Sunday, September 02, 2007

America, America...

Sadly, of course, Tim Cross and Mike Jackson are right, American policy in Iraq consisted of nothing more than knocking over Saddam and then sitting back and watching democracy bloom. The wretched Wolfowitz even said the invasion would halve the price of oil. We don't do nation building, said Rumsfeld, so they gave him the job of nation building and put the hapless Paul Bremer in charge. And, now, the man being wheeled out to refute the generals is John Bolton, the Krusty the Klown of global diplomacy. Bolton's sole argument is that America has the military power to do what she likes and he laughs from under his comedy moustache when anybody suggests there may be more to it than that. For those of us who love America and who remain convinced she is the best world boss available, these are dismal days.


  1. Yes. And they are chopping Gloria H, and the god slot. Oh, and BTW, good stuff. Thank God it's Sept'.

  2. Of all the criticisms of the war and its aftermath, I find the complaint that there was no proper postwar planning to be the most unpersuasive, and I suspect in many cases it is a crutch for those who were opposed to the war ab initio but don't like to face up to defending leaving Saddam in power. Let's imagine for a moment there had been a plan--a spanking brand-new detailed plan put together by the best and the brightest who knew all there is to be known about Iraq, something perhaps entitled "Nation-Building in Iraq--Problem or Opportunity?". Would not such a plan have by necessity completely objectified and assumed, minimalized or even excluded the views and actions of every Iraqi from the most bloodthirsty Islamist to the dreamiest liberal democrat? Would not any diversion from the plan in the face of the unforseen have led to interminable bureaucratic/political struggles, with the plan itself becoming the Holy Grail in place of liberal democracy, freedom or even order? And darkest of all, would it not have given the French a renewed sense of national mission--to undermine and defeat it?

    There were any number of plans for postwar Germany, both before and after the war ended. None of them were even remotely adhered to for more than very short times. They were kyboshed by the actions of the Russians, but also by the fundamental truth that a planned society or planned nation-building and democracy are at bottom incompatible. You can plan a war, but not the peace unless you are attracted to Stalin's and Mao's models or at least are willing to impose martial law.

    Isn't that real problem here--that the Americans are valiant and ferocious liberators but indifferent, idealistic, impatient and confused conquerors?

  3. I forget who the German general was who said: 'No plan of battle ever survives contact with the enemy' but it seems to accord with Peter Burnet's wise view. The trouble is that the media are focusing, as Al Qaeda intended them to do, on its pathetic attempt to copy the Tet offensive (ie a media win, but a military defeat)notably through its (otherwise inconsequential) blowing up of 400 Yazidi, to distract from the reality of the US operations Phantom Strike, Lightning Hammer, and Marne Husky, which have interdicted their capacity to blow Baghdad to pieces so as to discredit the 'surge'. The fact that they could only blow up the Yazidi is a symptom of the disarray they are in as US/coalition/Iraqi forces push them into the desert where they are easily destroyed. The interim news from the surge is quietly encouraging. In addition to Kurds and Shiites, most Sunnis have concluded that all Al Qaeda has in store for them is more murder and chaos. Something has indeed gone horribly wrong in Iraq. Perhaps the former Chief of Staff Eric Shinseki was right when the said they should have pinned the place down with 500,000 men on Day 1. Perhaps there was too much reliance on a supposedly more efficient private sector to rebuild the infrastructure? Or did military paperwork impede decisions to, say, ship 10,000 diesel powered generators- instead of one lot of forms, apparently there were 80 to be completed fro each generator. So no power in many areas still. I sincerely hope someone is learning future lessons from this. Including speeding up the next generation of conscience-equipped robot warriors, so that we have zero casualties on our side, and no capacity for anger and fury, but the least lethal option the robots can calculate......apparently US artillery systems already have fail safe systems that calculate collateral damage and stop gun batteries from firing....Perhaps they can be programmed too to speak Arabic. S-A-L-A-A-M A-L-E-I-K-U-M they'll beep. Then we won't have to hear Bumptious Bolton droning on.

  4. Susan B., AmericanaSeptember 02, 2007 1:48 pm

    We don't understand centuries' old ethnic hatreds and I think that's the root of the problem. We had our own huge ethnic hatred here -- disenfranchised blacks, from slaves to former slaves -- but we made laws to try to stop the injustice. It's still there in a subtler form, of course -- more blacks here live in poverty, or are incarcerated, or die young (and often violently). But there is an effort to redress this and there are numerous examples of people who rise above their past and become role models.

    Barack Obama could not be the presidential contender he is were this not so.

    But I remember before we invaded Iraq reading a long and thoughtful article in The New Yorker (I think it was) about the different factions in Iraq -- Sunni, Shiite, Kurd -- and their histories. The writer was saying, "We don't get it and there's going to be trouble trying to get these factions to work together."

    Of course, he was a voice no one wanted to hear then. It was the first time most of us were wrestling with the religious difference (rather small, seemingly) of Shiites and Sunnis; we couldn't comprehend it.

    Now we know better. But to leave....What will happen then? That's the fear. That we've started a terrible fire and are just going to leave it to burn and destroy everyone in its path.

  5. The tree shall be known by its fruit.

  6. Susan B., clarifying,September 02, 2007 2:00 pm

    I meant "historical past" of African-Americans. There is a tacit assumption upon seeing anyone with dark skin, African features, that he/she is a descendant of former slaves. (Even when, in the case of Obama, say, his father is an actual African, not an African-American.)

    That is why the Irish, also at the bottom of the social hierarchy in the U.S. for so long, were able to blend in and move up. If you meet someone with an Irish name, you don't immediately assume they were the descendants of peasants who starved in the potato famine.

  7. On anti-Americanism, i think it's as well to distinguish between the motives & results; and also between the State and the actual people. If someone said he hated me because Tony Blair was a war-mongering liar, well, i'd be a bit taken aback; likewise, why should i hate America or Americans because their politicians seem greedy, base and amoral?

    Also, while i guess the militarism etc. of America from WW2 on was to do with 'the military-industrial complex', if it stopped the Reds taking our women, fine by me. Bad & hypocritical as America has been, take a look at Stalin or present day China: suddenly it doesn't look quite that bad?

  8. I have to laugh when I read that the surge is a success. Just like in Vietnam when we would "surge" into an area, kick the Viet Cong out and then when we left the VC would be right back. Yes, the US Army is powerful enough to make the land it is standing on safe. But since the US Army isn't big and powerful enough to occupy every square inch of Iraq we can't possibly hold our winnings unless the Iraqi government and army are big and strong enough to hold them for us. That is not happening for the simple reason that no-post invasion plan was put into place to restore IRAQI control of Iraq.

    As to the post-Iraq War plan, figuring out how to get the electricity turned back on might have been a good start. But Bush didn't even plan for that. It's almost as if the post-Iraq invasion planners and the post-New Orleans hurricane planners were the same incompetent people!

  9. And here's a silly idea for US foreign policy, maybe that treaty we signed in 1929, the Kellogg-Briand Pact, a treaty which is still in force, should be followed by the US government.