Wednesday, October 26, 2005

STUCK IN A FANTASY, STUCK IN IRAQ

IRAQ ISN'T VIETNAM, IT MAY BE WORSE

A CENTERPOINT

This weekend saw the passing of an entirely arbitrary "milestone" for America's military involvement in Iraq: The 2,000th combat death.

The anti-war factions dominated by the left, always eager to embrace the symbolic, have chosen this "event" to remind the American public of that which they know all too well: The invasion, originally "sold" as necessary intervention to enforce treaty stipulations concerning verified destruction of weapons of mass destruction, has turned into an expensive occupation: Expensive in money and in lives.

Predictably, the pro-war faction, already smarting from revelation after revelation, has reacted with ferocity aimed more at the messenger than the message.

An example of the tired old message comes from the Seattle P-I http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/opinion/245872_2000edalt.asp Beginning with '60's "wisdom" courtesy of Country Joe & the Fish, the P-I then trots out all the I told you so's.

An example of the pro-war response can be read at http://www.sagebrusher.com/archives/12-Stuck-on-Vietnam.html

At this point the debate, reduced to raw emotion, shows little prospect of convincing anyone of anything. In the meantime, precious little thought seems to be devoted to learning the lessons the situations present.

Learning: The process by which experience brings about relatively permanent changes in behavior.

What has been learned?

What has been taught?

Lesson one: Leaders will mis-lead. For maybe the thousandth time in man's history, facts have been manipulated to convince a people to do the most terrible thing man ever does: Wage a war.

Certainly perspective demands that GWB didn't invent this sort of rabble-rousing. There is a lot of evidence, for example, that FDR knew the Pearl Harbor attack was coming and did nothing. The main difference between then and now is then the kind of domestic opposition we see today was unthinkable.

So maybe that's progress, maybe not.

Lesson two: "Clandestine intelligence" is an oxymoron. To a lot of us, common sense insisted that after Gulf I and ten years of existing in a technological straightjacket the chances of Iraq holding significant stockpiles of WMD's were pretty slim. In retrospect, it seems obvious the President and his team had access to all kinds of often conflicting information and chose among it that which supported their case.

The anti-war faction interprets this as an effort to achieve a predetermined goal while maintaining thereby a plausible argument that unexpected outcomes are errors not falsehoods. The President's supporters accept him at his word.

Both sides demand the same impossibility: Proof. Those who insist finding no WMD's settles the issue need to recall there are other, more grisly possibilities:

What if the weapons existed and were removed to ??? Syria? Russia? The black market?

Which leads to lesson three: War seldom goes according to plan and often leads to unexpected outcomes. The pro-war faction expected to be out by now... Instead we are forced to accept the role of occupier.

No army in history has been successful as an occupier. Liberator, yes. Occupier, no. Eventually it always fails.

Finally, the Iraqi "progress." The pro-war faction insists the real milestone to be observed this weekend is the passage of the Iraqi Constitution, not the casualty roll. The anti-war faction gives this lip service, typified by the P-I: "Yes, the Iraqi constitution offers modest hope that political progress will outpace continued deterioriation of security."

Sagebrush counters, "A new constitution for a newly free people "offers modest hope"? I would hate to see what PI editorialists would have written in 1787."

But it's progress, no? 78% yes vote, right?

The Constitution failed by a supermajority in two provinces and a simple majority in a third. If this had been 1787 in America, the Constitution would have probably gone down to defeat. Only last-minute compromise in that long-ago debate saved the Union.

In Iraq, there has been no similar compromise, only a promise of a future one. As things stand, we have a popular government in the oil-rich north and south that is very unpopular in the impoverished center. Perhaps ten percent of all Iraqis believe they have no stake in the "new" Iraq. Worse, significant numbers of those people were in the old ruling class.

Which reminds us of our final lesson: A democracy cannot be imposed. If it is to work, it must be created by the people who will live in it. Iraqi democracy must be Iraqi, not made in the USA. And all must have a stake, or the result is chaos.

Prediction: If concessions aren't made to the Sunni, this vote will destroy Iraq.

So where does that leave the USA? Stuck. Irrespective of who or what brought us here, we are here, occupying a nation that in some ways is worse for it and in some ways better and whose geopolitical importance dwarf's that of Vietnam. Our government, having made all the old mistakes in new ways is now forced to defend itself at home and improvise a future in a foreign land. Deja Vu all over again.

It's not the same as Vietnam. It may be worse.

Let's hope we learn something this time.

Comments:
I would take issue with your assertion that no army has ever successfully occupied a nation. In Modern times, that is probably true, though there are constituent portions of modern China that may beg to differ. However, just taking the most obvious example of Rome, the Legions completely dominated the vast majority of the empire for up to hundreds of years. If was outside pressure, combined with a weakening of the center, to finally drove the Empire down, not internal insurrection.

As to the Constitutions, I would remind you that the US Constitution was declared Ratified when only 9 of the 13 colonies/staes had accepted it. When it went in to force in March 1789, there were still three states that had not accepted it (NC, RI, Vermont). The last, Vermont did not formally accept the constitution until 1791.

And yes, war is messy, and frequently orchestrated by people with little concept of the military in general, and warfare in specific.

And I agree with your main assertion in one respect: The war against Radical Islam (or pick your description) will go on far longer than the Vietnam conflict lasted.
 
What do you think the US Military has been doing in Germany the last 60 years? Occupying? Hardly. How about France? Occupying? Not a chance. The fact is the US has given Europe stability as they recovered from WW2 and throughout the cold war, and the same will happen in the middle east. Iraq will have a US presence for years to come, just as in Europe. That is how Democracy grew in different forms in Europe and how it will in the middle east.. Doesn't matter who's in the White House... Democrat or Republican. Lose the Bush bashing and read your history.
 
Ditto what aurelius posted. Have you ever opened a history book, moderateman?
 
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