We must not forget Korea, officially ending in stalemate in 1953. Since WWII, then, the US has played at war - Grenada, Panama - hoping recently to undo Viet Nam, hoping to recapture the magic of VE Day. Thomas Wolfe said it best: you can't go home again.
Wouldn't it be easier if Bush suddenly went sane and withdrew from Iraq? He cannot. He cannot do so for several reasons: his metastized ego and effeminate machismo among them. Most importantly, Bush cannot leave because he has not won. Bush cannot leave because the US cannot live with the political vacuum that will be left in its wake. For the same reasons, the US cannot stay.
Let's set the scene. In those halcyon days just prior to the collapse of the Third Reich, it was clear that victory would be complete if shared with Britain and the Soviet Union. The end of Hitler's Reich topped even Wagnerian opera for its Sturm und Drang. As a novel, it would have been over the top. As opera, it is tolerated. We might even have tolerated a thickly orchestrated score. But what of the libretto: a mad dictator holes up to commit suicide after having murdered several million people. What a log line! Who but a opera fan could believe it?
Like a noble Collie that develops a taste for sheep, America got a whiff of blood, a taste of war and liked it. Tragically, nothing since that time has bothered to follow script. Nothing about World War II prepared the US for Viet Nam. Nothing about Viet Nam prepared the US for Iraq.
Having supposedly learned the lessons of Viet Nam, the US would not repeat the mistakes. Bushies assured us that a civil war was unlikely, the US would be greeted as liberators, and, after drafting a Constitution, all would be well. Emperor Bush would wear an embarassingly ill-fitting flight suit.
Civil wars are hard to end. In my lifetime, the average length of a civil war has been some 10 years. Civil wars are primarily guerrilla wars or, in the lexicon of Viet Nam, asymetrical conflicts. They are fought by loosely organized resistance groups using tactics best described by Che Guevara (See: Fundamentals of Guerrilla Warfare). The US Civil war was a prominent exception consisting, as it did, of conventional armies and well-defined fronts. Modern conflicts resemble the more recent wars in Algeria, Viet Nam, Colombia, Sri Lanka, and Sudan.
It seems unavoidable at this point. As Juan Cole reports, a Saudi official recently admitted that Riyadh will intervene in Iraq if the US withdraws its troops. This will be the case if Sunnies believe themselves threatened by a US puppet, Shi'ite regime. But that's only part of the story. Iraqi Kurds have all but declared their independence. It is prudent to ask whether Turkey will invade what is now Kurdish territory. And what of Iran? It will most certainly ally with Iraqi Shi'ites.
I am inclined to say that Bush has no options. Events on the ground are completely out of his control. Anything done by Bush now will only confirm the disastrous nature of his decision to go to war. It illustrates the moral value of truth itself. Bush could only have gone to war, as he did, upon a pack of malicious, blackhearted, treasonous lies. A single truth would have prevented a human tragedy of biblical proportions.
But faced with ignominious and humiliating defeat, Bush will try to force the various parties to reach an accommodation. How is he to do this, having lost all credibility? In the weeks ahead, however, you can expect the Bush gang of liars to come up with yet another novel rationale for "staying the course". Withdrawing now, they will say, will divide Iraq. That is GOP-speak for we will have to negotiate with whomever gets the oil. The better alternative is an honest broker negotiating a peace along the lines of Northern Ireland or Lebanon. But it would require a statesman in the White House to pull that off. We haven't had such a man since Jimmy Carter.
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