Friday, September 17, 2004


The Eric Chen Debate

[Another long post I'm afraid, but it may be worthwhile. It is a little debate I have had over the past few days with an American gentleman and thought it might be useful to publish in the hope that it may trigger a constructive debate.]

Eric Chen wrote:

… I agree with you on the one the key point: it matters greatly to both our nations that a democratic, globalised Iraq, succeeds. And that's a big common ground for us.

I agree that mistakes have been made. But I don't think there has been any sinister or anti-Iraq intent in them. Like the saying goes, 'it's not you (Iraq), it's us (US)'.

The 'experts' can criticize Bush Jr all they want, but the fact is, our nation didn't have the right tools for the post-major combat peace-building phase. That's not Bush Jr's fault; it's the American people's fault. After the disaster of the Vietnam War in the 60s/70s, our people and our civil-military leadership wouldn't even consider nation-building. For example...

... Our Vietnam War phobia is an inside problem America needs to fix in order to be a better partner to Iraq.

So, at this point, after our mistakes, how can we still help you, and why should Iraqis still trust us? One, we're still your best hope. Two, the US is committed to Iraq's future. Three, history: Germany, Japan, South Korea. Four, read the article.

Read the post-WW2 histories of Germany, Japan and South Korea, and you'll see their ascendancies to healthy democratic, globalised natoins were difficult, too. It took many years for each of them. In fact, much of your criticisms echo what Germans, Japanese and Koreans said early in their nation-building relationship about the US - including your complaint about distrusted appointed leaders. But what they complained about turned out to be a necessary part of the building process towards functional, contiguous democracies. Why? Democracy isn't just hope and noble beliefs; it's a working system built with mechanisms in an infrastructure. It's a machine that takes time to make. For us, it took America years to build our system, and it was hard. Today, look at Germany, Korea and Japan and see where they are because of America's aid. Their present success is the same hope Americans have for Iraq, but again, it'll take time, hard work and faith. Together, we'll need to earn it.

Back to my previous point about our lack of capability to nation-build when we started Operation Iraqi Freedom. The ONLY way the US was going to build up the right capability was by, I hate to say it, failing in Iraq - at least initially. From that real-world slap in the face, we could wake up from our Vietnam fears and finally build the right capabilities. President Bush Jr has, in fact, invested many billions of our tax dollars into this mission, not only for Iraq directly but also for the US to develop the right tools for the job. Like everything else, it'll take time, smarts and hard work, but it's happening. In the past, we also had to adjust and learn in Germany, in Japan and in South Korea. I believe we can and we will adjust and learn for the good of Iraq.

Abu, here is the
link best explaining the American strategy for Iraq:

Much evidence says George W. Bush is following this strategic vision. (How well is he following this strategy? Debateable.) Dr. Barnett's strategy is based on Thomas Friedman and Francis Fukuyama, two 'liberals' who believe that people (the Iraqi people, in this case) are good and can flourish in the right system. You complain about the appointed politicians you don't trust, and that's fair. My response: MORE important than the persons in power is building the system that will sustain a nation for generations, through good and not-so-good leaders.

Iraq doesn't just matter to the US. It's the UN, and it's the world paying close attention to Iraq's democratic development, watching for Dr. Barnett's projected future. In fact, I believe the direction of the world's future is being played out in Iraq right now. The US has too much at stake to play a trick on you, but again, it will take time to get the job done right.

As far as our soldiers, cut them some slack and give them some help. I would guess that your help would be appreciated. They are in Iraq trying to help the Iraqi people; that's their mission. They don't have a simple, pretty nor popular job. You know what? In my Army career, when I served in Korea, I broke local traffic laws, too, including u-turns on highways. I did those things because I had a job to do, and compared to my job in the Army, those 'frightened kids' in Iraq are being tasked to do the impossible. You don't hear about American troops shooting women and children in Korea or Germany or Japan with rifle fire, do you? It took time, but it's a future worth creating. This will also take time, Abu. It will be hard, but remember, we're on your side.

Abu Khaleel wrote:

… It is also gratifying that you have seen beyond the many criticisms into the message I was trying to get across in that blog… and that you agree to the main issue: the need for democracy to succeed.

I fully agree with you on the effect the Vietnamese experience has had on America. I think you would agree further that 9/11 has also had an equally strong and probably opposite effect!

I don't think it is right for a nation in America's position in the world to be driven by such "reflexive" impulses. I understand that it is only natural for people to have such feelings following such traumatic experiences. On the other hand, governments and strategy builders should look beyond while taking these into account. In practice, I find that the opposite is taking place: numerous politicians and strategists on all sides are playing on these different fears!

It is ironic that the present quagmire is looking more and more like another Vietnam and the likelihood of another 9/11 is definitely not much less! In Iraq, as you may well know, we are having an assorted variety of our own 9/11's!

This is what I feel Dr. Barnett has tried to do – to look beyond immediate reflexes. I can understand his thesis about Core and Gap – and I find myself agreeing with the descriptive part of it. However, his analysis of the present situation strikes me as one "wishing" what the administration policy should be and not necessarily the actual strategy being implemented.

In either case, I feel that I must differ with you on one important point: with politicians and governments, we cannot rely on declared intentions; they are simply not enough, and such practice can in fact be rather dangerous. We have a better yardstick: performance. And frankly, based on the performance of the administration so far, I feel that the noble intentions you mention (and, I hope, we both desire) cannot be achieved in the foreseeable future following the present course.

I agree that there are several parallels with the cases of Japan and Germany. But there are also many significant differences. To borrow Dr. Barnett's terminology, Iraq is already strongly "connected" to several important external forces: Arab nationalism, Islam (both fundamental and "regular"), neighboring countries, Israel, "old Europe", Russia… Iraq is extremely important to all these forces and they have different vested interests in its future.

This actually brings us back a full circle; the only solution that I see through this chaos is via "localized" democracy. If the "democratic base" is sufficiently large, we have less danger of some of these various forces tampering with it! And it has to be done fast!

Much of my resentment of the political leaders that you have noticed stems from the fact that those regional and international forces are, and will be, having considerable influence in shaping Iraqi politics for a long time to come. Many of the major political parties now gearing themselves for the coming power struggle are supported by external forces!

This is why I think we should by-pass them and go straight to the people. On this point, you can see that I agree with you that the system is more important than who is in power. What we ultimately need is a truly democratic system of government that the people trust and that can last.

With most people distrustful of US intentions, I cannot see conventional democracy built from the top down (as is now being done) succeeding in the present environment. To add insult to injury, the very people designing the nuts and bolts of this "democracy" have some severe shortcomings and are mistrusted by most people in Iraq. When I look around and talk to people, I don't see anyone excited about the coming elections. All people expect is a continuation of the charade of the IGC, the Transitional Administrative Law, the Interim Government and the Interim National Assembly.

The main problem with this solution (i.e. building democracy from the bottom up) and because of the strong popular resentment of America now felt by many Iraqis due to all those mistakes, I am afraid that neither you nor I would like the result!

However, I firmly believe that most ordinary people are decent, moderate and peace-loving and the end result in the longer-term will be good. Meanwhile, I think we both have to accept the taste of the bitter medicine!

[This issue is of such importance that I hope I will be able to address it in greater detail in future posts]

As to American soldiers and "cutting them some slack and giving them some help" I am afraid I have some bad news for you. We both know that soldiers are mostly normal people and they only follow orders. However, public sentiment is currently fierce against them. I don't think that anyone can do much about that at present. I feel this is the more reason that there has to be a political solution to this mess. Public regard to America and to American soldiers will automatically follow.

Finally, I would like to assure you of my own unshaken belief that there are many decent Americans "on our side" and that many have all the best of intentions towards Iraq and the Iraqi people. This is why I started writing that blog in the first place.

I only wish I could share your optimism for the future. From where I'm writing, things look depressingly bleak.


Hello Abu Khaleel,
"[EC]As far as our soldiers, cut them some slack and give them some help."
Abu Khaleel..have you been giving our guys a hard time? Shame on you! But seriously, I saw the ruins of Najaf and I almost cried. Our troops are wonderful idealistic even but let's admit their training has put them into the Robocop class. Frightened kids with the firepower of Frankenstein. This is how modern armies fight--not proportional response but annihilation. I agree that Sadr is a turd, but to shoot everything in sight is over the top. Nobody will love US as Robocop.
I wonder what is so wrong with relying on the natural evolution of Iraqi society instead of the force feeding poorly tailored 'democracy'.
An example of the stupidity of Bush is the rebuilding of Iraq in the capitalistic mode where previously almost all significant work was done thru a centralized command system.
"It took time, but it's a future worth creating. This will also take time, Abu. It will be hard, but remember, we're on your side." Do you want Iraq on your side or do you want to be on Iraq's side? So what about that reconstruction plan(5% spent so far)?

Sorry Abu, for this interjection but rightist bloggers need strong correction!

Right now I am inclined to think that any security countermeasures will just exaccebate the situation. People have got to start thinking about unqualified peace everywhere in Iraq-peace propaganda instead of war propaganda. The recent peace march in Bagdad was a good start. All forms of non-violent demonstration should be allowed. Olive branches should be offered to everyone (you need not worry about Zarqawi accepting one of those!). I am not sure how US troops can help with this peace offensive. Can there be a gun buy back program? How about free building materials for people whose homes have been destroyed by the fighting? Peace is a way of life.

Barnett claims that the "gap" needs to be connected to the globalized "core", even by military force. But the developing world is already connected to the developed world. Barnett's "gap" is the source of most of the world's raw materials, cocoa, coffee, sugar, cheap labour, and oil. I suspect that the good doctor wants a guarantee that these resources are exchanged for dollars rather than say, euros, yen or yuan.

His idealized global world would be one in which America, with less than 5% of the world's population can continue to consume over 25% of the world's energy resources, while producing some 50% of the worlds CO2 emissions. Of course, in his globalized paradise American corporations would be free to not only buy what others sell, but also to own the very sources of production and privatize the water to boot.

If America, with its ever-widening gap between the rich and the poor, its ever-decreasing social security services, and it's massive rates of incarceration and violent crime, is the ideal to which the world must aspire... or be forced into at point of arms, then woe are we.

As far as giving the occupation forces a break, I would rather suggest giving the Iraqi resistance a break. The Americans can have all the break they need when they go home. The Iraqi people may well be capable of managing their own affairs without helicopter gunships mowing them down in their own streets.

- hulakan

You people are all too brainwashed by leftover Marxist ideology. All of that stuff about America being the capitalists which is oppressing the third-world poor originates from Marxism.

You would think after the massive human casualties of Marxist ideology, the collapse of most communist states, and the increasing backwardness and underdevelopment of the rest, that people would wake up and smell the coffee.

America isn't oppressing anyone. People are oppressing themselves through their own stupid class-war anti-capitalist rhetoric.

Most times when I read some news in on-line press or read some comments or posts in Iraqi and American blogs, I have to tell myself:

_ Americans of USA are human beings too.

It isn't crazy? Well, I'm a brazilian, and I really thought this...

Even US foot soldiers that gonna mad and do violence agains Iraqi people is a human being. At least, their ass is on the line: in the next day, perhaps, some IED or RPG will led him to heaven, or not.

Even US pilots that don't refuse orders to drop cluster bombs and missiles in civilians towns and houses and do commit a war crime, they are humans to. When they will sleep in the next night, perhaps some mortars and rockets will provide they will sleep in peace forever, or not.

But, one US people wich this ass is not on the line, this people have not the right to tell nothing against Iraqi people, pro-resistance or whatever. This war is illegal and based on lies. There are no WMD. Saddan was a dictator, but without links with AlQaeda. Then, Iraqis do have the right to self defense their country, by the way of a guerrilla war or whatever. The only way to such people to support US troops is supporting the withdraw of these troops.

Some US American people knows what this Brazilian guy is telling you. Look The Iraq Photo Projet. They are apologising Iraqi People for the destruction and paine that US imperialism is doing to Iraq. Great Americans they are!

And the Brits, realizing that occupation of Iraq was based on lies, and realizing too that even to USA imperialism is imposible to win this war, are speaching about withdraw.

But, what will happen in October? More one call-the-cops-number false flag? A full scale assault of Resistance in Iraq?

If Bush wins, a full scale assault of US military in Iraq will be ordered? But, without a draft?

I invite you do discuss these ideas.

Aquele abraço

Alvaro Frota

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