“I’m so bored. I hate my life.” - Britney Spears

Das Langweilige ist interessant geworden, weil das Interessante angefangen hat langweilig zu werden. – Thomas Mann

"Never for money/always for love" - The Talking Heads

Friday, April 18, 2003


Reason no. 500 for an accelerated pull out.

Gideon Rose, the managing editor of Foreign Affairs, ruminates about the duties of empire in Slate. The point he makes is that the US lacks the mechanism for imperial rule in places like Iraq and Afghanistan. This is such an excellent point that it should have been in the forefront of anti-war politics. Allowing Bush to announce how the invasion of Iraq was going to be managed and how much it was going to cost in his own good time crippled the anti-warriors.

However, Rose is not an antiwarrior. He is a belligeranti deluxe. His idea, which has surely been nursed in many a defense department funded forum, is that we need to spend the money, and create the agencies, to be a real empire:

"This simply will not do. Bungling the peace in Afghanistan would be a tragedy; bungling the peace in Iraq would be a catastrophe. So unless the Bush administration changes its mind and decides to hand off responsibility to the United Nations and the rest of the international community, it will have to do much of the work of postwar nation-building itself. Interestingly, one result of going it alone might be to force the United States to finally develop the institutions required to run what is now a de facto empire (albeit one designed to be temporary and managed on behalf of the dominions rather than the metropolis)."

Notice, especially -- stare hard at -- rub eyes and stare again at - the dishonest parenthetical remark that closes this pathetic piece of special pleading. On the one hand, let's be hard nosed empire builders; on the other hand, lets do it all for our adorable child-states. Self interest, which is the glorified principle of all capitalism, is suddenly shunted into the background, as in the hush of our good intentions we 'elect' such as Smilin' Jay Garner to head our democratic middle eastern property. Meanwhile, of course, the term democratic is hollowed out even more, feeding a more and more coercive mindset back into the homecountry. When democratic becomes, by definition, what the US does - because we are democratic, natch -- it loses all connection with representative government. The solution to the peace in Iraq is simple. Iraq isn't a dominion. It should elect its own, it should govern itself, it should not be a place where American troops become guardians of the dreams of all the Roses and Wolfowitzes.

This is how you make music in D.C. ears right now:

"As Rachel Bronson of the Council on Foreign Relations wrote last fall, Washington needs to develop "a greater appreciation for the fact that intervention entails not simply war-fighting, but a continuum of force ranging from conventional warfare to local law enforcement." That means creating plenty of units in unsexy job categories such as civil affairs and military police�the sort of folk we could use to run Baghdad today. (If George Steinbrenner were in Rumsfeld's position, he might just buy or trade for the Italian Carabinieri.)

Taking interventions seriously would mean changes outside the Pentagon as well. As Andrew Bacevich of Boston University notes, "imperial governance is a politico-military function," so the State Department has to be a critical player in the game. That means the absurdly low funding of State should be increased, as should policy integration between State and Defense both at home and in the field. "The empire may need proconsuls," Bacevich says, "but it will need them to take a perspective that looks beyond military concerns." The foreign service will need to cultivate old-fashioned political officers who know their way around a country's hinterlands and people as well as its capital and elites. And the White House will have to get used to the lengthy, costly, and often thankless engagement with the world that nation-building necessarily involves."

The pseudo-scientific lingo of political science, especially in that rarified pie slice of it called foreign policy, is always a skin bracer. The white man's burden is rhetorically clouded, here, for one audience only: the American citizen. The imperial sleight of hand works only if the citizen picks up the burden, while the policy wonks and CEOs pick the bones of whatever country we happen to crush. On the day after reading of the award of a 600 million dollar contract to Bechtel, Rose's article does exude a certain smell. Empire is not, for the bumpkins out there, about asserting American power and interest. It isn't about lucrative contracts for a diverse array of hungry American firms. It isn't about oil for the oilman, and saber rattling for the saber manufacturer. No, it is about "thankless engagement." With a sigh, we continue on, never expecting thanks from those Shiites we are forced to spank. And even as we let a thousand INC paramilitaries.bloom, we have to remember that Iraqis, like Palestinians, are notoriously ungrateful for the things we do for them, and have to sometimes be sternly fired upon by soldiers, especially if they start crowding together.

Meanwhile, Chalabi's INC becomes more unbelievable every day. Is this some old CIA training film, circa Teheran, circa 1954, or what? First the paramilitary group. Then the cries of Chalabi, Chalabi -- ringing out from people who one can reasonably assume had never heard of Chalabi before being informed by some friendly US military attaches. Then the advance, in uniform, armed, on Baghdad, and the comic opera seizure of power -- a sort of Mussolini meets the Three Stooges kind of move. Then the takeover of certain of Saddam's houses, such as Uday's hunting club, in which Chalabi gave a press conference today, blessed again by American soldiers, all in the wealthiest suburbs. The overwhelming impression is of Ba'athist pageantry, usurped by a man who has learned how to use the word democratic to cover the complexion of what is, in truth, run of the mill third world fascism. Now, one should never bet too much against third world fascism, especially when it is blessed by US advisors. From Mobutu to Suharto, it has had a pretty good run. But Iraq is not Guatamala in 1956.

Chalabi knows that without the US military, his group would be in danger of meeting the fate accorded to less guarded sheiks and imams the US has parachuted into the hinterlands -- the rush of a crowd, gunfire, daggers drawn, etc. So in his first Baghdad press conference, after modestly disclaiming his own role in the interim government, he proposed that the Americans soon let Iraq rule itself. However, he coyly left out a date for the withdrawal of American troops. He is obviously counting on said troops hanging around a long, long time. He wants the troops to root out Baathists, disarm the Iraqi army, and dismantle the structure of terror. Of course, in a disarmed Iraq, only the INC paramilitaries would have arms. A nice deal, all the way around.

Surely it is time for one of the ex-left wing hawks to write a scathing article about the ninnies in the press who are expressing doubts about Chalabi, hero of the suffering people of Iraq! We look forward to Hitchens barking up something like this in his throwaway column in the Mirror.

No comments: