Posted by: Jim | November 28, 2006

Why Victory in Iraq is Impossible

Today George Bush remained obstinate on his plans in Iraq. He is staying the course .

He is denying there is a civil war in Iraq, and that is not the only thing he is in denial about. The very notion that “victory” is achievable in Iraq–where victory means a democratic, self-sufficient government exists in that country–is simply impossible.

The only historical comparison that comes even close to the exportation of democracy, is that of Japan after WWII. While it is the closest approximation, it is still light-years away from the context of Iraq. Japan was an extremely homogenous, obeisant culture with a single, all-powerful god-emperor. Japan will probably be the only country in history where democracy was successfully imposed.

But somehow, the concept of exporting our democracy became a foregone conclusion. It seemed a mere matter of action to topple the Hussein regime and replace it with a democracy. I think the simplicity of the plan had appeal to Americans. The metaphors that Rove & Co. fed to the media perfectly framed their argument: “Democracy was on the march,” and referencing our troops as “the spearhead of democracy.” These metaphors were subtle, but powerful indicators that some philosophical change had occured with no one knowing it: that democracy could now be militarily imposed upon another country. But the fairy tale didn’t stop there. Not only would Iraq become democratic! Iran–apparently drawn to the shiny objects of freedom and liberty they saw right next door–would surely follow suit. Remember that fallacy? A lot of Americans believed that would happen–even two years ago.  Now Iran is on the highway to becoming an Islamic superpower and there is nothing we can do about it.The fact is, democracy is not even part of the Middle Eastern psyche. Equality is not part of their value system. Liberty is not prized. Freedom does not exist outside of what Allah allows. Western principles are reviled, and what is more Western than Democracy? How can a democracy stand when the founding principles do not exist? Growing Democracy in the Middle East is like growing a an oak tree in the Sahara. Whatever sprout we might create would quickly wither into something else.  The culture is simply not mature enough to maintain a democracy. They are hundreds of years less mature than The West. I’m sure they would find that statement condescending, but it’s the truth. Islam is holding the Middle East in the Dark Ages, and no country in the Dark Ages can be democratic. Enlightenment must occur, and enlightenment cannot be found at the tip of a spear. So Bush’s policy to “stay the course” is a willfull decision to fail and kill more people. It’s unfathomable that he still thinks we can democratize a country who hates the idea of democracy.

The Democrats need to rally around a single plan–and fast. The best pick is Senator Biden’s plan to create three nations.  Just figure out a way to divide the oil equally, and to protect the sovereignty of each nation.Perhaps it is karma, but we will probably need to call upon the help of the U.N. to bail us out of the snare they advised us against, and whose advice we snubbed.



  1. Bad things happen to paragraphs in WordPress whenever you edit the code. Beware. 😦

  2. I agree heartily with your assessment of the spread of democracy.

    I thought we were foolish and egotistical in the extreme, to think that the middle east wanted democracy or that we had the right to foist it upon anyone.

    For a country that shouts freedom, and choice, we don’t seem to think the rest of the world deserves it.

  3. “The culture is simply not mature enough to maintain a democracy. They are hundreds of years less mature than The West.”

    I can’t support this statement, Jim. The US is about 200 years old, Israel is 58 years old.

    Iran, for example, has 5000 years of culture.

    You made a better point yourself, namely, that the citizens of a culture have to actually want a democracy to be installed. (Sadly, in the US, it appears that there’s a large right-wing contingent who would happily uninstall democracy).

    You don’t bother to pick up on whether democracy, in the form we have it in the West, is actually that great a system anyway. Aren’t our societies run by powerful elites, too? And why couldn’t the will of the people resist the march to war in Iraq? In the US and Britain, there were the biggest ever anti-war protests – it didn’t make any difference. How could it, when the corporate-controlled media was hellbent on propagandizing, disseminating fear to the masses, shamelessly reporting the baseless claims of Saddam’s involvement in 9/11 and the existence of WMDs (that Bush finally went looking for behind a drape).

    And what of the US version of democracy, that basically amounts to busting open new markets for US corporations – it’s hardly that attractive a proposition. Perhaps the people of Iraq no more want a democracy than the people of the US would want an Islamic state. I can understand that. It doesn’t require them to be living in the Dark Ages for that to be a valid position. (And we need to be careful, the US, with the Creationist, anti-evolution movement, which you have railed against, equally has its own Dark Age mentality).

    “It’s unfathomable that he still thinks we can democratize a country who hates the idea of democracy.”

    Well, a US-imposed “democracy”, sure. Who wouldn’t hate that? I live in Central America, where the US-sponsored “democracies” gave the people the power to pick the US-backed candidate, or else, every few years. Doesn’t sound much like democracy. Can you believe that in the recent Nicaraguan elections, Oliver North came to town to campaign against Ortega!

    You’d do better to keep to the deeper philosophical point, that an imposed democracy is, de facto, not a democracy, but an oxymoron. There was also a historical legitimacy to the settlement, whereas we know that Iraq, yes, was run by a tyrant, but the invasion was plainly not merited. Would (or should) the citizens of any nation accede to the wishes of an invading force that possesses no legitimate reason for their occupation?

    That could be the subject of another debate/poll: “If I was an Iraqi in Iraq, would I be fighting the US occupation?”

    (Sorry this is a bit long).

  4. Wow. I was composing a long reply, but Felix beat me to it — almost word for word. Good job, man.

    One thing I would add — this whole ‘invade people and shove American Democracy down their throat for their own good’ thing is a bit like being horrified by women being forced to wear burqas, so you grab a woman and rip her burqa off, leaving her standing there naked, then you hand her a Mickey Mouse T-shirt and say “here, sweetheart, put this on.”

    * * *

  5. I believe bits and pieces of societies evolve and survive, or don’t evolve and die–just like species and ideas. There are factors that promote societal evolution, and factors that inhibit it. For example, religion tends to be an inhibitor, and free speech is a promoter.

    There is no doubt that the US has many groups and factions that are straining against the forward progression and maturation of our society, but they do not define the overall momentum–which is undeniably forward. My argument presumes that the direction we are going is indeed “forward,” which is certainly debatable. But I see movement away from animalistic behavior (survival of the individual) and toward humanistic (survival of the group or species or planet) as forward. I think we have made many more strides in the “Forward” direction than your example of Iran has. Our culture is not as rich, and we continue to make many mistakes (and invent new ones), but we still exhibit more behaviors that will contribute to the survival of humanity than does Iran.

    I realize that is intensely debatable (and it would be interesting) but that’s my opinion. What’s also debatable are some of the causes. But my primary point is that a society must have fundamental values present in order for democracy to work, and those values are not yet present in Iraq.

    The US is already 230, by the way. As a culture, we are about 500 years old. I don’t think we’re more evolved as people. The reason why democratic principles came alive–westward expansion, et al– here were best described by DeToqueville and others. I don’t mean to sound arrogant. I think we’re a happy accident.

  6. LOL … well said Brian.

  7. “But I see movement away from animalistic behavior (survival of the individual) and toward humanistic (survival of the group or species or planet) as forward.”

    But Jim, where is this movement? Maybe in California it’s going on. But you live in a country where the President denies climate change and entertains the notion of Intelligent Design! I found life in the US to be a much more individualist proposition than Europe, but the US television and print media rhetoric paints any type of collective action as being socialism, and therefore, communism.

    Where are the safety nets for the poor and the ready access to healthcare that would suggest that society is moving forward (concerning itself with the welfare of the group, as you say) … In fact, with big pharma squeezing more and more people out of the system, and the bankruptcy act stopping people from starting over, there have been some really regressive trends in the US in the last few years.

    “but we still exhibit more behaviors that will contribute to the survival of humanity than does Iran.”

    Such as Hiroshima and Nagasaki, presumably. Millions dead in Central and Latin America, Korea, Vietnam, and now Iraq. All of the torturers trained at The School of the Americas. American corporations buddying up to the damn Chinese authorities. Sports manufacturers with their sweatshops. Oil corporations making record profits and issuing phoney science refuting climate change (just like the tobacco companies did with lung cancer). Warrantless wiretapping of Americans. The no-fly list. The Patriot Act. Both main parties in the US continually turning a blind eye to the excesses of Israel and Russia. A media that simplifies and demonises whatever nation falls in US cross-hairs.

    Given that the US involvement in Iraq has now gone on longer than US participation in WWII, I am not sure where you are finding these signs of forward progress. The biggest group of all is all humankind and US actions in the last six years have done nothing but raise the global political temperature and create situations that will take generations to repair (and to pay for).

    I am not trying just to batter the US here, but I just don’t see many examples of more progress towards measures that are focused on the welfare of the group (unless that group is the super-rich, CEOs, and friends of George Bush). Maybe you can cite some, Jim.

    Come on, give me hope.

  8. Thanks, Bri. Glad I saved you some typing.

  9. Kingfelix, we are looking at this from completely different perspectives.

    Obviously all the atrocities you’ve cited were horrible, unjustifiable, etc. but they are all examples of brutish, animalistic people who want only to better themselves. The forward movement I’m talking about is slow–on the scale of evolution slow. People evolve over generations, but societies can only evolve over epochs. An idea within a society like “freedom of speech” might take generations to finally sink in and become a graspable idea that is associated with something good. The only reason democracy was born was that a confluence of these ideas all became present within a society that would allow those ideas to survive. That does not mean that the brutish “bang the different people over the head” ideas STOP existing! The West is still a veritable soup of conflicting ideas. Just like human beings; men have the genetic disposition to care for their young, but men still have the genetic disposition to rape women. You can point to a rapist and say “Men are evil” if you want, but you are missing the bigger picture.

    The ideas of liberty, equality, and the value of every individual must be at least *present* in a society before a Democracy has the slightest chance of surviving. Just the ideas need to be present. Those concepts weren’t even TRUE in America when Democracy was born, but the *ideas* existed. You are responding as if I’m saying that those ideas preclude any other bad ideas or behaviors from existing. That is not what I am saying.

    A better argument might be for you to point out some forward-thinking ideas that exist in the Middle East that do not exist in The West. Maybe there are some–I honestly don’t know. But I do not believe that the IDEAS of liberty, equality, etc. have taken hold yet in the Middle Eastern ethos. Of course there are educated individuals there who get it, but the idea has to be a log in everyone’s fireplace for it to work.

    Part of the reason why these ideas are not part of their society is because America is doing a piss poor job of representing the value of these ideas–as you so well documented. And you are right; it’s hard to blame them for having an aversion to the type of government we are trying to cram down their throat. It all explains why Victory in Iraq is Impossible, a fact upon which I think we can all agree. 🙂

  10. Well said, Jim. Though I have to point out that Democracy was not born in America. That distinction, at least in recorded history, belongs to Ancient Greece — and it was likely based on concepts that predate that civilization by hundreds, if not thousands of years. In fact, Greece was far more of a TRUE ‘Democracy’ than our so-called Representative Democracy — and that’s not even taking into account all the corruption, corporatization and elitism that has made a mickery of it.

    And while our history books consider Greece the birth of Western Civilization, the reality is that, both geographically and culturally, it was part of the world that we now call the ‘Middle East’. that means that the idea came from SOMEWHERE OVER THERE and didn’t originate with America or even France. In fact, the Roman Empire was responsible for eliminating Democracy from the face of the Earth until the so-called Age of Reason reignited the flame. For THAT you can give European philosophers and American revolutionaries a great deal of credit, but to say we came up with the idea in the first place is rather silly.

    In addition, while I agree in part with your assessment of the current Arabic/Persian cultures as theocratic, often barbaric, and trapped in a mindset that precludes the ideals that we strive for (if rarely obtain), don’t forget that while the West was mired in the Dark Ages, Arabic and Persian cultures were a beacon of civilization, art, science, and trade. Yes, they were theocratic kingdoms, but so were ‘we’ at the time, only we were busy persecuting scientists and artists while they were celebrating them. There were always clashes with the West, but the West was as guilty of causing them (remember the Crusades?) as were Scimitar-waving Mullahs with visions of Islamic conquest.

    It was World War One that finally destroyed the Ottoman Empire, the Arab Superpower that survived for more than 700 years. it was then summarily gobbled up by European colonialism. The rest of what we call the Middle East was colonized and exploited by European powers from the early 19th century until the end of WWII. During that war, in exchange for their help in defeating the Axis, the Allies made a lot of promises to the Arabs that were subsequently broken, and the postwar world devolved into the Cold War, in which the nations of the Middle East existed primarily as pawns. Then as the ultimate slap in the face, WWII victors placed a much-needed Jewish State not in Europe, where it arguably should have been, but right smack dab in the middle of Arab lands. Is it any wonder that Arabs don’t generally trust what we so generously attempt to impose on them?

    What we have today in that region is the post-apocalyptic remnants of a great civilization that was, of course, not Democratic, BUT quite advanced and respected throughout the world for many of its scientific, mathematical, literary and artistic achievements. And now all they have going for them is an abundance of a natural resource that, in our foolish short-sighted societal evolution, we have become dependent on. Ah, irony.

    So yes, these are people trapped in a mentality that we can (quite ironically) compare to our Dark Ages. But we ought to take more responsibility for how they got trapped in the first place. And yes, unfortunately for us, the tables have turned to some degree — but we have only ourselves to blame for exploiting, betraying, and violating the sovereignty of a region while slowly becoming dependent on it. We have blown the basic law of survival that every animal and fourth-grader knows instinctively: Don’t Shit Where You Eat.

    * * *

  11. One of the questions I was about to ask is, “Are the idea of liberty and equality, in the world of conflicting ideas, the dominant ideas?” Meaning, is the idea of liberty like brown eyes in Africa?

    I think what I’m blathering about would take millenia to really prove out. But, I would say we don’t have the answer yet. My hope is that the answer is yes. Since Democracy was an idea that lived in dormancy for a few thousand years but still came alive later says it might be dominant idea, or an idea that becomes a natural conclusion of other dominant ideas.

    If the laws that govern evolution can be applied everywhere, then the answer is yes. If there are traits that help a society survive over time, and liberty and equality are two of those traits, then liberty and equality will more likely be found in societies that survive. That sounds circular, but it isn’t.

    I don’t think.

    My head hurts.

  12. Jim, after reading all of these learned opinions, I’m glad for this last comment by you ( as well as said learned opinions).

    Sure, democracy is great and it works for most of the civilized world. As good as it is, perhaps it is not meant to work in a country like Iraq, or right now. I can’t even begin to tell you why. The dilemma then presents itself – even if democracy or lack thereof is not part of the problem, the real problem(s) still exist. Dependance upon oil by the rest of the world. Terrorism. Civil war (whatever defines civil war, I don’t know – it just looks like pure anarchy to me). Hatred of the west for her success and her bounty. These are problems, for the world, for the west, and on a personal level, for me. We could all write books on how this conflict affects our lives on so many levels…

  13. Bri’s post was excellent. Thanks for putting in so much effort.

  14. Thanks for the love, KF.

    * * *

  15. Felix, Bri, could it be argued that the sticker on the U.S of A may be only 230 years old, but her almalgam represents much more? The USA is unique in so many ways. No, we’re not the first to take in immigrants, but we are the first nation to offer, in principle, the same opportunity for all citizens on a massive scale, citizens being the key word there.

    It was difficult to type that sentence because it is a proven fact that even the founding fathers of this nation shattered this very notion by owning slaves. We live. We learn. Key word being learn. The democratic process is difficult and like potatoes – not good when it is instant. The learning curve for other countries/societies is simply…longer.

  16. This is OT, Jim, but I fixed that weird character HTML issue on my page… pulled my hair out over that one.

    This is a great post, BTW. The comments that follow are even better.


  17. Thanks Tommy!

    Hegel was da man!

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