The Perpetual Three-Dot Column
The Perpetual Three-Dot Column
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by Jesse Walker

Wednesday, April 09, 2003
VICTORIES: It's wise, they say, to find your victories where you can. I can thus announce, with whatever pride I can muster, that I never joined the crowd that was declaring the Iraq war a "quagmire." A premature prophecy like that can only make the would-be seer look like a fool; it also gives hawks a readymade strawman when it comes time to brush aside more serious criticisms of their goals, or for that matter their
military planning.

So: With no basis beyond the enormous disparity between the American and Iraqi militaries, I expected a relatively rapid U.S. conquest from the start. Not a pretty conquest. But a quick one.

If there's a quagmire in Iraq, it's not the fight now ending. It's the endless occupation to come. I've probably heard more casual references to the postwar occupations of Germany and Japan in the last year than in all the rest of my life. People who speak endlessly about "the lessons of history" frequently give the impression that their knowledge of that history never extends beyond World War II; to hear them talk, you'd never dream that America has also occupied such nations as Cuba, Haiti, and the Philippines, with somewhat less beneficial results. Japan is not the historical norm for democratization-by-force -- it's the single strange anomoly. (Germany faced a genuinely multilateral occupation, in a country with some prior experience of democratic institutions. It's in a completely different category.)

I opposed this war on its own terms, because it was both brutal and unnecessary. Now I oppose the occupation, because it endangers American security and because it puts the U.S. in the most imperial garb it's worn since the Marines were semipermanent residents of Latin America. The Bush administration still has a chance to declare its victory, quickly transfer power to Iraqis, and take the opportunity to detach itself from the Middle East. But -- at the risk of turning myself into one of those seers-turned-fools I was mocking just a few paragraph ago -- I don't expect that to happen.

It's nice to see Saddam deposed, anyway. Like I said: Find your victories where you can.


posted by Jesse 12:33 PM
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