Thursday, September 27, 2007

Exit Strategy

It’s so obvious, now that I thought of it. Of course. Iraq is nothing new.

We’ve done it before. Brought about the collapse of authoritarian regimes, and worse, and imposed the institutions of democracy. We’ve done it several times before. The two that seem most relevant involve Germany. Germany, twice. In those numbered wars. So, Weimar, and Bonn.


Saddam was certainly closer to Hitler than to the Kaiser. But that’s irrelevant. The important thing is that after despots are removed, the society they have ruled must be reshaped. And this reshaping is not a function of fiat and dicta, but of occupation. Consider that the authoritarian Second Reich crafted by Bismarck for the Wilhelms was a far more benevolent entity than that next Reich which it spawned. Consider that the incubator of the Nazi beast was the hapless and doomed, the democratic and liberal Weimar Republic.

We’ll ignore the specific inadequacies inherent in that experiment, and remind ourselves only that we left it to its own devices. The Germans had no experience with self rule. The hodge-podge that comprised the German Confederation -- principalities and duchies and kingdoms, ecclesiastical states and imperial cities, lordships, counties, baronies, bishoprics, free cities -- well, you see, don’t you. It was a mess. And not a democracy in the lot.

Iraq, like the Weimar Republic, was cobbled together out of the shambles of empire. And the interregna after both the Caliph and the Kaiser bred monsters. Iraq has its Sunnis and Shiites, its baathists and islamists, as Weimar had its communists and nationalists and anarchists and fascists. Think of them as tribes. Do we need an army of anthropologists, then? Exorcists, rather. What work of transformation can undo this congenital malformation of the soul?

We left Weimar to rule itself. A ruined economy, a crushing war debt, no traditions of republican moderation and compromise -- and we left it alone. We had, you see, an exit strategy. What lesson might we learn from this, regarding Iraq? Exit strategies, experience teaches us, lead to chaos, and then to totalitarianism. The Versailles Treaty. The Paris Peace Accords. Concentration camps. Killing fields. I, for my part, see a connection.

Regime-change is an utterly inadequate goal, or at best an incomplete statement of goals. Culture-destruction is what it takes. That, and a generations-long policing action afterwards. As in Bonn. As in Seoul. Not as in Weimar. Not as in Saigon. However necessary preemptive action may be, it appears to require a commitment far greater than blitzkrieg and mopping up. It really is a matter of you brake it, you buy it. Of course we broke it on purpose. And while we don’t want it, we do want it working properly -- thus, for responsible superpowers the motto has to be we brake it, we fix it. How do we fix it? Well, Santa’s helpers work all year round, just for that special night. The special nights of shock and awe came first, in Iraq. Now the long hard work begins. If not, we'll eventually have to cancel Christmas. It's so Christian, you see. We should be getting to work, then.

Or not. We can repeat the mistakes of that insane generation that slaughtered its youth and cast their bones as dragon teeth to raise an even more vicious foe in the heart of Europe. We can be cowards and appeasers, and capitulate and collaborate. Really we can. It’s not at all uncommon, such betrayal of a birthright. Some ninety years ago Europe swallowed the slow vitiating poison that eventually convulsed the continent with the vomit of Nazism and then left it feeble and bloodless and selfish and sterile. History offers many such lessons, for those who look. Are we looking?

The Middle East is already insane. And into that madhouse we have come, hoping it seems that paperwork is the problem. Reformation is the order of the day. Nazism was certainly a religion, but its novitiates rather killed than died for it. Islamists, as has famously been said, love death. How then can souls be saved? The islamists have mastered the damnable catachisms of their spiritual forbearers the Nazis, and are far more intimately animated by the demonic forces that lie buried in that dry earth.

Satan might finally have gotten it right, this time. A perfectly infernal army, in the sons of the east, and already occupying some large part of Christendom. The home front, then, and for all that it's another battle, it's the same. We would hope that Europe did not leave all its youth and vigor and courage and valor in the trenches and graves of a long ago war. Because there is no exit strategy from one's own country.

In Iraq, too, there can be no exit strategy. There must not be. Otherwise it’s all a waste -- the tragedy that history almost always tells, and those countless lost lives. Wasted. The grim wheel will turn, and crush, and come around again, until all that remains of humanity is a green and malleable paste that somehow prays to the east.

Yes, surely I have overstated the danger. After all, the Nazis failed. That’s proof, of something.

It’s proof that Nazis need to be utterly annihilated, and their homelands need to be occupied. Exit strategies are for after victory has been confirmed. Otherwise, exit stragy is just the coward's term for retreat.


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