December 13, 2004

The Limits of Cartesianism

After recently spending nearly two weeks in Paris and having many conversations with old friends from France's national security elite, I conclude that intellectually, most French want the Bush administration to succeed in Iraq. But emotionally, many want it to fail.

Bob Blackwill writing in today's WaPo.

P.S. Is it just me, or is Blackwill's prose a bit odd? Sample:

So, on the subject of Iraq, the French are torn between rational analysis, which is so admirable a part of France's national character, and volcanic feelings generated lower in their anatomies.

Posted by Gregory at December 13, 2004 12:56 AM

Isn't it because that, intellectually, the French want to deny their own emotional envy reaction to American success.

The French want to be "the best in the world" -- but can't seem to be better, or even as good as, the Americans.

I don't think it's "cognitive" dissonance, but it IS something.

Congrats on winning Weblog Award

Posted by: Tom Grey - Liberty Dad at December 13, 2004 01:56 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Posted by: Barry Meislin at December 13, 2004 02:30 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The french would surely like it best if the iraqis achieved a peaceful democratic state with stable oil production *in spite of us*.

If they achieved that by driving out the US occupiers, as the french themselves failed to do against similar occupiers, that would be ideal.

I don't want to say the US is comparable to the french occupation in ideology, but in tactics. It was the german approach to destroy a large building to get one sniper. We got it from the israelis, but they got it from the germans. Similarly holding (and torturing) relatives of suspected insurgents, etc. Many of our tactics appear to be designed on the assumption that the occupied civilians are enemies who can't be persuaded -- as is true for the israelis and was true for the germans.

Posted by: J Thomas at December 13, 2004 04:47 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The problem is that we are not simply dealing with occupied civilians. We are dealing with Arabs and Muslims from other countries as well, who have differing goals. And we are dealing with their coreligionists in Iraq who were the ruling minority for centuries and who are being displaced. Not all of those people can be persuaded.

Posted by: ATM at December 14, 2004 03:11 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

ATM, you are clearly right.

However, when we treat iraqis -- particularly in sunni neighborhoods -- as if none of them can be persuaded, we tend to make it come out that way. Self-fulfilling prophecy.

Of course it's hard to do otherwise when we have so much trouble telling them apart. Which says that hostile occupation is *hard*.

Did we really have to do it? I'm not clear on that. Say we toppled Saddam and left. We hadn't captured Saddam, what would keep him from organising the army and reconquering his own country again? If he did, we could come back....

Or say Saddam didn't wind up in control but some Saddam-Lite did. At the time we weren't ready to put up with that.

So we had to run an occupation. And we had to treat most every iraqi we interacted with like they were potential suicide bombers. Because a very few of them were. And when they saw how little we trusted and respected them, naturally they didn't trust us at all either. It's like greek tragedy, all inevitable. I predicted it, but I wasn't sure I was right. I thought maybe something would happen to keep it from going the obvious way. It didn't, and here we are.

Posted by: J Thomas at December 14, 2004 03:51 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The French have a difficult task ahead. Once it becomes clear that the Iraq experiment will succeed - and it will J Thomas because the logic of the the liberation is more rational than the logic of the insurgency- the French will somehow have to create the impression they were in favor of the liberation all along, but had principled objections to the war.

The French will no doubt try. Whether they will succeed is another question. With Bush in the White House and Kerry on the sidelines their task will be more difficult , however they will still have MSM and academia to support their fantasy.

Posted by: Terry Gain at December 15, 2004 03:03 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Terry, I hope you are right.

Unfortunately, people often fail to follow the most rational logic, instead they seem often to follow some sort of dream logic.

Rationally, Saddam and Bush should have sat down together and sung Kumbayah and come to a peaceful settlement. Ideally Bush would have given Saddam a few billion dollars to go spend in france however he pleased, and Saddam would have bowed out without a fight and let us democratise his people. The iraqi people would rationally have sat down together with us and sang Kumbayah, they would have let us spend a few billions replacing their dyamos and their decrepit oil production facilities and their transportation network and so on. Rationally there would be no need for anybody to fight about any of it.

Unfortunately in the real world of dream-logic, it doesn't work that way....

Posted by: J Thomas at December 15, 2004 11:20 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

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