How the Bush Bunch Lost in Iraq
by Morgan Reynolds
Lyons is my favorite leftist columnist down here in Arkansas and
the other day he quoted a chilling account from The Economist:
"ÖAmerican soldiers tack [bilingual notices] to their rear
bumpers in Iraq: ĎKeep 50m or deadly force will be appliedíÖthe
marines are jumpy. Sometimes, they say, they fire on vehicles encroaching
with[in] 30 metres, sometimes they fire at 20 metres." Says
one lieutenant: "If anyone gets too close to us, we [bleeping]
waste them. Itís kind of a shame, because it means weíve killed
a lot of innocent people."
kind of a shame, isnít it? Mass quantities of deadly force expended
daily and plenty of dead Iraqis, probably over 100,000 and half
of them women and children, not to mention the death and severe
wounding of thousands of Americans. Perhaps we have stumbled upon
a quantitative metric for Bushís compassionate conservatism as practiced
in Iraq: hold your fire until 20m, thatís compassionate; waste íem
at 50m+, thatís conservatism. Whether 20m or 50m, itís got that
nice blend of liberal and conservative, moral values, appeal to
women voters, Rís defeating Dís, and itís good to have it summed
up by a regular guy who is on the front lines in the march to intergalactic
"preeminence," bigger oil company profits, Israeli expansionism,
making the world safe for democracy ín all those wonderful things
plotted by neocon war makers who never have to go to war "with
the army we have." In a twisted way, our liar-in-chief has
fulfilled his campaign theme, although the ballyhooed "more
humble foreign policy" remains MIA.
wisdom has it that the U.S. is the lone superpower and straddles
the globe like a colossus. But few realize where power actually
comes from. The ignorant neocons, along with most people, implicitly
share Mao Tsetungís belief that "political power grows out
of the barrel of a gun." Thatís a yes and a no: yes, sort of,
in the short run, no way in the long run. In the long run, political
power clearly rests on ideological might, not on firepower. Thatís
why the pen is mightier than the sword, after all, isnít it? Even
in the short run, violently oppressing a reluctant population rests
on ideological support by a sizable group voluntarily squashing
the resistant. Ultimately, itís a numbers game: "Whether or
not [a tyrant] succeeds in making his sway last depends on the numerical
relation of the two groups," Mises said, "those who support
him voluntarily and those whom he beats into submission."
smarter people than the neocons have long recognized this obvious
fact of the political world. Thatís why writers as diverse as David
Hume, John Maynard Keynes, and Friedrich A. Hayek have pointed out
that all governments rule by public opinion. Ideas and ideology
are crucial in sustaining the legitimacy of any institution, much
less government. Bromides about legitimacy and consent of the governed
may be vague but theyíre correct.
no one says it better than Ludwig von Mises. First, government is
the "social apparatus of compulsion and coercion," and
Mises observes that "In the long run there is no such thing
as an unpopular government," improving on Joseph de Maistreís
claim that, "Every nation has the government it deserves."
thereís more: "Might is thus not a physical and tangible,"
wrote Mises, "but a moral and spiritual phenomenon." Remember
Stalin sarcastically asking, "How many divisions does the pope
have?" If the pope was so powerless, the Soviets would never
have tried to assassinate him. "Whack a pope" canít work
though because the office has "might." Today, a "divisionless"
pope carries on while the Soviet Union and all its divisions disappeared.
It didnít run out of muscle, it ran out of "power," ideological,
foundation that underlies government and blesses rulers with the
power to use violence against "minority groups is essentially
ideological, moral, and spiritual." OK, already, but Mises
customizes the theory quite directly for Bush-Rumsfeld-Wolfowitz:
"Rulers who failed to recognize this first principle of government
and, relying upon the alleged irresistibility of their armed troops,
disdained the spirit and ideas, have finally been overthrown by
the assault of their adversaries." And no one disdains ideas
more than the dry drunk in the White House. Get out of Iraq immediately!
Bush bunch in Babylon implicitly disdains a scholar like Mises yet
might listen to someone closer to their own ilk, like Napoleon Bonaparte,
who said, "A form of government that is not the result of a
long sequence of shared experiences, efforts, and endeavors can
never take root." Napoleonís view may have exceptions but it
surely applies to Iraq with its ancient culture and traditions suffering
slaughter and ruin under foreign occupation and the consequent insurgency,
alienating virtually everyone in Iraq. The prospects of these despised
occupiers and killers imposing a compliant government on the Iraqis
and re-engineering their way of life to suit neocon blueprints are
summer my wife and I went motorcycling for a week in California,
about the size of Iraq. Even though I lived 28 years in Texas, I
couldnít help but marvel at how big California is. "Can you
imagine invading this place, and then trying to control a hostile
population of 25 million with 130,000 troops," I asked my wife.
"No way," was her response. Bush knows a lot more though,
right? Heís got access to superior information. Just another 10,000
troops and "progress" over there will be even faster.
Give me a break.
global project is toast; he just doesnít realize it yet, despite
all the "superior information" in the world. Instead,
he is dissipating American "power" at an unprecedented
rate. Full of himself, mandate in hand (from heaven or earth?),
he and his fellow delusionaries donít have a clue that U.S. power
abroad rests on ideological acceptance. Maybe Colin Powell does
but heís gone. Oddly enough, Bush is acutely aware of the importance
of manipulating public opinion domestically but scorns the same
PR when it comes to the rest of the world. Thatís for a John Kerry
and other "sensitive" souls. Abroad, Bush struts, relies
on hired muscle and at any cost avoids the dreaded "wimp"
label hung on Poppy.
"might" rests on an ideology that makes people "tractable
and accommodating," as Mises put it, as much outside as inside
the nation. The irony is that a noninterventionist, commercial republic,
as envisioned by the founding fathers, would be more "powerful"
in the world than the monster we have become. The rest of the world,
much less Iraq, grows less and less willing to "hut to"
when the Bush syndicate snaps its fingers. The response increasingly
is "no mo," despite threatened shock and awe. Now our
main job is to pull up a chair and watch the exact path of the U.S.
defeat in Iraq. There is little doubt that it will have maximum
pain and no gain. These ignoramuses cannot admit an error, much
less learn from it.
Reynolds [send him mail],
retired professor of economics at Texas A&M University and former
chief economist, US Department of Labor, lives in Hot Springs Village,
© 2005 LewRockwell.com