Friday, August 19, 2005


James Wolcott quotes Immanuel Wallerstein on the war:

"It's over. For the U.S. to win the Iraq war requires three things: defeating the Iraqi resistance; establishing a stable government in Iraq that is friendly to the U.S.; maintaining the support of the American people while the first two are being done. None of these three seem any longer possible. First, the U.S. military itself no longer believes it can defeat the resistance. Secondly, the likelihood that the Iraqi politicians can agree on a constitution is almost nil, and therefore the likelihood of a minimally stable central government is almost nil. Thirdly, the U.S. public is turning against the war because it sees no "light at the end of the tunnel."

"As a result, the Bush regime is in an impossible position. It would like to withdraw in a dignified manner, asserting some semblance of victory. But, if it tries to do this, it will face ferocious anger and deception on the part of the war party at home. And if it does not, it will face ferocious anger on the part of the withdrawal party. It will end up satisfying neither, lose face precipitously, and be remembered in ignominy."
Although Wolcott also agrees with Norman Solomon about the likelihood of prolongued involvement after a fashion, the aims of the war are unlikely to come about...and those aims that do will be counterbalanced by other, unanticipated problems.

Just as nobody focused on what would happen after the war, however, few are examining what will happen "after the peace"... that is, what the United States and the world will be like after the defeat has finally taken place. Vietnam, rightly or wrongly, had a huge effect on the American psyche, one not mitigated by the intensely (and obviously) one-sided conflicts that the US fought between Vietnam and the latest Gulf War. It had an effect not only because of the brutality of the war (and, yes, of some of those who fought it... "support the troops" does stop somewhere, and that place is My Lai), but because American culture is notoriously unforgiving towards failure and exceptionalist at the same time.

I cannot imagine what it will be like when Americans are forced to deal with the fact that their two longest post-WWII conflicts were both failures (Vietnam and GW2), despite the technological superiority the US demonstrated in both conflicts. All I know is that it will be bad. Very bad.

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