“Iraq was wracked today by its most violent civil disturbances since the occupation started, with a coordinated Shiite uprising spreading across the country, from the slums of Baghdad to several cities in the south.
By day’s end, witnesses said Shiite militiamen controlled the city of Kufa, south of Baghdad, with armed men loyal to a radical cleric occupying the town’s police stations and checkpoints. More than eight people were killed by Spanish forces in a similar uprising in the neighboring town of Najaf.
In Baghdad, American tanks battled militiamen loyal to Moqtada Al Sadr, the radical cleric who has denounced the occupation and has an army of thousands of young followers.
At nightfall today, the Sadr City neighborhood shook with explosions and tank and machine gun fire. Black smoke choked the sky. The streets were lined with armed militiamen, dressed in all black. American tanks surrounded the area. Attack helicopters thundered overhead.
‘The occupation is over!’ people on the streets yelled. ‘We are now controlled by Sadr. The Americans should stay out.'” —New York Times
So: “In post September 11 wars, the US secured rapid battlefield dominance in Afghanistan and Iraq. Do these triumphs mean victory? <a href=”http://www.commondreams.org/views04/0402-13.htm” title=”
defeat”>Or, could America be defeated?
Four traits fatally obstruct a balance between threats and capacities and make defeat possible and even likely. First, ignorance is a precursor of gross policy errors that enlarge threats and squander capacities. Not knowing other cultures, histories, or socioeconomic environments is a guarantee of commitments that extend well beyond realistic expectations. From here to the horizon is scattered human debris from interventions in places we knew not at all. Vietnam’s long battle against the French was unknown in the U.S. in the early 1960s. Somalia was but an image of state collapse absent detailed on-the-ground knowledge. Iraq’s Ba’athist regime was part of an “axis of evil”. Attempts to alter local and regional political directions and traditions, however, are not the bailiwick of those without detailed preparations.
Moreover, defeat comes through arrogance. Capacity-driven behaviors are preceded by an assumption that power is deserved, and that deserved power embodies one with a mission to use such capacities for a greater goal. Such a missionary vocation is irrevocably intertwined with hubris – the conceit of power. Yet such arrogance conceals fundamental weakness. Every utterance of arrogant power generates fear, alienation and, ultimately, the development of countervailing and often asymmetric force. With each deception or evidently cosmetic spin, the power of trust and the legitimacy of just force wither. America the indispensable power, the salvation of democracies and the righteously vengeful nation after 9/11 has, in Iraq, found that creating post-war peace and reconstruction depends on far more than US Army occupation.
Distrust of friends, and dread of presumed enemy plots, join to produce the self-flagellation of paranoia. Everything is apprehension, and fright lies slightly beneath the surface. “Report suspicious behavior” flashes the sign above the Beltway – and George Orwell nods. Where one can trust no one, isolated strongholds are one plausible approach to world affairs. The alternative path taken by the Bush Administration is a foreign policy of global unilateralism – pre-empting through raw force whenever narrow national interests seem threatened, surrounding oneself with coalitions of the willing in lieu of genuine alliances. A pre-emptive strategy is one adopted by nations, groups or individuals for whom others harbor evil intentions, and whose presumed intentions warrant immediate countermeasures. It is but a short distance between such trepidation and an irrational paranoia.
Greed is also a quick route to self-defeat. Believing in nothing but today’s material interests is another way of believing in nothing. War to end a regime of one leader or party, to capture resources, or to shift a strategic balance, while ignoring justice and other paramount values is a harbinger of defeat. Lie about motives, deceitfully spin information, conceal data or events – do all of these while wars and their aftermath generate huge unaccountable profits for corporate allies of decision-makers and one is sure to lose the normative war and therefore become the victim of peace.
To the degree that ignorance, arrogance, paranoia and greed are all present, those who make decisions about war and peace will pursue a capacity-driven strategy, conflate discourses of war and peace, and incessantly strive for security through strength. Such decision-makers will, thereby, create enemies from friends, replacing mutual trust with endemic suspicion and fear.
This is George W. Bush’s America. With each pre-emptive step towards global unilateralism, enemies multiply, friendships wane, and the imbalance between threats and capacities approaches critical. The smell of defeat hangs in the air.”
—Daniel N. Nelson, Dean, College of Arts & Sciences, University of New Haven, served in the State and Defense departments (1998-2002) and was Richard Gephardt’s foreign policy advisor when he was House Majority Leader, CommonDreams
Well: Let’s Make Enemies:
US occupation chief Paul Bremer hasn’t started wearing a hijab yet, and is instead tackling the rise of anti-Americanism with his usual foresight. Baghdad is blanketed with inept psy-ops organs like Baghdad Now, filled with fawning articles about how Americans are teaching Iraqis about press freedom. “I never thought before that the Coalition could do a great thing for the Iraqi people,” one trainee is quoted saying. “Now I can see it on my eyes what they are doing good things for my country and the accomplishment they made. I wish my people can see that, the way I see it.”
Unfortunately, the Iraqi people recently saw another version of press freedom when Bremer ordered US troops to shut down a newspaper run by supporters of Muqtada al-Sadr. The militant Shiite cleric has been preaching that Americans are behind the attacks on Iraqi civilians and condemning the interim constitution as a “terrorist law.” So far, al-Sadr has refrained from calling on his supporters to join the armed resistance, but many here are predicting that the closing down of the newspaper–a nonviolent means of resisting the occupation–was just the push he needed. But then, recruiting for the resistance has always been a specialty of the Presidential Envoy to Iraq: Bremer’s first act after being tapped by Bush was to fire 400,000 Iraqi soldiers, refuse to give them their rightful pensions but allow them to hold on to their weapons–in case they needed them later.” —Naomi Klein, CommonDreams