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.