the definition of fanaticism

I am amazed at how many people who opposed the US invasion of Iraq now believe that the US "cannot just pull out" of the war. These are not wingnuts. They are generally intelligent, good-hearted people. Yet they insist on this illogical non-reasoning: it was wrong to go there in the first place, but now that we're there, we have to stay.

This view ignores a near-certainty: the US will have to pull out eventually anyway. The "insurgency" will not be crushed. People fighting against an occupation are endlessly motivated and resourceful. Combine that with a willingness to die for their cause and you have a recipe for endless war.

Richard Nixon said, "I will not be the first American president to lose a war." Then Americans were airlifted off a roof in Saigon. 58,000 Americans and half a million Vietnamese died before it was over. Who knows how many were permanently maimed, physically and emotionally. What will the final tally be this time? This much we know: Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld won't lose a wink of sleep over it.

In his recent piece in the Miami Herald, Howard Zinn says, "The definition of fanaticism is that when you discover that you are going in the wrong direction, you redouble your speed."

Zinn offers some historical examples and suggests a next step.


allan said...

A Knight Ridder report (my emphasis):

"The United States is steadily losing ground to the Iraqi insurgency, according to every key military yardstick. A Knight Ridder analysis of U.S. government statistics shows that through all the major turning points that raised hopes of peace in Iraq, including the arrest of Saddam Hussein and the handover of sovereignty at the end of June, the insurgency, led mainly by Sunni Muslims, has become deadlier and more effective.

"The analysis suggests that unless something dramatic changes - such as a newfound will by Iraqis to reject the insurgency or a large escalation of U.S. troop strength - the United States won't win the war. It's axiomatic among military thinkers that insurgencies are especially hard to defeat because the insurgents' goal isn't to win in a conventional sense but merely to survive until the will of the occupying power is sapped. Recent polls already suggest an erosion of support among Americans for the war."

Scattered snips from the article:

* U.S. military fatalities from hostile acts have risen from an average of about 17 per month just after President Bush declared an end to major combat operations on May 1, 2003, to an average of 71 per month.

* The average number of U.S. soldiers wounded by hostile acts per month has spiraled from 142 to 708 during the same period. Iraqi civilians have suffered even more deaths and injuries, although reliable statistics aren't available.

* Attacks on the U.S.-led coalition since November 2003, when statistics were first available, have risen from 735 a month to 2,400 in October.

"Most worrisome, the insurgency is getting larger."


"But but but look at all the schools we've painted. [/cable wingnut]

Rognar said...

You may not want to hear this, but I agree with that position to some extent. Basically, it is the "Pottery Barn" philosophy, "you broke it, you bought it". The US and the UK destroyed the nation of Iraq, now they are responsible for rebuilding it, no matter how many American and British lives it takes, no matter how many billions of dollars, the coalition cannot be allowed to walk away from its responsibility to repair the damage it has caused.

We Canadians understand that. We went into Afghanistan to help oust the Taliban and recognizing our responsibilities to the Afghan people, we have sent a lot of money and troops to help stabilize and rebuild the country. Canada has been one of the biggest contributors to the NATO peacekeeping mission in Kabul.

laura k said...

I can apprciate what you are saying.

The only trouble with that philosophy is that the US doesn't share it. They are not rebuilding. They are destroying. Their continued presence ensures continued destruction.

Some sort of multinational peace-keeping and rebuilding force might be called for. The US should foot the bill. But (IMO) the continued occupying presence of the US will never, can never, bring peace. The US is too despised there.

Do you have snow in Alberta today?

laura k said...

But... the central problem with what Rob says above, for me, is this: "no matter how many American and British lives it takes".

Young men and women, who by chance were born in a certain country at a certain time, will be made to pay for their government's arrogance, greed, lies and mismanagement. They will be slaughtered, permanently disabled, and/or exposed to horrors that will scar their psyches forever.

Once gone, their lives can never be replaced.

It is too easy to say "no matter how many lives...". Too easy to sacrifice someone else's life - someone else's child, husband, father, mother, sister.

Rognar said...

I absolutely agree with you on two points. One, the US presence is a provocation. It attracts militants from all over the Islamic world and excalates the violence. Two, war is ugly and the people who sacrifice the most are the least to blame for the violence. The problem is a purely practical one. If the US leaves, the violence will probably decrease, but it won't go away entirely. That means someone else has to step in and take up the duty. The Iraqis themselves will be able to do that eventually, but I've seen little convincing evidence that they will be up to the task any time soon. So that means some kind of multinational peacekeeping force. In other words, the sons and daughters of countries who had nothing to do with starting the war, will have to do the dying instead. That's why you don't go around overthrowing stable governments (even oppressive ones) lightly, the aftermath is often worse than the war itself.

You are right, of course, that the US will have to leave eventually. Canada figured that out after 22 years in Cyprus, the opposing sides don't have to negotiate an agreement as long as the foreigners are there to keep the peace. I just think the US has to give the Iraqis more time to stand on their feet. Right now, the country is a shambles and civil war is almost certain if the coalition leaves prematurely.

No snow in Alberta today. We have a weather phenomenon here called a Chinook wind. It is a warm, dry wind that sweeps down from the mountains and gives us spring-like conditions in the winter sometimes. We are in the midst of one over the last few days. It has been reaching highs of about 15C (60F) over last few days. That reminds me, you will have to learn the metric system when you move here, especially for temperatures and mileage. Oh, and gas and milk are sold by the litre.

laura k said...

Rob, we are in agreement about much of this. I only differ in how I would go about it. I understand the argument about civil war, but the provoking presence of the "coalition" (!) is not going to magically become a peace-keeping presence. In the article I linked to above, Zinn suggests an international negotiating team, mostly Arab, to mediate among the faction and work out a compromise that gives some autonomy to each group.

I look forward to joining the rest of the world in the metric system! And right now that Chinook thingy sounds pretty great.

Kyle_From_Ottawa said...

Unfortunately, the Chinook only happens in Alberta.

Here's in Ottawa, it's been holding at -30 (-22F) for days (without the windchill), but it looks like the deep freeze is coming to an end, thank god.

I'm sort of in the indecisive middle between your two opinions on Iraq. On the abstract national scale, the U.S. is responsible for fixing what they broke. On CBC last night, they gave an Iraqi engineering student in Baghdad a camera to document how things are going, and quite frankly its not going well.

Saddam was by no means a great ruler, but as long as you weren't involved in politics life wasn't that bad in Iraq. People adapt to autocratic rule, after all we lived that way for millinea before democracy came along. Now instead of just the politically motivated suffering, everybody suffers.

I have a lot of Arab friends, and they say generally people over their hate their despotic governments. However, none would want some foriegn nation to impose regime change on their home countries. Countries like Bahrain and Qatar where already making baby steps towards democracy, and if your Homer Simpson like administration had realized it and nurtured it, then the goal of democracy through the middle east might have been possible.

After all, has anyone ever had a debate with anyone where saying "you're wrong, I'm right" has done anything except make the other person more defensive and more closed to your opinion?

Kyle_From_Ottawa said...

I forgot to complete a thought: On an individual scale, it's terrible that the soldiers pay for their commander-in-chiefs mistakes, and he not only takes no blame, but gets to celebrate his "glorious" vision.

laura k said...

Right. When people's lives are at stake, abstractions should be put aside, IMO.

Re baby steps towards democracy, I don't think the US has any interest in democracy in the Middle East or elsewhere. That's just another smokescreen (like WMDs), a way to sell the war to the public. The US has always supported dictatorships around the world and will continue to do so, when those dictatorships are friendly to American business interests.

Rognar said...

It's unfortunate that rulers don't lead their armies into battle anymore. They would be far more circumspect if their own skins were at risk.

laura k said...

Exactly!! If they wouldn't send their own sons or daughters - or go themselves - they shouldn't call for war.

Can you imagine the Bush twins in combat? It's something out of a Fox reality show.

Anonymous said...


Don't give Fox any ideas, they have enough non-reality shows as it is.


Anonymous said...

As if we needed more examples of what Bush is really like...I thought he came to Canada to mend fences?


Anonymous said...

Now they let gun lovin, gay hatin, jesus fearing, rednecks write articles...


laura k said...

Thank you, my anonymous article-posting friend! This is great. I'll expound with it tomorrow... :)