NON-UPRISINGS

Daniel Moran points out that a rather odd conventional wisdom existed before the Iraq War:

Military planners and defense officials in Washington and Baghdad are widely reported to have believed that the recent war between the United States and Iraq would end in a general uprising by the Iraqi people. This surprising convergence of views between otherwise dissimilar adversaries has not attracted much comment, presumably because no uprising occurred. The Iraqi people did not swarm upon the invaders, drowning them in a river of blood, as Iraq’s celebrated information minister, Muhammed Saeed al-Sahaf, insisted they would. Nor did they rise up in a final act of fury against the regime that had tortured and imprisoned them, as promised by the Pentagon-sponsored Iraqi opposition leader Ahmed Chalabi. Instead, Iraqi civilians seem to have done their best to stay out of the way of their own armed forces, whose disintegrating formations were magnets of destruction, as anyone could see. Conversely, most Iraqis greeted Coalition forces warily, perhaps from fear that any public sign of relief at Saddam’s demise would put them at risk from remnant elements of the Old Regime, perhaps from natural apprehensions about what occupation and foreign rule would mean. All of which amounts to a generalized display of common sense, for which no explanation is required.

A good point which, as he notes, rather begs the question as to why the consensus existed in the first place.

Yet the possibility that American policy might somehow be validated by the Iraqi people had already been foreclosed by the failure of earlier efforts to stir up rebellion among them. Some share of the sixty-odd mass graves so far uncovered by Coalition forces contain the remains of those who took up arms, at America’s urging, at the end of Gulf War I. The ferocity of the retribution meted out by Saddam’s henchmen on that occasion destroyed whatever organized opposition existed within Iraq’s Shiite population, and should probably have been sufficient to quash any hopes of a repetition this time around.

Nevertheless, the United States is itself a post-revolutionary society, whose faith in the self-organizing power of the citizen-soldier is so deeply inscribed in the nation’s political DNA as to constitute a kind of collective unconscious. For all the brilliance and professionalism of America’s armed forces today, the supreme American warrior remains the Minute-Man on the bridge at Lexington, Massachusetts: an ordinary person standing up against injustice. If Americans are too ready to imagine that those suffering under tyranny can (and should) rise up weapon in hand, it is at least in part because they believe that their own ancestors have already done it.

The rest of the piece goes on to discuss other historical reasons for this miscalulation as well as an assessment of what it would have actually meant from a military standpoint.

FILED UNDER: Iraq War
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.