A frequent reader, Ed Beauford – who styles himself as an analyst with a Norfolk-based think-tank, the Joseph A. Mahon Center for Strategic Studies, about which I have been unable to divine much – has sent me a provocative email with a modest proposal for solving the Iraq problem. I’m not sure what to make of it, so I’ll let you be the judge:
The experience of the American and British governments in Iraq over the past three years has unfortunately definitively demonstrated two principles of modern geopolitical organization. These principles can be described as follows:
- Pluralistic, multicultural democratic institutions of government are inherently incapable of reproducing themselves within other sovereign lands. They are like mules – crossbred, figurally disproportionate, and ultimately sterile.
- Pluralistic, multicultural democratic governments are inherently incapable of achieving lasting revolutionary change through conventional warfare. For every dollar spent on warfare, such institutions will spend two hours on the moral and ethical implications of that dollar. Moreover, such institutions are fundamentally different from the regimes of history’s great conquerors. When Genghis Khan rolled through most of Asia in the 13th century, he occupied and dominated his conquests, with no thought of handing over the keys to the vanquished. Within democratic circles where dissenting voices have the power to influence policy, “occupation” is a nasty word, and “domination” is unthinkable — except through puppet institutions that are ultimately toothless because they are restricted by democratic principles imposed on them by the democratic institutions that have created them. Such limitations show the folly of warfare conducted by democratic nations in the 21st century.
Where governments take aggressive action and ultimately fail, the result is typically described as “chaos.” The analogy adopted by the Iraq Study Group in its recently released report is that the situation in Iraq is “grave and deteriorating.” The facts that underlie such assessments are that individuals in Iraq, banding together and taking aggressive action under the auspices of tribal factions, have filled the power vacuums created by the failure of governmental action.
The unspoken conclusion of almost every partisan voice in the American landscape — whether they support increased troops, a reduction of troop levels combined with diplomatic maneuvers, or a complete pullout of Coalition forces — is that tribal activity in Iraq is currently more powerful than the military activity by governments in the region. The seductive principle one may fashion from all of the foregoing is that tribal activity is inherently more influential than governmental activity, and is therefore the most influential force that can be imagined within the Iraqi situation.
Experience elsewhere throughout the last century, however, supports a different conclusion. When government fails, tribal activity certainly does follow to fill the power vacuum in almost every instance. However, corporate activity — defined here as the activity of multinational corporations whose primary purpose is the achievement of higher profits — has shown itself to be the most powerful force in human affairs in the 20th and 21st centuries, subduing and marshalling tribal behavior through the utterly irresistable effects of its marketing and, in effect, forcing governments “to go along to get along” with its aims. Corporations thrive within the alleged “chaos” of the marketplace.
The U.S. government is spending approximately $6 billion per month on the Iraq situation. Such figures are not unfamiliar to oil companies such as ExxonMobil, which spend billions of dollars per year on exploration projects. The Central Intelligence Agency estimates that there are 112,500,000,000 BBL of proved oil reserves in Iraq. That makes Iraq the fourth most oil-rich nation in the world, behind Saudi Arabia, Canada and Iran. Iraqi oil, combined with the “chaos” of tribal activity, provides a unique opportunity for a forward-thinking multinational corporation to rise to the occasion.
It is time for a multinational corporation (an “MC”) to stage a coup inside Iraq, wresting control of the situation from both the ineffectual coalition of U.S., UK and “Iraqi nationalists,” as well as from the factional leaders of the Sunnis, the Shiites and the Kurds.
For a cost comparable to that of the U.S. effort in Iraq, an MC can hire a force of 600,000 trained mercenaries, and arm them and protect them better that the U.S. has proven itself capable of doing, without the necessity of hacking through a partisan political debate over the reinstitution of a draft. It can use this force to secure the borders of Iraq, cutting off all supply lines to the insurgents and pointing big guns at Iraq’s neighbors – Syria, Iran, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Jordan. Attempts to breach the sovereignty of an MC-controlled Iraq may be met with a swift corporate military response. At the same time, corporate money can be applied in ways to prevent interference – by giving Iran, for example, a favored partner for its own oil development plans. Once the borders are secured, an MC can use its hiring and firing capabilities to bring a measure of prosperity to warring factions, as well as holding up the prospect that there is something to lose by continued in-fighting.
Force and ruthlessness are the MC’s greatest tools, however. An MC can go into the Iraq situation with the express objective of conquest, at the cost of death, in an effort to control oil reserves. This means that waging war on factional leaders – in effect, taking them out – will not be restricted by the moral and ethical considerations that hamper democratic governments.
The real solution in Iraq will never come from the “Iraqis.” Without the strength of an autocrat such as Saddam Hussein, there is no Iraqi nation-state – there are merely tribes of angry neighbors, elbowing each other endlessly. An MC can act as an autocrat within the region, without subjecting itself to the paralyzing wrath of the international diplomatic community.