Wednesday, February 26, 2003

# Posted 11:10 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ANOTHER JAPAN? Josh Marshall ruminates about the tremendous difficulty of transforming Iraq and concludes that the only right thing to do is go all out to promote democracy. But he warns that anything less than wholehearted commitment will result in both failure and a backlash throughout the Arab world.

One point is take issue with is Marshall's argument that those who compare Iraq to Germany and Japan
miss an important part of why Germany and Japan worked. It's called World War II. One of the reasons the Germans and the Japanese stood still for what we accomplished in their countries is that we had just spent a couple years thoroughly bludgeoning their countries. Day and night bombing against major population centers, the disruption of the economies, the very real threat that if it wasn't us it'd be the Russians taking over, etc.

By 1945, we had pretty much destroyed the Germans' and Japanese' will to fight. And they were pleasantly surprised when they discovered how relatively benign our rule was. The same set of circumstances won't apply to Iraq. And that should be a cause of real concern.

I'm surprised Marshall thinks the "same set of circumstances won't apply to Iraq." But everyone there has suffered for years because of Saddam's corruption and brutality. While some Iraqis might blame the West for sanctions, the Japanese and Germans would have been able to make an even stronger case for blaming the Allies for their carpet bombing.

Moreover, I think there is every reason to believe that Iraqis will be "pleasantly surprised when they discover how relatively benign our rule" is.

Speaking as a historian, I think that what Marshall really misses is the way in which the Allied victory in World War II utterly discredited the vicious ideologies that taken root in both Germany and Japan before and during the war. The shock of defeat was in part a product of the utopian visions that Hitler and the Japanese imperialists forced on their erstwhile subjects.

I'd imagine that Iraq's Ba'athist ideology is already too discredited to be hurt by another Iraqi defeat. But more importantly, the ideology of democracy has already spread to both the millions of Iraqis living in exile as well as the Kurds of the North. While I have no illusions about the democratization of Iraq being easy, it is important not to give in to unfounded pessimism.

On that point, I agree with Marshall, who concludes that "Believe it or not, this [post] isn't meant to say we shouldn't try to accomplish this [objective]. Once the decision for war is made it is really the only policy we can pursue. But the scope of enterprise is awe-inspiring."

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