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Speculation on Occupation


Will the effort succeed? I certainly have no basis for predicting, if only because I’ve been wrong about this all along.

My guess was that the “war” would take a few days.  To my surprise, it lasted much longer, so much so that in the first few weeks the mainstream press was reporting serious setbacks.  After that rather surprising failure, I expected that this would be perhaps the easiest military occupation in history, and with even a minimum amount of sanity on the part of the civilian planners, it probably would have been.  To my great surprise, Rumsfeld-Cheney-Wolfowitz and the rest have created a huge catastrophe — one of the worst in military history, so highly knowledgeable correspondents have pointed out (for one, Patrick Cockburn, who knows the region and its history well).  The Nazis had an easier time setting up client governments and domestic security forces in occupied Europe, the Russians surely did in their satellites.  In fact, it is hard to think of a counterpart, particularly when the circumstances were so favorable: a country that had been driven to total ruin, virtually no external support for resistance and no counter whatsoever to the occupying army that was, furthermore, by far the most powerful military force in history and with huge resources at its command, etc.  It took real genius to fail.  A few months after the invasion I happened to run into a high official of one of the leading international aid and relief agencies, with extensive experience in some of the most awful places in the world in the past several decades.  He had just returned briefly from efforts in Baghdad to reconstitute medical facilities.  I asked him why he thought it had become such a catastrophe, and his answer was that he had never seen such a combination of “arrogance, ignorance, and incompetence” — not referring to the military but to the civilians in command in Washington.  A year later, that looks even more true.  Where it will go from here, it’s very hard to say.  It seems to me hard to believe that with its utterly overwhelming resources of violence and no real counterforce, and its huge financial resources and ability to coerce allies into contributing, the Bush administration will nevertheless fail to achieve the minimal results that imperial powers quite typically do achieve without too much difficulty: a dependent client state that apologists will be able to call a “sovereign democracy.” But I suppose one should not underestimate their arrogance, ignorance and incompetence.

But quite apart from the great difficulty of prediction in such matters, my own record in this case has been pretty poor, so I don’t say anything with confidence.

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