Hanson strikes again:
Our Western Mob: From the graveyard of Kabul to the quagmire of Iraq to the looting of Baghdad.
The jubilation of liberating millions from fascism and removing the world’s most odious dictator apparently lasted about 12 hours. I was listening to a frustrated Mr. Rumsfeld last Friday in a news briefing as he tried to deal with a host of furious and crazy questions — a journalistic circus that was nevertheless predictable even before the war started.
I thought immediately of the macabre aftermath to the battle of Arginusae in 406 B.C. After destroying a great part of the Peloponnesian fleet in the most dramatic Athenian naval victory of the war, the popular assembly abruptly voted to execute six of their eight successful generals (the other two wisely never came back to Athens) on charges that they had failed to rescue seamen who were clinging to the wreckage.
The historian Xenophon records the feeding frenzy and shouting of the assembled throng. Forget that Sparta felt beaten and was ready for peace after such a catastrophic defeat; forget the brilliant seamanship and command of the Athenian triremes; forget that a ferocious storm had made retrieval of the dead and rescue of the missing sailors almost impossible; forget even that to try the generals collectively was contrary to Athenian law. Instead the people demanded perfection in addition to mere overwhelming success — and so in frustration devoured their own elected officials. The macabre incident was infamous in Greek history (the philosopher Socrates almost alone resisted the mob’s rule), a reminder how a society can go mad, turn on its benefactors, throw away a victory — and go on to lose the entire war.
Something like that craziness often takes hold of our own elites and media in the midst of perhaps the most brilliantly executed plan in modern American military history. Rather than inquiring how an entire country was overrun in a little over three weeks at a cost of not more than a few hundred casualties, reporters instead wail at the televised scenes of a day of looting and lawlessness.
Instead I had been expecting at least some interviews about bridges not blown due to the rapidity of the advance. Could someone tell us how special forces saved the oil fields? How Seals prevented the dreaded oil slicks? Whose courage and sacrifice saved the dams? And how so few missiles were launched? Exactly why and how did the Republican Guard cave?
In short, would any reporter demonstrate a smidgeon of curiosity — other than condemning a plan they scarcely understood — about the mechanics of the furious battle for Iraq? It would be as if America forgot about Patton’s race to the German border, and instead focused only on Frenchmen shaving the heads of Vichy collaborators, or decided that it had not been worth freeing the Italian peninsula because a mob had mutilated and hung Mussolini from his heels. Did any remember what had happened to a Russian armored column that tried to enter Grozny to control that city? Did any have a clue what Germany or Italy was like in June 1945?
What was striking about the Iraqi capitulations was the absence of general looting on the part of the victorious army. From the fall of Constantinople to the Iraqi takeover of Kuwait City, winners usually plunder and pillage. American and British soldiers instead did the opposite, trying to protect others’ property as they turned on water and power. That much of the looting was no more indiscriminate than what we saw in Los Angeles after the Rodney King Verdict, in the New York during blackouts, or in some major cities after Super Bowl victories, made no impression on the reporting. Remember this was a long-suffering impoverished people lashing out at Baathists — not affluent, smug American kids looting and breaking windows at the World Trade Organization in Seattle.
There is also a final reason that explains our demand for instantaneous perfection. It is often a trademark of successful Western societies that create such freedom and affluence to fool themselves that they are a hair’s breadth away from utopia. Journalists who pad around with palm pilots, pounds of high-tech gear, dapper clothes, and expensive educations have convinced themselves that if lesser people were as caring or as sensitive as themselves then we could all live in bliss. The subtext of the daily Western media barrage has been that if we were just smarter, more moral, or better informed, then we could liberate a country the size of California in days, not weeks, lose zero soldiers, not a 110, and be instantaneously greeted by happy Iraqis who would shake hands, return to work, and quietly forget thirty years of terror as they voted in a Gandhi.
Anything less and Mssrs. Rumsfeld, Meyers, Franks, “the plan,” — somebody or something at least! — must be held accountable for the absence of utopia.
But that is a word, they should remember, that means not a “good place” but “no place” at all.
Kevin Street:: I'd say the question of relative worth is still far from decided.
The relative nature of just what the situation is if anything far from undecided. This entire situation reminds me of when the media and many not in favor of the war were predicting a long drawn out war with heavy Iraqi resistance. A house by house battle for Baghdad where Coalition Forces would have to level the city to take it. This was all because of a few relatively minor hits on the supply lines by the Feyadeen and other minor setbacks. Instead we saw a few minor changes occur like the 82nd being brought up to deal with the Feyadeen in the rear. All of this quickly put the military side of the conflict right back on trap. Within days of those predictions on the part of the "experts" entire divisions of the Iraqi Army/Republican Guard vanished and the regime melted away. Even the Iraqi Information Minister might admit now that our supply lines were not cut and our troops weren't bogged down in house to house fighting.
Now we are expected to believe these experts when they scream that Iraq is on the verge of falling into total anarchy and collapse? These same experts who have yet to say "opps maybe we were slightly wrong about the end of the world coming".
Kevin Street: While it is great news that those children were freed (along with who knows how many other political prisoners), and it is great that Saddam and his thugs can no longer use and abuse the people of Iraq, it's still very much up in the air as to whether or not this invasion was worth the cost. For while some innocents have benefited already, hundreds of other innocents have been killed in the bombing and fighting, and many hundreds of thousands more have lost their possessions, jobs and homes. No one knows yet what the economy of Iraq will look like after this, much less the political system.
You say that some innocents have benefited all ready; whereas I would argue that the majority have benefited all ready. The people are enjoying a level of freedom that none of them have ever experience in their lifetime. Medical and humanitarian aid is starting to flow into the country. This aid will actually reach the people rather than being rerouted by Saddam in a manner that will aid his remaining in power. How many children and adults will now be saved from starvation because those supplies are now actually reaching them. While every single loss is tragic; they are far from being either the majority or the entire picture. I'd be the first to say it is the responsibility of the Coalition to see that those people who suffered because of our action are taken care of or haver the means to take care of themselves.
As for the economy of Iraq; I say things are looking up for it compared to the outlooks for it on the part of the "experts" prior to this conflict. We did not see the large-scale destruction of the oilfields that many predicted would occur; in fact CENTCOM is reporting that not a single oil fire is occurring in Iraq currently. The infrastructure is largely intact and not destroyed by a retreating regime like many indicated it would be. The only bridge that was destroyed, that I know of, is one that collapsed under the weight of an Abrams. The Iraqi Police Force is back on the job in Baghdad coordinating with US troops while the power grid is being restored. Civil Servants are getting back to their duties and being paid in a much needed influx of US dollars.
On top of that Bush is pressing for the dropping of sanctions.
Edited by CJ AEGIS, 17 April 2003 - 06:15 AM.
"History has proven too often and too recently that the nation which relaxes its defenses invites attack."
-Fleet Admiral Nimitz
"Their sailors say they should have flight pay and sub pay both -- they're in the air half the time, under the water the other half""
- Ernie Pyle: Aboard a DE