The Middle East
If Africa was the birthplace of Man, then the Middle East is his cradle. But like Africa, the Middle East is a region destabilized by feckless foreign rule and bitter cultural conflicts. The three great “Religions of the Book”-Judaism, Christianity, and Islam- have all laid claim to the Holy Land at one point or another; though each religion admonishes its followers not to commit murder, men have slain one another for control of this territory since before the invention of the written word.
In March, 2003, the United States invaded Iraq, citing noncompliance with United Nations Security Council inspections and a possible threat of nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons. The initial invasion was wildly successful, and US troops seized control of Baghdad in fewer than three weeks. Six months later Saddam Hussein, the former President of Iraq, was dragged from hiding, dirty and broken. Optimistic voices predicted a swift end to the occupation; unfortunately, over the next few years, the situation is nowhere near its end.
Now Iraq Borders on civil war, held back only by a large US troop presence. Violence against the Multi-National Force continues to increase, and insurgents and rebels use fourth-generation warfare to their advantage. The country has held a spotlight on the world for years, and it seems every nation, religion, ethnic group, and paramilitary organization in the region has a distinct agenda. Many Iraqis resent the presence of armed foreigners, even if they are glad to be rid of Saddam Hussein; religious fundamentalists want to use the war-torn country as a recruitment and training ground for armed partisans; some want merely to see the US fail in the eyes of the world; and the US troops mostly want to finish the job and go home.
Today, Iraq is a hodgepodge of warring factions, a malign melting pot in which any random stranger might have a reason to kill you. Like many other countries in this part of the world, “Iraq” did not exist as a national entity until the 20th century; the British and French drew arbitrary lines and force mutually hostile tribes and religious sects to coexist. Iraqi attacks on other Iraqis claim more lives than Iraqi attacks on Coalition forces; perceiving the central government to be unwilling or unable to prevent the internecine fighting, the various Iraqi tribes and sects are now forming militias to defend themselves and murder each other. And with weapons flowing in across the borders-probably from political enemies of the US-the situation looks grim.
Worse, the new government has failed to establish the necessary infrastructure and strength to maintain control of the nation. Potable water is scarce. Electricity is unreliable. Regional tribes refuse to submit to the Iraqi National Assembly, and the Assembly lacks the power to compel them. Education is an impossible luxury. Health care is nonexistent. A dozen fractious parties wrestle for control of the Council of Representatives, and it seems unlikely the Republic of Iraq would stand for a single year without MNF troops to enforce peace and unity.
The only apparent options for the US and the Multi-National Force are to “stay the course”(bad), or to withdraw and leave the country to collapse into a bloody civil war (ditto). Without a miracle, life will be very hard in Iraq for a very long time.