Thursday, April 01, 2004

News Analysis: U.S. Optimism Is Tested Again After Ambush Kills 4 in Iraq

I'm ambivalent about the pure hatred that, apparently, these citizens of Falluja bear to us.

I can see their point: we had no business getting into Iraq in the first place. We could have "contained" Saddam and more importantly could have done a whole bunch of other things globally to isolate him and other tin-pot dictators, to undermine the motive for terrorism and to make life better for people.

But I have no sympathy for the resistance. Saddam was a high-tech tribal warlord who beat up other tribes to get booty for himself and cronies, his clan and his tribe. He and his supporters exploited the rhetoric of anti-colonialism and national-self-determination to promote his agenda. I wonder how many Iraqis care, or know, what country they live in. Here are primitive people, living in mud-brick hovels who have no loyalties extending beyond their clan or tribe. They want their tribal leaders in power so that they can get the goodies. The prospect of a civil society thwarts their agenda.

What vision, if any, do the thugs who blew up Americans in Falluja and dismembered their corpses have for the future of Iraq? Most have none: they were just a mob of young, lower-class males out for a good time. Those who do want to keep Iraq the primitive tribal society it's always been, where Big Men achieve power through violence and corruption and their tribe-mates depend on their largess.

It's easy to see why Big Men like Saddam and other local warlords like the arrangement. And, where there's an excuse for violence, there will always be hoards of young, lower-class males rushing in to have a good time. But why do the majority of people go along with it? I suppose because they can't imagine what civil society would be like, or because they don't seriously believe that any alternatives to tribalism are possible. They imagine that Bush is simply another warlord out to loot and pillage so that he can dispense the proceeds to his tribe, and that attempts to establish civil society will leave them without patronage.

Maybe they're right.

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