Friday, November 23, 2007

The Mess They Made: The Middle East After Iraq, by Gwynne Dyer

Gwynne Dyer is a bit of a wit and an ironist. This is a strange comment to make when reviewing a book about the Iraq war and the failure of American foreign policy. Yet it’s true. Reading Dyer’s refreshing analysis is like having a bucket of cold water thrown on an overheated subject. Dyer calls a spade a spade, and doesn’t try to sugar coat uncomfortable realities. Refreshingly he doesn’t romanticise or demonise Muslims, or launch into diatribes against American power.

Some may find what he has to say callous or shocking. Yet I felt what he says is the unvarnished truth. When Dyer asks rhetorically what we should do about Iraq, his simple answer is do nothing and ‘sit back and enjoy the ride.’

The American adventure in Iraq has failed, and the political will is simply not there to see it through to its end. With the support of the American people sliding dramatically away, it’s impossible for America to stay and implement…what? A democracy that is anti-American?

To Australian supporters of the war, what do we do to ‘win’ the war? Send more troops? Spend more money? How much more effort are we willing to put in? The answer is none. If Kevin Rudd is elected this Saturday and holds to his pledge, we'll be out of Iraq by 2008.

Dyer says that when America leaves Iraq there will be massive changes, and all the murder and mayhem that war brings, but he maintains that this is better than the US staying.

America is defeated. It is only a matter of time before they leave. Better sooner than later.

Dyer laments the passing of American power and prestige. He admits the US has done a lot of good this century, but feels that its days as a major power are numbered. After Iraq, not only is it dangerous, it also incompetent.

This is an absorbing and fascinating read by a realist who never loses his sense of humour, and keeps tugging the debate back from the hubris that both sides are prone to.

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