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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

remember the illusions « Previous | |Next »
June 30, 2004

The principles that underpinned the Iraq invasion are in tatters. Pre-emption has been quietly dropped (it's not being suggested for Iran or Syria); unilateralism is being replaced by the multilateralism of alliance building in Europe; and Iraq as the frontline of terrorism has failed. Only democratising the Middle East remains.

NewsIraq1.jpg

Francis Fukuyama has an interesting article in The Australian about nation building in Iraq. The article will disappear in a few days and it is not yet published in The National Interest.

So I will pick up a few of his ideas as they undercut the tired cliches of this kind of conservative commentary by Tony Parkinson. Fukuyama says that:


"The Bush administration went into Iraq with enormous illusions about how easy the post-war situation would be: it thought the reconstruction would be self-financing, that Americans could draw on a lasting well of gratitude for liberating Iraq, and that we could occupy the country with a small force structure and even draw US forces down significantly within a few months."


We should not forget that the Iraq war was a manipulated get-up job and there has been a cynical use of the "war on terror" to erode the basic civil liberties of Australians and Americans.

Fukuyama then goes on to make an important point about the US and its hsitory. He says:


"True, there is vast disparity of power between the US and the rest of the world, vaster even than Rome's dominance at the height of its empire. But that dominance is clear-cut only along two dimensions of national power, the cultural realm and the ability to fight and win intensive conventional wars. Americans have no particular taste or facility for nation-building; we want exit strategies rather than empires.

So where does the domestic basis of support come for this unbelievably ambitious effort to politically transform one of the world's most troubled and hostile regions? And if the nation is really a commercial republic uncomfortable with empire, why should Americans be so eager to expand its domain? In Iraq, since the US invasion, we Americans have been our usual inept and disorganised selves in planning for and carrying out the reconstruction, something that should not have surprised anyone familiar with American history."


The key idea here is the tension in the US over the conflict between republic and empire. The US America has built an empire of bases rather than colonies, creating in the process a government that is deeply concerned with maintaining absolute military dominance over the rest of the world. Yet the nation is uneasy with empire and concerned with the lack of democratic control over the imperial administration.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 6:16 AM | | Comments (3)
Comments

Comments

"The Bush administration went into Iraq with enormous illusions about how easy the post-war situation would be: it thought the reconstruction would be self-financing, that Americans could draw on a lasting well of gratitude for liberating Iraq, and that we could occupy the country with a small force structure and even draw US forces down significantly within a few months."

I'm not so sure the COW planners were expecting that reconstructing Iraq would be a cakewalk. Certainly they relied on expatriates like Chalabi and the Iraqi National Congress to expect to kick in a rotten door during the invasion phase. They were right in discounting their critics' Stalingrad scenario and a huge refugee exodus. It is fair to say they were surprised at the rundown state of Iraq's infrastructure. Some unpleasant surprises were of course inevitable, behind a totalitarian veil of secrecy. Stumbling across 50 odd MIG fighters underground in the Western desert was a case in point. Whether or not the Anglo electorates were prepared for the long haul, that their leadership probably anticipated, is another matter. Personally I always viewed Iraq as a minimum 2-5 year commitment and probably greater.


Observa,
the question that arises from Fukuyama's text when juxtapoised with your comments is whether the US is able to do the long haul?

The tension between republic and empire makes me wonder.

Fukuyama is one of those people in the US whose agreeably malleable opinions, or rather, his skill at housing his thought in structures that can be deconstructed and redeployed as the situation demands, make him acceptable as a 'thinker'. He's pretty safe.

And something of a poacher too I reckon. Much of that piece could have been written by Niall Ferguson, who has been framing FF's thesis about a US lack of appetite for empire for a while now in the Guardian and elsewhere. Media Watch wouldn't find any direct lifts, but the ideas are identical.

Plus, I hate the whole detached tone, the same one you find other 'thinkers' employing when discussing an absolute disaster of a war they were happy to cheer for beforehand, when the real thinking, analysis and correct diagnosis was being done only by people like us, on blogs and in chat rooms, while your Fukuyamas lazily, cravenly swallowed the hubris whole, happy to nod along appreciatively to Wolfie and Rummy and co. I don't recall reading any FF back then that made any of the neocon critique he's happy to peddle along with everyone else now the shit's hit the fan.

It would be nice to see him eat some humble pie and say, as some of his more honest fellows have done, 'I was wrong, I was gulled, I'm sorry.' But no, we get him talking about 'the neocons' as if they were some strange species he'd heard about but never seen.

Boil that piece down and there's not much originality, or nutrition left.