The War Nerd has a big, fat Told-Ya-So for the doofuses (doofi?) who saw the capture of Saddam Hussein as the End Of The War. He also paints a realistic picture of how the Iraqis are taking the whole freedom-at-bayonet-point thing.
It isn’t like it was unpredictable: FedGovCo is making a hash of it all. But, that’s what they do, generally. It’s funny how some folks can rail on and on about how bad government is at fixing potholes or paying young women to have babies or whatever, but assume that the portion of government that is put in charge of taking over other countries is going to do a bang-up job. What did they expect to happen? There isn’t some sort of magical power the military bureaucracy has that the non-military bureaucracy lacks – they operate in the same way, with the same incentives.
About now, the sooper-patriot types are poppin’ gaskets, saying “Well, the US military sure whipped that Iraqi army pretty good, now dinnit?” Sure: much like the city road crew fills in potholes pretty good, the implementation bits of FedGovCo’s armies work fairly well. George Patton is the classic example: he was one of the very best military leaders that history has produced, starting from his innovations in vehicular warfare (he was the first Army officer to conduct a motorized attack, for starters) and leading through his strategic view (he wanted to segue from attacking Nazi Germany to attacking Communist Russia). There are numerous counter-examples, but I will stipulate that, in general the US military makes war well. So what?
The problem is, that like the city’s pothole-fillers, the military has no coherent direction as to what to do, when (you’ll note that not only was Patton’s request to kill commies denied, he was deliberately sabotaged to prevent him taking Berlin). The decision-makers are folks who got into that position by being the sort of person who appeals to the Average Voter, or appointees or hangers-on thereof. When I was a member of the military, we called this the Lowest Common Denominator – that’s the person you had to reach. “You hold the pointy part away from you, ya see…”. It’s not a coincidence that most politicos are boors and boobs – most voters are boors and boobs. And boors and boobs tend to make boorish and boobish decisions: that’s the nature of the beast.
So where and why do the potholes get filled? When my neighbor got a job with the city, the road conditions around our building rapidly improved. I doubt this was coincidence: I lived in the “exciting” section of town, at the time – no nice treatment for us. Likely my neighbor buddied up to the guy in charge of the road crew, and had the truck swing by. Same-same with war: I’m not a bit surprised at the rapid unraveling of the War Party’s stories about WMD factories on trucks and robot drones that can kill us all and advanced nuclear programs and all of the other outright lies that the latest war was built upon. Just look at who benefits, and how. “War is a racket”, is how Smedly Butler put it, and I would only caveat that to add “Government war is a racket”.
And the real funny part is that simple self-interest isn’t a major motivator. Sure, some folks are raking in big bucks from the reconstruction of Iraq after they made money from the deconstruction of Iraq, and some other folks are angling for political power in the aftermath, but a good deal of the decisions are made with no thought, and no fear of consequence. The guy who tells the road crew where and when to work isn’t personally involved in the success or failure of the road system: as long as they go out and work, he doesn’t care. More importantly, as long as he keeps on keepin’ on, filling forms and checking boxes, his job is safe, and his advancement is secure. I mean, it’s not like there’s another city paving outfit that competes with him, is there? The government war-planner isn’t any different from the government paving-planner in terms of motivation: they ain’t got too much.
War isn’t wrong in and of itself: obviously collective violence is no more moral or immoral than individual violence. Mass collective violence is something that I would personally help pay for, given the right target. I think that Mugabe or Castro, for example, would look fine with an extra navel or ten, and I’d put up money to pay for it, given the assurance that it would be done right. At that is one thing that government cannot, by its very nature, give. What most people object to in government war (unneeded killing, lies, the fact that it is funded with stolen money, etc.) is properly a problem with government, not war. The city road department lies and cheats and paves where it shouldn’t – it’s just that there exist private organizations that we can compare it with. To critique government war, you have to think.
I’ve long since given up hope that most folks can see their way out of this: the two-party heritage in politics reduces too easily to a binary choice in every political matter: war patriot or peace hippy, pick one. I call bullshit: I don’t have to be either. I can call the fiasco in Iraq as what it is, and not be in the camp of the Worker’s World Party. I can cheer that Saddam Hussein isn’t running loose without cheering for Bush and Co. The typical binary choice presented by the mainstream isn’t consistent, it’s just constant. It’s much easier to have an opinion that other people have (“Look what Rush Limbaugh says. I agree with him.”) than it is to work matters out for yourself, based on principles. Which, again, most folks ain’t got none of. “Conservative”? “Liberal”? “Hawk”? “Dove”? Empty labels for empty heads.
The implications of the twentieth century are quite clear for anyone who cares to think. Central planning doesn’t work – not for roads and not for war.