A well-known American foreign policy analyst told the audience of the Cayman Business Outlook last week that the United States military will most likely withdraw from Iraq without accomplishing its goals.
Michael Mandelbaum, a professor of American foreign policy and the author of several books, said the situation in Iraq had become a civil war between the Shiite Muslims and the Sunni Muslims. He said such situations are resolved in one of three ways: one side wins; there is a hard partition similar to Cyprus or Bosnia; or a third party subdues the warring parties.
‘America is pursing the third option,’ said Mr. Mandelbaum. ‘They’re trying to take on and pacify insurgents from both sides, the Sunni and Shiite.
‘It’s an effort in which the American government is not likely to succeed.’
Mr. Mandelbaum said the United States lacked the resources, or at least the resources it was willing to commit, to accomplish its goals in Iraq. He also said the U.S. did not have the domestic public support to use the requisite brutality to get the job done.
‘My guess is the United States will withdraw its troops within the next few years,’ he said.
Mr. Mandelbaum said the American public was already seeing Iraq as similar to Vietnam.
‘America has come to its limit with Iraq,’ he said. ‘It wants to cut its losses, just like it did in Vietnam.’
Despite those sentiments, Mr. Mandelbaum said he doubted the Democrat-controlled Congress would try to end the war right away by cutting its funding.
President George W. Bush, however, will likely have his hands full from his own party when it comes to the war, Mr. Mandelbaum said.
‘Republicans are increasingly worried about the war,’ he said. ‘They’re afraid it will affect the elections, and with good reason.
‘Prominent Republicans are already opposing President Bush’s [Iraq] policy, and more will follow.’
Mr. Mandelbaum said the impact of an American military withdrawal from Iraq is not entirely predictable, but he said it was likely that Iraq would become even more turbulent in the wake of such a withdrawal.
A failure in Iraq could also have significant repercussions for the future of the United States and the rest of the world, as it could bring about America reluctance to get involved in other place, Mr. Mandelbaum said.
Developing nuclear threats from countries like Iran and North Korea are situations that the United States might not want to get as involved in.
Mr. Mandelbaum said the best hope of a peaceful solution to the situations in Iran and North Korea are comprehensive economic sanctions. But he noted that such sanctions require the co-operation of other countries, something which has not been forthcoming.
The lack of cooperation in acting as the world’s de facto government in keeping order the world, especially when it comes to footing the bill for such exercises, could help bring about a change in U.S. foreign policy.
The most serious threat to the status quo comes from within the United States itself, Mr. Mandelbaum said.
‘Americans are tired of paying and are no longer willing to play the role of the world’s government.’
The aging of the Baby Boomer generation will increase government spending for Social Security payments and on Medicare payments.
‘The bill will be astronomical,’ said Mr. Mandelbaum.
The increased costs will compel the United States to make adjustments to its foreign policy initiatives, and giving up troop deployments on foreign soil – one of the most expensive aspects of American foreign policy – would help the country meet its domestic needs, Mr. Mandelbaum said.
‘The major challenge to America’s global role will be internal.’