Friday, December 02, 2005

Why President Bush Lost The Battle

Every so often, the writer Gary North will add some insight into the debate that might otherwise go unnoticed. His viewpoint is that of a Libertarian and most of his arguments are made quite persuasively. Recently he published an article entitled, "Tactics, Not Strategy, in the Antiwar Movement". This entry is no different.

The general premise is that when Presidents of the past century waged war, there was complicity by those in power to accept the terms of the conflict. Whether it was for political (Wilsonian principles of just involvement) or financial (Lockheed Martin, GE, etc.), the power centers would see some tangible benefit for following. The public would be last to know, but dutifully told that this was the best course of action possible.

North sees the internet and particularly the world wide web as the great equalizer that puts a tremendous strain on the old power structures of the 20th century. His shorthand phrase for the transition from the industrial to the technical is "the transition from atoms to electrons." The state can't deploy the National Guard to stop people from thinking and writing about their beliefs. The control has shifted.

In the article linked above, Gary North asks three questions of the antiwar movement, and then tries his best to answer them:

The tactical question today is this: What can critics do to persuade the voters that (1) this war is a colossal mistake, (2) our troops' continued presence in the Middle East is an equally colossal mistake, and (3) we must get out and stay out?

Here are my answers.

First, critics can act just as termites act. They can keep chewing on the structure. This undermines its legitimacy, and legitimacy means everything. Without it, voluntary cooperation ceases. Public support is withdrawn, voter by voter. This is now happening to the Bush Administration.

Second, critics with an anti-empire vision of the Middle East can capitalize on the failed war in Iraq as an example of the cost of empire in that region. They can use Iraq as an ideological domino. "You want more Iraqs? Just stay the Establishment's course." Putting this in one slogan: "Bring the troops home by Christmas." This will reinforce that other slogan: "Get the troops out by Ramadan."

Third, non-interventionists must produce comprehensive historical works that show that Iraq is merely a representative example of the American Empire in general. They must make it clear that it really is an empire, and that empires are not only doomed throughout history, they are doomed for a reason: they rest on coercion.

Step three will be very expensive. Were it not for the falling costs of communication, this program would not be plausible. It will not be easy. There is no non-interventionist equivalent of Ideals and Self-Interest in American Foreign Relations. That book must be written. It must show that George Washington's recommendation in his Farewell Address is the only viable solution, both ideally and pragmatically, to Dwight Eisenhower's warning in his Farewell Address.

I believe that book was already written in North's third point, and it was completed by Ivan Eland in "The Empire Has No Clothes: U.S. Foreign Policy Exposed". Indeed, Eland's case is that the United States of America began its empire with its capture of Cuba and the Phillipines just before the turn of the 20th century and the country has not abated since.

President Bush is only the latest to not understand this history. Invasion and conquest even for what on paper sounds like a lofty ideal only brings about wreckage for both actors. It seems that the comparison between Vietnam and Iraq circa 2003 were quite apt. No one understood though how fast the turn against the war would occur given the power of ideas and their rapid transmission via the web.

The soldiers and marines did the job that they were given quite well - invade a foreign country and defeat the defenses of that nation. They don't have a choice in the matter. The leaders of the U.S. over the past five years are the ones who failed their nation, and it will be pinned to their biographies the footnote, "they lost the war."

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