This morning, I read Pepe Escobar’s “Roving Eye” column in Asia Times:
So Rumsfeld is in fact admitting what many people already knew: the Lebanonization of Iraq. With the added element of Vietnamization/Iraqification: when Rumsfeld said “the Iraqi people are going to win against the insurgency”, he actually meant former Mukhabarat pals of former interim prime minister Iyad Allawi at the Interior Ministry, plus the militia inferno at the core of the ministry (the so-called “Rumsfeld’s boys”), ganging up to fight the resistance. Sunni Arab intelligence plus Shi’ite and Kurd militias fighting Sunni Arabs. In other words: civil war. Iraqification as the way to civil war was more than evident when Rumsfeld said, “We’re going to create an environment that the Iraqi people and the Iraqi security forces can win against that insurgency.”
I thought of what I’d just read in the section about the insane fighting in Beirut, Lebanon in Philip Caputo’s memoir of his years as a war correspondent, Means of Escape, and how it fit Escobar’s reference to the “Lebanonization of Iraq”:
It was rather sad, then, to find the earnest, thoughtful and intelligent post — “Are We There Yet? A Roadmap to Victory in Iraq” — at the Alexander the Average blog, which I discovered linked at the Arms and Influence blog (thanks, Steven D, for turning me on to that blog).
Alexander, you see, is an Army reservist who’s read all the latest statements on the situation in Iraq and has worked out a possibility of a solution. Below the fold, I share some of what Alexander says — I think we owe it to him just to listen, just because he’s trying:
* It was coincidentally amusing tonight to see the character Billy on HBO’s Six Feet Under wear a t-shirt that said “Ski Iraq.”
From Alexander the Average, after he appraises — very fairly — recent comments by Sen. Biden, Rumsfeld, Cheney and Gen. Abizaid:
Alexander then presents a Powerpoint slide show of what the roadmap might look like.
Caputo resisted cables from his bosses in Chicago that he cover the fighting in Lebanon. He didn’t see the point in getting killed in order to cover a hopeless, viciously violent situation.
“So far as I know,” Caputo writes in 1991, “Lebanon is the only country in modern history to have committed suicide.” But, then, things changed for Caputo:
All wars were ultimately meaningless, with the possible exception of the war against Hitler (and a thousand years from now, how much difference would it make that our side won?).
Historians, as much as journalists, had an obsession with making sense of the senseless. Through the distorting lenses of hindsight and their own biases they would study some terrible battle, which must have seemed like a complete madhouse to the men in it, and find patterns and reasons for it, then conclude that its outcome could not have been otherwise and had had enduring consequences for humankind.
But what if the view of the combatants was the right one? What if there had been no pattern but, rather, a swirl of events that happened to arrange themselves into a victory for one side?
What if the outcome could have been otherwise and made no lasting different to the course of human history? Would the world I’m living in, I thought, be significantly better or worse if Napoleon had won at Waterloo? If Julius Caesar had been defeated by Vercingetorix? Suppose it had been Washington who’d surrendered to Cornwallis at Yorktown, what then?
The United States probably would have become another Canada or Australia, which wouldn’t have been a catastrophe.
Alexander’s Powerpoint slides are full of red and green balls. Red signifies “Hostile” and green is “neutral or pro-U.S.”
“My assessment,” Alexander continues, “is that first we have to get all of these tasks and regions are assessed in the ‘green’.” Alexander thinks that if the green balls stay green for a full year, “only then we can start leaving.”
I open Caputo’s book again: “[M]y hatred and contempt of the Lebanese came squalling out of its womb. … I could not find a single redeeming quality in a people destroying themselves with such unflagging energy and enthusiasm.”
“October brought the struggle for the hotel district. Men were killing and dying for possession of the Holiday Inn.” Not long after that, Caputo was shot by a sniper in the streets of Beirut, saved only from bleeding to death because a stranger helped drag him into a cul-de-sac.
After enduring excruciating surgery with only a local anesthetic, Caputo recovers slowly.
Scorning and blaming victims for their victimization, I was not too far from the altered moral state of the gunmen who’d shot me. Through my own suffering, I was plugged back into the current of human anguish that circuits this planet without end. I had been wounded to learn pain, and I had been made to know pain to learn pity once again.
At least Caputo was capable of learning pain and pity. We have leaders who aren’t similarly capable, it appears. And Alexander? Well, he hasn’t learned the lessons of war yet, has he. That there is no sense in it. Only men’s ambitions and hatred, which aren’t cured, ever, by earnest intentions or Powerpoint slides.