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We’re superpowered and out of control

Plodding toward week three of the war, most of the generals say it is “on plan,” and we are taking heart from reports that some Iraqis are being shot for trying to desert – but we may also be pardoned for wondering how well this effort is really going.

We were, yes, encouraged to believe that the Iraqi military would put up token resistance and then surrender, that the Iraqi people would rise up in revolt, welcoming us as liberators, strewing flowers in our path.

Something like that could still happen, one supposes, though we seem to be past the point of counting on it. We Yanks have never been too sharp about the vagaries of the world beyond our shores, especially alien cultures like the Arab world.



Saddam Hussein is as vile a creature as ever wrapped himself in purple, and the Iraqi people have suffered under his rule, but here enters one of those subtleties of foreign psychology that we have such a tough time with: Now that they are being invaded and occupied by foreign infidels, simple territoriality is taking over. It has little to do with pervasive love of Saddam. It’s more like, as a still-resisting Confederate soldier explained to a Union officer a few days after the Civil War had ended, “This here’s our land. And you’re on it.”

That may seem terribly thick-headed and irrational to us, especially since what we alternatively offer them is Western-style democracy and other American values. But here’s another major hurdle for us: Not everyone in the world covets American values. Some of the world, in fact, is sick to death of American values and this country’s tendency to encroach on their traditional culture, even when it isn’t lowered on them from B-52’s.



Call it mindless traditionalism if you want. We have a certain amount of that here, too. We just have a lot more power and wealth to propagate it.

President Bush, with substantial support from the American people, has decided that it’s worth a few Iraqi (and American) lives to rid whatever Iraqis survive of Saddam Hussein. Who are we to decide that? He thinks we can win Iraqi hearts and minds by raining bombs down on their capital. Our bombs may be smarter than anyone else’s around, but even George must have assumed there would be collateral mortality.

We can’t dismiss those deaths, as many do, by saying, “Well, that’s war” – not when we invaded them without substantial provocation, on a hunch that some of those heathen bastards were up to no good.

OK, enough caramel-coating: Our country is seriously out of line here. That owes much to a leadership composed mostly of swaggering ex-CEOs who think that qualifies them as statesmen. George Bush is a baseball team manager with only the most superficial grasp of what’s going on anywhere outside of Texas.

No doubt he truly believes he’s doing the right thing. But the effect of his actions is little better than those of a thug. I do not find his thuggishness any more endearing because of his folksy Texas charm or his frequent personal consultations with God, and the rest of the world can hardly be expected to.

Under this administration, the United States has lurched more wildly than ever into impulsive aggression and unaccountability. Americans, positively frantic to be led, seem to equate such leadership with “strong” leadership, and that, in turn, with “good” leadership. The consequent rising tide of anti-Americanism around the world, including former friends and allies, is fully justified and something we can’t just shrug off.

(The author, a former marine officer and proletarian philosopher, lives in Wildernest.)


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