Debate and debacles

It’s interesting to note the increasingly defensive tone of the Bush administration and its defenders with regards to the Iraqi invasion and occupation. It’s equally interesting to note that this is despite the fact that the supposed opposition party, the Kerry-led Democrats, isn’t exactly on the offensive either.

Having a few more allies, as Kerry suggested was the primary deficiency of the Bush war effort the other night, makes little sense when one examines the military force at the disposal of the countries not already involved in the so-called Coalition of the Willing.

The German Bundeswehr consists of a mere eight divisions. This is not exactly their great-grandfathers’ Wehrmacht of yore, which consisted of 216 mostly battle-hardened divisions, especially considering that more than half of Germany’s troops are conscripts rotating through their two-year service. And considering how the French army’s 100 divisions were almost useless in 1940, it seems unlikely that their descendants would provide an adequate substitute for the U.S. Marines.

Only Russia, China, Vietnam and North Korea have armies large and well-equipped enough to off-load a significant portion of the US military burden, but it would be the height of irony, not to say idiocy, to ask a Communist army to help free a people enslaved, assuming that is in fact the goal. And it is unlikely that Belgian paratroopers, with their prediliction for roasting teenagers over open bonfires, could be the one significant element that is missing.

Kerry, it is clear, is only emitting these typically bizarre assertions because he cannot remain silent on the matter and still hope to win. This is not to say, unfortunately, that Bush is any more sensible on the subject. I am extremely skeptical of his suggestion that the occupation of Iraq will succeed because the Iraqi people want to be free, considering that here in America, the overwhelming majority would trade freedom for perceived security in a heartbeat.

Given that the popular revolution in next-door Iran was the one that brought the mullahs into power – a group not widely known for favoring either freedom or democracy – and the strongly adverse relationship between secular democracy and Islamic law in Algeria, Indonesia and Turkey today, the President’s assertion appears to be as fact-free as his challengers.

I don’t have a solution, other than to decry the logic of imperialism of any kind. Some problems do not have solutions and it is not true that it is always better to do something than nothing. That is likely to prove to be the case in the Middle East, where the nation being built is unlikely to fit the model envisioned by the builders.