Are the recent events in Iraq in effect a revolution? Would calling it a revolution win the praise of William Ayers? Would Ayers support help B. H. Obama with his abandonment issues? There's a lot there. Let's start with the first question.
Perhaps the time has come to look at Iraq's most recent history in a different light. To date we have seen Iraq as analogous to Germany, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Viet Nam and for all I know Bukino Faso. Each of these analogies has proven to be unreliable. We have looked at Iraq as sectarian lunacy, quagmire, insurrection, civil war and God knows what else. Hows about we use an umbrella term to encompass all these things. What say we call it a revolution and see where that takes us. A revolution unlike any other; each is after all unique. Let's call it a revolution from without.
Now the very idea of George Bush and the gang as revolutionaries stretches the limits of credibility. Some will dismiss the idea out of hand. Others will wonder how anyone could consider those fine upstanding gentlemen revolutionaries. Still others will work themselves into fits of apoplectic fury: "Bush, a revolutionary!? I'm the one with tattoos and piercings. I'm the one with the Che t-shirt and ashtray! And I swear, I once smelled tear gas at a protest I was on." Well here's your chance to dismiss me as a codswallop peddling schmuck. For anyone else (crickets chirrup) let's move on.
Let's start with some definitions. Random House says a revolution is "a radical and persuasive change in society and the social structure, esp. one suddenly and often accompanied by violence." "A complete overthrow of the established government in any country or state by those previously subject to it; a forcible substitution of a new ruler or form of government," So says the Shorter OED. And Webster would have us believe revolution is the " overthrow of government, form of government or social system with another taking its place." If you so choose I could produce another half dozen definitions from equally reputable sources and the only major differences would be weather the subjects must be the source of the revolution and how much violence must ensue. Shall we sum up with our own definition. The complete overthrow of the existing social and political order. And is there any more fitting description of Iraq's most recent past.
Of course it would have been preferable to have the revolution of myth and legend. A spontaneous uprising of the oppressed. Their shackles are shucked and used around the necks of their oppressors, Saddam's Bastilles are stormed, a tea party is held in the Tigris and Hollywood begins casting calls. But it was not to be. Popular uprisings are not spontaneous. they are the culmination of years of unrest and organisation. The response of the ruling class is to vacillate between appeasement and overblown heavy handed measures. Regimes of the iron fist variety, regimes with their Jackboots continually on the throats of the ruled do not fall to popular uprisings. Unless acted upon by outside forces, these regimes will continue their beastly behavior. (See Mugabe, Robert; Il Jong, Kim; etc.)
So we have before us something that could be construed as a revolution, though not clearly recognised as such. What other evidence is there that Iraq is a revolution? What historical precedents has Iraq followed that is consistent with a revolution?
Thanks for asking. One of the defining features of a revolution is the reign of terror. This is a period during which debts from the past are repaid, often times in blood. And reign of Saddam had much to atone for. Now in the past reigns of terror were known to last years even decades. Some have argued that the entire history of Soviet Russia was a reign of terror. But let's leave aside the ancients for now. In these most enlightened times a reign of terror should last eight months - say a year tops - what with the Internet and all. And for all we know it might have come to pass if not for the intercession of three actor common to the revolutionary drama: Let's call them the reactionaries, revanchists and iridentists. What follows is a brief description of each.
The reactionaries are those who once enjoyed the power and prestige bestowed by the former government. Their desire is to turn back the clock on the revolution. Poor dears, all those perks and deference due them and their families thrown out the window. And to think many of these people were on brink of making the big bucks like their superiors who could afford to get out. To be done in by a bunch of foreigners is all the more galling. If only they could regain power the sheep could once again be shown the way, and the few that have remained would have a clearer path to greater power. I used to think that only a deluded fool could still hold on to such delusions, but every once in a while just such a person will be arrested for trying to bring it about.
Next we have the revanchists. These are the forces of a foreign government that wishes to control or shape the revolution for their own purposes. There are many such governments in the region. Some simply enjoy the inflated price of oil. Others are threatened by the thought of a stable and democratic regime on their doorstep. Some would wish perpetuate their own revolution and see it extended beyond their borders. Still others would wish to support their sect in Iraq and usurp the influence of the other sect. And of course there are countries in the region which feel threatened by an American military presence on their doorstep. For any or all these reasons a country, say Iran, would commit untold treasure, manpower and equipment in order to see an Iraqi revolution behave in a way that was in accordance with its own goals.
And finally we the irridentists, the N.G.O.s of revolution. Now these guys are the revolutionaries with an upper case R. It is their goal to bestow upon us mere mortals nothing less than socialist/workers/peasant paradise; or in Al Quiedas case the phantasmagoric confabulation that is the Caliphate reborn. A revolution and the chaos that ensues is the perfect impose their vision on the unenlightened masses. Of course their methods are ruthless, depraved and devoid of any scruples; these people are after nothing less than heaven on earth and due to this they forgive themselves such bourgeois concept like sin. If innocent are killed or otherwise harmed, well it is all for the greater good.
Look I gotta Wrap this puppy up. I could give you more on revolution. A few sentences on competing poetry (I dare say it doesn't translate). I could give you an historical sleight of hand and assign each of our players a time frame, account for the surge and bring us up to the here and now. But if I may, I'd like to talk about my purpose here.
When this all began I asked a wise man for his thoughts. His response: "Ask me again in twenty years." And this seemed reasoned to me. What is twenty years in the march of time? Ten? A week? Sure a little historical perspective is a good thing. We all would have preferred the Iraqis become immediately inured to revolutionary changes. But ask yourself this; how long would we in the west take to reconcile ourselves to a similar "regime change". There are times when a people have lessons to learn. And these lessons are often hard won and take time. Here's one the Iraqis seem to have come to grips with: Who would you rather ally yourself with? Those who would gladly, wantonly kill, maim or otherwise harm you and yours, and all for the sake of some otherworldly fantasy. Or would you side with those who would rather not kill, maim or otherwise harm you and yours, if for no other reason than they would rather not fill out forms in triplicate. And please remember that the Americans were perceived to be the defilers of Iraqi land and women, that their only purpose was to steal oil. All while the reactionaries, revanchists and irridendists sold themselves as the defenders of Iraqi land, oil and feminine virtue.
Of course thing could have gone better. There might have been a pan sectarian opposition with a semblance of leadership. Iraq might have been invaded by a more benign force, say the Dutch or Swiss. Just maybe Iraq would not be situated on untold reserves of oil. Alas it was not to be. I can't say I wasn't disappointed by events on the ground in Iraq, but when you see the thing as a reign of terror it is illogical not to expect some...terror. Yes things could have been better, but when you look at Iraq along a twenty year time line, as bad as it was an eighth of the way in, at the quarter pole things was looking that much brighter. Is there any graver testament to stability in Iraq than the price of a barrel of oil?
But historical perspective is a bitch in 24/7 news cycle. Where I was trying to rest in its comforts it seems the rest of the world was engaged in the daily, hourly, "up to the minute" rending of hair shirts. The media was twisting themselves into knots so as to appear duped by the moron Bush... no wait it was the diabolical Cheney and a coterie of neo-cons. Politicians kept themselves busy by imposing edicts and time lines on a polity without precedents or traditions, a polity whose constitutions ink was scarcely dry, a polity these same politicians had only recently ripped asunder. Now I ask you, is this the behavior of reasoned and sober statesmen or capricious and feckless Gods.
One last thought before I finish. What say we had extricated Karl Marx from one of the inner circles of hell. What say we had asked, as a condition of his release, that he forsake his prophet of capitalism doom hat - damned ill-fitting thing anyways. Let's say we ask him to sit before us as an historian and turned his rheumy gaze towards the middle east. Let's after due deliberation he was heard to proclaim "Mien Got, these people could, like totally use a middle class revolution." But more on that next time on the Bailblog.