Notes on the Atrocities
Like a 100-watt radio station, broadcasting to the dozens...

Saturday, May 01, 2004  

"Major combat operations in Iraq have ended. In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed."

--W., a year ago.

Or maybe not. "The battle of Iraq," which George and the neocons never understood, was not the invasion. This is the critical misunderstanding not just of the battle of Iraq, but of all US foreign policy. After 9/11, we listened ad nauseum to a coterie of bloodthirsty hawks lecture us about how "everything has changed" even while they failed to grasp that basic point.

Everything has changed. We understand now that the great ignored, neglected parts of the globe with little money, little infrastructure, and few weapons are our greatest threat. We understand now that the speeding integration of the world (congratulations new EU members) means that those who are not in a position to integrate will fall further behind. Trapped in a world of poverty, political instability and repression, where information neither flows in or out and education is the exception, people play by different rules. It's not the Chinas, who are amenable to adopting our basic rules about human rights and liberty if it means stable trading, that are our threat, but those countries with no hope of of integration. Our vast military can influence China, where the government is strong and stable. But it is completely toothless to threaten a suicide bomber.

The neocons thought we could bring peace and stability to Iraq with the barrels of our guns because they imagined there was an Iraq. What so many warned and which they failed to heed, however, was that there is no Iraq. Like other troubled regions, in Iraq there are people with no sense of national unity, no experience of government as a stable, positive force. For those who understood that Iraq was merely a circle drawn in the desert by the last colonists, the current situation is perfectly predictable.

If we are going to make any progress in the "war on terror," we have to quit regarding it as a war. It's something far larger and more complex. It's the reconstruction of decades or centuries of instability. Guns are the worst medicine. In those dangerous regions, the instability has always come from the barrel of a gun, always accompanied by some hollow rhetoric about freedom and peace. If the US wants to truly bring peace to Iraq and all unstable reasons, it's got to abandon the war. Peace, education, infrastructure, food, water, basic services and real freedom is what these countries need. If Iraq has shown us anything, it's that guns don't bring them.

posted by Jeff | 9:25 AM |
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