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Fine (If Slightly Dated) What-Iffery

Slinking shamefully through my old subscriptions again. William Gibson long ago linked to this fascinating bit of what-iffery by James Wolcott, dating back to before a slim majority of America screwed up by electing Bush again.

What if there had been no insurgency, or one that had been quashed easily, as Bush and company seemed to imagine would happen?

Just imagine how different things would have been over the last year, how different they would be now.

Bush would have been completely vindicated for invading Iraq, despite the non-discovery of WMDs. His pre-war critics would have been completely discredited, the neocon warhawks howling with victorious glee at seeing all those liberals and pundits shown up for the lily-livered worrywarts they were.

France, Germany, the other nations that opposed the war–they would have been rhetorically shunted forever into the dustbin of Old Europe.

Tony Blair would have been elevated to co-leader of the Free World and enjoyed a second youthful bloom (instead of looking as haggard and embattled as he does now–a badly abused dollhead).

Over a 1000 Americans would still be alive, as would countless thousands of Iraqis. Thousands more would have escaped grievous wounds.

Saddam Hussein probably would have been convicted in a televised trial sometime before the US election, and executed.

The US economy wouldn’t be bleeding billions of dollars now and into the indefinite future. The economy would have lifted itself aerodynamically out of recession by now and restored much of the job loss of the previous years.

Oil would be in the $30-35 range as Iraqi oil flowed through the pipelines and infrastructure was repaired.

The United States would have been able to be poised to launch strikes against Syria or Iran from secure bases of action in Iraq, as the stage was set for act two of the war against the Axis of Evil.

President Bush would probably boast an approval rating in the 60s or 70s, and coasting to a landslide reelection against a Democratic candidate served up for sacrifice until Hillary could run in ’08.

The savage Iraq insurgency, a tragedy for the Iraqi people and the Americans and other foreigners who have been victims there, has unwound the future in ways we still can’t understand. But this much is evident: The Enemy isn’t afraid of us anymore, if it ever was. It sees the world’s greatest superpower led by a president swaggering with braggadocio bogged down in a guerrilla war for which its technological superiority advantages it naught. It knows that the overstretched American military is tearing at the seams, that it doesn’t have enough manpower for a proper, successful occupation. It sees us repeating the Soviet debacle in Afghanistan, and is increasing the tempo of violence. As I understand 4th Generation warfare, the side that controls the tempo, wins.

Well-written, and I suppose at this point, all I can say is that I’m thankful things weren’t this bad. In other words, worse than what did happen is possible. God forbid it should have gone that easily for Bush.

And yes, it does look worse to me. I’m sure it’s a wonderful fantastical thing to imagine, if you’re an American right-winger who supported the war. The American economy would have been in better shape, the War on Terrorism would be expanded, and Bush would have been liked by more people, or at least despised somewhat less thoroughly.

But by God, the prospects for a cessation of the ridiculous American Crusade Against, Well, Let’s See, Who’s Next On The List? would have been much slimmer than they are now, and things would have probably continued at a pace that would eventually have brought America to even greater grief.

And here’s a wonderful little quote on the uses of politics in his own writing career, a statement which isn’t quite contradicted but is certainly qualified by his comments about avoided explicit didacticism, here.

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