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    Guerilla War..., 2003-07-31 16:03:19 | Main | "The Post didn't get everythin..., 2003-08-13 15:28:35

    Dodge City:

    Sawicky sites approvingly this article by Edward Luttwak. There's a shorter reg. free available here, but it sadly leaves out Luttwaks' almost disappointed and likewise false claim that "a rebuilt Iraqi military government was not even considered": it seemed quite clear to me that Pentagon hawks wanted to do just that, leaving Chalabi in charge.

    It also left me curious as to when access to alcohol had become an inalienable human right essential for the foundations of representative government. Freedom of speech sure, but at present occupation management is doing more to curb freedom of speech than any Iraqi groups - or at least Luttwak doesn't present any evidence contrary to that assessment.

    And it isn't "obvious that no significant population group in Iraq" wants a democracy. It is obvious that the most organized groups in Iraq do not want democracy, but I haven't seen much of anything suggesting that they have widespread popular support outside their vicinities of direct organization, which are generally pretty local. What evidence is there that the "Baghdad elite" would "fiercely oppose" a federalized republic in practice? If we're talking about "democracy" why is it that only "elite" opinions matter?

    His comments regarding "the Sunnis of central and northern Iraq who, even if utterly uneducated, enjoyed privileged access to relatively well-paid and mostly very undemanding jobs under Saddam Hussein" stand in rather stark contrast to his reference last November in the LA Times to the fact that "Sunni Arabs too have suffered under a most brutal regime".

    The Kurds may be "tribal" but they've had elections and have been running a more or less functional democracy for some time. What's anti-democratic about a highly federalized system of "mini-states"? The US isn't all that democratic if you start fetishizing the word like that and holding Iraqis to standards that none of the occupying "democracies" can hold a torch to. Plenty of countries remain tribal but practice one or another form of democractic representation, tribal structures can be democratic themselves, there's nothing there that's mutually negating. The same with Islamic law and democracy - and if a constitution was ratified that included a body that represented geography rather than population, such as the US senate, then instituting Islamic law via parliamentary means over non-Shi'ite areas (what moderate Shi'ite clerics wish to do) would be difficult if not impossible. What we're actually talking about in Iraq is a national, representational state that respects minority rights, Luttwak seems to think that requires a "cultural transformation", as though rule by violence was some kind of cultural value rather than a political one.

    While there are some groups that would prefer to continue trying to run the country via political violence there's no evidence that they make up more than a minor percentage of the population, and there's no reason to believe that they can't transform in less than 30 years to more peaceful means of political action, as other such groups have in the past when given half a chance to control their own destinies.

    Luttwak doesn't suggest holding elections to legitemize a GC (preferably one that does, in fact, "govern"), which is at least one reason why the Arab League and the more radical Iraqi groups aren't recognizing it, he doesn't suggest handing administration over to the UN until an elected GC comes together, which is the reason why "hopes of recruiting large numbers of peacekeepers from other countries have faded", he more or less suggests that W Bush step down from his position as the de facto head of the Iraqi state but he doesn't mention the fact that W is in fact the de facto Iraqi head of state - which is just another complicating problem, and with US garrisons remaining in Iraq indefinetly in his "exit strategy" it sounds far more like he's just suggesting colonialism by other means.

    His arguement is basically that Iraqis won't be capable of casting ballots for someone who isn't a homicidal maniac unless the US manages a colonial state over them for 30-60 years. That's nothing more than the same brand of paternalism that has justified empire for the past two centuries, and his "solution" to the problem of the cost of direct rule is rule by a group of elites appointed by exiting US managers. Well la-de-frickin dah, the Brits thought of that 150 years ago.

    The real question isn't when we leave but how we leave, and I can't say I think much of Luttwak's answer, let alone his assumptions. Which might not be surprising, the argument thrown out here bears a parallel to his argument last March that efforts to mitigate civillian casualties were not only a waste of time but would lead to greater civillian casualties - begging the question of whether war is a practical means for liberatory goals, considering the death and suffering that Luttwak describes so aptly as "inconvenience". Rain on Parade Day is an inconvenience, 2,000 pound JDAMs falling on my head is a spectacular failure.

    US troops, as it should be obvious by now, aren't there to establish security for much of anything besides US corporations with government contracts to take control over a freshly privatized Iraqi economy, if the actual strategy was to protect Iraqis from violence we wouldn't be killing so many Iraqi civillians in the process. "Bring the troops home now" is a nice populist cry, but bringing them home doesn't resolve the deeper problem, as Luttwak ends up demonstrating well enough.

    Etc etc: The question of whether or not US troops stay in Iraq is entirely besides the question of what our policy in Iraq should be. If the establishment of democracy in Iraq were being taken seriously then there would be serious discussion taking place about how the international community can help create a space for ordinary, moderate Iraqis to form political organizations that represent their interests without being threatened by authoritarian violence. I haven't seen any such a discussion taking place, and while I don't necessarily have a problem with bailing and bringing the troops home, the only reason I can think of why that would be the best course of action would be if this administration couldn't come up with a better one if it tried, ie. "it would be an astonishing achievement of cultural transformation" if a truly benign US foreign policy "could be established in a mere 30 years, or indeed 60".

:: posted by buermann @ 2003-08-07 17:09:01 CST | link

    go ahead, express that vague notion

    your turing test:

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