It is sometimes intoned by very solemn commentators and self-elected pundits that defeat in Iraq would be unthinkable and, taken all in all, a very bad thing for all concerned. It appears to me that this view of the matter is basically unsound and needs to be addressed in the usual American style by going incisively and directly to its core.
In the first place, it is ludicrous to mention the word defeat in this context. There was no defeat on the ground but a very glorious victory. It always helps, of course, if one of the parties to the conflict outspends the other party by a factor of 400 or 500 to 1. The enemy, it is also true, had learned the hard way from a previous engagement that outright resistance on the ground equipped only with arms from the Soviet era was not a very good thing and so fell back and offered sporadic resistance as the juggernaut approached, and therefore faded intelligently away.
Once Bush admits that he has been badly swindled on all matters Iraqi, perhaps in the course of a fearless outdoor jog casually surrounded by his Secret Service bodyguard to lend a presidential impression to the proceedings, and tells us that he wants to cut his losses, the sooner the human comedy will run its course.
First, the Iraqis will probably set up a theocracy of one kind or another. It will rule for a reasonable number of years with a degree of grace under pressure in an atmosphere of civil war. The Sunnis will hammer the majority Shiites and vice versa and the Kurds, as usual, will get the worst of it from all sides. It is however very probable that as the Arabs grow in stature in the course of the century, they will learn to read and treasure Voltaire and Thomas Henry Huxley, study subversive 20th century cosmology and astrophysics, decide that a certain degree of usury is good for business, consider women more of a pleasure to look at when they are out of their sugar bags, and study the Rubayait of Omar Khayyam in the original.
The debauchery in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait will continue unabated and will serve, over time, to civilize the hardest Muslim heart at its noveau riche and princely core. Those saturnine Saudi hatchet faces, as they continue their study of agreeable blonde bunnies in and out of bed, may become more pink and less hatchet-faced over time, and eventually grow to resemble Europeans. Soon they or their descendants will babble of Renoirs, Daumiers, Ingres, Hogarth, Turner, Menzel and even Caspar David Friedrich. The world will be a better place for it.
Those many skeptics in Europe and elsewhere who have adapted the famous Clausewitz dictum and argue that Americans consider war the continuation of business by other means, will be answered and refuted. It will be announced in due course at an international summit that business is the last thing that the Americans want or desire in Iraq or in any state in which they are not welcome. American oil companies, after all, not just the European ones, were skeptical about the proposed Iraqi adventure right from the beginning, and now it can loftily and even blimpishly be stated that business cannot be conducted in an atmosphere of cordite and bodybags but only in one of trust and a shared belief in the sanctity of contracts. Many a gray head will wag agreement.
All those robber nations on the borders of Iraq with designs on the oil reserves will be sternly advised by Washington, perhaps with the enthusiastic backing of the communards in Paris, Berlin, Madrid and Rome, that they will have to deal with the world's only remaining superpower supported by admittedly fleabag powers, but supported by Allies nevertheless, and therefore prepotent beyond belief. This action will, if nothing else, sweeten and sanitize the air waves, and help to counter the intricate machinations of al-Jazeera.
Our revered President, on first parsing the elements of Realpolitik, once got boldly onto his feet and stated that the Chinese were our strategic allies. He then corrected himself in short order in that very same speech, which demonstrates that he is a fast learner indeed, and asserted they were our strategic adversaries. Slowly but surely he is learning the mysteries of statecraft, and the rest of us can be glad. The fact of the matter is that the Chinese are fast emerging as that unthinkable impertinence, a national superpower with ancient, tenable and defensible borders and one homogeneous population, give or take some barbarians on the periphery. Since it is clear that the United States now decrees the exact power to which a given nation state can aspire, in all times and all places, but especially the 21st American Century, it plainly follows that Americans must take counter-measures to deal with the Chinese economy, the Chinese threat and the Chinese menace.
So let our President raise his voice in that impromptu press conference referred to earlier, and sternly announce to the world that he was misled and bamboozled by some of his alleged advisers; that he will not dignify them by mentioning their names, at least in public, but that he will deal with them in a charitable manner as befits a citizen of Christendom, and they will never be heard from again. He has seen the light and sensed the way, and a new world order is on its way, and there will be a thousand points of light to dazzle and delight the outer reaches of the universe. And what could be better than that?
May 22, 2004