The Nature of the War

Orson Scott Card has authored perhaps the best essay I’ve read in years. He talks a bit about American politics, and then goes shoulder-deep into the nature of the enemy we face in the War in Iraq War on Islamic Fascism War on Terror.

I haven’t seen analysis this good since Steven Den Beste decommissioned the USS Clueless.

As I read it, I kept finding paragraphs I wanted to quote here, but then further down I found something else, and further down…

It can’t be “nutshelled” with a brief quote. It encompasses the entirety of the new World War, and the futures we face if we follow the various paths available to us.

Well… let me try with this:

When there is no hope of deliverance, the people have no choice but to bow under the tyrant’s lash, pretending to be true believers while yearning for relief. In Russia it came … after more than seventy years. China and Cuba are still waiting — but then, they started later.

So it would be in the Muslim world — if Islamicism were ever able to come to seem inevitable and irresistible.

You know: If America withdrew from Iraq and Afghanistan and exposed everyone who had cooperated with us to reprisals.

As happened in South Vietnam. The negotiated peace was more or less holding after American withdrawal. But then a Democratic Congress refused to authorize any further support for the South Vietnamese government. No more armaments. No more budget.

In other words, we forcibly disarmed our allies, while their enemies continued to be supplied by the great Communist powers. The message was clear: Those who rely on America are fools. We didn’t even have the decency to arrange for the evacuation of the people who had trusted us and risked the most in supporting what they thought was our mutual cause.

We did it again, this time in the Muslim world, in 1991, when Bush Senior encouraged a revolt against Saddam. He meant for the senior military officers to get rid of him in a coup; instead, the common people in the Shiite south rose up against Saddam.

Bush Senior did nothing as Saddam moved in and slaughtered them. The tragedy is that all it would have taken is a show of force on our part in support of the rebels, and Saddam’s officers would have toppled him. Only when it became clear that we would do nothing did it become impossible for any high-ranking officials to take action. For the price of the relatively easy military action that would have made Saddam turn his troops around and leave the Shiite south, we could have gotten rid of him then — and had grateful friends, perhaps, in the Shiite south.

That is part of our track record: Two times we persuaded people to commit themselves to action against oppressive enemies, only to abandon them. Do you think that would-be rebels in Iran and Syria and North Korea don’t remember those lessons?

…and this:

[G]overnment power — even in democracies — depends absolutely on the will of the people to obey. And when you rule by tyranny and oppression, the obedience of the people comes from the credibility of the threat of violence from the government.

The obvious examples are Red Square in Moscow and Tiananmen Square in Beijing. In Moscow, when Yeltsin and the pro-democracy demonstrators defied the tanks, the Russian Army did not open fire. Why not? Either they refused to obey the order to shoot, or the order was not given — but if it was not given, it was almost certainly because the tyrants knew that it would not be obeyed.

In other words, the government had lost the ability to inflict deadly force on its own population.

In Tiananmen Square, however, the government gave the order and the troops did fire. As a result, the tyranny continued — and continues to this day.

Tyrannies only continue in power when they can give the order to kill their own people and be obeyed.

In Iran, there have been several incidents in the past months and years where troops refused to fire on demonstrators. This is huge news (virtually unreported in the West, of course), because of what it means: The ayatollahs’ days are numbered.

…but really: Go read the whole thing.

5 Responses to “The Nature of the War”

  1. seed Says:

    That was an interesting take on things, thanks for the link. To return the favor, try Bill Whittle’s site if you haven’t before:

  2. Stephen Rider Says:

    Oh, yes, I’m well familiar with the esteemed Mr. Whittle’s writing, thought I haven’t yet had the time to read his new one.

    I even bought his book as a gift for my father-in-law. 🙂

  3. Sam Says:

    I’m still about halfway through reading it, and most of it is utterly convincing, except for one important detail – Card’s use of Russia as an example. “It took more than 70 years, but Russia’s oppressed masses finally got the freedom they wanted.”

    Uh, no. 1991 wasn’t a popular revolution in Russia, it was a case of the ruling elite collapsing. The majority of Russians were happy with the status quo – they were the privileged, ruling class of an empire stretching from the Pacific to the Baltic Sea. What had changed was the partial privatization of the economy giving birth to a class of people for whom the toppling of communism gave opportunities they didn’t have before. They backed members of the political elite who had democratic or liberal leanings and they moved into the power vacuum created by Gorbachev’s inability to salvage the Soviet economy from the effects of Reagan’s arms race and the decade-long war of attrition in Afghanistan (not to mention the idiotic plan economy of a Communist state).

    During this time, the 14 other Soviet states broke away or re-established their independence. For them, (forced) membership in the USSR had been a position of third-class citizenship (ordinary Russians being second to the Party elites who enjoyed relative plenty), forced Russification and cultural genocide. The Eastern bloc countries and the Baltics still remembered their periods of independence and prosperity from the early part of the 20th century, and therefore also knew the enormous benefits of free markets – they severed all political ties with Russia.

    The rest of the Soviet states joined Russia in the CIS, which in the cases of Belarus and the Ukraine was motivated by extensive cultural and economic ties to Russia and in the case of the Caucasian republics, lack of viable alternatives, lack of a free-market tradition, and the fact that they had all been pre-industrial, primitive regions prior to Soviet annexation.

    In Russia itself, the early years of capitalism held promise for ordinary Russians due to the vast variety of goods and services that suddenly became available. But in only a few years, most of them were disillusioned, since the kleptocratic pseudo-capitalism and the rampant spread of organized crime left the majority of Russians in abject squalor. The result – liberal democracy in Russia is now dead. The average Russian associates free-market policies with the lawlessness and poverty of the 1990s, and no politician who could lead Russia into a successful Western socioeconomic model will ever get elected.

    Russia’s response to its failed attempt at Westernizing was a new Czar, the ex-KGB strongman, Putin. All he has to do to stay in power is guarantee the populace a near-Soviet-era level of welfare, which, although so poor that a crack addict from the poorest ghetto in the West would balk at it, is a vast improvement over the situation during Yeltsin. Periodic wars in border provinces, reinstating the Soviet anthem, the state-sanctioned re-apotheosis of Stalin, displays of overt jingoism and the occasional arrest and vilification of wealthy businessmen who have lost favor with the Kremlin are the circuses to go along with the meager portions of bread. Any criticism from liberal-minded people is made impotent by Putin’s iron-fisted control of Russian media. Russia, 2006, is a fascist state pretending to be a democracy.

    The Soviet collapse has certain parallels with Iraq, to be sure. Large numbers of uneducated people with no inkling of true liberal democracy and the rule of law, and an angry ethnic group disillusioned by the loss of their previous privileged status. But there’s also the problem of ethnic, religious and tribal feuds, a brutal insurgency, and outside influence by Islamofascists in Syria and Iran.

    Personally, I’m beginning to think the only sensible solution to Iraq is the dissolution of Iraq into Kurdistan, Sunnistan and Shiastan. Let the damn Sunni triangle become a tiny, resourceless and insignificant nation of nutjobs landlocked between US-friendly Kurds and Shiites. The Kurds don’t require much more than economic aid, and if US efforts and troops concentrate on rebuilding the Shiite regions of Southern Iraq and curtailing Iran’s influence there, it stands a chance of becoming a success. A successful, democratic Shiite nation will do wonders for turning popular opinion in Iran itself. Turkey might object to an independent Kurdistan, but they can be offered a nice, hot cup of STFU by the White House, along with guarantees by Kurdistan to renege all claims to Eastern Turkey.

    Okay, and I just came up with names for these countries, too. Northern Iraq becomes Kurdistan, the Sunni triangle remains Iraq, and Southern Iraq should be named Mesopotamia. And once someone topples Iran’s clerics, they should definitely be Persia again.

    Sorry about the comment turning into a smallish essay, I guess your mention of SDB inspired excessive, but hopefully insightful verbosity.

  4. Stephen Rider Says:

    The almost flippant dismissal of Russia’s post-USSR problems bugged me a bit too, but I’m not nearly the historian you are on the topic.

    i literally laughed out loud at your last sentence. It must be late 😉

  5. Sam Says:

    I wouldn’t call myself a historian on the topic of Soviet and post-Soviet Russia as much as a victim thereof. Had I been born a dozen years earlier, I’d probably been forced to serve in Afghanistan myself.

    As to Card’s essay itself, it’s a very eloquent and convincing case for Stay the Course, and something I wish I’d written myself just a couple of months ago. After the dismissal of Rumsfeld, my faith in Dubya has been shaken, and I’m not entirely sure that his Course is the same as that of mine and the rest of his current and former cheerleaders. And since the election results were what they were, I hope Card’s predictions of doom don’t exactly pan out. We’ll see in 2008, I guess.

    And yes, you definitely need to catch up on your sleep – that was a pretty lame joke on my part.

Comments are invited and encouraged

Anti-Spam Quiz: