The new Christopher Hitchens column hits the spot
Our boy, this week, choses to take a somber look at a detriorating middle-east conflict that the US is engaged in a country it occupies. The situation is bad and possibly deteriorating. In spite of open elections with wide participation, and in spite of the promulgation of a federal-type constitution that controversially privileges Islam, attacks are on the increase and the number of American soldiers already killed in 2005 is almost double the number for last year. Suicide bombers, often recruited from beyond the borders but also generated internally, demonstrate increasing ruthlessness and sophistication. Kidnapping and hostage-taking suggest an overlap between jihadism and organized crime. Warlordism and sectarianism remain toxic. No obvious end is in sight. The situation in Afghanistan, in other words, is giving rise to mounting concern. And then he wonders: well, why don't people call for US troop withdrawel there as much as they are doing in Iraq? Well, the easy answer is because Iraq is different and that no one in the middle-east really cares about Afghanistan. But why is Iraq different? Well... The real difference is this, if one is permitted to mention such a coarse thing as interest: Iraq is enormously more important, geopolitically, than Afghanistan. It sits beside one of the choke-point sea lanes of the global economy, and it occupies a keystone position between the Wahhabist theocracy of Saudi Arabia and the Shiite theocracy of Iran. One may despair of the stupidity of the Bush administration's "drug war" in Afghanistan ("just hold still while we liberate you and burn your only crop and make sure that all profits go to gangsters"), but it is a bagatelle when compared to the gigantic stakes of Iraqi oil. If anything like a federal and democratic Iraq emerged and was able to recuperate its ravaged and corrupted oil fields, it could undercut the Saudi and Iranian duopoly as well as provide a modern standard of living to a people immiserated by three decades of war and fascism. This would be a prize of historic proportions. Iran and Saudi can't want that. So what are they going to do about it? Well.. However that may be, both wings of the "insurgency" spend a lot of time trying to blow up the infrastructure of the Iraqi oil industry, and they have succeeded in diverting enormous resources away from reconstruction and toward simple protection of the pipelines and refineries. Kinda gives the whole undergorund "We are doing it for Allah and Islam" Saudi and Iranian support to the "insurgency" an iffy smell, don't you think? Hmm... Read Hitchens once a week kids. He is good for you!