Thursday, April 26, 2007

Political Paralysis in Iraq-Nam

We have reached stasis with respect to Iraq.

All pretense of movement and accomplishment is obfuscated, obscured, and contradicted by our corrupt and compromised civilian and military leadership.

Stasis is defined as,
The state of equilibrium or inactivity caused by opposing equal forces; a condition of balance among various forces; motionlessness.
The late theologian, Charles Marsh, once wrote:
Language is a primary element of culture, and stasis in the arts is tantamount to death.
The term also has meaning in pathology, obviously. But what I am after is it historical implications. Stasis is an unhealthy equilibrium: it doesn't connote a sense of tranquility so much as paralysis.

When I came of political age, the world was caught on another paralysis. It was the self-infliction of the French who called it le immobilism. In its perilous balance resided the destiny of the Fourth Republic of France, founded after World War II and lasting only a dozen years until 1958. It foundered on the French Colonial war in Algiers.

Wikipedia helps me summarize this period adequately, if simplistically:
Rebellion in Algeria began soon after Indochinese independence. The government was initially successful in containing the rebellion, but the torture methods used by French military and security forces caused an enormous scandal when made public. The use of conscription also made the war extremely socially divisive. While French forces were victorious from a strictly military point of view, a large section of the public questioned the morality of maintaining colonies by force.
As I telegraphed, le immobilism reached its inevitable tipping point in 1958. It was touched off by the quarrelling civilian political leaders who became deadlocked on an hopeless cul de sac of policy and resolved to - guess what - negotiate with the Algerian Front for National Liberation (FLN). Right-wing elements in the French Army, led by a General Jacques Massu seized power in Algiers and threatened to conduct a parachute assault on Paris unless Charles de Gaulle was placed in charge of a new Fifth Republic. De Gaulle assumed power, created a strong executive, ended the stasis, and dispersed the fascists.

Of course, shortly after the French stasis was resolved, America embarked on a path of towards a political deadlock of its own, picking up France's fallen mantel in Vietnam, but that's another story.

The point I'm trying to make is that we are in stasis with respect to Iraq. We know how we got there: a capricious, predetermined and devious conspiracy by a clique consigned to the White House by the Supreme Court. A substantial majority of the American people now understand the invasion and occupation to have been a huge mistake, arguably the worst in our history. But they are confused as to why it has failed and as to what has to be done to put it behind us.

As Coleen Rowley has reminded us, we've been in stasis before, in Vietnam. By 1968, five years into that blunder, all of the arguments on either side of that war were well known (just like in France a decade earlier). Lacking a leader able to rise to the challenge presented by a spate unenlightened policies, we Americans endured five more years and tens of thousands of additional and avoidable KIA's.

The Lesson of my simplified history are clear: representative government is not the magic bullet George Bush claims it is. Whether we are dealing with a French Republic or our own American Democracy, neither provides their nations a guarantee of sound policies in this perilous world. What is required is an intelligent, informed and engaged citizenry making critical judgments of their political leaders.

The French found de Gaulle in 1958; Robert F. Kennedy was taken from us in 1968. Who will we find now to lead us out of this wilderness?

I don't know at this juncture. But I do know we won't find them unless we dare to look outside the boxes in which we find ourselves currently confined.

11 Moderated Comments:

Blogger skip sievert said...

You are finally getting the message.

4/26/2007 11:24:00 PM  
Blogger HILLBLOGGER said...


Absolutely spot on piece... Uncanny that your piece jibed with what Nicolas Sarkozy said on TV last night - part of his TV time per French election rules.

Charles Bremner of The Times asked what he thought of Bush's Iraq debacle (something to do with staying or not in Iraq).

"The US are thinking of pulling out and I believe they're on the right track. History has proven that there is no nation in the world that waged war on another that could boast of a successful military occupation and stayed. None!"

Bremner followed that up with a question on Iran, i.e., if he would consider a more robust action that America is contemplating should a proposed international embargo failed.

He said, "I don't think Americans are going to do that. What do you think America can do? They can barely cope with a war with an Iraq of 25 million people... how do you think they will fare against Iran with a nation of 75 million?"

Sarkozy said that it would be wrong of America or of any nation to contemplate military action against Iran as it won't solve the problem. He thinks the international unifed front (proposed embargo or other stricter measures, etc.) against Iran should not be broken but he rules out any military action against Iran.

On the Algerian war: General Charles de Gaulle was the one leader who decided not to fight to keep Algeria. Based on official documents, when an MP from Algeria came to see him to beg him to keep Algeria, General de Gaulle was firm. He said, "We cannot keep Algeria. We neither have the resources nor the manpower to keep a rebellious territory. We need the money to modernize France, to build schools, roads, bridges, hospitals, etc."

This is why I've always maintained that de Gaulle was the father of modern France.

4/27/2007 02:49:00 AM  
Blogger Mariamariacuchita said...

I have not been there and am no expert, but it seems to me that the violence is actually escalating in places, and that the economy has been mostly destroyed. I'm not sure it is stasis, I cannot help but wonder if we are in retreat.

4/27/2007 08:41:00 AM  
Blogger TomCat said...

Excellent article Vig. I doubt that Bush has any hope of winning the war. He's just looking for a way to blame his failure on the Democrats.

4/27/2007 09:58:00 AM  
Blogger M.D. said...

Re an informed populace:

Since 1960, the population of the U.S. has nearly doubled. Our educational system has not kept up with this explosion. That is a big problem. We've lost control of the schools.

4/27/2007 04:57:00 PM  
Blogger Boris said...

Vigil, you want a leader to traverse us out of the Iraqi wilderness? Call Al Gore. Call up his ass. And tell him to get off of it. His country needs him. Again. Al de Gualle is the tall man on a white horse.

4/27/2007 05:27:00 PM  
Blogger E said...

Fantastic piece, Vigilante. Keep schoolin' us!

4/28/2007 04:24:00 AM  
Blogger Vigilante said...


Al de Gaulle??! Nice stroke!

4/29/2007 09:03:00 AM  
Blogger Non-Partisàn said...

Jon Stewart & John McCain demonstrate the hoplessness of bridging the troubled waters in our continental divide. Goto Crooks and Liars.

4/29/2007 08:34:00 PM  
Blogger Ron West said...

Iraq-nam is an excellent title. I've been going by 'Raq for sometime. Drives the wingers nuts.

5/01/2007 06:37:00 PM  
Blogger Ron West said...

More bad news on this front today. The Kurds have come out against the Iraq oil bill. Hopes of political reconciliation continue to fade.

5/02/2007 09:06:00 AM  

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