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Falluja of an Empire

We are in a conflict that we cannot win today. I am not talking about the war in Iraq although that is a symptom of what is wrong here. We can still win something for the future of Iraq by bringing in an international coalition and reducing our level of control over things there. We will clearly not do that if the Bush Administration is reelected, he cannot easily gain followers in the world outside our borders after the first act of his war in Iraq. Nor does he want to, he clearly prefers a go it alone strategy to any real international involvement.

Of course, Bush is the President who suffered 9/11 because the Federal Bureaucracy just couldn’t act on the warnings that were sent his way. At least that appears to be what Condi was saying in front of the commission designated to find the truth about that tragedy. Bush cannot save our American Empire from a humiliating defeat in Iraq, nor can he win the “War on Terror”. It will take a committed internationalist to do both of those eminently doable feats.

We do not want to leave Iraq in chaos as we did Vietnam after we were unable to restore order there. Nor do we want to permanently lose our battle for the balance of the minds and hearts of Muslim’s in our world. We only need to pursue the internationalist agendas that were in place here before 9/11 to win at both of those tasks. It may take years to undo the damage that was done by Bush’s arrogant approach. But both European leaders and Asian nations have a stake in the stability of the Middle East and will help if we give them cover with their followers. Why was Bush so arrogant? Was it because he felt the hand of destiny on his shoulder? Or was it because he was too ignorant of the real facts to make a sound decision in either situation? The real fact about our Empire is that it is an Empire of consensus, not an Empire of Military Power.

That is the real mistake Bush has made in pursuing his course. He has been too concerned with efforts to “Shock and Awe” the Arab Nations into going along with him and too little concerned about consensus. Consensus was the source of our power in the Cold War. Yes we used Military Power as a basis for that consensus, but we never tried to defeat our allies before 9/11. Germany and France were allies of ours in the Cold War because their support was courted and their involvement was taken seriously. Why should they be our allies in the War on Terrorism if they are not taken seriously as world economic powers? Their rejection of our attack on Iraq is looking prescient today, but they can still be convinced to help if we rebuild our relationships with them. All we have to do is act like the leader of an International Empire of world powers. That should not be hard. We are clearly not an Empire of sufficient Military Force to go it alone in the world.

The Militaristic approach to conflict can be useful, as it would have been in Afghanistan if we had followed through there. It can also be destructive of our goals as it is turning out to be in Iraq these days. Military power cannot win Iraq over to a democratic way of life; it can only subdue a relatively willing population in pursuit of establishing order. When our military force there becomes as much of a hindrance to order as it is a help in establishing it, it becomes a liability. Our military needs to be replaced with a force that is less likely to inflame hatred and create the basis for a world-wide conflict based on Islamic anger at us. That will not be easy but the other options, crushing all opposition or withdrawing and leaving chaos are far less attractive. Nothing confuses the minds of relatively decent human beings like watching their compatriots slaughtered. After 9/11 the feeling here was one of shock and anger and eventually firm resolve. The problem was we did not have a clear understanding of what that resolve should lead us to do.

Bush led us into Iraq because the vision he held, of a New World Order based on our military power was fed to him by his most trusted aides. Those who fed him that poppycock were certain that we could stand alone and use fewer troops than real experts thought was wise. They are proving to be poor prognosticators of outcomes. Their predictions from the impact of Shock and Awe, to the impact of going it alone, to the impact of capturing Saddam have all overstated the value of those efforts. They have led us to an outcome that is more in doubt today than any of their predictions would have led us to believe one short year ago. They have compromised their leader’s position as the leader of an Empire broader than any militaristic Empire based on our military power can ever become. His own Aides have constrained his success and probably demolished the huge popularity advantage bestowed on him by 9/11.

It is always difficult to gauge what an appropriate response must be to an event like 9/11. Attacking Afghanistan was a good start, we had consensus on our side there. Abandoning the consensus based Empire model for the Militaristic isolationistic model preferred by the Neocons was an error. Maintaining our Empire after the end of the Cold War may or may not have been wise, but turning on our allies in it, over the invasion of Iraq was foolish beyond belief. No single nation, not even the USA, can hold together a World Empire of Trade like the one that existed before 9/11. Military force clearly has its limits, so does unilateralism in a world where international consensus drives trade and every economy is connected to every other one. Bush has failed at consensus building, failed at multilateral militarism and failed at running the government bureaucracies that keep our system working. I cannot see how reelecting Bush will end that cycle of failure. God bless and keep you all safe in this multilateral world, it is far more dangerous to be a unilateral actor in it than a consensus builder. ©Henri Reynard/GoldenBrush Interactive

Posted by Henri Reynard at April 12, 2004 11:35 AM