On the question of Iraq, there has probably never been so much muddled division. In light of the Bush administration’s failure either to find Weapons of Mass Destruction or to cultivate a free democratic society in the Baathist regime’s stead, everyone seems to have an opinion of what the United States should not do next. Few people have a positive solution to offer.
The conservatives do not want to cut and run — for this, as we know, sends the wrong message to the world: namely, that the United States is not as omnipotent as its chief executives let on. We all know what happened with Vietnam, thanks to the hippies. If the U.S. leaves Iraq, we can expect Charlie to reign with impunity once again. Even worse, America will have lost another war. Can’t have that.
However, the conservatives offer very little in the way of a proposal for what the U.S. should do. Young Americans are dying every day. The war is becoming less popular every second, including on the right. So the United States cannot stay in Iraq, even if it can’t withdraw.
The liberals, meanwhile, think it was a mistake to invade in the first place, especially under a Republican president and without help from the blue helmets. But now that the U.S. government is there, it can’t just up and leave — for this, as we know, sends the wrong message to the world: namely, that the United States is a reckless, hypocritical empire, and inept as well, which tramples around the world smashing countries and thoughtlessly leaving them behind without cleaning up its messes. Unconditional, immediate pullout from Iraq would give a bad impression not just of U.S. democracy, but of the general capacity of the state for central management. A government failure of this magnitude would offend the leftist ethos. So the U.S. cannot leave, even if it shouldn’t be there at all.
Put in this way, there is some consensus, actually — no one knows what to do. But neither side will admit it, so, for all intents and purposes, their feigned controversy might as well be real.
The two sides have further disagreements. They cannot concur on the right approach to Iran. The Republican machine seems to want war, at some point in the future. The Democrats, whatever positions they may take on foreign policy, want above all to win over the swing voters sitting on the fence’s middle. It’s all very confusing.
To further obfuscate matters, Iraq, now ruled by hard-line Shiite Mullahs, has recently entered into a series of friendly trade agreements and a mutual defense pact with Iran, the very government our own government considers to be a member of the Axis of Evil by virtue of its hard-line Shiite Mullah rulers. Washington has pressured Iraq to abandon its most troubling agreements with Iran, but Iraq’s promise not to let Americans use its territory as a springboard for a war against Iran appears intact. This obviously looks bad for the administration. Can the U.S. actually go to war with an Iranian government that’s so friendly with an Iraqi government that the U.S. installed after overthrowing another Iraqi government with which the U.S. had once allied itself against the Iranian government?
Perhaps making this all moot is the hard truth that everyone knows: there can be no effective war on Iran without either the draft or at least partial retreat from Iraq. There simply aren’t enough troops.
We need a solution that will take care of Iraq, Iran, and their embarrassing new affinity to each other. We need a way to continue the war on terror against Iran without stretching the military too thin or exhausting our capabilities for potential intervention elsewhere. We need to keep the new Iraqi Sharia state in check. Since we live in a democracy, we should find an answer that satisfies everyone and saves America’s face in world opinion, all the while maintaining consistency and continuity with America’s traditions in foreign policy.
I modestly suggest, then, that the United States government pull most of its troops from Iraq, deploy them into Iran, overthrow the Iranian government, and install a new one with a leader friendly to the U.S.: I humbly propose we replace the current Iranian regime with Saddam Hussein.
If you think about it, he’s the right man for the job. The U.S. government has had a long history working with him. In 1959, he was a CIA asset in an assassination plot; in 1968, the U.S. helped bring his party to victory; and, in 1979, he became president of Iraq with a nod from the U.S. and positioned himself as an anti-Soviet U.S. ally in the Cold War. Throughout the 1980s, the Pentagon and CIA armed, financed and advised his regime in a devastating war against Iran. If we trusted him then to keep the Iranian Mullahs in line, why not trust him now to tame the newly empowered Iraqi Mullahs? He was for years our secular point man and a check against his theocratic neighbors. He can do it all over again, with just a minor change of scenery.
All we have to do is free Saddam from his military prison, fortify 100,000 U.S. troops along the Iraq-Iran border, invade, starting with special forces, take out the major military and government installations with bunker busters, tactical nukes and other precision ordnance — we can call the operation "Strike and Stun" — and install Saddam as the new supreme leader and president of the Iranian government. The U.S. has picked favorites to run that country before, so it shouldn’t be too hard to do again. In fact, it will be a cakewalk. The Iranians, oppressed as they are, will be overjoyed at the sight of American troops and will welcome their liberators with flowers and candy. The invasion and rebuilding can be financed completely from Iranian oil revenues. And the Iranian nuclear weapons program will be neutralized, put under the authority of Saddam, who, as we now know, can be trusted to tell the truth about such matters.
After Saddam is firmly situated in the seat of the Iranian state, he can invite the Sunnis, now disenfranchised in Iraq, to participate in Iran’s politics. Immediately thereafter, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld should begin making regular trips to Iran, to represent the United States and offer assistance to Saddam’s new administration. He should urge Saddam to threaten an invasion of Iraq, thus keeping the extremists now ruling Iraq on their toes and their toes on the line. Should a war break out, it will settle down quickly, and neither nation will defy America or sponsor terror against us ever again, knowing that a U.S. ally sits adjacent to it, always ready to pounce for the sake of regional peace.
Predictably, the uncreative and pessimistic will deride this proposal, arguing that the U.S. is allied with the current Iraqi government, and it would be a conflict of interest to support a new Baathist Iran against it. In other words, it would be imprudent to support two sides at war with one another.
On the contrary, I would argue that it is dangerous to support only one side in a war, because then you have a chance of losing. Both sides will eternally be grateful to America for its assistance and they will keep each other from dominating the region — so long as the U.S. plays its cards right. This geopolitical strategy of splitting pairs has worked before: in fact, Reagan sent arms to Iran during its war with U.S.-ally Iraq. If the Gipper did it, why doubt its wisdom? He brought down the Soviet Union.
Only by giving Saddam the reins to Iran can we quell all our Mideast policy woes. Iran will be taken care of, safely in the hands of a long-trusted client of the Pentagon and U.S. Intelligence. Not as many Americans will be dying in Iraq, as they will mostly be relocated to Iran, where the population will greet them with roses and daffodils. The Iraqi government will no longer have unsavory ties to the Iranian government. The liberals will get their conditional peace, the conservatives their unbridled war.
American foreign policy will continue swiftly along its current trajectory, with no embarrassments, failures, or pauses. Saddam will no longer be punished for weapons violations he apparently did not commit. Operation Iraqi Freedom will not have been in vain, for it will have freed up Saddam for his important new job as head of the Iranian government. The Iraqis will remain free of Saddam, and Saddam free of them; and the Iranian people, no longer ruled by a terror state, will at last smell the sweet air of liberty. All we’d have to do is put the overthrown Ali Khamenei in charge of North Korea, and the entire Axis of Evil problem would be solved.
Anthony Gregory [send him mail] is a writer and musician who lives in Berkeley, California. He is a research analyst at the Independent Institute. See his webpage for more articles and personal information.