A Quiet Contradiction

Senator Willcox L. CO's picture
Submitted by Senator Willcox... on Sat, 2006-02-18 06:44

In 1955 Graham Greene wrote perhaps his most famous novel: The Quiet American. (Yes, Greene was a Catholic and socialist, but bear with me.) It is the story of a very cynical English Journalist in Vietnam during the Viet-Minh-French war. The book is made up of his experiences concerning a very idealistic, innocent, and bloodstained American. The story is less important to my article though, than the idea of the Third Force.
The Third Force is a small army led by a General Thé, a man who supposedly finds the imperialist French and Communists evil. He leaves the French and takes those loyal to him to a Mountain stronghold to wage war on both the Viet-Minh and the French.
Perhaps symbolic of the South Vietnam of the future Civil War and Vietnamese-American war Thé turns out to be a terrorist and a bandit aided by the innocent American. Therefore, the American must be killed, and he is - brutally.
Now, transplant this situation, minus the covert evil of the Third Force, to the Iraq of today. What if a Third Force arose there as a guerrilla movement that at first wages war on the Islamofascists? So what’s the problem, right? What valuable allies these warriors of freedom would be! They would be like manna in the desert for our struggling military and overall American morale. Democracy, freedom, and individuality would be proven to be possible in the Middle-East among the oppression of Islam and tribalism. But, there is a problem.
Not with the Iraqi Third Force turning out to be a Thé-like terrorist organization, but with America’s actions in Iraq. Perhaps we can liken our country to that fictional Quiet American of Saigon: idealistic and well meaning but on a wrong and bloodstained road.
Recently, under the supervision and encouragement of America, Iraqi politicians have written and ratified a constitution. Ok, so what? Isn’t this a good thing? Well, at first glance yes. Republican democracy hedged in by a constitution of individual rights is the best system possible. But, the constitution of Iraq seriously hobbles property rights (in the style of modern America) and it contains phrases like “Islam is the official religion of the State and it is a fundamental source of legislation” and “No law that contradicts the established provisions of Islam may be established.” This is no constitution of freedom; it is a mandate placing Islam and a fictitious Allah in power over Iraq. It is the iron of manacles. America is helping fit them to size and lock them over individual freedom in Iraq.
Our country has meant well in helping to create this constitution. So did the Quiet American in supporting Thé. We value self rule and direction, but this is wrong when a nation under our control is using its self rule and direction to evil ends. We should be doing in Iraq what we did in Japan: saying “Take our constitution as we write it or be destroyed.” This is moral, but I fear men like Truman and the pre-Korea Macarthur no longer exist in our political system.
So, what’s the problem? The constitution is wrong, that’s a problem, but how does that affect the Third Force? The contradiction of the constitution and the true Third Force would inevitably lead to war with the American military in Iraq. That is a problem.
Let’s imagine a situation. The Third Force in Iraq, let’s call them Freedom Jihad, attacks the Iraqi parliament and kills several politicians known to be evil and corrupt and symbolically burns a copy of the constitution. What happens? America and Freedom Jihad go to war with casualties on both sides.
Let’s imagine a more probable situation which hinges less on the constitution and more on our Iraqi allies.
Shiite death squads exist. They go out in the night and take Sunnis and kill them in mass. These death squads, according to witnesses, are often made up of and led by Iraqi police and military. Now say Freedom Jihad declares war on these death squads because they are evil. One night they ambush a death squad and kill all members. In the morning it is found that twenty odd Iraqi police and military are dead and it is also found out who is responsible. The American Military starts to strike Freedom Jihad targets and in turn Freedom Jihad attacks American soldiers with deadly effects.
But, this is not real. Never will be. Iraq is a cesspool of corruption, religion, and tribalism. An organization like Freedom Jihad will never arise. This is true. The question remains, though, where our support as Objectivists would go in my imagined situation. This question highlights another question. How can we support this war in Iraq? Because, if we were Iraqis and Objectivists we would join Freedom Jihad. We are not Quiet Americans; I hope we are not anyway. We may be innocent, but we would not support General Thés. I as an Objectivist would not: but I would help a Third Force if it was true and good.
This question pains me. At first I want to say “Fuck it! I will always support a Third Force based on my principles!” Then I think about the people I know that are in the military right now, some of them in Iraq. I think of the Objectivist on the ROR site that wrote a very eloquent article about atheists in the military recently. I think of my father whose retirement paperwork went through processing at the pentagon just hours before the terrorist attack and how, if not for that hour, he could very well be in Iraq. And I think of my great-grandfather – concentration camp liberator and Nazi killer and how he would make sure he was in Iraq now if he were alive and young. I think of these men and women and I cannot so easily throw my support behind a Third Force that would kill them in my hypothetical situation. They are not Quiet Americans either.
So, I am left in the situation that seems contradictory to me of saluting those fighting the terrorists in Iraq and Afghanistan and also hoping for the impossible Third Force. I remember a fictional man saying “Check your premises” and I wish I could ask him for advice.


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Follow Up

Senator Willcox L. CO's picture

Thank you Mr. Cresswell. Your criticism of my article was helpful and I realize now that I didn't get two things across. One, that what I mean by innocence as far as Pyle is that it is the same sort of innocence that led to say, America's support of bin Laden against the Soviets. Meaning, support of anyone that says they are on your side or are at least anti-bad guy. The other thing that I didn't really get across was what the Third Force in Iraq's ideology would be in order to be my positive Freedom Jihad. Their ideology would be mine, or close enough to it. Meaning a belief in freedom, capitalism, sanctity of life, and separation of church and state. They would be a force that would recognize that both the French and the Communists were evil or that the Iraqi government and the insurgents are wrong or evil.

'Senator', you described the

Peter Cresswell's picture

'Senator', you described the character of Pyle as "an innocent American" -- I'm not sure that's true, and I think it misses the point. If you recall, Pyle was happy to organise the killing of civilians in order to 'help' the civilians. Present circumstances differ a little, but as you say "the story is less important to my article though, than the idea of the Third Force."

I'm not really sure either what 'Third Force' you're suggesting for Iraq?

However, I agree with you on one thing at least, when you say: "Our country has meant well in helping to create this constitution. So did the Quiet American in supporting Thé. We value self rule and direction, but this is wrong when a nation under our control is using its self rule and direction to evil ends. We should be doing in Iraq what we did in Japan: saying “Take our constitution as we write it or be destroyed.” This is moral, but I fear men like Truman and the pre-Korea Macarthur no longer exist in our political system."

Great comment. I really hate to quote myself - okay, I'm lying, it's true -- but I said on this topic just over four years ago: If terrorism is to be toppled then the governments of Libya, Sudan, Jordan, Syria, Iran and Iraq must be toppled and replaced - and NOT with the fascist-leaning puppets that the US has supported in the past, and looks like doing again in Afghanistan. If Bush can't set up successful civil governments in these countries, then he may have to call off the War Against Terrorism early, just as his father called off the Gulf War early for the self-same reason...

"When Bush senior stopped the turkey shoot on the road to Baghdad, it wasn't just a loss of courage - it was also the realisation that they had no end-game, that they wouldn't know what to do when they got there.

"Our current statesmen may not know how to go about successfully rebuilding a conquered country, but we only need to travel back half a century to find some statesman who did know how."

It really does seem tragic that the knowledge to do so has been lost in just half-a-century. It is perhaps a measure of how much damage bad philosophy has done to statesmanship, and to the field of political philosophy.

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