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After Saddam - One Detail You Did Not Mention

Reader comment on item: After Saddam? Remaking the Mideast

Submitted by Joseph E. Rendini (United States), Feb 12, 2003 at 14:17

Mr. Pipes:

Though no liberal, I agree with you that we should opt for the more ambitious Ajami approach and reconstruct the entire Middle East. The reason is that I fear anything less will not work. But I share Bacevich's conservative misgivings because we will probably not go far enough.

I also agree that our experience in dealing with Japan is on point here, but you neglect to mention that we succeeded in changing Japanese culture in no small part because we had killed virtually an entire generation of Japanese men. Those adherents of the Bushido who survived we treated harshly, forbidding them any further role in the public life of their country. (There is also some similarity to the way we treated the Confederate rebels here.) We overcame their religion - at least the Emperor-worship aspect of it - because we utterly devasted their land and their culture, discrediting their leadership in the eyes of the surviving generation and causing them to lose faith in their status as a divinely-favored nation. What we are planning in the Middle East - a quick, surgical war which leaves infrastructure intact and causes minimal casualties - will not cause the survivors to question their deeply held beliefs. Instead, it will probably do the opposite - leave them brooding and resentful over stabs in the back and international zionist conspiracies.

One last point - the Japanese were accustomed to obedience. At the end of the war, they heeded their Emperor's command to lay down their arms. My father, who was slated to be in the invasion force and ended up in the occupation, testifies to the damage that could have been done by the hundreds of thousands of samurai swords and other edged weapons the Japanese voluntarily surrendered. The Muslims, whose religious faith knows no central authority and who have no history of obedience, will probably require more punishment than did the Japanese. I fear we may not yet be ready to administer the type of lesson they need.
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