thoughts on war and peace

I guess I should begin with “please take my opinions with a grain of salt.” I’m no expert on this, but I think that we’ve been lulled into a false sense of security about this entire war. While there have been casualties, I don’t think anyone with any sense of reality doubted the outcome of this. The world’s most advanced military versus a third world nation (well armed, but still third world with everything that goes along with that). The bigger question is what comes next. That’s something I just don’t hear enough discussion of.

We’re going to occupy Iraq for a while. Take note that unlike in Afghanistan there is no “Iraqi Government in Exile.” In fact there have been no public discussions of what a new Iraqi government would be comprised of. There is no Hamid Karzai waiting in the wings. This isn’t an oversight. The fact is, like it or not, we’re going to be running the country for a while. Which in some ways might bode well. In the case of Japan we were able to do a lot of good in helping the nation rebuild. However, in the case of Japan, we installed a democratic government. But with no government waiting in the wings and no post war plans mentioned, it has to be assumed that we are going to be the running Iraq with an occupational force. And that is something that is going to take some getting used to.

Even in a best case scenario, where an intern government is quickly established, there will need to be a strong US presence (read US Military), as I don’t expect that an Iraqi Military will be immediately established (think about how long it took for Japan to reestablish an Army… and we still have a Military presence there). After all this work, there is no desire to have the next government be as hostile to us as the past regime. Additionally, only the most myopic individuals don’t see that one of the Bush Administrations long-term goals is to establish a centralized US military presence in the Middle East (in the hopes of having a stabilizing effect in the region).

In the past our occupations have come with a cost. While an oppressed people may be thankful for being liberated, there will always be elements that perceive that they have traded one set of masters for another. During our occupation of the Philippine Islands significant numbers of US Marines were assassinated underground soldiers who opposed the occupation. In fact the term “Leatherneck” came from the thick leather straps that Marines eventually began to wear around their necks in the Philippines to prevent getting stabbed while in urban areas. That is a scenario that has played out time and time again in Colonial occupations.

Historically, Westerner’s have had a very hard time holding onto any areas of the Middle East (see The Roman Empire, The Crusades, Colonial Occupation). We should be prepared for a second, “unofficial war” to begin after the first ends. It will be interesting to see how much coverage the occupation will receive (the US Media already seems to have forgotten about the significant numbers of US troops still stationed in Afghanistan. Also it’s interesting that no one is talking about all the Afghanis still being held in Cuba). Will it be enough to drive us out of the country? Probably not. But historically speaking, there is a good chance that a lot of American Troops are going to be hurt and killed in the weeks and months to come. That’s not considering what effect our presence will have in the Region in the months and years to come. Perhaps the Administration’s plans will go like clock work. However, it’s important to note that past American involvements in regime change have often had unforeseen consequences (most recently see both post Soviet Afghanistan [even Rambo wasn’t able to help that] and the previous Iraqi Government… Sadam has a great pair of Gold Spurs given to him by Ronald Regan for his support of the US at the time) For better or for worse, we should get used to Iraq, because we’re going to be there for at least a generation.