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"It is better to be drunk with loss and to beat the ground, than to let the deeper things gradually escape."

- I. Compton-Burnett, letter to Francis King (1969)

"Cynical realism – it is the intelligent man’s best excuse for doing nothing in an intolerable situation."

- Aldous Huxley, "Time Must Have a Stop"

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Monday, 8 December 2003

Topic: Iraq

"Hearts and Minds" stuff...

Lt. Colonel Nathan Sassaman commands a battalion that controls the Iraqi town of Abu Hishma.

Sassaman is quoted in Tough New Tactics by U.S. Tighten Grip on Iraq Towns (New York Times, December 7): "With a heavy dose of fear and violence, and a lot of money for projects, I think we can convince these people that we are here to help them."

A heavy dose of fear and violence can convince these people we are here to help them.

Captain Todd Brown: "You have to understand the Arab mind. The only thing they understand is force."

Consider this:

U.S. Policy in Iraq Vanishing Down the Rabbit Hole
by Ira Chernus, Common Dreams, Monday, December 08, 2003
This is the theory now guiding U.S. policy in Iraq. It's the same policy that guided U.S. policy in Vietnam. There is no territory to be won or lost. There is simply a contest of wills between the occupier and the occupied.

It didn't work in Vietnam. It won't work in Iraq.

Captain Brown explained clearly, if unwittingly, one good reason why it won't work. After explaining that "the Arab mind" understands only force, he added: "force, pride and saving face." Wounded pride can stir up a powerful resistance.

But the importance of saving face can easily be exaggerated. Long ago, European imperialists created a stereotype of "the Arab mind" that included a hugely exaggerated concern with pride and saving face. This helped the colonial powers convince themselves that "the Arab mind" was excessively emotional, inherently irrational, and thus incapable of moving into the modern world where logic and pragmatism rule. The Arabs would remain stuck in their memories of medieval glory and their wounded pride, it was said, unless the Europeans pushed, pulled, educated, and cajoled them into modernity.

Now the U.S. has taken up where the Europeans left off.
Chernus argues that the Americans cannot admit that domination is their goal. They must believe they are there only to help. They must convince themselves that Iraq is "a backward nation, unfamiliar with and incapable of the ways of the modern world." Then they "can picture themselves as educators and saviors, taking up the old white man's burden."
If only the stubborn, irrational "natives" would realize that the occupiers are there to help, everything would be fine. So the Americans must fondly imagine that they will persuade the Iraqis to want their "help." Just like the colonizers of old, they plan to do it with force and violence.
Well, it could work, I suppose.

It just doesn't seem likely.

Posted by Alan at 14:27 PST | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Tuesday, 9 December 2003 13:22 PST home

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