Thursday, June 15, 2006

How Can You Surrender If There Was Never a War?

I've got bad news, folks.  OUR LANGUAGE ABOUT THIS CONFLICT MUST CHANGE ENTIRELY.  Not because of Zarqawi--but because the Zarqawi incident show just how dramatically we walk into GOP rhetorical traps.

It doesn't matter what the poll numbers say.  It doesn't matter how much the American people have grown tired of having over 2,500 of their youths brought back home in pine boxes.  It doesn't matter how disenchanted the American people have become with Bush, sending his approval ratings spiraling to the low 30's.  It doesn't matter how much we tout the corruption and incompetence of the prosecution of this war, or the lies that were told to lead us into it, or the shamelessness of the torture and massacres perpetrated by all sides of the conflict.

When push comes to shove, Americans want to win.  Such is the eternal optimism of the American electorate that they will vote simultaneously for John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan--because both promised sunshine in the days ahead.  And no matter what they say in the polls leading up an election, when they actually step into the ballot box, they're going to vote for the people who appeal to their pride and tell them that they will WIN..

And with regard to Iraq, everything even our most progressive leaders say still falls into GOP traps guaranteed to ensure our defeat at the polls.

You see, no matter how you phrase it, a troop pullout of Iraq is by definition an admission of defeat in the context of a war, so long as the violence and unrest continues.  Certainly, one can declare "victory" and go home, as Nixon did in Vietnam, but the public knows better.

In the end, you can use the phrase "measured withdrawal", or you can use the phrase "cut and run."  When your average American goes to the ballot box, it all means one and the same thing: Surrender and Defeat in War.  And let me tell you something as sure as day: Americans don't accept surrender and defeat in war.


But what do we do?  After all, this little "venture" of Bush's in Iraq is one of the most--if not THE most--despicable, immoral, mismanaged, shortsighted, corrupt, and utterly murderous foreign adventures in the history of the United States.  IT MUST END--and it can't end soon enough.  

Meanwhile, every domestic issue on the political board right now from executive overreach to the deficit to the depradations of the religious right serves as yet another painful reminder that the very survival of U.S. democracy depends on getting Democrats elected to as many offices as possible in 2006 and being.

But what do we do?  What do we do, when the American public will not accept defeat in war?  And how are we capable, as Democrats and Americans, of "accepting defeat" in war, regardless of the circumstances?  Isn't that cowardly of us, regardless of how many brave soldiers have already been thrown into this immoral meatgrinder?


The reason that these questions SEEM so vexing is because they are UTTER BULLSHIT.  The ENTIRE FRAME OF REFERENCE is bullshit.  But until the Democrats can figure out to stop walking into the same goddamn GOP rhetorical traps time and again, they're going to continue to be confounded by this seeming predicament.

Why is this cartoonist so dead wrong?  Because his assumptions are bullshit from the beginning.  Yet our supposed opposition party does absolutely nothing to call those assumptions into question.


The biggest and by far the most important bullshit assumption being made by all sides is that there is a WAR in Iraq.

THERE IS NO WAR IN IRAQ.  There is an OCCUPATION.  And there is a resistance to said occupation.  This resistance takes many forms: criminal thuggery, despicable terrorism, sectarian violence, and guerrilla warfare.

Allow me to repeat this again, in blockquotes for special emphasis:

The "War" in Iraq is NOT A WAR.  It is an OCCUPATION.

And this is absolutely critical.  It's critical because there is a HUGE difference between wars and occupations: Occupations can end only in WITHDRAWAL or in ANNEXATION; Wars can end only in DEFEAT or VICTORY.

America is NOT ready to annex Iraq--even if such a thing were possible.  Cheney and Bush would like to, through the process of permanent bases--but the American public won't stand for it.  America IS ready to accept withdrawal from Iraq--But ONLY if it understands that what is happening in Iraq is an OCCUPATION and not a war.

But as long as both Democrats and Republicans continue to insist that there is a "war" in Iraq, the voting public will continue to vote optimistically for "Victory"--whatever that may even mean.


The right just loves to compare the Iraq conflict with WWII.  Of course, as any historian or political scientist with half a brain knows, there is absolutely NO comparison between the two.  Starting with the fact that WWII was a war--and the Iraq conflict is NOT.

The left, meanwhile, loves to compare the Iraq conflict with the Vietnam War.  While these parallels are far more apt, they are also misguided: in Vietnam, the United States intervened in an already pre-existing (though lopsided) civil war within the country--a civil war that become by extension a hot proxy on the parts of China and the United States for the Cold War.  Vietnam was an honest to goodness war--albeit a hopeless one to try to win for the United States.


Instead, the proper comparison for the conflict in Iraq is not ANY of these--because it's not a WAR.  It's an OCCUPATION.  In Iraq, we invaded a sovereign nation (albeit a troublesome one) without serious provocation; we obliterated their government, washed away their entrenched structures, changed their flag, completely altered their form of government, exploited their resources, and attempted to maintain the peace through overwhelming (though not nearly overwhelming enough) force.  Various factions in Iraq then began to resort to guerrilla and uncoventional warfare to test the will of, to drain the coffers of, and to sap the strength of, the invading force.

That's what they call an OCCUPATION.  Not a war.


More appropriate parallels to what is going on Iraq include the Algerian Occupation, or the British Rule of India, or the Chinese Occupation of Tibet.

None of these is popular among Americans--because we ourselves are the history of a people who staged a revolution against an occupying oppressor.  Americans get this principle--and we have a distaste for occupations.

Unless, of course, those occupations are being sold to us as "wars"--in which case our instinct is to fight until victory.


There is no such thing as a "surrender" in an occupation.

But as long as Democrats continue to act like there is a "war" in Iraq, people like this cartoonist will continue to have a field day putting us into rhetorical binds.

And we'll be ones surrendering--again--in 2006 and beyond.


Blogger Purple Avenger said...

THE most--despicable, immoral, mismanaged, shortsighted, corrupt, and utterly murderous foreign adventures in the history of the United States

I can think of a certain place in south east asia that was orders of magnitude worse in all metrics.

In terms of civie slaughter, Clinton's premature withdrawl of peacekeepers from Rwanda wins the recent bodycount awards.

2:37 PM  
Blogger thereisnospoon said...

first off, there is a significant difference between failure to act, and acting immorally. Bush is far more to blame for the terrible deeds in Iraq, than for failing to stop the terrible deeds in Rwanda.

As for Vietnam, I can see why the decision was made to go to war there. Belief in the domino theory is stupid, but in the face of the expansion of communism, it was a somewhat understandable decision--and then we got in too deep over our heads.

Going to Iraq had nothing to do with anything except sheer greed, and a small desire for a petulant boy to avenge his daddy and escape his fate.

11:09 PM  
Blogger thereisnospoon said...

i meant failing to stop the terrible deeds in Darfur...sorry.

2:33 PM  

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