INCITE
Incite -- (v) 1: give an incentive; 2: provoke or stir up; "incite a riot"; 3: urge on; cause to act
Monday, May 17, 2004

 
Dead On
Written by: Answerman

More Helprin:

Mistakenly focused on physical control of Iraq, we could not see that, were we to give it up, the resultant anarchy might find a quicker resolution than the indefinite prolonged agony through which our continuing presence has nursed it. Seeking motivation after the fact, we decided to make Iraq a Western-style democracy, and when that began to run off the rails, to make Iraq the mere model for a Middle East filled with Western-style democracies. Of course, instead of a model to inspire them (of which they have many, such as Switzerland), what the Arabs need is first the desire, and then a means to overcome the police states that oppress them, neither of which a reconfigured Iraq, were it possible, would supply. Japan and Germany are often cited in defense of this overreach, but rather than freeze our armies in place and set them to policing and civil affairs as we fought through the Second World War, we waited until we had won.

Having decided to remake a country of 26 million divided into warring subcultures with a shared affection for martyrdom and unchanging traditions, the administration thought it could do so with 100,000 troops. Israel, which nearly surrounds the West Bank, speaks its language and has 37 years of experience in occupation, keeps approximately (by my reckoning) one soldier on duty for every 40 inhabitants and 1/13th square mile, and the unfortunate results are well known. In Iraq we keep one soldier per 240 inhabitants and 1.7 square miles. To put this in yet clearer perspective, it is the same number of uniformed police officers per inhabitant of the City of New York. But the police in New York are not at the end of a 9,000-mile supply chain (they live off the land at Dunkin' Donuts), they do not have to protect their redoubts, travel in convoys, maintain a hospital system, run a civil service, reform a government, build schools, supply electricity, etc. And, most importantly, they do not have to battle an angry population that speaks an alien language, lives in an immense territory, and is armed with automatic weapons, explosives, suicide bombers, and rocket-propelled grenades. Imagine if they did, and you have Iraq. Imagine if then the mayor said, "We don't need anything further, it's just a question of perseverance: Bring it on," and you have the Bush continuum.


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