This is also why most hierarchies fail. Top-down doesn’t work.

It looks increasingly like the US will bail on Iraq in June, by which time I expect the US casualty count to top 10,000 as I predicted back in March. (The current casualty count is slightly above 9,000, just over 400 of which are deaths.) If I sounded more than a little upset in the posting about Veterans Day, it’s because I am.

I was told the other day that we were “winning” in Iraq, but good God, if this is winning, I’d hate to see losing. From a traditional national security point of view, Iraq is a considerable disaster. Set aside for a moment that we’re losing soldiers daily, forget for a minute that we’re spending $87 billion (for which we’ll simply write a bigger IOU payable by our children and our Social Security system), never mind that we’ve tied up so many military resources that we can’t possibly deal with the very real threat of North Korea, and concentrate on one simple salient fact: The United States and American citizens throughout the world now face a danger at home and abroad that is orders of magnitude higher than we did before. Yes, including the World Trade Center attack. People—lots of them—want to kill US citizens like me and you simply for what we represent to them. Even worse, they’re happy to die trying. This is even if we create some pseudo-democratic/capitalist nation out of the rubble of Iraq, a goal which is by no means assured.

And now for the really bad news: The terrorists are going to succeed. It’s only a matter of time until they float a nuke in New York Harbor, or set off a dirty bomb in LA, or release a bioweapon of some kind. And why? Well, first and foremost because we’re an arrogant, belligerent, invading army of a nation, politically, culturally, economically, and militarily. Secondly, and just as importantly, we’re in this mess because we have in this country a profound misunderstanding of how power works.

We can’t force terrorists to stop terrorizing because for each one we kill, we create several more. Let me put it another way: If a person’s spouse or child were murdered, wouldn’t that person naturally look for revenge? Wouldn’t you? (This is ultimately self-defeating for several reasons, but it is nonetheless the normal human response.) Now consider that we killed thousands of Iraqis in Gulf War I and then killed thousands more via sanctions afterward. Gosh, why aren’t we being hailed as liberators?

Coercive power simply does not work long-term. This is why abortion will never be outlawed successfully in this country and why the “war on drugs” is such an abject failure. Only when people are free to choose the right option and educated enough to actually choose it will we achieve victory. Thus, higher education is important and personal liberty essential. In Bush we have a proud anti-intellectual bent on curtailing personal freedoms.

We are such compliant creatures, so easily cajoled, persuaded, or otherwise motivated to do things. Most of the time we never know why we do what we do. Given the current state of affairs, though, it has perhaps never been more important for citizens to think about the choices they make. I’ve railed at length about the efforts of this administration to suspend various civil liberties. I’ve prattled on about how the US food industry isn’t unhappy trying to kill you, so long as they can sell you their products for a healthy profit along the way. (See The Meatrix, a Flash-based take-off for an entertaining summary. Thanks, Dave, for the link.) Indeed, I positively won’t shut up about the things I see wrong in the world, and in this nation’s militarism I see a mighty evil. We’re either going to figure out how bad this is and start trying to fix it, or it will ultimately destroy us. But I, for one, don’t plan to go quietly.