--Emad Hajjaj (Jordan)
We'll sign some trashy treaties
And protocols galore,
(They won't make any difference
If I decide for war)
--Stuff and Nonsense: A Book of War Verses,
Sir Ian Malcolm
If I listened long enough to you
I'd find a way to believe that it's all true
--Reason to Believe,
The first assumption of United States' nation-building protocol is to build up an army and a militarized police force as the basis for establishing the nation we wish to create. The idea is, the government will fall into place if backed by sufficient force.
As a recent New Yorker piece on the Sykes-Picot treaty observed: "[Iraq and Syria] trained plenty of men in uniform. But both had weak public institutions, teeny civil societies, shady and iniquitous economies, and meaningless laws. Both countries were wracked by coups and instability . . . (t)he glue that held both countries together was repressive rule and fear."
But the balled-up belief in democracy issuing from force is echoed all 'round. Lieutenant General (ret'd) James M. Dubik allowed in a recent BBC America interview that Iraq was terribly off-balance, but stated that the army would not hold if the government falls.
We need only look back 40+ years to Vietnam, the modern prototype for counterinsurgency warfare, to see the failure of this approach. And since this model failed so spectacularly in the Republic of Vietnam, why do we think it would work in Iraq or Afghanistan today?
The U.S. operates in bad faith, as though armies buy freedom, but the shallowest tour of history debunks that theory. In the most charitable reading, we optimistically operate on that misbegotten template because the Continental Army was created by fiat to expulse the British army and create a new democratic union.
In contradiction, the armies the U.S. creates in Iraq and all of the other oil countries exist simply to quell internal threats. They subdue their citizens and don't even pretend to be democratic. When an army is habitually used to suppress its citizens, this defines a totalitarian regime.
The late, great Prussia serves as a cautionary example of a state which existed for the benefit of its army. This attitude is the opposite of democratic thought, and since the U.S. fought Prussia in two World Wars, it could be inferred that we opposed the construct.
Sadly, 21st century U.S. thought has devolved to the Prussian template: the U.S. invades, destroys, then nation-builds upon the assumption that out of strong armies and police will grow a democratic nation. Not.
While this is the statehood pattern followed by Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, et al., there is no reason to believe that the equation will endure when the state is placed under extreme stress. An army plus militarized police do not ensure statehood, and especially not when they are simply uniformed militias dedicated to a sect opposed to the concept of nation statehood.
The state does not exist for the army; the army exists to defend the state. When the U.S. builds strong armies and police in foreign ventures, it is creating the conditions for repression, not democracy.
Could somebody remind our leaders why we fought two world wars, and why conventional wisdom warns against secret and entangling alliances?