Monday, August 20, 2007

An American-centric Response To A Critique of American-centrism

Right-wing blogger response to "The War As We Saw It" is starting to trickle in, and predictably they all think the authors are wrong. The tone, however, ranges from respectful disagreement to the condescending to the seriously snarky. What I find most remarkable about the arguments offered to dispute the op-ed's conclusions is how American-centric they are -- precisely the mistake the seven NCOs who wrote it warned against.

Here is Uncle Jimbo at Blackfive, apparently bewildered by the authors' point about the Iraqi government's fear that Sunnis who work with Americans now, will turn against the American-backed government as soon as we leave:

Of course the government should fear that the Sunnis may turn against them, that is what gives them a need to make deals with them to prevent just that. We can't just spin up a fully functional liberal democracy, and we shouldn't be trying to. We can set up a central government that responds to the needs and desires of the various groups and ensures that none take undue advantage.

The whole point is that we can't control what happens to the central government that we set up after we leave. We can woo Sunni leaders in Anbar to support the political arrangements that Washington supports, but when U.S. troops come home, those alliances could easily come apart. And Iraqis have to live with the consequences of American meddling in Iraq's internecine conflicts long after we are gone.

It's not all about us. It's not all about what WE do to "give" the Iraqis "a central government that responds to the needs and desires of the various groups and ensures that none take undue advantage." We can "ensure" exactly nothing for Iraqis when we are not in Iraq anymore. This is not an erector set we're building here. This is a real, actual, living society and culture with a history. We cannot just "change" Iraqi alliances and political realities to be the way we want them to be, and then set them down carefully on the ground and leave, and expect them to stay the way we put them. It is not all about us. Look at the situation from an Iraqi point of view for once.

Next comes McQ, again defining what is real and factual by telling us what Americans see, what Americans are doing, what conditions look like to Americans, what Americans tell Iraqis, what Americans think Iraqis are understanding about what Americans are doing:
They [the op-ed's authors] conclude:
In the end, we need to recognize that our presence may have released Iraqis from the grip of a tyrant, but that it has also robbed them of their self-respect. They will soon realize that the best way to regain dignity is to call us what we are — an army of occupation — and force our withdrawal.

Except we've been through that and that is now changing in many areas of Iraq. They've left out an important change taking place in some areas of Iraq. There is another realization which has taken place for much of the population and it was never more clearly stated than in Michael Yon's dispatch from Baquba when he talked about how one of the leaders of the 1920s Revolutionary Brigade finally figured out that we wanted out of there just as badly as they wanted us out, but that we weren't leaving until Iraq was secure and al Qaeda defeated.

That's a major shift in attitude and it is certainly a shift away from the belief that the US military is an occupation force. It was certainly that belief which drove him and his insurgents to fight us previously. It was putting aside that belief that had him come to us as an ally, albeit a limited one, in Baquba.

I know the Yon piece to which McQ is referring here; I read it. And I had exactly the same reaction to it as I have now to McQ's repeating Yon's words about what Iraqis have "realized" and "figured out" about why Americans are in Iraq -- as if (a) Michael Yon's personal opinion on why the U.S. is in Iraq were objective fact, and not simply the subjective view of someone who supports the Bush administration's Iraq policies; and as if (b) all that's needed to know exactly how Iraqis feel about any given subject or event is what Michael Yon tells us Iraqis have told him that they feel.

You cannot get more American-centric than that.

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