This morning, I read Pepe Escobar’s “Roving Eye” column in Asia Times:

Rumsfeld in fact has clarified to American and world public opinion that the “throes” will go on until 2017. He said, “We’re not going to win against the insurgency. The Iraqi people are going to win against the insurgency. That insurgency could go on for any number of years. Insurgencies tend to go on five, six, seven, eight, 10, 12 years.”

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”:

The rube was likely to mistake this appearance of civilization itself and to think he was in a place governed by familiar rules and standards. It was a common misimpression, and it could be fatal because all those banks and fancy restaurants, all those ski resorts* and flesh-dappled beaches … a gorgeous costuming of a fractious, violent, tribal society smoldering with hatreds that went back so far into history no one could date when they had begun. …

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:

The following slides and notes are my attempt at analyzing the current situation in Iraq and establishing a “roadmap” to Victory that the average citizen can understand. Note that all these slides are labeled as “drafts”. I am hoping that my reader(s) will give me their input in the comments section which will allow me to establish a baseline evaluation of the situation. Then, I’ll post periodic updates.

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:

I started to cover the fighting because its pointlessness was the point. It was war distilled to its essence, which was utterly senseless killing, war purified of the purposes and morals man gives to it to make it acceptable and coherent.

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.

[M]y narrow escape never struck me as part of God’s wondrous design. God had abandoned the Beast’s new Bethlehem, even though everyone there claimed to be fighting for Him. As to the gunmen’s motives, I was satisfied that they had none. Beirut was quantum physics applied to human behavior and events. People just did things, and things just happened …


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.

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