Iraq: Mission in their Madness

This presentation (Iraq- Mission in Their Madness) was given at Lancaster University on 14 February 2007. Please be patient, the large file might take a few minutes to download.

Postscript 1: The discussion that followed the presentation was both intelligent and constructive. For those who did not attend the event, I wished to respond here to some of the comments made.

First, the basic contention of the presentation was questioned. It was felt that the intensifying turmoil we now see in Iraq (which has been going on from 2003 to the present) could possibly be caused by mistakes, incompetence, pressure of work, or the sheer scale of the undertaking involved in occupying and then managing a country of some 26 million people. There is no definitive answer to this point. It is at the end of the day a matter of opinion. The presentation contends that it is too much to accept that it is all down to human error and incompetence.

The other point made was the absence in the presentation of one unifying ‘narrative’ that sums up my hypothesis. A reasonable point, but the difficulty in selecting such a narrative is the diversity of interest groups (globalising lobby, major corporations involving oil, construction, defence, etc., influential individuals out to acquire wealth or achieve other aims, and regional and local groups including Israel, Iran, Islamic factions, the Kurds, etc.). These groups have aims that do not necessarily align perfectly. In some cases they might in fact be contradictory. The only unifying narrative is that the interests of these actors happened to coincide in causing turmoil and instability to weaken Iraq for a variety of reasons. Which is what the presentation seeks to describe.

Partly in relation to the above point, concern was expressed that the presentation is not anchored in one of the traditional political economic schools of thought; liberalism (or now neoliberalism), Marxism or realism. Here again, I was in some difficulty to give a positive answer. A questioner asked whether I was speaking from a Marxist perspective. Well, yes in part: in as much as the presentation indicates that one of the leading interest groups involved relates to corporations that are large enough and powerful enough not only to usurp the role of the state (USA mainly) but to use the military power of the state to promote their commercial interests. Furthermore, these corporations go well beyond the state; they are essentially global. They are not primarily concerned about American, or British national interests. All this was anticipated by Marx. And Lenin took that further to say that corporations and banks will have to move out and conquer other lands to keep up their profits. Hence to that extent the presentation has shades of Marxist theory in it. However, the globalising lobby mentioned in the presentation reflects a new political economic school of thought ‘Globalisation’. (see F. Pearson and Payaslian, S. (1999: 33) International Political Economy, McGraw-Hill College) To complicate matters further, Israel, Iran and to some extent the USA and Britain are seeking to promote their state interests in a typical realist fashion that does not easily fall within the Marxist school or globalisation as such. Add to that the Islamic angle which is now treated by some as a political school of thought in its own right (see Pearson and Payaslian) and you will appreciate my difficulty in grounding the presentation firmly into a recognised theoretical foundation.

Postscript 2: Since writing the above I have had a few comments that deserve mention. One suggestion was made that I should have mentioned complex systems in my address. This is (as readers will note from this website) a favourite topic of mine. The commentator made a reasonable point that the theme of the presentation would have benefited if I had made the point that the interactions between the diverse interest groups would have led inevitably to instability and unpredictable results. I think this is a valid point of view, but it would have reduced the impact of the contention I sought to make that the turmoil suited many of the groups involved in Iraq. It was not, in my opinion at least, an unintentional by-product. Moreover, I thought if I mentioned complex systems then I would have to incorporate Condoleezza Rice’s concept of the virtues of “creative chaos” in describing what is going in Iraq and her assertion that this would yield many future benefits. This is a vast topic on which there has been much debate and I simply did not have the space to give it the attention it deserves.

I was most pleased with and grateful for the comments made and I am willing to add more to this page if I were to receive further viewpoints; positive and negative.