Wednesday, October 25, 2006

A polite declaration of mutiny.

This is quite an important, if excessively civil, development: More than 100 U.S. service members have signed a rare appeal urging Congress to support the "prompt withdrawal" of all American troops and bases from Iraq. Now, these are off-duty service members: you can't sign this sort of thing if you're on-duty. Nevertheless, although a bit of fragging on the frontlines would help it along, it does significantly add to the difficulties faced by the Bush administration in Iraq. Right at this moment, military desertions in the two main occupying armies are at record levels, while recruitment is at its lowest level for years. Equipment shortfalls are rife, and the US army has had to slacken its standards to even make a stretch at meeting targets: they'll now recruit you if you're 42 years old, for instance, even if you haven't had prior service. I don't know how easy it is to break in a 42 year old, but if there are any out there who feel like going to Iraq, perhaps it won't be such a challenge.

Governments lose wars that their armies do not wish to fight. I doubt any army wants to fight in Iraq any more, beyond the demented segment of the officer corps and a few psychotic wastrels who could easily be left behind. Of course, there is a great deal to lose, and the Bush administration will not give up without the serious risk of domestic disorder as well as the breakdown of the army, which no state can do with. Withdrawal would mean leaving a huge embassy unfinished and depopulated, and the construction of several massive bases would have been a colossal waste of effort. It would mean allowing for the possibility that Iraqis might control their oil and cooperate with Iran. It would mean showing every other country in the world that the empire can be defeated. Precisely as the loss in Vietnam opened up possibilities for revolutionaries in US-supported regimes like South Korea, Nicaragua, Iran, Angola, even Portugal and Spain. It reduced the US scope for direct military intervention for decades. Imperial malaise is not something the Bush administration wants to accomplish. Yet, if the army is increasingly unwilling to fight, and if the local surrogates will not do as they are told, no other outcome is available.