Friday :: Aug 22, 2003

It's Worse Than Vietnam

by Mary

When the PNAC decided that America's role was to enforce Pax Americana for the world starting with the Middle East, they believed that they were creating a world that would cheerfully submit to an American hegemony. They believed that they had the key to creating a place at the top of the hierarchy for themselves and their friends using the untapped power of the USA's military. They saw themselves as the logical inheritors of the Roman emperors.

Yet, they forgot that the Romans worked hard to build and maintain their empire. The Romans had centuries of empire before their system collapsed. The American empire will have a decidedly shorter lifecycle and dreams of an American century are increasingly dubious. By instigating the collapse of Saddam's Iraq, the neocons have created a world that is significantly more unstable and volatile than any we have known before. It's worse than Vietnam because it doesn't look like we can leave without creating a worse outcome. What we have is an untenable situation. Robert Baer had this to say about his discussion with Ghassan Salame on what might happen:

When we talked in March, he declined to predict how the war would go, but he was convinced the United States would end up in the middle of a violent social upheaval in Iraq. By removing Saddam, he said, we would disenfranchise the Sunnis. Smashing a fractured society like Iraq could only lead to sustained violence, he warned, at least until a new balance is found.

"But you know," Salame said, as best as I can recall the conversation, "you can't just get up and walk away from Iraq like you did Lebanon. No matter how bad it gets. If Iraq turns into anarchy, it's likely to spill into the rest of the Gulf. It would be a catastrophe."

Salame is right. Leaving Iraq now, in a state of anarchy, would lead to civil war. And then almost anything could happen, from pulling in Iran to spreading chaos to the Arab states of the Gulf -- which, by the way, control something like 60 percent of the world's oil reserves. No matter how tough things get in Iraq, we cannot leave until it is mended.

Vietnam had a functioning opposition and when the US finally left, they were able to pickup the pieces and carry on. Besides a loss of face, we in the US barely noticed that things had changed. Today I cannot find any reliable sources that believes we can leave Iraq without severe consequences to the rest of the world including the US.

So once again, it is time to ask, how the hell did we get into this mess?

Bush and his team of neocons have always been much more comfortable with chaotic change than most of the rest of us because they see chaotic change as a way to exploit chaos for their own ends. One of their basic tenets on how to lead is to find ways to exploit chaotic situations. Woodward's Bush at War talked about Bush's philosophy of leadership and what Bush said would make others follow him:

"But action, confident action, that will yield positive results provides a kind of slipstream into which reluctant nations and leaders can get behind and show themselves that there has been, you know, something positive has happened towards peace."

Bush and his fellow CEO types have learned to mask themselves in the aura of what people expect to see in leaders and like the Pied Piper of Hamelin, bewitch people with their boldness. A number of the East Coast pundits drank deeply of the intoxicating brew served up by the neocons. Bill Keller's hagiography of Bush in his January article Reagan's Son, is an example of how effective a Potemkin version of leadership can be. Keller was enamored by the possibility of winning the jackpot and he found it exciting. It was clear that he understood Bush's proposals were a huge gamble:

What Bush is striving for, on the evidence of the choices he has made so far, is bold in its ambition: markets unleashed, resources exploited. A progressive tax system leveled, a country unashamed of wealth. Government entitlements gradually replaced by thrift, self-reliance and private good will. The safety net strung closer to the ground. Government itself infused with, in some cases supplanted by, the efficiency and accountability of a well-run corporation. A court system dedicated to protecting property and private enterprise and enforcing individual responsibility. A global common market that hums to the tune of American productivity. In the world, America rampant -- unfettered by international law, unflinching when challenged, unmatchable in its might, more interested in being respected than in being loved.

Well, today the world is living with the consequences of Bush's gamble, and as with many of Bush's wild gambles in the past, this one has turned up a real stinker.

Unfortunately, unlike the other bad Bush gambles, if (when?) this one fails, there is no mitigating the damage by simply having one of the Bush fat cats picking up the check. Unlike the other gambles, this one involves real people and real consequences.

As Matt noted in his post, we have "speeded up history". Now we have the responsibilty to try to dampen the worst of the oscillations. And we must find some adults that can help chart us through the next perilous steps.

Mary :: 7:50 PM :: Comments (11) :: Digg It!