View Full Version : Utopia Means “No Place”

10-10-03, 02:02 PM
William S. Lind: Utopia Means “No Place”

In an earlier column, I noted that the current phase of the war in Iraq is driven by three different elements: chaos, a War of National Liberation (which is inflicting most of the casualties) and Fourth Generation war. In time, the Fourth Generation elements will come to predominate, as they fill the vacuum created by the destruction of the Iraqi state.

But right now, chaos is again on the front page. Former soldiers of the Iraqi army are rioting for their back pay. The scope of Mr. Bremer’s blunder in dismissing the Iraqi army instead of using it to maintain order is more and more evident. Many of those former Iraqi soldiers whom we could have employed are now joining the War of National Liberation, shooting at and sometimes hitting Americans.

But two aspects of this burst of chaos point to a more fundamental American error. Speaking of the rioting soldiers, the Washington Times reported that “many of the men at Sunday’s protest in Baghdad voiced desperation that they had no jobs and no money to support their families.” The Bush Administration, hoping to turn the American public’s gaze away from the reality in Iraq, meanwhile trotted out the first American-trained battalion of the “New Iraqi Army,” a “multicultural” force supposedly indoctrinated to be nice to other Iraqis. (If Iraq breaks up along ethnic and sectarian lines, the New Iraqi Army will do the same, just as the Lebanese army did.)

What both these phenomena point to is a classic American error, utopianism. The old Iraqi army did not meet utopian standards, so it had to be sent away, unpaid. We must create a New Iraqi Army which will reflect our highest ideals. Meanwhile, Iraqis don’t have jobs, because Saddam’s state-run economy doesn’t meet utopian standards. We have to “privatize” that economy, which if other countries’ experiences are any guide will involve several years of continued economic decline and jobless chaos. Again, anything less would “betray American ideals.”

It is useful to remember that the word “utopia” means “no place.” By definition, utopias cannot exist in the real world. Attempts to create them lead to disaster, as both the French and Russian Revolutions attest.

What Mr. Bremer and the neo-con philosphes behind him are insisting upon guarantees more, not less, chaos in Iraq. Panglissading through reality, they refuse to revive the old Iraq before attempting to create their utopian New Iraq. The electric power system offers an example. Iraqis know how to make their 1960’s-technology electric grid work. But we won’t let them. American companies have to get the job, and since they cannot work with 1960’s technology, they have to build a whole new system from the bottom up. Meanwhile, Iraqis go without power.

Of course, the whole neo-con enterprise was utopian from the beginning. Denying the limits history places on potential (the sin of “historicism” in their Straussian Newspeak), neo-cons really believe every flea-bitten, fly-blown Third World hellhole can be turned into Switzerland. All it takes is enough American troops.

An old line about the Marine Corps comes to mind: the difference between the Boy Scouts and the Marine Corps is that the Boy Scouts have adult supervision. Are there no adults overseeing American policy in Iraq? If there are, it is about time for them to tell the hapless Mr. Bremer to get the old Iraq working again, and let Iraqis worry about utopia. That might at least give the United States what it so desperately needs in Iraq: a way out.

William S. Lind is Director of the Center for Cultural Conservatism at the Free Congress Foundation. © 2003 William S. Lind.