also part of the process of encircling Europe and Russia. These military adventures are the only way the US can defend its interests, regardless of the destabilisation, regardless of the destructive effect on Iraqi oil production, regardless of the fact that in Iraq the US “is confronted with a ‘black hole’ which not only threatens to swallow up a large proportion of its troops, but also threatens its authority and prestige” (IR 119).
Because of their military inferiority to the USA, the other great powers can often only fight a rearguard resistance, using calls for ‘international law’, ‘co-operation’ and the UN. Such was the policy of France and Germany in relation to the Iraq War, since it was not in their interests. Such is the policy of France, Germany and Britain in relation to the new threats against Iran, since they all want to defend their interests there.
For all the claims that this is a war against terror, the military offensive of the world’s greatest power, and the resistance of its rivals, can never contain the spread of chaos. On the contrary, they are the major agents in extending it across the planet. Imperialist war is not a rational choice that governments can be dissuaded from. As Rosa Luxemburg said “Imperialism is not the creation of any one or of any group of states. It is the product of a particular stage of ripeness in the world development of capital, an innately international condition, an indivisible whole, that is recognisable only in all its relations and from which no nation can hold aloof at will” (Junius pamphlet, 1915).