Bush's desperate war gamble

The Bush administration's decision to send more troops to Iraq in the face of rising opposition among ruling-class politicians and pundits, and against the wishes of the overwhelming majority of the US people, represents a desperate gamble.

The framework of this new plunge into the unknown is the fact that Washington has lost the war in Iraq. All the major politicians from both parties and the main editorial writers agree that the implications of the US defeat will set back US imperialist interests in the region and the world. What they are all trying to figure out is how to minimise this political fallout.

The only alternative to Bush's was the proposal from the Iraq Study Group dominated by cronies of Bush's father. That proposal, which has been endorsed by the leaders of the Democratic Party, was to gradually pare down US combat troops by redeploying them. This would have had the advantage of giving the appearance of backing off from the war while maintaining the US presence in Iraq and the region, hoping for a way out in the future. If that didn't materialise, then there would be a drawn out process that could possibly diminish the political fallout from the defeat.

Clearly, there was no "good" way out for Washington.

No-one, including the White House, thinks that the additional troops will pull the chestnuts out of the fire and stabilise Baghdad and the Sunni militias in Anbar province. But it will keep the war in Iraq going, much like the Democrats' plan. Yet this is only one aspect of the decision to expand the war.

A key new element in Bush's speech about the troop increase was a direct threat to Syria and Iran. "These two regimes are allowing terrorists and insurgents", Bush said, "to use their territory to move in and out of Iraq. Iran is providing material support for attacks on American troops. We will disrupt the attacks on our forces. We will interrupt the flow of support from Iran and Syria. And we will seek out and destroy the networks providing advanced weaponry and training to our enemies in Iraq."

Bush's speech was followed up by the arrest by US troops of Iranian consulate personnel in Kurdistan near the Iranian border. More such raids and probably firefights are likely along the Iranian and Syrian borders. But Bush made it clear that attacks inside Iran are also on the table. "I recently ordered the deployment of an additional carrier strike group to the region. And we will work with others to prevent Iran from gaining nuclear weapons and dominating the region", Bush said. The build-up in the Persian Gulf will also include several Patriot anti-missile batteries, which will be used against any Iranian retaliation in the event of a direct attack by the US or Israel.

War secretary Robert Gates, who replaced the discredited Donald Rumsfeld, followed up Bush's speech in a statement to reporters at NATO headquarters in Brussels. "The Iranians clearly believe, that we are tied down in Iraq, that they have the initiative, that they are in a position to press us in many ways", he said. "We are simply trying to communicate that we are going to be there for a long time."

Gates was on his way to Afghanistan, where the Western imperialist powers, under the guise of NATO, are also suffering defeats in that war front. Not many critics of the war in Iraq, including in the official anti-war movement, take up this aspect of Washington's wider war.

The Democrats outdid the Republicans in their support for the US-ordered Israeli assault on Lebanon last July-August. That "small" war demonstrated US-Israeli firepower and readiness to inflict great damage, but didn't succeed in its aim of defeating the resistance in Lebanon.

No Democrats or editorial writers in the capitalist press have raised a peep about the new front in the US war — the attack on Somalia. The Ethiopian invasion of Somalia, at the not-so-concealed prodding of the US, to topple the Islamic Courts Union and attempt to install the discredited "Transitional Federal Government" has been followed up with US air strikes and US commando raids.

Washington's ostensible goal is to "root out" supposed "al Qaeda" forces. This ridiculous assertion isn't even worth refutation. The attempt to dominate Somalia is part of a larger US plan to control the whole Horn of Africa. Already the US has a base in Djibouti.

Ethiopia cannot occupy Somalia indefinitely, or even for many months. A guerrilla war is likely to ensue in Somalia, becoming another "insurgency" facing the US and its surrogates. This may spill over into Ethiopia itself.

One thing to note in these fronts of the US war is the policy of fomenting sectarian and ethnic differences. This was the strategy of the US in Iraq from the start of the invasion. The idea is the old British doctrine of "divide and conquer". The US would like to see a wider Sunni-Shia divide in the Middle East. Washington hopes to fish in these troubled waters.

But as can be seen in Iraq, Lebanon, and increasingly in Afghanistan, starting wars leads to unintended consequences, including possibly defeats.

Widening the war, as the administration is doing, is like the gambler who, deep in the hole, rolls the dice again with the odds against him or her, in a "double or nothing" desperate bet. It is a dangerous course for the world.

What the US plans for all of us in the next years is more war. What can stop this plan is a combination of resistance in the countries attacked, together with a renewed anti-war movement in the US and elsewhere, especially in countries like Australia that have supported the US.