Saturday, November 17, 2012

On The Possible Utility of Recent Wars - Part IV

You might intuit that the end of my last comment to terri may suggest that I think the nation-building part of our recent wars was in error. Your intuition would be partly correct.  I am far less convinced that was wise.  The Colin Powell advice "If you break it, you own it," sounded like the only kind and decent way to go at the time.  George Bush's thought that if we just bring freedom to people they will gradually do better and the world will be a better place looks less solid now.  Why do we own it if we break it? We eventually found a bunch of B and C-grade stuff for making WMD.  Nothing A-grade, but no big deal.  Break the other stuff, which Hussein was also not supposed to have, and go home.  If we have to repeat again in 10 years, or in two other countries as well, fine.

Not a very realistic plan, however, as Americans wouldn't stand for it.  We feel obligated to build schools, hospitals, and highways to give them a leg up.  Minimising the collateral damage, and paying handsomely for what damage we do just doesn't seem like enough to us.  We want to fix "root causes."  Except the root cause is petty tribalism even within the major groupings, and to fix that they have to stop marrying their cousins.  (See also, Hatfields, McCoys, and extreme clannishness leading to blood feuds.) That could take awhile.

Not to say that it is useless, or never happens, or does no good.  I think it does.  I think bringing democracy and cooperation to places, insisting, however temporarily, that they behave better and educate their daughters, remains a good thing.  Just not as good as promised, and looking like it will take much longer than expected.

I was one of the ones who already had low expectations, remember.  I said all along that we didn't have to turn Iraq into Switzerland, but Brazil 1970 would be fine.  I am now hoping that Brazil 1870 can be sustained in Iraq, and wonder if there is any lasting change in Afghanistan at all. Hell, there's little change in Kosovo, and they're in Europe.

The paleocons said this all along.  They may have painted things too darkly, that there is no hope of any change, but their predictions weren't far off.  Cultures change slowly, and only when there is pressure to do so, not mere good intentions.  Conservatives tried to hush John McCain when he said 25 years, knowing that it would sound bad, but even John may have been too optimistic, eh? At a minimum, nationbuilding costs a lot more than we expected.

1 comment:

elcee said...

Generally speaking, winning a war requires securing the peace post-war. Our leadership efforts in the Cold War - including costly, lengthy hot turns such as in Korea along with nation-building that dwarf our Iraq and Afghanistan efforts - were part of the post-war peace operations for WW2. Hence, the casus belli for OIF was Iraq's violation of the comprehensive terms of the Gulf War ceasefire that were designed to secure the peace from the Saddam regime's threat.

Peace operations with post-Saddam Iraq were not an ad hoc policy decision by the Bush administration. In addition to post-WW2 American leadership norms, they were made explicit law under Clinton with section 7 of the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998, which was raised in section 4 of the 2002 AUMF. Preceding Clinton, they were implicit policy under HW Bush with the invasive, multifaceted enforcement of the UNSCR 688 humanitarian mandates, which included active support of anti-regime elements as early as May 1991.

See the answers to "Was Operation Iraqi Freedom about WMD or democracy?" and "Was the invasion of Iraq perceived to be a nation-building effort?".

Foundational legal documents for the 2003-2011 peace operations in post-Saddam Iraq are linked here.