Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Dubya's Hornets Nest


Poor David Brooks. Today's NY Times op ed suggests he is either still shilling for Bushco or he is irreparably brain-washed. Bemoaning the nasty, immoral, ruthless tactics of the insurgents in Iraq, he whines:
"One of the paradoxes of this war is that when U.S. forces commit atrocities, we regard it as a defeat for us because we have betrayed our ideals. [TUC note: Uh, I wasn't aware that we had any ideals left....] When insurgents commit atrocities, it is also a defeat for us because of our ineffectiveness in the face of the enemy. Either way, morale suffers and the fighting spirit withers away."
Right, David. War is horrific. But you forget one important fact: Who stirred up the hornets nest in the first place? No one asked us to wage war on Iraq. Many warned against it for the very reasons that have now been realized. But Duh-Duh-Dubya knew better and dropped his bombs on Iraq and her people anyway.

Even worse, he bragged about it, dubbing the attack "Shock and Awe," applauding his choreographed bombing exhibition as if he were producing some Broadway extravaganza.

But this wasn't Hollywood special effects or cool Star Wars animation. People died, folks. Innocent men, women and children died in those bombings. They had done nothing to us. They didn't ask for us to come. And they certainly didn't ask to die.

Can you really blame them for fighting dirty? They are fighting for their country, against a foreign invader. That alone should give them the moral edge.

It's no surprise that the insurgents, at a vast disadvantage to the US in terms of weapons, are fighting the war on their own horrific terms. They don't have a whole lot of options. Guerrilla war is not a pretty thing, but it is the only method the insurgents have to hopefully drive us out. You would have to admit they--despite the imbalance of power--have been more successful at fighting this war than have we.

Brooks laments:
"And so the hunger to leave Iraq grows. A dissenting minority is furious that so many Americans are willing to betray the decent Iraqi majority in order to preserve some parlor purity. And the terrorists no doubt look at our qualms not as a sign of virtue but of weakness, and as evidence that savagery will lead to victory again and again."
I would argue that as invaders, as perpetrators of war--we win the Oscar for Savagery. Wars of aggression are inherently immoral.

Is killing the enemy moral when we kill them and immoral when they kill us? Or it is only immoral when the method used makes us squirm? No matter what tactics are used--beheadings or bombings--the result is still death; somebody dies, either way.

The Iraqis never asked us to occupy their country. They have, in fact, asked us to leave. But we refuse and continue to pour money into building city-size US military bases at strategic points around their country. If we were planning to leave anytime soon, why the heck would we be building all of these permanent military bases?

And if we mean what we say about establishing a working democracy in Iraq, why the heck are we giving billions of dollars to US contractors to "rebuild" Iraq, when the Iraqis have people and companies perfectly capable and more than willing to do the work--for billions of dollars LESS? Could it be that this war has more to do with money than democracy, Dave? Ya think?

As for worrying that the insurgents would think us weak for pulling out, what will they think a year, 2 years, or 10 years from now when we pull out--in defeat? That we're brave idiots?

What Brooks imagines the insurgents would think is hardly the issue. The point is that this is an immoral war of our making. And the longer we continue it, the more barbaric we become.


Savagery's Stranglehold
By David Brooks
The New York Times
We have all been raised on stories in which good triumphs over evil, and in these stories good does not triumph by chance. It triumphs because honesty, virtue and decency pay off in the long run. Evil, meanwhile, contains the seeds of its own destruction. Those who lie, torture and kill eventually become entrapped by their own sins.

In Iraq at the moment, however, savagery seems to be triumphing over decency. The insurgents and the militias — who kill and maim with abandon — appear to be wearing away the morale of those who seek a decent, democratic nation.

Moreover, they are winning precisely because they are savage, and are proud to do things their enemies are ashamed to do. In Iraq right now, virtue seems to be a handicap and barbarism an empowering force.

The insurgents' first advantage is that not only are they cruel, they are absolutely cruel. The defining feature of their violence is not merely that they murder, but that they torture those they are about to kill. Shiite militias use drills to bore holes into their victims' heads. Sunni insurgents saw off fingers and toes. Jihadists partially behead their victims and then stomp on their torsos to create gushes of blood before finishing the job. Videos of such acts are posted on the Internet or sold in the markets of towns like Haditha.

Atrocities on this scale look less like war than like blood madness. Iraq becomes less like a battle zone than a formless pit of horror. Far from motivating most Americans to fight harder, cruelty on this scale is unnerving. Most Americans simply want to get away. The lesson is that if you are willing to defy all norms and codes of morality, you can undermine your enemy's willingness to fight.

The insurgents' second great advantage is that they seem able to create an environment in which it is difficult to survive if you are decent.

All wars are savage. And guerrilla wars are particularly savage. (See the successful American counterinsurgency campaign in the Philippines just over a century ago.) But the Iraqi insurgents have been able to create a climate of special treachery, in which every approaching civilian is a possible suicide bomber and every bedroom a potential terrorist haven.

"When you have to deal with barbarians, you must behave like a barbarian yourself," a Greek officer in the Balkan wars of 1912-13 declared. But Americans, to their credit, have been unwilling to rationalize barbaric action so easily. Because American troops come from the culture they do, they have not become the sort of people they would have to be to defeat the insurgents at their own game.

Indeed, the people who are most furious about what happened at Haditha are those marines who have been in similarly awful circumstances but who have not snapped, and who fear that their heroic restraint will be tainted or overshadowed by comrades who behave despicably.

Similarly, in our debates at home we are searching for ways to exercise enough power to defeat the insurgents while still behaving in accordance with our national conscience. We are seeking a sweet spot that satisfies both the demands of power and of principle. But it could be that given the circumstances we have allowed the insurgents to create, that sweet spot no longer exists.

The insurgents' third malicious advantage is that they have no agenda. This has always been regarded as a big disadvantage. But it turns out to be an advantage because they are not confronted with the difficult task of building anything. All they have to do is destroy, and every day that they spread mayhem is a victory.

One of the paradoxes of this war is that when U.S. forces commit atrocities, we regard it as a defeat for us because we have betrayed our ideals. When insurgents commit atrocities, it is also a defeat for us because of our ineffectiveness in the face of the enemy. Either way, morale suffers and the fighting spirit withers away.

And so the hunger to leave Iraq grows. A dissenting minority is furious that so many Americans are willing to betray the decent Iraqi majority in order to preserve some parlor purity. And the terrorists no doubt look at our qualms not as a sign of virtue but of weakness, and as evidence that savagery will lead to victory again and again.

Photo credits: David Brooks. (The New York Times)

2 comments:

geoff said...

the argument isn't that jihadists (or iraqi nationalists or iraqi patriots, whatever you like...) are justified in indiscriminate killing. it's not that bush didn't heed the advice of others before emarking on this endeavor. it is that he willfully lied to americans about why we were engaging in war. it's that simple. it's the argument.

The Unknown Candidate said...

Sorry, Geoff. It is not that simple. Bush lied then and has continued to lie ever since. He has still not come clean about our reasons for being in Iraq, has he? It sure ain't to spread Democracy seeing as how he is consistently desecrating our own.