"I think we are winning. Okay? I think we're definitely winning. I think we've been winning for some time." - Gen. Richard Myers, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, on the Iraq War 04/26/05
"I just wonder if they will ever tell us the truth." - Harold Casey, Louisville, KY, October 2004.
Senator-elect Jim Webb wrote a perceptive article before the Iraq War began about the risks of occupation and the foolishness of relying on superficial analogies to Second World War experiences: Heading for Trouble Washington Post 09/04/02 (copy also available at Webb's Web site.)
Those who are pushing for a unilateral war in Iraq know full well that there is no exit strategy if we invade and stay. This reality was the genesis of a rift that goes back to the Gulf War itself, when neoconservatives were vocal in their calls for "a MacArthurian regency in Baghdad." Their expectation is that the United States would not only change Iraq's regime but also remain as a long-term occupation force in an attempt to reconstruct Iraqi society itself.
The connotations of "a MacArthurian regency in Baghdad" show how inapt the comparison is. Our occupation forces never set foot inside Japan until the emperor had formally surrendered and prepared Japanese citizens for our arrival. Nor did MacArthur destroy the Japanese government when he took over as proconsul after World War II. Instead, he was careful to work his changes through it, and took pains to preserve the integrity of Japan's imperial family. Nor is Japanese culture in any way similar to Iraq's. The Japanese are a homogeneous people who place a high premium on respect, and they fully cooperated with MacArthur's forces after having been ordered to do so by the emperor. The Iraqis are a multiethnic people filled with competing factions who in many cases would view a U.S. occupation as infidels invading the cradle of Islam. Indeed, this very bitterness provided Osama bin Laden the grist for his recruitment efforts in Saudi Arabia when the United States kept bases on Saudi soil after the Gulf War.
In Japan, American occupation forces quickly became 50,000 friends. In Iraq, they would quickly become 50,000 terrorist targets.
Webb was clearly wrong about one thing: American occupation forces here in 2006 are providing more like 150,000 targets for the enemy.
Incidentally, long-time readers of Old Hickory's Weblog have encountered this piece by Webb before in Iraq War Critics: James Webb on the Risks of Occupation 02/19/04. As I concluded there two and a half years ago, "No, Bush and Rummy can't say that nobody warned them".
"Wars are easy to get into, but hard as hell to get out of." - George McGovern and Jim McGovern 06/06/05