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Facing Iraq Realities

"The Soviets and the Bush administration believed that their overwhelming military superiority would prevail over a less formidable opponent. At first, that was the case. The Soviets were able to put in place their hand-picked leader, and the United States was able to get rid of Saddam Hussein, and to its great credit, begin a democratic process in Iraq. What the Soviets did not realize and what the Bush team still does not seem to fully understand is that military might is not sufficient for imposing the kind of change they were seeking over the long term. Real and lasting change must have an indigenous root that can be cultivated from the outside but not sustained solely through foreign force." Photo courtesy AFP.
by William C. Danvers
UPI Outside View Commentator
Washington (UPI) Feb 20, 2007
There is a common thread of hubris between the involvement of the Soviet Union in Afghanistan and the United States in Iraq. If the United States does not acknowledge this fundamental point, not only in its intervention in Iraq doomed: It may well be anyway. In 1966 U.S. Sen. J. William Fulbright, D-Ark., talked about the arrogance of power with respect to the war in Vietnam.

More recently, analogies between Vietnam and U.S. involvement in Iraq are common, but a better analogy may be between Iraq and the Soviet war in Afghanistan.

Both interventions are examples of what Fulbright called "the tendency of great nations to equate power with virtue and major responsibilities with a universal mission." True there is no comparison between the United States and the Soviet Union in intent or practice. The Soviet Union collapsed because its system did not work, and its leadership was corrupt and out of touch. The United States is at the peak of its power and has a thriving democracy.

Nonetheless, there are four basic similarities with regard to Soviet actions against Afghanistan and U.S. action in Iraq. Both nations intervened because they believed it was in their national interest to do so; both nations believed they could achieve their political goals through overwhelming military force; neither understood the political and cultural terrain of the nations and people they were invading; and neither foresaw the unintended consequences of their actions.

The principle reason the Soviets went into Afghanistan was because they believed there was going to be a roll-back from a pro-Soviet government to one that was not ideologically compatible with Moscow. An ideologically incompatible Afghanistan would undermine the so-called "Brezhnev Doctrine", whereby once a nation became communist, it could not leave the Soviet orbit.

The problem with any doctrine is that it locks you into a mind set or policy that may not always be the best course of action. That was clearly the case with the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, which could be seen as the beginning of the end of the Soviet Union. Yet it was viewed by the Kremlin as being in the Soviet national interest.

U.S. military action to topple Saddam Hussein was and is seen by the Bush administration as in the national interest. A majority in the U.S. Congress and many foreign policy experts also initially viewed it that way. If there was a "Bush Doctrine" at work, it was a naive belief that establishing a democratic regime in Baghdad could serve as the linchpin for a more democratic Middle East that was ideologically sympathetic to the United States. While support for the war among most Members of Congress and the Senate has eroded, and that "doctrine" has been discredited, the Bush administration like the Kremlin leaders before last Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, have remained committed to the undertaking, despite a dramatic change in circumstances.

The Soviets and the Bush administration believed that their overwhelming military superiority would prevail over a less formidable opponent. At first, that was the case. The Soviets were able to put in place their hand-picked leader, and the United States was able to get rid of Saddam Hussein, and to its great credit, begin a democratic process in Iraq.

What the Soviets did not realize and what the Bush team still does not seem to fully understand is that military might is not sufficient for imposing the kind of change they were seeking over the long term. Real and lasting change must have an indigenous root that can be cultivated from the outside but not sustained solely through foreign force.

Next: How the United States and the Soviet Union misread Iraq and Afghanistan.

(William Danvers has worked on international issues for nearly a quarter of a century, on Capitol Hill in the House and Senate, at the State Department, at the White House National Security Council, at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. For the past five years, he has served in the private sector as a consultant.)

(United Press International's "Outside View" commentaries are written by outside contributors who specialize in a variety of important issues. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of United Press International. In the interests of creating an open forum, original submissions are invited.)

Source: United Press International

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Iraq: The first technology war of the 21st century

Iraq Is No Vietnam
Moscow (RIA Novosti) Feb 21, 2007
U.S. allies and their opponents, American Congressmen and terrorist leaders, professional politicians and ordinary people, journalists and generals are increasingly comparing the war in Iraq with Vietnam. They are all in the wrong. Iraq is not Vietnam. The situation in Iraq is much worse, and the majority of parallels with the Vietnam war do not apply.







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