Saturday, November 13, 2004

Groundhog War
Seems like the "battle for Fallujah" is receding from the headlines, pushed out by mass-media mouth-breathing over the Peterson verdict and whatever is going on in the world of celebrities. Don't worry, though: if you missed it this time, or the first time, the odds are you'll be able to catch Round Three in a few months' time.

James Wolcott, whom I think is likely to join Paul Krugman and Josh Marshall in the pantheon of thinking lefties in the bad times to come, puts it pretty concisely:

The US assault on Fallujah is a prime example of what [Emmanuel] Todd calls "theatrical micromilitarism." I mean, calling it "Operation Phantom Fury"--it's a sick joke. What's "phantom" about it? For months the US has been touting this incursion and publicly built up forces outside the city for weeks, giving the enemy plenty of time to rig explosives and/or skip town. Billing it as a "decisive battle"--another fraud. Guerrilla warfare operates on an entirely different set of rules; as has been oft pointed out, America won every major battle during Vietnam and still lost. What's unfolding is not a decisive moment but a ghastly production that trains hellfire on a symbolic target and "plays well" to American citizens as a flex of muscle, as witness the NY Post cover today of an American soldier with a cigarette dangling from his mouth with the headline "Marlboro Men Kick Butt." Civilian casualties, the destruction of homes and livelihoods, the absence of any significant capture of insurgent ringleaders, these are secondary to getting good action footage over which benedictions can be said.

I've had a chance to listen to the news more in the last couple days, and this seems to sum it up, stripped away of official equivocations and the veiled language of those who prefer to remain on speaking terms with the powerful: the insurgents left, we blew stuff up, we'll soon leave, and the displaced and collaterally damaged population in the town will be ever more hardened against the United States and all its works. But the Post got its headline--and even got to make a pro-smoking statement. That inebriated idiotic Aussie who writes the belligerent columns, Steve whateverisnameis, must have all but soiled himself.

I'm no expert on military affairs. But it just seems like basic logic that there is no way to defeat an insurgency without convincing the population that the invaders/occupiers/liberators are offering something much, much better than what was there before. I actually happen to believe we're offering it (as we were, in a sense, in Vietnam--but even more so this time, I think), but I've seen nothing to suggest we're convincing anyone. So all the insurgents need to do is wait us out.

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