Battlepanda: The Accidental Empire


Always trying to figure things out with the minimum of bullshit and the maximum of belligerence.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

The Accidental Empire

Man, Matt Yglesias is on fire. This is exactly right, and well said to boot. Trying to forcibly coax a chaotic, divided country into democratizing is like imposing a mandate for a stream to run uphill.
As you may have heard, Baghdad's mayor was deposed today by a SCIRI-backed militia and replaced by a SCIRI loyalist. SCIRI, of course, is one of the main parties currently running Iraq's federal government. So what's the USA to do? Here we get to one of the central paradoxes of our current policy. If the municipal coup is allowed to stand, then Iraq isn't looking very democratic. But if we force Ibrahim Jafari to roll back the coup, well, that wouldn't be very democratic either. Which is to say that a democracy, by its nature, must be self-governing, and a country where the ultimate coercive authority is held by a foreign military can't really be self-governing.
What is our role? We really don't know. If, and that's a big "if" we're talking about, we know what we are doing and have wills of iron and no distaste for seriously bloodying our hands, we can try our hands at empire in such a way that allows the United States to emerge in an adventageous position. But we're Americans. We've built our national identity on being anti-empire. We desperately want to be liberators, not occupiers.

So we hand out candy to kids during the day, and raid their houses with battering rams under the cover of night. We fool nobody but a handful of small children and about half our own citizens.