…imagine Max Boot stamping on the human sense of decency — forever.
Above: “I am the author! You are the audience! I outrank you!”
Over at the Weekly Substandard, Max Boot, America’s roughest, toughest frail, has some boffo ideas about how we can make the surge work. I don’t really understand the point of the article, because I thought the surge was working already. I mean, sure, there’s been a lot of deaths, but the ability of top American generals to eat ice cream in Baghdad is at an all-time high! But when Max speaks, I listen, so let’s see what he has to say.
The army is the most effective and nonsectarian institution in Iraq. Although it has its share of woes, its combat performance has been improving, and it is less corrupt than the police. But it’s too small. Saddam Hussein kept more than 900,000 men under arms at the time of the 1991 Gulf war, a figure that had shrunk to fewer than 400,000 by the time of the U.S. invasion in 2003. Today the Iraqi army is only 136,000 strong.
Boy, those are some alarming figures. Say, Max, do you know of anyone who supported the decision to disband the Iraqi Army after the US invasion? Someone whose name rhymes with “wax snoot”? No? Okay, sorry to interrupt, go on with your train of thought.
But it still may make sense to introduce conscription–something that is alien to currently serving American soldiers, all of whom are volunteers, but that has a long history in Iraq and neighboring states. An army in a developing nation like Iraq isn’t there merely to fight internal and external enemies. Its mission is also to inculcate a civic religion of nationalism and egalitarianism in its recruits.
Okay, so, force a draft on the citizenry of Iraq, who are currently balancing their busy schedule of killing each other and killing us, in order to inculcate in them a nationalist religious fervor. Can you give some historical examples of why this would be a good idea?
Germany, Japan, Turkey, and other newly created states in the 19th and early 20th centuries turned the army into a “schoolhouse of the nation.” That requires exposing a large percentage of young men to army training and indoctrination, not just a handpicked few.
An expansion of the Iraqi army will also require an expansion of the number and quality of American advisers, which should not be that great a stretch, since even Democrats say they want to continue the advisory effort indefinitely.
An increased commitment of American advisers for an indefinite period of time, check! That worked out pretty well the last time we tried it, if I remember correctly. But surely you’d agree that there’s an ever-increasing need for torture!
Such conduct is not tolerated in the American ranks, but the Iraqis are fighting for their lives against the most vicious terrorists on earth in a society that has never heard of the Warren Court. It’s hardly surprising that they might resort to “third degree” techniques that were in widespread use by American police until a generation ago, and remain commonplace throughout much of the rest of the world. American advisers need to have the leeway to exercise their best judgment–to be able to turn a blind eye to minor abuses without risking court martial.
Excellent! I know we’ve already made big strides in this area, and clearly, the more torture we allow, the safer Iraq will get. And speaking of safe, can you suggest another way that Iraq could become even more suitable as a frozen-dessert haven for high-ranking military officials?
Part of the answer is to help the Iraqis build more prisons and appoint more judges.
Well, that’s only natural. More prisons automatically means more freedom! And, of course, given the stellar history of American prisons in Iraq, I’m sure the populace would welcome this “help” that we want to give them with smiling faces. Still, Max, I’m worried that your solutions — compulsory military service, an expanded army of occupation with no plans for withdrawal, increased use of torture by security forces, and more prisons — are insufficiently heavy-handed. We need to show these Iraqis we mean business! Isn’t there something more we could do?
The obvious answer is selective use of martial law to quell violence, giving authority to sentence insurgents to the same people who are risking their lives to catch them–Iraqi and American army officers.
There it is! Martial law! Now we’re finally getting somewhere! What better way to show the people of Iraq how serious we are about giving them their freedom than to transform the country into a virtual duplicate of what it was before we invaded in the first place?
Max goes on to suggest the creation of a national identity database, intensified attacks on foreign fighters, and a willingness to cross the border into Syria and Iran in order to destroy the enemies of the state. So, basically, his “to-do list” for Iraq involves massive arms buildup, involuntary military service, more prisons, a secret police empowered by the state to torture prisoners and keep secret files on all citizens, a code of law enforced at the whim of a government not answerable to the people, a dislike of foreigners combined with militant nationalism and a military state patterned after early 20th century totalitarian regimes, and a willingness to invade its neighbors in pursuit of foreign policy. I guess my only question is, couldn’t we have just left Saddam Hussein in power, and gotten the exact same result for about, I dunno, $420 billion less?