Sunday, March 19, 2006

Marching On
As I mentioned in my post this morning, I wasn't alone three years ago in feeling as though I knew that the Iraq War would be a complete disaster--that we couldn't turn the place into a sandy Connecticut, that we couldn't compel Iraqis to love us at gunpoint, that we couldn't trust people like Ahmed Chalabi, that we'd end up causing a civil war, etc., etc., etc. I knew it; you knew it; only the Bush gang and its fluffers did not. Three years later, all of us who knew it are saying "I told you so"--but at the same time, we're experiencing a certain feeling of amazed disappointment that we could have been so completely right. Subbing for Digby, Tristero writes: "I have never felt worse about knowing I was absolutely right than I did about the March of Folly. This was a lesson only incompetents unfit for public service needed to learn."

Yup, we have gotten what we predicted we would get out of this war--up to and including the continuing equation of dissent with disloyalty--and more, if you count things like the neutering of the Fourth Amendment. There's small comfort, maybe, in the fact that the rest of the country is realizing that war opponents were right (and are right), and that Bush was wrong then and remains wrong now--even though media coverage of the war and Congress' feeble response to events growing out of it, such as the manipulation of prewar intelligence or the warrantless wiretapping of innocent Americans, are still being driven by the opinions of the 33 percent of Americans who support Bush no matter what.

Bush can give all the speeches he wants talking about victory, but there are certain facts of history at work here, and more rhetorical dishwater, no matter how vigorously applied, is not going to change them. Not counting the Revolutionary War, every war the United States has ever won was largely over by the three-year mark. The first Gulf War lasted 100 days; the Mexican War lasted two years; the Spanish-American War, three months. Official American involvement in World War I lasted about 18 months. Three years after Pearl Harbor, the forces that invaded Europe on D-Day were rolling up the Germans; victory, while not entirely secure, was in sight. The three-year benchmark even holds for the Civil War. Three years after the war's first major battle, Bull Run in July 1861, Union armies commanded by Ulysses S. Grant were irrevocably on the offensive, an offensive that would end at Appomattox Court House. Even the wars that ended inconclusively, such as the War of 1812 and the Korean War, didn't last three years. Only in Vietnam--the war we lost--did the war drag on for more than three years. (Of course, the list lengthens if you count other losing wars, like the war on drugs or the war on poverty.) Fact: It doesn't take us this long to win wars we're going to win.

Bush-humpers might argue that Allied victory in World War II and the Union victory in the Civil War were not readily apparent at the three-year mark, and that it's only through the lens of history that those victories look inevitable. And so, they could claim, there might be some turning point yet to come (maybe even tomorrow if we clap our hands and wish harder). But anybody with a rudimentary grasp of Middle Eastern history, contemporary Iraqi politics, or memory enough to remember the course of the last three years, would be rightfully skeptical of such an argument. If we were going to win this one, there would be signs of it visible without resorting to rose-colored glasses. All the signs visible to the naked eye augur against it.

As of this morning, we've gotten 2,318 Americans and between 120 and 200 thousand Iraqis killed while Bush and the supporters of his war have been clapping and wishing. Bush's intransigence on the war--his failure to see the reality that we can't win--is going to get more Americans killed. He seems to me perfectly content to get every American under the age of 40 killed over there, if that's what it will take to maintain the appearance of resolve. But his resolve, far from being brave or principled, is the same kind of resolve that makes a four-year-old hold his breath in retaliation for some slight. We aren't winning this war, no matter how many more die, Americans or Iraqis. If Bush fears a pullout because of what history might think of him, it's too late. It's already easy to see what history's judgment is going to be.

Recommended Reading: Tristero's mention of "the march of folly," the title of a book by Barbara Tuchman that I've admired here previously, was appropriate this morning, given that Salon's Michelle Goldberg mentioned it earlier this week in a review of a forthcoming book by Kevin Phillips, American Theocracy: The Peril and Politics of Radical Religion, Oil, and Borrowed Money in the 21st Century. Phillips, a sober historian and journalist, puts the United States in the same boat with imperial Rome, 17th-century Spain, and Victorian Britain--all empires that seemed to rule the world, but which swiftly fell, in part due to their own hubris. I share Goldberg's feeling that depressing though it is to contemplate America's similar fall, it's also weirdly comforting to realize that the feeling of spiraling disaster is legitimate: "A feeling that the world is falling apart is usually associated with neurosis; now, it's possible that it's a sign of sanity."

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?