a citizen’s journal by Thomas Nephew

Reconstructive remarks

Posted by Thomas Nephew on October 6th, 2002

I’ve just caught up with Sergeant Stryker, and what do I read? On September 28, he mused judiciously about the Confederacy:

Thank God Sherman and Sheridan put down that rotten culture. It was evil and wicked to the core and no amount of romanticizing will change that basic fact. It was a society and economy based on slave labor. It deserved to be utterly destroyed.

… resulting in instant “newsrack” honor roll status for Mr. Stryker. Commenting on the inevitable storm of indignant comments that followed, Stryker writes in a second post:

It’s interesting in that you find the same spins, myths, half-truths, evasions and diversions from many Southern defenders as you do from Islamist apologists… I suspect that a hundred or so years from now, educated Muslims will be defending the Intifadah and the Jihad against the West as an honorable fight against Israeli foreign occupation and American hegemony and corruption. They’ll have all sorts of facts and opinions to back up their claims, our descendents will have theirs and I doubt the twain shall ever meet.

Indeed. This leads me to a few skeptical remarks about the expected benefits of planting the precious seed of democracy in the fertile valley of the Euphrates. The Arab world may hate us no matter what; in a free and fair votes, they might just get to say so democratically instead of via dictatorships and royal clans. The Germany/Japan counterexample fails in many respects, but chiefly in that there was a common foe to mobilize against — and keep American public attention focused. It may not be exactly what Stryker meant, but I’ll suggest it’s likely post-war Iraq may have a lot in common with the post-war South: a failed Reconstruction that ultimately left many of the same people on top and at the bottom as before the bloodshed began, and that left the region with more self-pity than insight about why that bloodshed took place.

A failed post-war policy doesn’t prove a war itself was wrong, of course. But in view of the United States’ decidedly mixed post-war track record, an American post-war policy that has not yet even been carried out — for year after year after boring, expensive year –can’t reasonably justify a looming war either.

EDIT, 10/7: added “and that left the region…”
UPDATE, 10/7: For a similar opinion, see this Shibley Telhami op-ed (“A Hidden Cost of War in Iraq”) in today’s New York Times.

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