Medal of Failure recipient?
I’ve been wandering the blogosphere debating with the pro-war crowd recently. It’s tiresome but interesting, and a nice break from arguing about global warming. It’s curious that the pro-war crowd and the global warming deniers are often the same people, I’m not quite sure why that is. In any event, something that is still being brought up is the idea that the occupation of Germany and Japan are models for the occupation of Iraq. Usually in the context of the fact that we still have our troops in Germany and Japan, and look what great allies and peaceful democracies they are. If we stay in Iraq, won’t the same thing happen eventually?
Superficially it sounds like a sound argument, in actuality there are so many differences between these occupations that it is absurd beyond belief. One would think the violence alone in occupied Iraq would have scotched the whole comparison, but it doesn’t seem to have done the trick. (Which leads to another observation, the pro war people and the global warming deniers seem to keep recycling the same tired old arguments, but that’s a topic for another day.) So in the interest of providing information for people who are debating the occupation with their pro-war friends and relatives…here are the reasons why comparing the occupation of German/Japan to the occupation of Iraq is completely fallacious:
1. Post war casualties. There were zero Americans killed and wounded in occupied Japan and Germany. A few American casualties were inflicted fighting Japanese garrisons that hadn’t gotten the word the war was over, but that hardly counts. The Nazi’s made extensive plans for guerrilla warfare, all of which came to nought. Americans travelled freely around both countries fraternizing with the natives, in fact Americans marrying the natives and bringing them home was not unusual. In Iraq it was painfully obvious within weeks of the fall of Baghdad that an American wandering around Iraq was taking their life in their hands, and it’s grown steadily worse since then, it’s not even safe to be seen in the streets speaking English no matter what your nationality now.
2. Germany and Japan are both nation states with a strong sense of national identity and a unified ethnic population. Iraq was cobbled together this century from three completely different provinces of the late not so great Ottoman Empire. Iraq has such deep differences between these populations that the whole notion of “Iraqi” had no real meaning, the Kurds especially never even wanted to be part of Iraq.
3. Japan and Germany were legally occupied after legally declared wars after legal surrender, wars which they had started in the first place. Bush didn’t even do the Iraqis the courtesy of declaring war on them, nor were they allowed to surrender, unconditionally or otherwise. And of course America initiated hostilities by invading Iraq, Iraq didn’t attack Pearl Harbor or declare war on America.
4. Germany and Japan had strong secular institutions and civil governments maintaining law and order in their lands, institutions that were allowed to continue to function after the occupation. Iraq also had some of these as well, but in possibly the stupidest move in the whole badly managed occupation, the US completely dissolved the Iraqi civil service shortly after the occupation began. Every conquerer in history rolled over in their grave on hearing that one.
5. The US invaded Germany and Japan with enough troops to maintain law and order, millions of them in fact. The general that pointed out that we weren’t going into Iraq with enough troops to maintain law and order was fired, which is pretty much the Bush administration’s response to anyone within the military or government who dares find fault with their rosy assessments.
6. Lastly, and maybe even most importantly, years were spent planning and preparing for the occupation of Germany and Japan. These were two of the most carefully planned occupations in history, and it is a testament to this planning that the occupations turned out so well. In Iraq, there was no planning for the occupation. Let me repeat that, in Iraq there was no planning for the occupation. The “wing it” theory of occupation. It’s been pointed out that indeed the occupation of Iraq was one of the most radical social experiments in history, in our arrogance or stupidity we thought we could wipe the slate clean in Iraq and a free democratic society would emerge from the ashes under our beneficent tutelage. No, when the slate is wiped clean in a country you get anarchy, not democracy.
I’m sure there’s other differences as well, but this certainly covers the biggest ones. All of the above of course contributed to the endless violence we see today in Iraq. Even if the USA had done everything right, it’s not certain that the occupation would have succeeded, but it’s no wonder it failed knowing the above. And why anyone still thinks that just staying in Iraq will somehow magically transform Iraq “someday” into a compliant western style democracy is a mystery to me. Arrogance and/or stupidity would be my guess though.
I’m not sure what we should do in Iraq now, I am sure that pretending it will all eventually work out OK if we just keep doing what we have been doing won’t work. It’s like saying that if you stand in a garage long enough, you’ll turn into a car. I kind of like the idea of surrendering Iraq to Al-Qaeda, giving them the keys, and pulling out as fast as we can. If Al-Qaeda in Iraq is stupid enough to accept the offer, which is unlikely, at least we will see them hanging from lampposts within a few days of our withdrawal. That would be some consolation. Maybe if we’re really really lucky Osama himself would show up in time for the party, he’d be hung from the same gallows as Saddam mostly likely, now wouldn’t that be a kick in the pants!
And no, I’m not seriously proposing that, but there are ways we could still pull out of Iraq and salvage something from the mess. For a little while longer at least.
(The above image of Paul Bremer being given a medal for his failures in Iraq is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It is not being used for profit, it is an historically important image, and it is central to illustrating the post. It may in fact be the best image possible illustration of just how completely and utterly out of touch with reality Bush is, him giving a medal to the man who more than any other screwed up the occupation of Iraq. Loyalty is apparently far more important that doing a good job in Bush’s world.)