I hate to interrupt a series, but I’m slightly worried that the titles alone of the last two posts may have scared away some of UR’s red-state readers.
Obviously, if you read all the way to the bottom of the screen, let alone the rest of the blog, you realize that I am desperately fond of America, especially its middle or “flyover” section, although this fondness is based on little more than Mrs. Moldbug’s Ohioan relations. And since we can expect Sarah Palin, by simple extrapolation, to be a serious candidate for UN Secretary-General by at least 2017 (perhaps indeed our first actual ruling SecGen, a prospect obviously fantastic but nonetheless enticing), I had better talk no more trash about the lady.
But I still reserve the right to refer to the red-staters, collective, as “Amerikaners.” Like their lexical analogues, the Amerikaners are a cultural group of European stock, but their present-day traditions cannot be easily connected with any group in modern Europe. We cannot say this of the Universalist Eloi of the coasts, whose connection to the English Dissenters and their secular, liberal heirs has been continuous since day one. For example, American traditionalist or “fundamentalist” Christianity, which is nominally Protestant but seems almost Catholic next to the thoroughly Quakerized blue states, has historical roots which are quite obscure and thoroughly American. And besides, I can’t imagine any Amerikaner who wouldn’t dig this.
The future is what it is. No one can predict it. But if we could ask the future questions, and it actually answered back, and we could somehow know that it wasn’t lying, we could become far more confident in our expectations. If I had some such magic 8-ball, my question would be: when will the Amerikaners decide that they’ve had enough?
Sixty (60) percent of American voters call themselves “conservative.” Voting as an organized, disciplined bloc, it should be straightforward for them to defeat and destroy the remaining 40 – let’s say 20% Eloi, 20% Morlock. Moreover, if such a majority demands a comprehensive reconstruction of government, not just a cosmetic change among a few ceremonial officials who have no real executive authority, the Eloi and Morlocks can hardly resist them. Especially since the American military class is, almost by definition, Amerikaner.
In retrospect, any such reconstruction would be accepted by all, of whatever caste. The Eloi will see the light, as they always do. As Osama put it: they like the strong horse. In an Amerikaner republic, Eloi will elbow each other out of the way to eat overpriced American food, wear marked-up knockoffs of American prole clothes, live in actual old American buildings, etc, etc.
Of course the Eloi already do these things. But in our New Albion, they will do them with flags, God and guns. (Possibly even Confederate flags.) And the Morlocks will be forced to deal – as they already are. (Although once the bar is reset, I suspect that less force will be required.)
New Albion will expose and exhume ad nauseam the crimes of the old regime, its predecessor USG. Its satellite states in Britain, Europe, Latin America, Asia and Africa will receive full independence under classical international law. The substance of the change will be obvious. The old progressive history books will be recalled. New reactionary ones will appear. (No burning or banning is necessary. Few Albioners will have the time or energy for 20th-century progressive cant.) And Sarah Palin will put together a small edition of her family’s wise old Alaska sayings, bound in red, white and blue, which fits nicely in the lapel of your blazer.
You may, or may not, be thankful that this is not going to happen. It is not going to happen because the Amerikaners are not organized enough to make it happen. Given infinite time, they will certainly get organized, which is why I say “when” rather than “if.” But time is not on the Amerikaners’ side. Their horse has been weakening for the last century.
The Amerikaners’ problem is that they’re governed by their enemies, the progressives, who have converted democratic politics into a reality show and rule through the extended civil service. The civil service is nominally responsible to the elected arms, but the latter would have to put up a terrible fight to even touch them. And progressives fight the peril of a “populist” democratic reaction with two slow, but inevitably lethal, strangulation tactics: subsidized progressive education, and Morlock voter importation.
The last quasi-successful Amerikaner reaction was the “Return to Normalcy” of the 1920s. Considering the royal ass-whupping the Amerikaners have been taking since then, “normalcy” (which, in classic Amerikaner style, is not even a word) is an awful mild description of the converse. But not even a gentle, Harding-Coolidge style restoration is a real possibility today.
The fatal flaw in the democratic mind of the Amerikaner, or “conservative,” is that he believes that his country’s political system basically works and is the best in the world. It has just gone slightly off the rails in the last few decades. But it can be set right with a minor corrective operation, ie, replacing a few ceremonial officials with good, clean-minded, child-bearing Amerikaners.
This belief system, which has no correlation with reality, is at the heart of “conservatism.” It shows no sign of going away. The fatal allure of insisting that right-wing conservatism is really the true democratic liberalism, the other having strayed, is an irresistible anglerfish lure. (The Rev. Dabney will set you straight.)
Therefore, the Amerikaners are unlikely to organize and act effectively until their electoral position has declined to the point at which a democratic restoration is not only nontrivial, but in fact impossible. At this point, USG will have imported tens if not hundreds of millions of new Third World residents. It will be obvious that military government is the only route to any kind of American restoration. The inevitable alternative is a North America indistinguishable from the rest of the Third World.
Have you been to the Third World? The armed forces will have to act. Let’s hope they can all get it together to be on the same side.
A military restoration may have some advantages over a democratic one. For one, the issue of democracy is settled at the start, or at least should be. A transition from democracy to democracy may have some nontrivial restorative effects, but come on, people. Ideally this needs to be done just once.
Any transition of sovereign responsibility to the military, however temporary, is dangerous. Guns kill people, etc. And just from an aesthetic standpoint, it is much more elegant, and seems much more final, for constitutional democracy to terminate itself democratically and constitutionally. Pass an amendment which transfers sovereignty to the new authorities, and the game is over. The security forces will certainly be enthusiastic in their obedience.
But for Amerikaners, who are already second-class citizens in their own country (it is a testament to the level of morphine in the drip that only 16% of Americans believe that an Obama administration will “favor blacks over whites” – what is he, Ward Connerly on a diet? But not that any other administration would differ…) the problem is pertinent enough that it should probably be pursued in parallel, like the Manhattan Project.
A democratic reaction is the uranium bomb. A military reaction is the plutonium bomb. Two great tastes that go great together. Today, we’ll be working on the plutonium side of the building.
How do you start a military coup? Start twenty years ago. Form informal groups of reactionary cadets in the military academies. Stay in touch with one another. Ally for promotion. And do nothing else until the moment is right; then strike irresistibly and with decisive force. Rocket science it ain’t. Edward Luttwak’s little book is a little dated, but it may still be useful.
Obviously, I can’t do anything to assist (or hinder) this process. Perhaps there are already small Mencist cells forming at West Point. But probably not. Since UR specializes in candid and historically informed discussions of government policy, though, it certainly can’t hurt to discuss a subject which I’d like to think would interest most military men at the moment.
Today, we’ll look at the problem of occupying and governing a foreign country. I think it would be fun to use real countries, circa now, for our case study. Let’s call these countries “Great Britain” and “Iran.” If Britain wished to occupy and govern Iran, let’s say starting in early 2010 (it’s always good to have some time to prepare), how would it go about doing so? Assume, for the purposes of the problem, that Iran cannot build a nuclear weapon by then.
Of course, the conventional wisdom is that it would be completely impossible for Great Britain to occupy and govern Iran. It is even unthinkable for the US military to occupy and govern Iran. The US can’t even really handle Afghanistan, and it is much bigger and tougher than the UK. And when you look at what happened when Britain tried to occupy and govern a single city in Iraq – Basra – we see that the conventional wisdom is, as usual, exactly right.
So let’s say that our occupier is not the present government of the British Isles – ie, Whitehall – but a successor regime, Young Britain. Young Britain has declared independence from the United States, withdrawn from the “international community,” discarded Whitehall and its Hanoverian sham-kings, and restored the Stuart line under Joseph Wenzel, with his father Alois as Prince Regent. Otherwise, its military and financial resources are unchanged.
Prince Alois, for some reason known only to himself, chooses to occupy and govern Iran, starting in the spring of 2010. Being a good Swiss businessman, Prince Alois wishes to not just succeed militarily with the venture, but actually make it turn a profit. Out of the goodness of his good Swiss heart, he will split the take 50-50 with the present citizens of Iran, each of whom will receive a non-voting, but dividend-paying, share in the profits of government. The Royal Armed Forces will rake in 25%, the citizens of Young Britain 15%, and the Prince Regent himself will be satisfied with a humble tenth.
The question is: can he do it? If so, how? Please note that this is a strictly military question. It has nothing to do with the question of whether this project reflects well, or poorly, on Prince Alois and Young Britain from a moral standpoint. Prince Alois is a true (or “absolute”) sovereign, and the ethical burden of the decision rests entirely on him. And needless to say, the obedience of the military is absolute.
The conventional wisdom, of course, is the same inside the military as outside it: any such adventure is entirely impossible, and doomed to end in failure.
This is because government is only possible with the consent of the governed. Ie: success is only possible if the British armed forces can win the hearts and minds of the Iranian people. But since the Iranian people are deeply nationalistic and committed to the liberty of a free and independent Iran, they will never accept recolonization by the hated British, their former imperial overlords.
This is not thinking. It is cant. Anyone can train himself to utter these phrases, and many have. The modern military profession is especially diligent in inculcating this mindset, because its personnel are in an especially good position to see through it. But a lie is a lie. Its lifespan cannot be infinite. Truth seeps in through every crack.
The easiest way to demonstrate the truth is to explain how Young Britain can profitably occupy and govern Iran. (For convenience, let’s call the new polity “New Persia.”)
We all agree that Old Britain is not capable of turning present Iran into New Persia. We will see how Young Britain can. Understanding the tactics which it will use will shed considerable light on the difference between Young and Old Britains, and this will lead us back to the nature and origin of the cant.
Before Prince Alois occupies Iran, of course, he has to invade it. That is: he has to compel its present government to surrender unconditionally and accept the occupation. By military standards, I can’t imagine this process being difficult in the slightest. The British military may not have as many personnel as the Iranian, but its equipment is far superior. The RAF can dominate Iranian airspace, destroy air defenses, and demolish all force concentrations with B-52 strikes from Diego Garcia. Even if an amphibious operation is needed, one British armored division on Iranian soil is victory.
Perhaps it will be slightly more difficult for Britain to invade Iran than it was for the US to invade Iraq. But the invasion of Iraq (as opposed to the subsequent occupation) was, by any fair historical standard, a cakewalk. I don’t think this point is particularly disputed.
This leaves us with occupation and government. Our supposedly unsolvable problems.
While I am not an expert in the subject, my solution has been constructed with the assistance of four – two historians and two practitioners. Our historians are James Anthony Froude and Elie Kedourie. Our practitioners are Lord Cromer and Roger Trinquier. What this posse doesn’t know about colonialism is known only to God.
Specifically, all Young British officers and administrators in New Persia are assigned the following reading list: Froude, The English in Ireland in the Eighteenth Century (Google Books: I, II, III); Cromer, Modern Egypt (Google Books: I, II); Trinquier, Modern Warfare (online); Kedourie, The Chatham House Version (Amazon).
But wait! Colonialism! Well, duh. Occupying and governing a foreign country is pretty much the definition of colonialism. Especially if the goal is not to “restore democracy,” but to permanently institute a stable, responsible, effective and profitable administration. I suspect that New Persia will look a fair bit like Dubai, only bigger, richer, and with a better variety of weather. Dubai is more or less a survivor of the old British Empire. It is not far from Iran, and many Iranians indeed reside there. I suspect most are quite happy with it.
Let’s start off with a passage from Kedourie that more or less tells the story. This is from the essay The Kingdom of Iraq: A Retrospect, describing the Sharifian monarchy of Iraq that was installed by the British in 1921 and overthrown in 1958. Needless to say, next to the present American puppet regime, the Kingdom of Iraq looks like the Prussia of Frederick the Great. But Kedourie’s words still apply, squared:
When we consider the long experience of Britain in the government of eastern countries, and set beside it the miserable polity which she bestowed on the populations of Mesopotamia, we are seized with rueful wonder. It is as though India and Egypt had never existed, as though Lord Cornwallis, Munro and Metcalf, John and Henry Lawrence, Milner and Cromer had attempted in vain to bring order, justice and security to the east, as though Burke and Macaulay, Bentham and James Mill had never addressed their intelligence to the problems and prospects of oriental government. We can never cease to marvel how, in the end, all this was discarded, and Mesopotamia, conquered by British arms, was buffeted to and fro between the fluent salesmanship of Lloyd George, the intermittent, orotund and futile declamations of Lord Curzon, the hysterical mendacity of Colonel [T. E.] Lawrence, the brittle cleverness and sentimental enthusiasms of Miss [Gertrude] Bell, and the resigned acquiescence of Sir Percy Cox. What are we to say when we find a State Paper presented by a secretary of state to Parliament in 1929, declaring without the suspicion of doubt or the shadow of a qualification that ‘it seemed evident… that Iraq, judged by the criteria of internal security, sound public finances, and enlightened administration, would be in every way fit for admission to the League of Nations by 1932’, and fit, therefore, to exercise the unfettered sovereignty which independent states possess? What, save that the style of State Papers, like so much else, suffered during the first world war irremediable degradation?
Lord Cromer, a grown man named “Evelyn,” governed an Arab country much like Iraq for 25 years, at minimal cost and without significant violence, and did such a good job that Egypt became an international boho destination for the likes of Lawrence Durrell, a sort of Edwardian Prague. His memoir is free on the Internet. He may not have been an American, but he wrote in English. And I’ll bet there are fewer than a hundred people in the US military and the State Department combined who have even heard of the man, much less read his book. Those who forget history cannot even hope to repeat it.
Of course, military technology has changed. In our favor. The basic tools of the revolutionary – bombs and assassinations – are timeless. Cromer had no air force, no armor, no helicopters. He had five thousand troops to occupy a country of twenty million. He had no problem at all. Or, to put it another way, his main problem was other Englishmen. For Young Britain, this won’t be an issue.
We have already laid out the pattern of anticolonialist cant. To the anticolonialist, the progressive, the only way to govern a country is to persuade its people to fall in love with its government. They say “hearts and minds,” but what they really mean is “hearts.” Anticolonialists believe that the hearts of the poor are always for sale, a theory leading to the concept we know as “aid.” If this showed any evidence of working, it might be necessary to argue with it.
Young Britain’s occupation of New Persia will be based on a very different metaphor: grasping the nettle. This is an old English metaphor known to all colonialists. As the rhyme goes:
Tender-handed, grasp the nettle, and it stings you for your pains.
Grasp it like a man of mettle, and it soft as silk remains.
(Supposedly the toxin injectors of the stinging nettle are activated by a light brush but deactivated by firm pressure. I have not tested this personally.)
The substance of the nettle metaphor comes from a theory of civil war that is the polar opposite of the “hearts and minds” theory. Under the nettle theory, insurgencies happen because, and only because, the insurgents perceive a chance of winning.
Like all men, they fight for glory, power, and plunder. Any government can prevent and/or terminate all internal violence by making it clear to its opponents that victory is impossible, and the only results of any struggle will be ignominy and imprisonment at best, mutilation and death at worst. To convey this message is to grasp the nettle “like a man of mettle.”
The solution to the problem of colonial government, then, is to govern: to enforce order instantly, completely and without compromise, tolerating no challenge to the occupying authority whether military or political, religious or criminal. Lord Cromer, for instance, would have been simply aghast at the fact that the US occupation authorities tolerated not only native political parties, but parties with armed paramilitary wings. It has taken five years to mostly, sort of, pretty much correct this amazing elementary howler.
The essential tactic in a colonial occupation – it may even provide a good working definition of the word “colonialism” – is the construction of mixed authorities in which foreign officers and administrators exercise executive authority over native troops and civil servants, respectively. Mixed authorities work because they combine the independence and professionalism of foreign leadership with the low cost of native manpower.
It is instructive, in a grimly hilarious way, to note the assiduousness of American “liberations” in avoiding the construction of mixed authorities. Americans are always providing “advice” and “aid” to their free, sovereign and independent little brown brothers. They are never actually managing same. That might actually work, which would be dangerous. Indeed the present state of quasi-success in parts of Iraq has been achieved by putting Iraqi quasi-soldiers on the American payroll, which does not allow management, precisely, but gives a certain leverage.
So. Young Britain invades Iran and suppresses organized military resistance. What next?
New Persia begins with the imposition of martial law, which will persist until complete stability has been attained and there is no threat of violence. No looting is tolerated. A strict curfew is enforced – no one is on the street after dark. British troops may shoot on sight to enforce these directives. These are normal procedures for any initial occupation.
The country is under the unified command of the British general. All remaining civil and military forces of the old Iranian regime are subject to his orders, as is everyone else in the country – native or foreigner. All foreigners need a military pass, revocable at any time, to remain in the country.
Terminating direct military occupation, in which British soldiers are used as policemen, is the first imperative. Soldiers make perfectly good police, but there are not enough of them. To balance the shortage of manpower, they must be free to respond with a level of aggression that is inappropriate in most civilian contexts. This is unavoidable in an early occupation, and in fact necessary to demonstrate dominance. But while it may not invite grievance reprisals as per the “hearts and minds” theory, it hardly projects a sense of overwhelming security.
So a new constabulary, staffed by Persians and administered by Britons (with a layer of bilingual natives in the middle), is the first order of business. As in India, British administrators can and should act as judges. Initial judicial processes should be quick and lawyerless. There is no clear line between insurgency and organized crime: neither can be smashed without smashing both. Other institutions of government can form around this core of fundamental security.
New Persia certainly has no continuing need for the old civil government and military forces of the Islamic Republic. Disbanding them will create a pool of unemployed workers, but idle hands are a resource, not a curse, for any vigorous administration. Many things need to be done. With Persian labor and British supervision, they will be.
Persia’s borders need to be fenced and sealed. Her population needs to be reidentified, with DNA samples and iris scanning for every man, woman and child. Everyone’s residence, occupation, and biographical details must be recorded. All weapons must be confiscated. There can be no dangerous voids between British grasp and Persian nettle. New Persia will be in the farthest possible condition from Mesopotamian anarchy.
All political organization is banned until further notice. Public assemblies, “demonstrations” and other mob phenomena are prohibited Riot Act style. The crowd is ordered to disperse; if it does not, it is fired upon. Preferably with nonlethal weapons, if available, but the unprofitable nature of the activity remains clearly apparent. With effective crowd control, “people power” is not a meaningful force. The Chinese experience in this department is a good guide.
Persians have a fine local example of a modern country without politics: Dubai. If Dubai is a prison, Singapore is a prison, and China is a prison, New Persia will be a prison as well. I suspect that most peace-loving citizens of the present Iran would not mind living in such a prison. And I am confident that all of them would prefer it to the fate of Iraq.
Terrorism – bombs and assassinations – can be and will be tried. With close knowledge of the population, a modern identity system, a Trinquierian intelligence operation, and a complete absence of Fourth Amendment style legalisms, suppressing terrorist networks is not difficult. A crucial power in the suppression of terrorism is the power to involuntarily relocate and rehouse arbitrarily large populations, without punitive intent or criminal investigation.
Scalable secure relocation facilities also defeat “civil disobedience” style campaigns, in which challengers try to defeat the authorities by overwhelming them with small, technical violations of the law. Demonstrating the ability to process, discipline and rehabilitate every member of an illegal party or gang, every participant in an illegal mob, etc, is an important element of grasping the nettle and demonstrating sustainable, unchallengeable political control.
Another way to control a hostile or potentially hostile native population is to fit all persons and vehicles of interest, possibly all in some unsubjugated area, with tamper-resistant GPS trackers. These devices are cheap and getting cheaper, and tracking a person or vehicle does not in any sense count as punishment. It is quite difficult to plant an IED and get away with it when you have a GPS band on your ankle.
Perhaps the most important measure in suppressing political and military challenges, however, is the construction of a government which is designed to be permanent, not a temporary administration designed to “reconstruct” and then “liberate” the foreign country. Insurgencies and political parties under the latter plan will spring eternal, not even because they think they can seize power by driving out the occupying forces, but simply because working against the occupation creates a power base, military or political, which can contend for supremacy in the vacuum of the departure.
This is why Young Britain’s occupation of New Persia is designed to create a new permanent administration. Not that British troops will be permanently required; Persians have no shortage of military skills. At the top civil and military levels, international personnel are probably always desirable, because of their independence from local politics. But New Persia is a neocameralist state which treats Persia – the country, the people, and the petroleum – as its capital, and tries to maximize the value and productivity of that capital. Liberty is a property of individuals, not countries, and New Persia has no reason not to allow its residents as much personal freedom as is consistent with security, customer service, and of course profit.
What we see in the pacification of a hostile country is a gradual transition from a state of war to a state of law. In a true war, the goal is victory and the motto is inter arma silent leges. Civilians are advised to stay out of the way, much as they are advised to avoid stepping in front of a bus. If you step in front of a bus and it hits you, the bus driver is not guilty of a “war crime.”
As the outcome becomes clear and the number of dissenters drops, more costly, more reliable, and less arbitrary methods can be deployed against resistance. It is easy to render a military force ineffective by demanding a full trial before any shot is fired. But once opposition is reduced to sporadic, disorganized and unpredictable criminality, trials, appeals, defense attorneys, and the rest of the circus are not only necessary but indeed desirable. And no one is shot without it, not because no one can be shot without it, but because no one needs to be. Raw power hardens into justice, whose majesty is even more inexorable, and true freedom – freedom within order, not the false freedom of anarchy – is born.
As Prince Metternich, who is worth the whole Enlightenment put together, explained:
To me the word freedom has not the value of a starting-point, but of an actual goal to he striven for. The word order designates the starting-point. It is only on order that freedom can be based. Without order as a foundation the cry for freedom is nothing more than the endeavour of some party or other for an end it has in view.
In summary: the theory that it is impossible, in the 20th century, for an effective modern military to occupy and govern a foreign country is simply not tenable. This illusion has been fostered by a pattern of “tender-handed” occupations, combined with a “hearts and minds” theory of insurgency that prescribes more tenderness as soon as the nettle starts to sting. Unsurprisingly, this prescription does not work. By sustaining the illusion that the quack medicine of “hearts and minds” is effective, military experts sustain the illusion that no other medicine exists and no occupation can be successful.
This is not a novel observation. My point is the same as Professor Luttwak’s: trying to run an occupation without “grasping the nettle” is military malpractice. His piece is certainly worth reading, and he has credentials whereas I do not. I differ with Professor Luttwak, however, in his emphasis of the Nazi analogy and the effectiveness (also noted by Col. Trinquier) of Schrecklichkeit, that is, official terrorism.
Terrorism certainly works. It works just as well for the government as it does for the insurgency. But terrorism is not the most effective demonstration of compelling authority. The need to resort to indiscriminate violence is a demonstration of weakness, not strength. If terrorism has to be fought with terrorism, so be it, but in the 21st century I don’t think it does. It is whacking the nettle, not grasping it.
Rather, the most effective tools for suppressing domestic opposition, political or military, are in what might be called the Orwellian class. Identification, surveillance, intelligence. The Chinese, of course, are the world leaders today. But this only reflects a lack of competition. I am confident that American ingenuity can catch up.
Orwellian population control is simply not needed for a peaceful, civilized society with a stable political system. It is a waste of money and an affront to decent, hard-working citizens. But in any attempt to establish peace where it does not exist, Orwellian control is essential. Most of us, at least most of us who are sane, would rather allow the police to know our exact position every hour, or even every half-hour, or even every minute, and never, ever, ever have to interact with a car bomb. Believe it or not, this form of rationality is if anything more universal in non-Western populations. Especially those who have interacted with car bombs.
Weakening government by preventing it from using Orwellian tools is simply not an effective way to ensure responsible government. If a government is responsible, it will not use Orwellian tools wantonly. It will not do anything else wantonly, either. If a government is not responsible, but rather sadistic and tyrannical, correcting this by restricting its military options – even supposing this could be done, since a sadistic state has little time for restrictions – is hardly a way to make it responsible.
The simple fact of the matter is that insurgency and terrorism is a phenomenon of anarchy, that is, weak government. The cure for weak government is strong government. There is absolutely no rocket science in the matter. It is a military tautology that in a conflict between any two forces, the stronger is likely to win. Classical civil wars involve two forces which both have a plausible case to be called “the government.” But in a struggle between a government and an insurgency, the government should simply win, because it should be stronger. If it’s not, something is very wrong.
(Note that very seldom, when an insurgency defeats a government, does the government retreat to the hills and become an insurgency. Thus the victory of the insurgency demonstrates not that insurgency works, but that something was wrong with your government, ie, it was weak.)
So a Western government that uses its military as an occupying force in a foreign country, without a strong occupation based on the principle of mixed authority, without suppressing competing political and military activity, and with rules of engagement that mimic criminal-justice procedures designed for a civilized Western society, is abusing said military. I find this imprudent. You can kick a poodle. You can own a wolf. But if you own a wolf, don’t kick it.
Worse, while Professor Luttwak’s concept of “military malpractice” is technically accurate, it makes the situation sound like an accident. It is actually much worse than that.
A failed occupation, like that in Afghanistan, or a Pyrrhic half-success such as Iraq or Vietnam, is of considerable political utility to those whose theory of government predicts that military occupation of a hostile population can never succeed. This would be the “democratic,” or “progressive,” or simply “left,” side of your radio dial. Not coincidentally, this is also the side which is vending the “hearts and minds” theory, and doing its best to eradicate the “grasp the nettle” theory from human memory. (No thanks to Google Books!)
And the cycle works. When an occupation fails, it is because it failed to win “hearts and minds.” And the next occupation will be even more tender-handed. It will cower even more abjectly before the delicate flutter of the native heart. It will completely forget the fact that the native has a mind, too, and it is far easier to communicate with a mind than with a heart. It will kill more and more American soldiers, and devastate more and more foreign countries. (And other foreign countries will be devastated not by occupation, but by the lack of it – in the person of a Mugabe, a Saddam, an Idi Amin.)
Moreover, who are the soldiers who are dying in these theatrical exercises? Overwhelmingly, Amerikaners. Whose political fortunes are advanced by the repeated demonstration that “war never solves anything?” Certainly not the Amerikaners.
Thus these sabotaged occupations are revealed in their true nature: they are civil wars by proxy. The goal of war is political power. In a sabotaged occupation, the left gains political power, not in Iran or Iraq or Vietnam, but in America, by using the deaths of thousands of American soldiers to prove to the TV audience that reality and progressive reality are the same thing.
The fact that no one is thinking this consciously – progressives are overwhelmingly sincere – does not change the fact that it works. Nor does it change the extremely coup-worthy nature of the offense. However, the absence of mens rea is an excellent excuse for a general amnesty, which is a common element in all the best coups. (Do make sure your coup is successful first, though.)
And the fiction is unstable. Truth seeps in at every crack. The half-success in Iraq is a bit of truth, but far too small, and accompanied by too much failure, to do any good. One white raven is sufficient to disprove the hypothesis that all ravens are black; one successful occupation on the “grasp the nettle” principle is sufficient to disprove the “hearts and minds” hypothesis. Iraq is a black raven with a couple of gray feathers.
Not all ravens are black. In fact, most of the ravens in the world are white. Deep in their hearts, Amerikaners know this. So they leave the window open, hoping a white raven will fly in. Sometimes they even look out the window, hoping to catch one. Unfortunately, their cell is in an aviary stocked entirely with black ravens. The white raven is a necessity. But the only way to get one is to catch a black raven, hold it while it squawks, and hose it down with bleach.