Thursday, August 17, 2006

This Explains Alot

From the NYTimes (h/t Josh Marshall):
More generally, the participants said, the president expressed frustration that Iraqis had not come to appreciate the sacrifices the United States had made in Iraq, and was puzzled as to how a recent anti-American rally in support of Hezbollah in Baghdad could draw such a large crowd. "I do think he was frustrated about why 10,000 Shiites would go into the streets and demonstrate against the United States," said another person who attended.

Bush and his fellow hawks just don't get it. When a foreigners invade and occupy your country, particularly when the foreigners are semi-hostile toward your religious beliefs, you are going to be afraid. Then, when the inevitable innocent people are killed, harmed, or harassed, fear is joined by anger and aggression.

This storyline is repeated again and again in both reality and fiction, so I can't believe that the Hawks didn't think that something like this would occur; I think they just fail to understand how much technology changes this process. First, the costs of coordinating an insurgency have fallen dramatically. Insurgent entrepreneursrs no longer have to rely exclusively on local capital and labor (or on capital from one of the sides of the cold war). Particularly, if fighting the global superpower, insurgents can access labor and capital from anyone with an interest in fighting the US or in destabilizing Iraq. Further, once in the field, more advanced weapons and communications technology allows insurgents to do more with less. Relative to past conflicts, the US should have expected to face a greater supply of insurgents, and they clearly didn't.

Second, failure to account for and immediately suppress insurgencies (which I am not sure is even possible) doomed the invasion. Fighting insurgents requires greater hostile military engagement and the collateral damage (not just lives, but also freedoms) that accompany it. Here, again, I think Hawks fail to understand how much technology magnifies the cost of collateral damage. It used to be that the adverse side effects of occupation were contained locally. Tragic stories trickled through the grapevine only occasionally reaching a wider audience when it happened to be witnessed by a reporter. Now, every death or injury is captured on film and every indignity or injustice posted on the internet and quickly spread around the world. Last week during the coverage of the terror plot, one interviewee reported that he receives several emails a day with photos of children killed in Iraq. When it is this easy to fan fear into the flames of anger and hatred, it is foolish to engage in actions that increase fear and provide ample real evidence (not to mention the amount of fake, but believable evidence) to turn fear into hatred. Such hatred easily transforms into terrorism.

That Bush is surprised and frustrated that this occurs is deeply troubling, although it explains alot.

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