William Pfaff: A Bush scenario for the Middle East

There is "but one response possible for us: force, force to the utmost, force without stint or limit, the righteous and triumphant force which shall make right the law of the world.” That was Woodrow Wilson during World War I. As you see, it's a short distance from him to George W. Bush.

Total victory in war commands total obedience from the defeated and opens the way to unhindered realization of political objectives. This is the traditional American position. The Bush White House takes total victory in Iraq for granted, and assumes that unhindered political possibility will follow.

Bush's advisors are prepared to concede the social and political complexity of the Middle East, but dismiss it by saying that in the end power trumps all.

In this respect, as in others, they are the disciples of Ariel Sharon. They say that what America did in Germany and Japan after World War II to make new democracies can be done again in Iraq. Some of them already recommend that regime change in Iran should be the next American objective. Victory in Iraq will sweep democracy into the Middle East.

The Bush administration has said that military occupation of a defeated Iraq should last no more than two years, although the army chief of staff, General Eric Shinseki, shocked Congress last week by saying that "several hundred thousand soldiers" would be necessary to control the country. He added that Iraq's occupation would restrict the army's ability to do other missions and "maintain high morale." The occupation of Germany was also supposed to last less than two years. Until a few days ago, there were 90,000 U.S. troops still there. They are now in the Middle East, and speculation says they will stay there permanently, in new bases.

Germany's occupation was meant to be punitive. The April 1945 order of the U.S. Joint Chiefs to occupation commanders said they were to impose on the Germans recognition that they had brought their suffering onto themselves. Political reconstruction or "denazification" got a bad start with distribution of thousands of questionnaires demanding the life history of everyone looking for a public post.

Denazification mostly was dropped with the start of the Cold War, when Germany was somewhat awkwardly turned into an ally. Economic reconstruction seriously began with the Marshall Plan in 1948, but the Germans really reconstructed their country themselves. The German people turned off their memories and worked. Prosperity became their goal and NATO became their foreign policy.

This remained the German condition until very recently. Bush, without noticing, awakened the Germans from their political slumber last year by calling for a western war on Iraq.

About the same time, several new German books were having unexpected success. All reawaken suppressed memories, of the terrible bombings of German cities. Horrors brought on themselves, of course. But nobody in Germany has talked about them for 58 years.

The "democratization" of Japan was simple. Douglas MacArthur received the Japanese surrender delegates aboard the battleship Missouri in the harbor of burned-out Tokyo, and told them that he renounced the spirit "of distrust, malice or hatred." He said that the two sides "must rise to the higher dignity, which alone benefits the sacred purposes we are about to serve."

The Emperor listened by radio. He consulted with the diplomats present at the ceremony, and reflected. Then he informed his foreign minister that when MacArthur was established in Tokyo, he would pay him a formal visit - as he did. The Japanese people then understood that they were to become democrats.

The dynamic and educated Japanese, like the Germans, reconstructed their own country. On MacArthur's explicit orders, they accepted educational and social reforms of so liberal a nature as would scandalize the U.S. Congress today. The Korean War arrived, and with it military orders to Japanese industry. The economy was set on its way.

Germans and Japanese "democratized" because they had no alternative. They were threatened by Soviet Russia, and in the Japanese case by China, and America offered them security and rehabilitation within an international society dominated by democracies.

Iraq in the short term will have no alternative to formal democratization. A new Iraq government will not be threatened. As an agent of American power, it will pose the threat to its neighbors. The Bush people place their confidence in power. Iraq is their critical experiment.

William Pfaff

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Author`s name: Editorial Team