If America were Iraq, what would it be like?
September 27, 2004 5:05 AM   Subscribe

If America were Iraq, what would it be like? Private armies totaling 275,000 men; platoons of Christian Soldiers Militia holed up in Arlington National Cemetery; the grounds of the White House constantly under mortar fire; the Secretary of State, President, and Attorney General all assassinated in the past year; and the Air Force routinely bombing Billings, Flint, Philadelphia, and parts of LA and DC to destroy "safe houses" of "criminal gangs."
posted by johnnydark (34 comments total)
An entertaining analogy. Perhaps someone should imagine what Iraq will be like in five years, based on what the US is like now.
posted by johnnydark at 5:13 AM on September 27, 2004

An entertaining analogy. Perhaps someone should imagine what Iraq will be like in five years, based on what the US is like now.

Or based on the successful campaign in Afghanistan that has brought new found peace, prosperity and joy to thousands of thankful Afghans.
posted by DrDoberman at 5:32 AM on September 27, 2004

The American Revolutionary War took a long time. It will take a long time to fix these countries, Doc.
posted by johnnydark at 5:40 AM on September 27, 2004

Since when we do have any responsibility to "fix" Iraq? That's some euphemism. And does installing puppets that'll do our bidding, and occupying the country, do anything to "fix" it? We should have learned from our puppets elsewhere that it doesn't "fix" anything.
posted by amberglow at 5:44 AM on September 27, 2004

The US is fucked in iraq. If they stay it will be worse than any occupation in history, if they leave whoever has the guns will try and fight for power, none of whom will be what one would call the 'good guys'.
posted by Space Coyote at 5:57 AM on September 27, 2004

What exactly are we talking about here?
posted by Witty at 6:04 AM on September 27, 2004

Apples and oranges, I think.
posted by chrid at 6:06 AM on September 27, 2004

Based on past comments in MeFi, I should think some of the scenarios described wouldn't sit all that badly with some quarters around here....
posted by Pressed Rat at 6:19 AM on September 27, 2004

If they stay it will be worse than any occupation in history..

Worse than any in history? Can you expand on that?
posted by dhoyt at 6:25 AM on September 27, 2004

Good thing we hid all our WMDs in Canada!
posted by robocop is bleeding at 6:28 AM on September 27, 2004

It worked in Germany and Japan. It's messy, but it can work. GIve it more than 18 months.
posted by johnnydark at 6:31 AM on September 27, 2004

Johnydark: Yeah, like you fixed Vietnam, Kosovo, Latin America etc. etc. Thanks but no thanks. As for "if America were Iraq" don't worry. Israel would never allow this to happen.

Witty, it's nothing dear. Go back to sleep.
posted by acrobat at 6:45 AM on September 27, 2004

the Air Force routinely bombing Billings, Flint, Philadelphia, and parts of LA and DC to destroy "safe houses" of "criminal gangs."

In other words, Iraq today is much like Philadelphia c. 1985. Ok, that was a cheap shot.

In Germany and Japan, there was less post-war violence, but that's because the countries has been totally leveled and beaten into submission. When problems occured, the allies quickly came up with new solutions in order to switch gears. That isn't happening in the US, where Bush is working hard to perfect his impression of Baghdad Bob.

Anyway, one might wonder why this post exists or why it was written this way. The reason is that as US casualties mounted in Iraq, a bunch of ignoramouses tried to cover up for the mess by saying, "heck, more people die in drive by shootings in a typical day in Detroit than are dying in Iraq!" Of course, their lack of facility with mathematics and the concept of percentages was exceeded only by the partisan apologetics for this silly venture. Thus, it behooves us to examine the issue with a valid sense of proportion.
posted by deanc at 6:48 AM on September 27, 2004

Look the point of this is not that it could or will happen in the US, but rather to put into perspective what the occupation is actually about that your average gringo can grasp, like when they describe something's size by saying "the length of 2 football fields".
Or what deanc says.
posted by signal at 7:33 AM on September 27, 2004

Since when we do have any responsibility to "fix" Iraq?

I think it's one of those "you broke it, you own it" kind of deals...
posted by clevershark at 7:40 AM on September 27, 2004

dhoyt, sorry , I meant any american occupaton. And I wouldn't really back it up if pressed. But it will be bad if they stay on the current course.
posted by Space Coyote at 7:41 AM on September 27, 2004

johnnydark, bookmark this thread and revisit it in eighteen months. Even better, I'll do it for you -- that might make an interesting FPP.
posted by alumshubby at 7:45 AM on September 27, 2004

Great little analogy. It's actually an indication of the failure of the American education system that this analogy is even necessary. Americans have collectively become so closed-minded and self-centered that they've lost the capacity for empathy.

Just for giggles, grab a typical college student and ask them about the plight of the set-upon in Iraq. Far from expressing any sense of responsibility for the suffering caused by the US, the student is likely to express vague distaste or even scorn for the Iraqis. I experienced this as part of a graduate project I worked on. You wouldn't believe how many flip dismissals I heard, "Fuck it, nuke 'em all" or something similar more than anything else.

What a callus and crass culture we have become that it takes a direct comparison to our own lives to make us feel anything for the people we shred with shrapnel daily.
posted by squirrel at 8:07 AM on September 27, 2004

It worked in Germany and Japan.

Care to explain the similarities between two industrial powers which went on to conquer large parts of the world before someone thought of stopping them and a raw-material-exporting country whose dictator was first aided, then attacked and eventually brought down by the U.S.?
posted by magullo at 8:14 AM on September 27, 2004

So what? I'm still in Miami this December ;-)
posted by i_cola at 8:22 AM on September 27, 2004

It worked in Germany and Japan. It's messy, but it can work. GIve it more than 18 months.

Dividing a country in half and fifty years of nuclear brinksmanship with Communist nations, effectively leading to at least three armed conflicts in the process, two of which we lost, is "working?"
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 8:37 AM on September 27, 2004

Also, thank you, signal and deanc, for looking at what, ironically, the very poster of the FPP doesn't want to... the FPP.

johnnydark, were you just looking to pick a fight or something? You posted a link about comparing the current situation in Iraq to an American equivalent, and you have immediately tried to distance yourself from the very point of your own link by starting arguments about how Iraq might get better later... if that's what you wanted to talk about, why not find a link about that and post it, instead of trolling through your own damn FPP?
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 8:44 AM on September 27, 2004

It worked in Germany and Japan. It's messy, but it can work.

Only problem is, there is absolutely no parallel between Germany/Japan and Iraq, so you can't "cookie-cut" a solution from one to the other.

Besides which George W. Bush is no Harry S. Truman.
posted by clevershark at 8:45 AM on September 27, 2004

You take that back, clevershark!

immediately tried to distance yourself from the very point of your own link by starting arguments about how Iraq might get better later...

Yeah, I was puzzled as well, XQ. What gives, dark?
posted by squirrel at 9:10 AM on September 27, 2004

It worked in Germany and Japan. It's messy, but it can work. GIve it more than 18 months.

Few Parallels with Germany and Japan By Alejandro Landes, Miami Herald, November 9, 2003

Seven months after Baghdad fell, the Bush administration is confronting critics of its occupation strategy in Iraq by recalling U.S. triumphs in postwar Germany and Japan. But some historians say those are different stories. The postwar reality in Germany and Japan, scholars say, was very different from today's Iraq. Historians point out that while more than 240 U.S. troops have been killed in Iraq since Bush declared an end to major hostilities on May 1, the total number of postwar American casualties in occupied Germany and Japan was zero.

While campaigning in New Hampshire last month, President Bush nevertheless repeated the comparison with postwar Germany and Japan, nations that have since blossomed into affluent, stable democracies, and posed no military threat to anyone in 50 years. ''America did not run from Germany and Japan following World War II. We helped those countries become strong and decent democratic societies that no longer waged war on America. That's our mission in Iraq,'' Bush said.

John Dower, a professor of Japanese history at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, takes issue with the president's comparison. ''Policy makers are using historical analogies comparing occupied Germany and Japan to Iraq the way a drunk uses a lamp post, not for illumination but for support,'' he said. American GIs were so safe in Japan that they could move their families there and Gen. Douglas MacArthur lived in Tokyo with his wife and son. ''I can't imagine this happening in Iraq,'' Dower said.

The Difference between Germany, Japan, and Iraq

National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice is only the most vocal proponent of the idea that we were going to liberate the Iraqis the way we liberated the Axis peoples, especially the Germans, from their own tyranny.

Would we had liberated Germany and Japan! Instead, we invaded, conquered them, and then we occupied them. The human costs were unbelievable: approximately 3.5 million German soldiers, and 780,000 civilians, killed. The death toll was nearly as great in Asia with an estimated 1.3 million Japanese soldiers, and 672,000 civilians, killed. The prewar German population was 80.6 million; that of Japan in 1940 was just over 73 million. Germany was ground like grain between two great armies that fought through its cities street-by-street and sometimes house-by-house. Japan’s wood and paper cities were attacked with incendiary bombs to cause firestorms because it made a lot of sense to kill skilled workers.

The Allies insisted on unconditional surrender by the legitimate German and Japanese authorities. This demand forced all who thought the Nazi and Imperial orders were worth defending to fight, and often die, for their beliefs.

In contrast, the Iraqi government did not surrender, but, like its army, simply crumbled.

Iraqis and American GIs alike know that Iraq is home to Iraqis, not Americans. It is now a matter of sheer will between us and the Iraqis who, for whatever reasons, wish us to leave--right now. Iraqis who are willing to cooperate with us are known to the resistance and are intensely vulnerable. Unlike Americans, they can’t go home.

In the summer of 1945, Germans and Japanese knew winter was coming on and that they had been brutally defeated and conquered by people who had gone to war specifically to defeat them. The Cold War, while looming on the horizon, was years away. Germany and Japan had manufacturing and agricultural economies to rebuild under the hard eyes of occupation troops. In contrast, the Iraqi resistance has only to read the papers to know how their actions affect our force structure, our operations in other countries, and the Korean contingency.

Those were written last year. These were written last week:

3 options for the U.S. in Iraq

We have prosecuted the war and the counter-insurgency war that followed with too few soldiers on the ground and seemingly no strategy for victory. Today, there are three options:
We double the number of boots on the ground, from today's 150,000 troops to 300,000, and pursue a much more vigorous attack on the foreign and domestic guerrillas. To double the force would require a major buildup in our Army and Marine troop strength, which no one seems prepared to pursue.

We continue as we are now, holding defensive positions and taking a steady stream of casualties while the insurgents get stronger and bolder.

We get out.
A suggestion in one of my recent columns that we begin the withdrawal by establishing American enclaves on the Iraq borders has gained some traction and is being discussed by Army planners, we are told.

Endgame - How Will We Know When We Can Finally Leave?

Americans must begin to penetrate that silence by reckoning with some grim realities about the Iraqi endgame. The first is that there is no prospect of "winning" in Iraq, at least none that even remotely resembles the administration's rhetoric. The German model has become part of what Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel, a Republican critic of the war, has called the "grand illusion" of Iraqi progress. Indeed, far from following the path of America's postwar triumph in Germany, the administration's approach on the ground is closely tracking one of America's greatest foreign policy follies: Vietnamization. That was the name for President Richard Nixon's disastrous policy of handing off the war to the ill-prepared South Vietnamese army and a thinly legitimate government in Saigon, so that U.S. troops could come home. Now the Bush administration is hanging its hopes on Iraqification, the propping up of equally unprepared Iraqi forces in hopes that we can ready them in time to forestall defeat long enough to withdraw...

What does "winning" mean in Iraq? For U.S. troops, it means just surviving. But even quagmires can be managed. For the administration, winning means discarding the German model and adopting one that in the best case looks more like Bosnia, where U.S. and NATO forces today act as quasi-permanent control rods to prevent the kind of chain reaction of violence that leads to civil war. It means acknowledging that we must plan for a large U.S.-dominated occupation force that could remain there for several years at least, and we must spend tens of billions of dollars more than the Bush administration is doing now. If we don't, the next rotation into Iraq could begin to "break" the Army, one general worries, provoking an exodus of the military's professional officer corps.

Confronting reality in Iraq, and reducing expectations, also means backing whatever sources of stability we can find, even if they are anti-American. This may be the only way to salvage the minimal goal of leaving behind an Iraq that does not threaten us or its neighbors. That means, effectively, two options. One is a "little Saddam," a strongman who can consolidate control through non-democratic means. The other is to pursue a democracy largely shaped by anti-American mullahs, hopefully somewhat moderate ones like Sistani. What's not available any longer is the Iraqi equivalent of Konrad Adenauer, the German politician who was jailed by the Nazis and who later, after becoming the first chancellor of West Germany, nurtured good relations with France and the United States. Even Allawi must defer to Sistani. Washington must swallow the likelihood that Iraq will enter some drawn-out Islamic phase before it ever turns into a secular democratic model.

For the Americans who went to war in Iraq hoping for historic change, those options are pretty much all that's left on the table. That is what "winning" in Iraq will look like for years to come. It's the best we can do right now, even if it looks like losing.

They're burned, or blinded, or sparring with death

This month, politicians focused on the unwelcome tally of the 1,000th American soldier to die in Iraq. Landstuhl has its own set of figures, numbers that flesh out the suffering occurring on the battlefields of Iraq and in homes across the United States.

Since Sept. 11, 2001, more than 18,000 military personnel have passed through the hospital from what staff refer to as "down range": Iraq and Afghanistan. Of those, nearly 16,000 have come from Iraq.

Last month, 23 percent of those were casualties from combat, slightly higher than most months; the rest had either accidental or disease-related complaints.

Thirteen have died at the hospital.

Each day, an average of 30 to 35 patients arrive on flights from Iraq. The most on a single day was 168.

More than 200 personnel have come in with either lost eyes or eye injuries that could result in sight loss or blindness.

About 160 soldiers have had limbs amputated, most of them passing through the hospital on their way home to more surgery.

And it's not just their bodies that come in needing fixing. More than 1,400 physically fit personnel have been admitted with mental health problems.

Then there are the Pentagon's figures that touch on all casualties from the war in Iraq: 1,042 dead; 7,413 injured in action, including 4,026 whose injuries have prevented them from returning to duty. In Afghanistan, there have been 366 injuries and 138 deaths.

posted by y2karl at 10:17 AM on September 27, 2004

Excellent work, y2karl. I wish there were mod-points here and that I had one for you.

As for the Juan Cole article, it is excellent. I wish more people had the guts to say "No, they don't 'hate us because of our freedoms,' they hate us because we kill hundreds of their innocent civilians daily, because we've destroyed most of their infrastructure, and because we have deliberately set up their so-called economy to siphon money out of their country."
posted by ilsa at 10:34 AM on September 27, 2004

You mean this guy is a threat and we in the "Flin-terria" would be bombed? Nice crap Juan, what if Iraq looked like Yemen or anything else. What a specious analogy.
posted by clavdivs at 12:05 PM on September 27, 2004

An entertaining analogy. Perhaps someone should imagine what Iraq will be like in five years, based on what the US is like now.

Right, because it only took 5 years for the philipines to become 'like america'.
posted by delmoi at 12:14 PM on September 27, 2004

deanc, great minds...etc.I recently sent two letters to the editor (neither of which I expect to be published) comparing Bush's delusional optimism to that of Baghdad Bob. After the Howard Dean fiasco, I am more convinced than ever that American politics are won or lost, not by refuting your opponent's agenda/policies, but by making him look ridiculous. This is clearly the thinking behind the Bush ad showing Kerry windsurfing in spandex. To fight them in their own sandbox, I think that we should hammer the comparison of Bush to Baghdad "they are nowhere near Baghdad" Bob --dispelling the idea that optimism, no matter how sincerely and oft repeated, can change the harsh reality on the ground. Hmm. Maybe we should start calling him "Baghdad George."
posted by boo at 1:19 PM on September 27, 2004

Maybe we should start calling him "Baghdad George."

I've heard the nickname "D.C. Dubya" making the rounds.
posted by deanc at 6:21 PM on September 27, 2004

"Chicken George" and "ChickenHawk George" too.
posted by amberglow at 6:26 PM on September 27, 2004

Prewar Assessment on Iraq Saw Chance of Strong Divisions

The same intelligence unit that produced a gloomy report in July about the prospect of growing instability in Iraq warned the Bush administration about the potential costly consequences of an American-led invasion two months before the war began, government officials said Monday. The estimate came in two classified reports prepared for President Bush in January 2003 by the National Intelligence Council, an independent group that advises the director of central intelligence. The assessments predicted that an American-led invasion of Iraq would increase support for political Islam and would result in a deeply divided Iraqi society prone to violent internal conflict.

One of the reports also warned of a possible insurgency against the new Iraqi government or American-led forces, saying that rogue elements from Saddam Hussein's government could work with existing terrorist groups or act independently to wage guerrilla warfare, the officials said. The assessments also said a war would increase sympathy across the Islamic world for some terrorist objectives, at least in the short run, the officials said. The contents of the two assessments had not been previously disclosed. They were described by the officials after two weeks in which the White House had tried to minimize the council's latest report, which was prepared this summer and read by senior officials early this month.

Last week, Mr. Bush dismissed the latest intelligence reports, saying its authors were "just guessing'' about the future, though he corrected himself later, calling it an "estimate.''

"just guessing'' right. Again.
posted by y2karl at 9:38 PM on September 27, 2004

{scroll scroll scroll}
posted by Witty at 3:02 AM on September 28, 2004

Well, hey... good guess, boys!
posted by squirrel at 9:03 AM on September 28, 2004

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