Thursday, September 18, 2003

The Witches of Baghdad

I have to agree with Hans Blix that there is some witch hunting afoot. You would think that we are more advanced than that. But the amusing thing about history is that each era thinks that it is more advanced than the previous, while the whole of human history can best be summarized as, "The more things change the more they stay the same..."

But how do we know that it is witch hunting? Because it was the rhetoric and emotion that moved people to support the attack on Iraq. The facts were sketchy and the logic non-existant. My bottom line back in March was that we were ignoring the United Nations and our traditional allies. (Ok, England was in, and I still wonder about their motivations. British Petroleum interests?) I don't like war, but if the international community had agreed with our administration that war with Iraq was necessary I would have accepted it. After 9/11 my prayers soon concentrated on not having our nation act too hastily or with too much anger. Our pursuit of Bin Laden and strike against Afghanistan were fairly much accepted and supported by the international community, so I accepted it. But Iraq? It seemed to me that the Bush administration was taking advantage of their carte blanche license to make war as the emotional dust from 9/11 was still settling.

So how goes the witch hun- er, war? Most news stories agree that we are over committed and taking continuous casualties while we try to rule over a fractured society that seems equal parts terrorized and terrorist (I think that depends on how they take the current occupation and anarchy - whether it scares them or pisses them off). So for a war that we "won", keeping the "peace" is proving difficult - and expensive in the lives of both Americans and Iraqis. I'm sure I can rest easy that the oil wells are safely guarded, however, and that all the gas-swilling automobiles of the West can continue their daily banal errands.

Speaking of history, by the way, Michael Barone writes in this week's US News and World Report that we shouldn't be worried about how long it is taking to stabilize Iraq because everyone has always sucked at it. He says:

"...the Allied leaders who gathered at the peace conference in Paris were largely clueless about how to reconstruct the defeated nations after World War I. Jean Edward Smith's biography of Gen. Lucius Clay reveals that the first time he read the government's plans for post-World War II Germany was on the flight over there to take charge. William Manchester's American Caesar shows that Douglas MacArthur, however knowledgeable about the Far East, did not have clear ideas on how to rule postwar Japan. Clay and MacArthur improvised, learned from experience, made mistakes, and corrected them, adjusted to circumstances. It took time: West Germany did not have federal elections until 1949, four years after surrender; the peace treaty with Japan was not signed until 1951."

He says this after admonishing us that "those inclined to make straight-line extrapolations from the events of a few news cycles should read some history". Well.... Isn't that what our leaders should have done in preparation of invasion? Read some history? THAT old saying goes, "Those ignorant of history are doomed to repeat it." That would be the point of learning about all the mistakes we made in the past - that we can do BETTER now. So all that Barone is really saying is, "Well, here we go again...."

In closing, GB Shaw remarked: "Hegel was right when he said that we learn from history that man can never learn anything from history." Sounds like there will be witch hunting...

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