Future shock and awe

Okay, so two weeks ago the war looked like it might be more difficult than anyone anticipated, and the various pundits and prognosticators were busily backing off from predictions of a “cakewalk.” Then last week, Saddam’s regime collapsed and proponents of the war crowed mightily, pretending that skeptics had somehow claimed that the overwhelmingly powerful nation was not going to win the war against its smaller and infinitely weaker opponent, and that such skeptics were now irrevocably proven misguided and wrong.

I think that they missed the real lesson of the last couple of weeks — i.e., when it becomes apparent that the situation can shift dramatically within the course of a few days, well, you have to keep in mind that it can change again just as quickly. With that in mind, I’m not going to pretend to have the vaguest idea what’s going to happen next, but Baghdad seems to be in bad shape right now, according to this AP report (via Atrios.)

For Iraqis on the ground, such promises mean little until they’re delivered.

Residents, fearing looting would move on to private homes, set up neighborhood patrols to prevent it. One family put a girder across the street at the end of their block and stood by it with guns. They, too, denounced America.

“The United States breaks into the palaces and then threatens all the people who steal from them,” said Efil Adnan, a 48-year-old oil engineer guarding the barricade with two of his sons and his brother. He held a pistol; the brother wielded a Kalashnikov.

“The United States is a liar,” Adnan said. “They are not going to make anything better.”

His son, Forkan Efil, 13, wore a T-shirt that said “Football” and also carried a pistol. He said all his friends have guns now.

“I don’t like the Americans,” the boy said, “but this pistol is for the thieves.”

At the market, the dozens of men attempting to tear down the Saddam statue didn’t have the oomph. The chain kept snapping, and finally they turned to Plan B — pouring gasoline over it and setting it ablaze.

But in doing so, they made sure one important point was known — just because they revel in Saddam’s ouster doesn’t mean they’re waving American flags.

“The army of America is like Genghis Khan,” Fouad Abdullah Ahmed, 49, snapped as U.S. tanks rumbled by without stopping. “America is not good and Saddam is not good. My people refused Saddam Hussein, and they will refuse the Americans.”

(Update) Steve at the Daily Kos has some thoughts on the same subject:

What also amazes me is that people think the anti-war movement was trying to defend Saddam or didn’t want the Iraqi people to be free. I think Tom Friedman summed it up: was Iraq like Switzerland or Yugoslavia. Well, it’s turning out to be like the Congo, but he asked the right question: what was under Saddam’s rule? The anti-war movement, from my perspective saw two things: one, the immense human suffering war would bring, and two: the consequences of the war.

That was the problem. Not the actual war or Saddam, who could be disposed of easily enough, since he was hated by everyone. But what lay under his rule, why he ruled the way he did. Not three days after he’s gone, civil war lies frighteningly close to the surface as Shia form militias and rob the Sunni rich and Arabs and Kurds square off in Mosul. They even looted the museums.

As we seek to restore power, we will rehire the police which enforced Saddam’s law. As we have armed militias around. If you were a Shia from Saddam City, would you let a Sunni cop push you around when you have a couple of AK’s, a few cases of hand grenades and a spare RPG around. The first time you get into a beef, an RPG round is going into the door of the police station.

The pandora’s box of war seems to have opened and what we have under it is frightening.