Thursday, November 11, 2004

Theater of Operations

James Wolcott being brilliant again - or citing Emmanuel Todd in After the Empire being brilliant.

. . . Contrary to those Le Monde intellectuals who see the US as a super-superpower, a hyperpuissance, Todd, a French demographer and author of a book correctly foreseeing the fall of the Soviet Union, says the US has become a "big little bully" incapable of picking on anyone its own size. It makes a show of force attacking the weak--dirtpoor countries with no air defences, such as Iraq and Afghanistan--because a "show" is precisely what it is.

"These conflicts that represent little or no military risk allow the United States to be 'present' throughout the world. The United States works to maintain the illusory fiction of the world as a dangerous place in need of America's protection."

Wolcott cites this in the context of the Fallujah assault - "Operation Phantom Fury" apparently. Wolcott at length:

The US assault on Fallujah is a prime example of what Todd calls "theatrical micromilitarism." I mean, calling it "Operation Phantom Fury"--it's a sick joke. What's "phantom" about it? For months the US has been touting this incursion and publicly built up forces outside the city for weeks, giving the enemy plenty of time to rig explosives and/or skip town. Billing it as a "decisive battle"--another fraud. Guerrilla warfare operates on an entirely different set of rules; as has been oft pointed out, America won every major battle during Vietnam and still lost. What's unfolding is not a decisive moment but a ghastly production that trains hellfire on a symbolic target and "plays well" to American citizens as a flex of muscle, as witness the NY Post cover today of an American soldier with a cigarette dangling from his mouth with the headline "Marlboro Men Kick Butt." Civilian casualties, the destruction of homes and livelihoods, the absence of any significant capture of insurgent ringleaders, these are secondary to getting good action footage over which benedictions can be said.

He is right. This war from the beginning had the stink of being fought because it would be easy to win - not that this comes as any great shock. There's a lot of tough talk from the Bush administration about our foreign policy goals, but even in the middle of the tough talk, there always seem to be a few of the wonkier ne-cons smugging around the sidelines explaining how invading Iraq would send a message to someone that we weren't to be trifled with. That it sent the message to make sure you have working nukes seems to have slipped past these giant brains...

What it means? In the end, it means that these guys really do run everything as theater - as long as they keep the American casualties relatively low, as long as they keep the pictures of American dead off the TV screens, they figure they can hang on to power at home. Use real heroism (and whatever you say about the war, the people on the ground fighting it are running risks and deserve respect) to prop up the image of our strength. Good old "Decisive George Bush" again. Maybe they think they are also projecting power abroad, though Wolcott and Todd don't think so, and I have to suspect they are right. Which is a source of some comfort, since it means they (I mean, Bush and company) are not likely, tough talk aside, to start up any new wars. Just try to flog the one they have. And keep gettign reelected, because Americans don't want to think about the reality of politics or war or the rest of the world. Well - 51% of Americans...

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