Thursday, October 20, 2005


(With apologies to The Daily Show for the title.)

Lately I've been reading a bunch of posts about what the US should do now that it's in Iraq.

As someone with a bit of training in history, I tried to think of a successful model for rectifying such a situation as the one in which the US military finds itself. In other words, what is the best move when you've invaded another country (for whatever reason), overthrown its government, and you are now facing a growing opposition that fights asymmetrically.

The problem is that I can't. It's either staying the course like the US tried in Vietnam or the French did in Algeria, not great results. Or you can bail out and hope that you've equipped the locals well enough to fend for themselves. When you do this though, you usually end up with the country in the hands of a shadowy man (usually a man) hiding behind either military or religious garb.

The exceptions that you usually hear about are Japan and Western Germany. There are exceptional because they were both on the border with the USSR. Stalin was far more fearsome than anything the other allies had. And I think that the US and the defeated Axis powers found it to their mutual benefit to work together and against Stalin. The US wanted somewhere to put bases and neither West Germany nor Japan wanted to be invaded. There are a lot of bad men in the middle east but none that can hold a candle to Uncle Joe.

It makes me wonder whether taking out Saddam was like beheading the hydra, a bunch more Saddams will grow in his place. From where things stand I can't see how you'll get a nice democratic society with Arabs and Kurds, Sunnis and Shiites living in harmony.