Like many American bloggers, I took a little time off from the whole subject of politics after the reelection of George Bush, and it's been nice. Got some yard work done. Wrote about Paris and Jacko and Terri, and dolphins and honey and bird flu and crows and rabbits--ants--anything but politics, anything. But. I can't make it go away. It jumps out. The remote's between the cushions, but which couch?
Today, I, like so many others in our time, have become acutely Iraqnaphobic. A phobia is a deviation from healthy fear to habitual fear that manifests in unconcious behaviors and has the effect of creating an invisible shield against the fear that caused the phobia in the first place. Habituated fear is exacting in ritualized response but can lead to odd conclusions which generally go unnoticed since most of the world is phobic, face it.
Chances are this is the first time you've heard of Iraqnaphobia, and it will likely be the last because people generally don't want to talk about it. It takes too long. You have to break out the red suit or the blue suit and get your heart rate up, but in the end nothing changes, so why bother? Let the soldiers do their job, let the president do his, let it be, hunker down, adjust. This is healthy behavior for awhile but later on it gets to be now, and now's as good a time as any to talk about it.
Iraqnaphobia crept into us much like the invasion itself: one grain at a time. Who in the world doesn't remember that terrible sandstorm, televised live: dark, green, formless, droning with engines and wind--we were glued to it, waiting, for the bombs to fall from above the great cloud of sand, waiting, for the invaders to be ambushed by an invisible Iraqi army, waiting, for their vehicles to sputter and die and strand them in the desert. Hour by hour they inched to Baghdad, and when at last they opened their gritty eyes and beheld the empty bridges to the world's most ancient city, they wondered where everybody was, and why the streets looked like a boy's room, with clothes strewn everywhere.
This discovery at the gate of hundreds of empty Iraqi uniforms was a billboard announcing the weirdness to come. The invaders--who couldn't tell if this was an act of cowardice or cunning--stood by in a suspended state of stupification and wondered how to tell the difference between an Iraqi soldier in a robe and an Iraqi citizen in a robe. And as the Iraqi people began to emerge from their houses, happy to see one another alive, the reunions in the street gathered into crowds, and just that suddenly the coalition forces were outnumbered, cut off. Crowds, like clouds, grow dark as they grow large, they crackle with enough electrical energy to take history by the throat and twist it in a completely different direction, which history itself predicts will be as repugnant and unnecessary as the last attempt. What's weird is that the Iraqi people didn't even notice how quickly the price of victory had been slashed in the face of their riotous behavior. They didn't see the sidewalk sale. In those critical hours had the forces of chaos awakened the crowd could have easily disarmed the armed forces, but as it happened, they went shopping instead.
Shopping--looting--that was a surprise. The invaders didn't expect that one either. They were thinking maybe roses, a bit of combat, certainly not mass desertion via costume change; they might have figured on some dancing in the streets like Fame--but nobody predicted looting--how unlikely, un-Islamic. Not knowing what else to do, the invaders awaited orders--stood there in other words--while ordinary Iraqis cleaned out every last paper clip from every commercial building and shop, leaving behind only the broken glass that would later be recycled in homemade bombs. If weapons of mass destruction existed in Iraq they were picked over and converted to ottomans during these Days of Madness. If the treasures of Mesopotamia could get up and walk out of the museum under the guard of the greatest force on Earth, anything could happen.
Coalition forces, under the leadership of lockjawed Americans, niggling Britons and a ragtag band of wannabes, did things the American way: out in the open, on cue as planned. They said what they meant and backed it up with overwhelming force. "Shock and Awe" was truly shocking and awesome, especially the first time, but eventually the shock wore off and soon enough the awe became again the familiar sound of disappointment. People under seige don't have time to watch fireworks. They either adapt quickly or die.
Recent events in Mesopotamia have unearthed a new old truth, that wars waged by disciplined armies against nations of non-disciples tend to fail without fail. Invading armies have a military mission executed by heavily armed troops trained to carry out their orders as commanded by superior officers in an unbroken chain of command direct from the hundreds of countries, companies, territories and other holdings and/or partners of the United States of America, who proved it is possible to occupy and hold an entire country, its cities and roads, bridges and institutions, with only a handful of troops--which quickly doubled when women were forced by events to become armed combatants, which shocked the Iraqis more than it shocked the Americans, who quickly forgot it was against their own laws and took it for granted that mom could hop in the humvee for a crosstown patrol and get blown to macaroni right alongside any man you wanted to put her next to. Not to be outdone, Iraqi women said fine, and mothers and daughters got to sewing themselves suicide suits, throwing goodbye parties and blowing themselves up in markets--a move that made shock and awe look innocent as a chocolate malt.
Societies in peril don't rely so much on orders. They act in disorder, move haphazardly, and because they don't know what they're doing, neither does their enemy. All they have to do is whatever they can do to drive out the invaders. If there's a mastermind behind the Iraqi strategy, it's Chance, and if there's an inventor of their weaponry, it's Available Materials. Osama didn't come up with this, nobody came up with this: it evolved from the collective minds of the defending society, and it has been highly effective. Occupation forces are surprised by bombs. Over time, these surprises turn hardened soldiers to harder soldiers who'll need years of therapy to decompress when they finally return home at a date generally unspecified and subject to change.
After two years of operating in this chaos, occupation forces barely control their own Green Zone or the six mile stretch of road from their headquarters to the airport, notorious for frequent roadside bombings. Holing up is a term the American-led forces would never choose, but like it or not, there's a reason they don't get out as much. They're cornered by Iraqnaphobia.
The only cure for it, on a soldier by soldier basis, is to go home. But how? Who replaces them? Who will protect this fledging democracy? The Iraqis, who don't have a reliable police force let alone an army? Should America and its few remaining onhangers simply abandon their mission to rebuild the Iraq which they themselves destroyed? What about these contracts? Who's supposed to complete these work orders? Iraqis?
It would be nice if the occupiers could just wave a magic wand and make themselves disappear, but in the real world, they haven't been paying much attention either, or they'd get out of their getup, the helmet, the camouflage, the sunglasses, the gear, the antenna. Drop trou and put a robe on. That's how to disappear an army. Some stay, some go. How many remain, nobody knows. Who and where they are is secret. With a costume change they've gone from sitting ducks to duck hunters. Their numbers could be cut in half and their anonymity would still double their safety and effectiveness.
Enlightened soldiers win wars not by any means but by the best means. When victory seems most unseizeable, claim it, change the definition, believe it all the way. Say it's so and it is so. History's easy.