Here are two pieces, very different in approach, but both communicating a similar message. First, from Carl Conetta of the Project on Defense Alternatives, a think tank that works on post-Cold War de-militarization issues: Vicious circle: The dynamics of occupation and resistance in Iraq. And from Jerome Doolittle: Preemptive policing.
The first looks at the big picture: public opinion polls, broad trends, the interests of the various collective actors. It’s cold, detached, objective, analytical. The second looks at a microcosm of those big forces: a single incident that led to the the trial (and yesterday, the acquittal) of US Marine Lieutenant Ilario Pantano, who last year killed two unarmed Iraqis “in self defense.” Doolittle’s commentary is subjective, angry, and apt.
These two accounts are describing the same thing, and it has a strong bearing on what the future of the US occupation of Iraq will look like. I’m ready to make a prediction: Forget the Bush team’s fantasies of bringing democracy to Iraq. Not only are they not going to achieve that, they’re not going to be able to achieve even a modicum of stability under the ‘Saddam Lite’ of a pro-US dictator. The chances of their pulling it off were never very good, but now they’re effectively zero. The Bush team’s final justification for going to war is toast.
This war is not going to make things better in the middle east. It’s going to make them dramatically worse. And it’s going to continue to do so as long as the notoriously inward-facing American electorate continues to give Bush a pass on his decision to use war as a first option, rather than a last resort.
As we did in Vietnam, the US will continue to pour dollars and blood into a yawning hole in Iraq, a hole that will only grow larger the longer we try to fill it. How will that process end? I don’t know; my crystal ball fails me there. The two things I’m reasonably sure of are that it’s going to take a long time, and it’s going to be ugly. By the time it’s over we may find ourselves actually wishing it had been only a second Vietnam we were creating. With the actual nuclear weapons that have been proliferating in the region while Bush struggles with the tarbaby of Saddam’s imaginary ones, this could spiral down into something I don’t even want to imagine.