Would that mob in Fallujah have dared treat the security men of Saddam the way they treated those Americans? Would they have danced and shouted, “Death to Saddam,” as they did “Death to Bush”?
No way. For every one in those TV pictures and photos would now be in an Iraqi prison or dead. But they know Americans will not respond that way. Which raises a question: Do we have the will to impose a pro-Western “democracy” on Iraq, no matter the cost?
It is not an academic question. For Iraq is the laboratory of the “world democratic revolution” President Bush is preaching as the new purpose of U.S. foreign policy. And if Iraq dissolves in chaos and civil war, or becomes a failed state, or if we are run out and it reverts to anti-Americanism, the Bush foreign policy will be a utopian failure. He will have gone to war to make Iraq safe for democracy and only made it safe for terrorists.
As we attempt to reshape the politics of Iraq and reorient its foreign policy to American ends, we must realize that what we are practicing is imperialism. But, looking back 50 years, Western imperialism has a long record of failure in the Arab and Islamic world.
The Brits were run out of Palestine. The French could not hold onto Algeria. When the U.S. Marines were massacred at their Beirut barracks, Reagan left. Clinton retreated from Somalia after Black Hawk Down. The Israelis were run out of Lebanon by Hezbollah. To protect U.S. interests in the Arab and Islamic world, we have had to rely on monarchs, autocrats and dictators.
Who still controls Islamic lands against the will of Islamic peoples?
The Russians. Though run out of Afghanistan, they are holding onto Chechnya. China is crushing the Muslim Uighurs in Xinjiang. India yet holds Kashmir. In each case, the colonial power Russia, China, India believes the land belongs to them. And they have the power, the will and the ruthlessness to hold it and crush any Muslim separatists who would try to take it away.
Here is America’s problem. While we have the power to rule Iraq indefinitely, we do not appear to have the stamina or will. Since the U.S. invasion, our forces have been steadily drawn down, which suggests that we really do not believe that building democracy in Baghdad is truly vital to U.S. security.
If holding Iraq were critical to our survival, we would have run an armored division through Fallujah to teach them a lesson. But we are not doing that. Why not? Because we are inhibited by our beliefs about not inflicting civilian casualties, and our awareness that for us to do to Fallujah what Sharon did to Jenin would inflame the Islamic world against us.
So, we take it. And our enemies in Iraq’s “resistance” know we will take it. Thus, we are not able to end the acts of terror against us, nor do we have the will to crush a nationalist uprising as the British, French and Americans did when we all believed in the superiority of our civilization and race, and its right to rule the “lesser breeds without the law.” Just ask the Indians.
From 1899 to 1902, our Army and Marines paid a price of thousands dead to crush a Filipino resistance and impose our rule on the islands. Scores of thousands of Filipinos perished in that guerrilla war. For half a century, America ruled the islands and tutored her people in democracy.
In Vietnam, we lost 150 men every week for seven years to prevent Hanoi from annexing the South. But that was a different America.
In Iraq, we have lost 600 dead, a dozen soldiers a week, in the year since the invasion, and Americans already are asking, “Are we there yet?”
There is no stomach for a new war to advance the world democratic revolution in Syria or Iran. There does not even appear to be much will in the administration to use force to destroy the nuclear weapons programs in Iran or North Korea. Is the Bush Doctrine simply rhetoric when it comes to a Third World power that can fight back?
Today, the success of our policy in Iraq depends on hope, the hope that we can create a working democracy oriented toward the West, before we turn power over to the Iraqis on June 30, and before the elections on Jan. 31. But hope is not a policy. It is a virtue.
Bush’s world democratic revolution is Wilsonian imperialism, which contains an inherent and perhaps fatal contradiction. Imperialism means we decide the government a nation will have and how its foreign policy shall be oriented. Democracy means they decide.
What do we do if we impose democracy on Iraq, and the Iraqis use their freedom to vote to throw us out and confront Israel and claim Kuwait as their long-lost province? We should be thinking about it, because it may just happen.