Friday, December 08, 2006

The Lessons of History

The Iraq War, regardless of how it inevitably works itself out, has at this point become a quagmire. Like Vietnam, there is no way that Iraq could possibly work out in favour of the Americans or their allies. This includes the current Iraqi government, which is possibly analogous to the South Vietnamese government.

I recognize that this does represent a departure from my previous support of the war. Indeed, I do support the principle of war in defence of others, as I support the principle of defence of others in general. But it has become painfully obvious that the war in Iraq is not, and never was about protecting Iraqis, who are now dying by the thousands.

In any case, once the war is over, the comparisons of Iraq to Vietnam are going to be vindicated as being apt, not because Iraq is exactly like Vietnam, but because their consequences will be the same.

The United States has crippled itself militarily for decades to come, as it did in the 1970s. While it remained a superpower, America lost confidence in itself. Public opinion after Vietnam swung so heavily against the use of American force abroad that America, until the 1990s, limited itself to waging wars against countries like Panama and Grenada, or simply assissting South American and Middle Eastern guerillas (the latter turned out to be a very bad call, in hindsight) in their fights against democratically elected socialist governments in the case of the former, and the USSR in the case of the latter.

Irony is perhaps the cruelest mistress of all, as shooting oneself in the foot is both painful and embarassing. The great irony of the Iraq war is that the neo-conservatives - the ones who wanted the war more than anyone - have essentially ensured that no other wars like it can happen for at least a generation. No American administration is going to be electorally suicidal enough to engage any country in unprovoked war, and without unprovoked war, the neo-conservative dream of total American dominance of the world is ended, as most dreams are, by cold hard reality.

The war with Iran that the neo-cons want so badly? Forget about it. Not only will the American public never support such an action now, it is becoming more and more implausible every day. Iran is ascendant in the Middle East, poised to become the dominant country there, a state of affairs which has America's so-called ally Saudi Arabia fretting, and rightly so. The rise of sectarian ideological Shiism, dormant for centuries, has been provoked by the American invasion of Iraq. Iran and Iraq are the only Middle Eastern countries with majority Shiite populations, but Iraq's has been kept under control for some time. Far from draining the swamp, the metaphor the administration preferred to describe their adventures in the middle east, attacking Iraq was tantamount to hitting a hornet's nest. The violence occurring in Iraq is between militant religious sects, and the Shiites are clearly winning, and are clearly eager to wrest control of their country from the Sunnis who have dominated them for centuries.

Once this occurs, a Shiite axis is set to form, with Iran at the centre. Iran's two greatest foes, Afghanistan and Iraq, have both been thoroughly dealt with by outside forces; Iran did not have to lift a finger to remove the threatening Baathist (secular/Sunni) and Taliban (Sunni) regimes. There are significant Shiite populations in Lebanon, Pakistan, northeastern Saudi Arabia, and of course Iraq. (As for Syria, it has had an alliance with Iran going back 25 years.) If Iran is successful in convincing them that Pan-Shiism, not Pan-Arabism (of which Iran is obviously not a fan, being that they are Persians) is the way to go, then we could be looking at a threat far greater than Saddam Hussein and the Ayatollahs. We could be looking at a Shiite Crescent dominating the Middle East, with its capital in Tehran. All thanks to jingoistic short-sightedness and neo-conservative delusions of grandeur.

The saddest part of all of this is that it didn't have to be this way. History is an open book, inviting us to read it, to learn from it, so as to avoid situations like this. Studying the history of the Middle East, one learns that things just aren't as simple as they are often portrayed in the west by our irresponsible leaders and our lazy media. It's not just a bunch of crazy Muslims who want to blow themselves up; ideological Islamism is not a fixture of Middle Eastern history - it is rather a very recent phenomenon that is tied very directly to the interference of the west in Middle Eastern affairs. The lesson to be learned is this - the more the west meddles with what it doesn't understand, the worse it will get, and the more hostile, militarized and violent the region will become. The United States is not capable of policing the Middle East, short of bombing it into a glass parking lot, the only way (short of simply evacuating, of course) to fascilitate an end to the violence occurring in Iraq on a daily basis.

There is one more lesson of history - empire is a fool's endeavour. The neo-conservatives and their political lapdogs deny it, but it is painfully obvious to any historian what their goal is, as it has been repeated time and again throughout history. They want to rule the world. They want their civilization, their values, their culture, their customs, their mores, to spread throughout the known world, take hold, and last for all time. History is littered with examples of such dreams being shattered, but there is not one - not one - example of these dreams ever coming true. Rome may have left us her legacy, but she fell just the same - and spectacularly so! - under the weight of her own empire. Why the neo-cons think that they can deny historical inevitability is what is at the heart of this matter. The reason they think that they can deny history is the reason that every imperial jingoist has cited for their unflinching belief in their civilization's teleological superiority - hubris. Raw, naked, unabashed hubris.

Hubris is why war was declared on Iraq. Hubris is why George Bush refuses to adjust to facts on the ground. Hubris is what will lose the war. And hubris is what will cause the American empire, like all empires, to fall.

4 Comments:

At 12/08/2006 2:25 PM, Blogger Nathan Hewitson said...

Wow, I don't believe I have read your blog before but your remarks on Iraq are very astute and well-articulated. Thank you for writing this great post.

Nathan Hewitson

 
At 12/08/2006 5:03 PM, Blogger EX-NDIP said...

At 21 you have a lot to learn . . . here's some comments on Vietnam from a vet who was there . . .
"As a Vietnam Veteran who frequently spent the night in S. Vietnam hamlets, 1969-70, protected only by local militias, I was on-the-ground aware of how much the Communist infrastructure was destroyed during the preceding Tet 68. I also spoke Vietnamese, having been trained in the states before going over.
North Vietnamese archives show that the enemy felt they had lost the war in Tet 68 and wanted to sue for peace. Had the Chinese & Russians not convinced them to hold on, realizing that Walter Cronkite had turned tail on national TV (this is when I started my gradual rejection of the mainstream media as a source of news), today we would have a north and south Vietnam, much as we see in Korea. I hear from visitors to Vietnam that the the southern part of Vietnam is thriving, the northern part still caught in a depressing and static socialism. Our influence never left.
My guess is that our soldiers in Iraq, who work with Iraqis every day, as I did with Vietnamese, know the truth: we are winning day by day. That is what General A was saying--his meta-message is stay the course, dont forget those Iraqis who have made the life-death decision to work for freedom, and for God's sake, dont listen to the Walter Cronkite's of today."

The recent Baker Report on Iraq is the same type of crap . . . those that went to Iraq never left the Green Zone, saw nothin but CNN bull.
Many blunders have been made in Iraq, but if they can keep Iran and Syria from suppling weapons and fighters things will settle down.
If WWII were fought in the same manner as Iraq, we would all be talking German and Japanese today.

You think islam is not a threat to the entire democratic world, take a trip to Europe. Many think France will be a muslim state within 25 years. Germany, Holland and Britain have huge issues with their muzzie populations. Of course our MSM neglect to inform us what is going on over there. Like the 2400 police in France injured dealing with the religion of peace. The areas of Paris that are no-go zones. Even Bagdad isn't that bad.
Being a Lib is like sticking your head in the sand, the world today is less safe than it was 25 years ago. What we don't need is a bunch of Neville Chaimberlains attempting to appease and pratter with people who have said the want to kill us.

 
At 12/08/2006 8:03 PM, Blogger Clear Grit said...

Typical racist bullshit from ex-ndip. You're telling me that Paris during the riots was worse than BAGHDAD!? It's there that you lose all credibility.

Also, your post is factually incorrect; there is no North and South Vietnam, there is only one entity called Vietnam, and it's communist.

 
At 12/08/2006 10:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"but if they can keep Iran and Syria from suppling weapons and fighters things will settle down."

ex-ndip
this a very common statement and yet completely bizarre. So its all thier fault for the Iraq mess. Putting 200,000 American troops and bombing the country back to the stone age was just the first step to a happy sunshine lollipop freedom land. But those dastardly Syrians and Iranians came along and fucked it all up.

Come on, the Iraqi resistence is largely local with not a huge foriegn components- this isn't soviet afghanistan -the muhajideen dont have billions of dollars coming to them with huge training camps around the world.

Syria does stuff like raid Baathist cells in thier country and hand them over to the US Army. The States would be so screwed if the Iranians decided to start a proxy war. The US army hasn't got much fighting with the Shia because they have decided to try and work with the States (given they are the majority population) But if Iran was to be attacked, way more hell would break loose in Iran.
I can see Iran giving some weapons to militias (although Iraq has hella weapons anyway). And yah perhaps some training- I know Hezbollah had some guys over there based in the south- luckily for the Americans they haven't decided to fight yet.

"those that went to Iraq never left the Green Zone,"

They never left the Green Zone because they would have gotten killed not because they were afraid to see the happy, free pony, sunny, freedom land that those CNN MSM defeatocrats are hiding from the American people.

clear-grit:
If only you traditional conservatives had realised this eariler. Hell I could have told you this before the invasion. The only major conservative site against the war from the get go was antiwar.com

It's hard to believe its taken 3 and a half years of slaughter to take the blinders off ppl.

 

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