Sunday, June 05, 2005

Iraq and the Democrats

Atrios has two posts today on Iraq. He talks extensively on the possible stances that Democrats can and should take on Iraq. He also makes a distinction between the actual policies and the propaganda that goes with it. The wingnuts always have the two neatly separate, and reading the propaganda doesn't tell us much about the policies. For that you need to follow the actual deeds. Anyway, Atrios's point is that the Democrats have neither a good exit policy or good propaganda on Iraq. This is true.

Iraq is a mess for the United States. It was a country kept together by a ruthless dictator who nevertheless was not for theocracy. His removal took away the weak cohesion of the country and opened it for civil war. Or for theocracy. Only a theocracy seems strong enough an alternative to Saddam.

These are the tendencies in Iraq, and my prediction is that there will first be a civil war, then a fundamentalist theocracy. Not exactly "spreading freedom and democracy". If the United States wants something different it will have to stay for a very long time and guard the oil pipelines. This will cost many many lives and when the U.S. finally leaves there will be a civil war and then probably theocracy.

I base this prediction on what I have observed in the ex-communist European countries: none of the internal pressures disappeared during the communist era and all those countries are taking off where they ended before communism. So if we put a lid on Iraq we will just delay the unavoidable.

Attacking Iraq was not a good strategy, whatever the long-term reasons the wingnuts had for this cunning plan. It made this country hated by the rest of the world. People elsewhere knew that the Iraqis were not behind 9/11 and they questioned the timing of the attack, given that bin Laden had not yet been captured and that Afghanistan was also still a mess (which continues, too). To attack Italy when France pisses you off seems odd and illogical to foreigners. But to Democrats here going with Bush's silly plans was imperative: to do otherwise would be seen as unpatriotic and as being against the troops. Politicians fear the public opinion and the public opinion was firmly behind Bush.

But this has left the Democrats in a deep bind. They must either eat their earlier words about the wisdom of the Iraq war or keep sounding idiotic by stressing all the things that are going wrong there but still maintaining that doing all these things that are going wrong was the right thing to do. It's hard to make a good policy about the future on such unstable grounds, too.

Atrios points out that the wingnuts talk about grand, sweeping things like the sound of boots marching down the road of democracy and freedom, whereas the Democrats are limited to talking about statistics which show the enormous waste and the needless deaths. However more reality-based the latter are they don't appeal to the emotions of the American voters and mostly come across as minor whining about the details of the war. What the Democrats need to offer is a major ideological alternative to the freedom-in-military-boots argument. The truthful alternative narrative would point out that Bush went to war on false grounds and that the whole war was an immense mistake.

The problem I see with this approach is that it doesn't make the Americans look like heroes, it doesn't promise us a beautiful day tomorrow with money and power for every one and it doesn't reassure us that we have always been the chosen people of God. These are the things that Reagan offered and they still sell elections.