Comments on Lind

A friend of mine, a gun-toting Utah liberal, read “How to Win in Iraq” by William S. Lind.  He responded (facetiously),

That is an excellent idea! I had not looked at the prospect of letting Iran have it as a victory. However I have always thought that if we would let Iran have it’s nukes we would be better off. It is not like Isreal is without a missle defence system. Can you say SCUDS? I knew you could.

Which suggests another line of resistance to Lind’s proposal: it just sounds like defeat.

I’m reminded of the movie “Matrix: Revolutions,” in which the crew of the ship Hammer, at great risk to themselves, approaches home with the ability to destroy hundreds of thousands of invading machines with an electromagnetic pulse.  The dock is littered with destroyed defense units, and only 13 are still working.  Commander Lock and his staff have the following exchange:

Lock’s Lieutenant: Sir, their EMP could take out every sentinel up there.
Lock: It’d take out more than that. It’d wipe out our entire defense system. We blow an EMP in there, we will lose the dock!
Lock’s Lieutenant: Sir, we’ve already lost the dock.

Like the single-minded Commander Lock, our nation’s dialogue is stuck in the trap that anything less than military victory is defeat.

The goal of empire has always been to subdue others, to force them to do our will. But the experience of empire is that “A man connvinced against is will is of the same opinion still.” Given the least bit of encouragement, the conquered people will rebel. You may recall the India Rebellion of 1857, the Boxer Rebellion, Pontiac’s War, the First and Second Boer Wars– and that’s just a handful from the British experience.

Real security comes not from subduing an enemy through force, but by making that enemy a friend through diplomacy. Many of our former enemies are now non-hostile as a result of diplomacy rather than force of arms: England, Vietnam, China, and Russia spring to mind. I’m not a pacifist who would suggest a strong military has nothing to do with this process, only that military victory was not the cause in these instances.

Lind suggests that we have already lost Iraq on the battlefield, but if through this debacle we transform Iran from enemy to friend, and if we allow the formation of a state inside Iraq, we will have done more for our own security than anything the troops could do, no matter how many we send or how well armed they are.  The war was bungled, the damage is done.  Yet we could still come away with more than what we started with.


  1. We can’t come away with more than we started. We have dug a $1 trillion hole in Iraq, and we ain’t coming out of that anytime soon. It is more a matter of salvaging ourselves and our economy at this point. Europe, China and Japan are killing us in production. If we divert resources from economically profitable endeavors like business to economic black holes like Iraq, then we are doomed.

    Ultimately, it’s a matter of Iran’s bluff. Iran is betting that we are stupid enough to want to continue with this losing proposition. If we propose to dump this orphan child at Iran’s door, then there is no question that Iran would immediately come to terms with the US. After all, a country that is rationing gasoline and crumbling economically under the weight of its huge disenfranchised population scarcely has the resources to care for an orphan like Iraq. 🙂

    If we had people who knew how to bargain running the US…

  2. Your mistake (in this post) is to assume that the US is trying to spread security, peace and democracy instead of violence, instability and empire.

    Most of what politicians say about Iraq is designed to sound like they are engaging with the problem of making the world a safer place, indeed as if they are concerned only with that. Most of their actions, however, make it clear that they are spreading empire on behalf of their corporate paymasters.

    If peace and democracy was the aim then almost every action the US has taken in the ME since the end of WW2 has led to failure of that purpose. If, on the other hand, the aim was empire, then it’s all going swimmingly.

  3. If we had one fewer enemy, that would be something “more than we started with.”

    As to the trillions of dollars spent on this boondoggle, they are needlessly gone forever. Though I find myself convinced that this administration would have found a way to spend (steal?) huge amounts of borrowed money even without a war.

    “If we had people who knew how to bargain running the US…”

    I believe they call that diplomacy. Our President has no experience at it. Only one of our declared candidates has any experience at it– and he’s being ignored. Probably because diplomacy isn’t as sexy as conflict.

  4. The trillions of dollars spent in Iraq have not been wasted by the standards of the current administration. They have gone to reliable allies like Halliburton. To the Bushies, the fact that Halliburton effectively embezzled the money by not performing is irrelevant, since government services are worthless, don’t you know?

    Most empires are smart enough to coopt some local faction or chieftain and arm them to suppress the other natives. That historically is what the English did, and very successfully. We think we can do it ourselves without local involvement. The reasons have never been clear to me, but the results are clear and disastrous enough. I think the empirists truly believe that if you scratch some furiner, you find a Nebraskan underneath begging to be let out to run out and consume and fire up the BBQ.

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