Thursday, August 16, 2007

A Little Story about Occupation

Suppose for a minute that you're living in an anarchist society, with no central governing authority. You have your family and hangers-on in a compound with barbed wire and dogs and so on, and then on down the street there are other people in their compounds and generally things are moderately peaceful because this is an old anarchy and people have realized that starting fights is a dumb idea when the other person is as heavily armed as you are. Most fights, in fact, are inside of compounds, which are mostly run in an autocratic manner by the head of household, when some youngling decides they don't want to obey anymore.

Now, imagine that you hear of a compound a ways away from yours, small and poor and run by a real asshole. And the rumor is, this guy is a real piece of work, abusing everyone he can get his paws on, from his own children to the beggars outside the back door of his kitchen. This guy is so bad that he rapes his daughters, castrates his servants' children, tortures his wives and slices the toes off his nieces and nephews. Being a wise, kind and good anarchist, this bothers you, and on top of that you think this guy might secretly support your worst enemy.

So you take your homies and go down the road a ways, climb their wall and drag their leader from his bed and put him up against the wall and shoot him. His kids and wives and servants are just as mean and shifty as he is, but you figure you really shouldn't shoot them because it wasn't their fault their leader was an asshole, and anyway you want to put them to work, for you. Because after all, someone has to pay for their liberation.

What you didn't count on was the fact that the old geezer kept control by turning everyone in his household against each other, which makes people real hostile once the controlling force is gone. So they fight amongst each other, and things get nasty and you kill a great number of them, feeling guilty all the while. But somehow killing more people never makes the rest of them like each other any better, and while they'll act properly cowed in front of you as soon as you turn your back they're at it again, and on top of that the neighbors are all really pissed off at you for turning the view from their bedroom windows into a messy war zone. You've got yourself into a position where you can't stay; it's expensive and not working and making everyone mad at you and anyway, being wise and kind and good, you don't really want to kill everyone in the house, which is what its going to take to make them stop fighting. You also can't leave; these people demonstrably will kill each other if you do, and you can't in good conscience allow it; anyway if you did allow it your reputation would suffer miserably and you'd lose a lot of money in all your other endeavours. You're stuck.

So lets back up. Instead of breaking into this place and shooting it up, you stand outside it, with lots of guns and a bullhorn. And you announce, everyone in this situation that we find so horrible: if you'd like to leave and become a part of our peaceful and prosperous commune, come along and commit to being peaceful and prosperous and we here with our guns will make sure you get out OK. We'll escort you back to our place and get you settled in, but be warned- if you fight among yourselves or with us, we'll kick you back out again.

Once you announce this, and all of your enemy's people have abandoned him, the situation still isn't perfect. But you've gained a collection of very grateful and enthusiastic new commune members, and your enemy has lost his infrastructure base, and you're not pouring your money into buying more guns to kill more people way down the street somewhere. Your liberal bleeding heart is satisfied and you haven't actually had to kill anyone, let alone get stuck in a situation you can't improve and can't end and can't leave.

This is why people who say we should stay in Iraq for the sake of the children, like this guy, quoting Ambassador Crocker (via Digby):
"How will we feel if the movie doesn't stop, even though we've pressed the 'stop' button? What if the movie just goes on? And gets even uglier? And even uglier after that? .... We're talking here about the possibility of thousands of deaths, about religious cleansing operations, we're talking here about the possibility that there could be no Sunnis left in Baghdad because they'll all have been murdered, driven out or expelled. Is this what we want? And who will explain that to Americans?"
are totally wrong. I guess my point is, we can't stop ethnic cleansing if a community is determined enough to want it in the first place. All we can do is try our best to get people out of the way of the beast. Occupation is a very bad way to accomplish this; so bad, that I don't think it will even allow us to accomplish anything.

No comments: