Iraq & Tibet – Strategic Will of The American and Chinese People

Editor’s Note: This week, the Television and Print Media in America has written numerous articles on Iraq. This has prompted us to write our views on this critical global issue. We think readers will find our non-partisan perspectives on Iraq to be different from what is found in print media such as the New York Times, Washington Post etc or on Television.


According to Wikipedia, the general history of Tibet begins with the rule of Songstan Gampo (604–50 CE) who united and ruled Tibet as a kingdom. For the next 1200 years or so, Tibet remained an independent or an autonomous kingdom.

At the turn of the 20th century, England became worried that Russia might extend its influence in to Tibet. To protect its interests, the English sent an expedition in to Tibet in 1904. Tibet remained an independent entity ruled by the Dalai Lama but the British-led Indian Army guarded the borders of Tibet with China and Central Asia.

In 1947, British left India. Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India, was celebrated all over the world as “Shanti-Doot” or the messenger of Peace.  He unilaterally pulled the Indian Army out of Tibet declaring that his India was not an imperialist or a colonial power. His own cabinet, led by Mr. Vallabh-Bhai Patel, the Home Minister, tried to persuade him to not pull out from Tibet. Nehru had little or no geo-strategic vision, something he proved again and again in his 17 year tenure. Nehru cherished his reputation above all and he was deaf to all arguments based on India’s long term geo-strategic interests.

In 1950-1951, the Chinese Army virtually walked in to Tibet. The Dalai Lama escaped the Chinese Army and took shelter in India, where he still maintains  and leads the Tibetan Government in Exile.

Why is Tibet so critical to China?
Look at the map below.

Not only is Tibet is the roof of the world, but it provides natural access to critical world areas such as:

  • Afghanistan, Central Asia and then north towards Kazakhstan and Russia,

  • Pakistan in the South-West and through Pakistan to the Persian Gulf,

  • Myanmar and the Indian Ocean in the South-East,

  • Nepal and the soft underbelly of North India in the South.

The Persian Gulf is the world’s greatest prize today. Through out its 5000-year history, China never had land access to the Persian Gulf. Today, it does because of Tibet. China has plans to build a railway from Tibet across Pakistan all the way to the huge naval base that China is building at Gwadar, the port in Pakistan that sits near the entrance of the Persian Gulf.

China has now occupied Tibet for almost 60 years. During this period, China has ruthlessly put down several revolts by the Tibetan people without any consideration for human rights. The most recent of these was earlier in 2008. Mr. Hu Jintao, the current President of China, was put on the fast track after a successful and brutal tenure as the Communist Party’s Chief in Tibet. Mr. Hu Jintao knows first hand the enormous importance of Tibet to China and he will do whatever it takes to keep control of Tibet.

The Chinese people have given unanimous and unquestioning support for the occupation of Tibet. This support was demonstrated to the world in early 2008 when Chinese people protested the International outrage about the violent crushing of protests by Tibetan Buddhist monks. Faced with a boycott of their multinationals by the Chinese people, European Governments such as Germany and France capitulated.

This is the clearest demonstration of the strategic will of the Chinese people and their government. No country or government in the world has dared to oppose it.


           (Tibet in yellow – red lines are our annotations)                   (Iraq – red lines are our annotations)


According to Wikipedia, Iraq has been the center of the Akkadian, Assyrian, Babylonian, and Abbasid empires, and part of the Achaemenid, Macedonian, Parthian, Sassanid, Umayyad, Mongol, Ottoman and British empires.

After World War I, the league of Nations gave Iraq to England as its mandate. English rule or supremacy over Iraq lasted until 1947. The United States and the coalition of its allies invaded Iraq in 2003 and removed the regime of Saddam Hussein. With its occupation of Iraq, the United States became the supreme geo-strategic  power in the Middle East.

Why is Iraq so critical to the United States?
Look at the map above.

Not only is Iraq the epicenter of the Middle East, Iraq provides access to critical regions such as:

  • Iran in the East, the newly emerging military power in the region,

  • Saudi Arabia to the South, the ultimate prize in the Middle East,

  • Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Abu Dhabi and Dubai, small but incredibly wealthy growing economies,

  • Syria, and Jordan towards Israel,

  • Turkey and

  • All the oilfields in the Middle East which are within quick military reach of Iraq.
No other country in the Middle East has such geographical reach. Perhaps, this is why through out history, no power became dominant in the Middle East without control of Iraq.

With its control of Iraq, America is that power today. Today, nothing of consequence can occur in the Middle East without America’s consent. The Iraq Surge masterminded by General Petraeus has stabilized Iraq. General Petraeus succeeded because he was able to persuade every major community in Iraq that their best interests were served by the American Presence in Iraq. President Bush’s determination to stay in Iraq despite virulent opposition was also critical in convincing the various Iraqi communities that America was in Iraq to stay. Iraqis adjusted as they have adjusted through their history.

Historically, countries and societies have benefited from extended American military presence. Look at West Germany and South Korea. Iraq could easily become a similar success story as well. From the American point of view, the long presence in Germany was a huge advantage in the cold war against the Soviet Union and the long presence in Korea was equally advantageous in ensuring peace and US strategic dominance in Asia.

We believe that a long American military presence in Iraq is absolutely critical to American Interests and for the Global Economy. This presence and its pressure will eventually create change in Iran, accelerate the current positive trends in the UAE, Kuwait and might even influence Saudi society. If we are wrong and it does not, then the military presence in Iraq will prove to be even more critical.

Strategic Will of Today’s America

That the invasion and occupation of Tibet was in the best interests of China was sufficient reason for the Chinese Government and the Chinese people. 

Unfortunately, this clarity was not deemed adequate for the American people in 2003. The Bush Government made strenuous attempts to create plausible and morally supportable reasons to invade Iraq such as the threat of weapons of mass destruction or the liberation of the Iraqi people from a inhumanly ruthless dictator. This exercise created an ambiguity of purpose that pervades the Iraq debate to this day.

The reality is that, the reasons for going in to Iraq and whether invasion was right or wrong are neither relevant nor important any more. America is in Iraq today and the only question is whether America should stay or leave in the near future.

The Chinese people and the Chinese Government know that if China leaves Tibet, it will never be able to get back in.

The American people need to understand that if America leaves Iraq, it will never be able to get back in Iraq or anywhere in the Middle East. Nature and Geo-politics abhor a vacuum. When Nehru left Tibet, he left a vacuum. China filled the vacuum in a couple of years and India now faces the terrible consequences of Nehru’s action. If America leaves Iraq, some other country or a group of countries will fill that vacuum with irreparable damage to America’s long term interests.

The Chinese people have demonstrated their strategic will to remain in Tibet for the duration. The previous generation of Americans demonstrated their strategic will to remain in Germany and Korea for the duration. Will today’s America demonstrate its strategic will to remain in Iraq for the duration? Or will it be content like today’s Europe to shrink in stature and importance in a gradual manner?

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