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How to Run an Empire

Via Kevin Drum, I see that “A group of American advisers led by a small State Department team played an integral part in drawing up contracts between the Iraqi government and five major Western oil companies to develop some of the largest fields in Iraq, American officials say.” There’s more to the war than this kind of thing, but it’s naive to deny that this kind of thing plays a large role in providing the impetus for a continued American involvement.

But more important, it’s crucial to recall that this sort of thing renders the US military presence in Iraq a destabilizing force in that country. Our troops aren’t merely a destabilizing force, it’s clear that in many respects they’re providing order — especially local order. But at the same time the fact of American occupation generates a structure cause of disorder that saps the Iraqi government of illegitimacy and given our poor relations with Iraq’s key neighbors turns the country into a field for proxy battles.

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