The U.S. has so successfully projected an image of its power that even its critics, even its enemies, unconsciously accept it. In Robin Wright’s book, the Last Great Revolution, about post Khomenei Iran, she reports that certain Iranians assured her that Khomenei was set up by the U.S. That he was a CIA asset.
This kind of thinking has leaked into the anti-war perspective. When the U.S. first occupied Iraq, LI issued vitriolic post after vitriolic post mocking the very premise that a bunch of outside know nothings could take over Iraq and transform it to their liking. We were especially amused by the idea that Field Commander Bremer would huff and puff and infuse an everlasting, privatized ally of the U.S. into Mesopotamia. In the event, Bremer couldn’t even keep his accounts straight, much less create neo-con heaven on earth.
As we put it on April 3, 2004:
“From the beginning, we have maintained that the top down implementation of civil change, such as was envisioned by all the Defense Department planners, goes against everything we know about the failures of central planning. That is hard earned knowledge for the left. Lately, we’ve been wondering what it means to combine the benefit of a welfare state with bottom up self organization – the kind of foreign policy that the left should be vigorously exploring.”
However, just as the right had a screwy image of unlimited American power to do good, so, too, some parts of the left have a screwy image of unlimited American power to do evil. This comes out most strongly in the metaphor of the “puppet.”
A puppet has no more life than is put into it by a hand. Take the hand away, and Punch no longer has the vigor to pummel Judy. Punch and Judy lie down together in the peace of all inorganic things.
When one talks about American puppets, one means that the power – the hand – is the American hand. But the limits to the metaphor are also the limits to American power. The hand, taken away, doesn’t restore an inorganic peace to the thing, who eats, desires and schemes for his own advancement. And so the off-hours can be productive of nasty surprises for the puppet’s case officers.
The American puppets in Iraq – the crew of exiles, from Allawi to Chalabi, that have become the provisional governing faction in Iraq – shouldn’t be thought of simply in terms of the American hand. Small deviations from that hand’s desire can create large perturbations down the line – especially in a “turbulent” moment like the present. Everything that one expected about this election – from the sixty percent turnout to the Sunni boycott – happened. But the expected event, when it happens, carries a charge that doesn’t come from the past. This is the great left heresy,and count LI amamong the black mass of believers: a moment arrives, and it is the moment of logos, of the gnostical infusion of novelty into the expected, of revolution in the everyday life. The combinations and probabilities tell us that the government of Iraq, so severely limited that it can’t even control its finances, will fall apart in squabbles and robberies, and allow the American overseers to continue their Behemoth work. On the other hand, the Shiite majority, which is mostly working class, has achieved stage one: in defiance of every power, American and Insurgent, they have created a nationwide fact. The American press will read this fact only in terms of their infantile obsession with the minor screwup who happens to be president in D.C. at the moment. We think that is precisely the wrong reading.
PS -- the orthodox message in the American press is well summed up in this pre-rotten bit of conventional wisdom by Slate's Fred Kaplan. Expect to see variations on this repeated ad nauseum in the coming week:
"A sure consequence of the election's success will be the derailing of any movement in the U.S. Congress to push for a swift troop withdrawal. In his State of the Union Address this week, President Bush will probably say that we cannot desert the Iraqis after their brave display of commitment to freedom. And he will be right. If the new Iraqi government wants the U.S. troops to leave, then they will. But in the past couple of weeks, all the major Iraqi political parties removed from their platforms any endorsement of a withdrawal. They realize that they still need foreign troops both for internal security and for the defense of their borders."