Although my brother marched past the Cenotaph today (I texted him about it this morning, using the word 'walking' and he pinged back: 'MARCHING'), I managed to miss the remembrance silence. To my shame I was cleaning a toilet, and listening to Ira Glass interview Nicholas Lemann of the New Yorker magazine. It is a recording from 2002, and discusses the motivation for war in the weeks before G.W. Bush and Tony Blair announced they would go ahead and invade Iraq. Lemann's arguments are fully unpacked here, but as a taster, below, is a transcript excerpt of his interview with Glass, in which he paints a fools' future: the West, by invading, will 'remake the Middle East'.
And as the Hawks had hoped for, it is in November 2014, thoroughly remade.
People in the administration are fond of quoting Bernard Lewis, the eminent historian, who has been down and briefed people at the White House and so on. And they will quote him saying, Arab culture, in particular, respects strength and shows of force. It's a warrior culture. So if you invade a country like Iraq and win, rather than that inflaming the Middle East, it will quiet the Middle East, because people will respect you more.
[Aside] This, in a way, was the most surprising scenario I heard from anyone, Lemann's summary of how the Hawks imagine all of this could work in the end.
Well, I think this is the scenario. First thing that happens is, we would set up some kind of permanent or semi-permanent military base or presence in Iraq. We could get rid of the Prince Sultan Air Force Base in Saudi Arabia and make Iraq the United States' military base of operations. It's a nice central location in the Middle East. Second of all, having a friendly government there and having a steady supply of oil from the Iraqi oil fields would make us much less dependent on Saudi oil. And that's a good thing, because then you get more leverage with the Saudis.
So here's some of the ways it would play out, according to the Hawks. First of all, the government of Iran would fall to some of these kind of student protest groups or other reform groups.
Because the student groups would see, oh, look, there's been change in Iraq. We want a more secular society, more modern society.
Yes. And they'd be getting heavy encouragement and funding from the United States. Syria is another country where the Hawks very clearly want to see the government fall, and believe that it may well fall in the wake of a successful US invasion of Iraq.
Then, I think, what they'd like to have happen is the two really big countries in the Middle East that are our friends, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, we could go to them and have very serious and soulful conversations with the governments, in which we say, we want a little better behavior out of you guys. We want you to really crack down on the Islamists. We don't want any more movies of protocols of the Elders of Zion on Egyptian television. We want you to move toward allowing opposition parties, including secular parties. Just kind of put the lid on the tide of Islamist extremism in your country. And if you don't, expect there to be negative consequences that will be short of military invasion, but painful to you from us, the United States.
I think we are going to war. And I don't think it's not about weapons of mass destruction and the idea that Saddam might acquire nuclear weapons. And I don't think it's irrelevant that he's a brutal, totalitarian dictator who has murdered his own people. But I really think the primary goal here is to try to use this as an opening into a remaking of the Middle East.