By now it's a familiar and hackneyed war story. A jarring event
rouses a dormant people. Diplomacy fails. Conflict erupts. The
modern, mechanized nation overpowers the atavistic, feudal regime.
The victors send soldiers, consultants, and contractors to free the
oppressed, rebuild, secure vital resources and territory, and to put
their stamp on the society that will emerge. In the midst of this
benevolence, a loosely woven network of terror groups stages dogged
acts of sabotage, kidnapping, assassination, and graphic murder that
demoralize the occupiers. The victors are gradually forced to
compromise those principles in whose name they first fought, or to
Sound like Iraq? It is. But it's also the United States of the
Much like the September 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center,
the April 1861 Confederate salvos at Fort Sumter forever changed the
way Americans viewed their country. Like George W. Bush, President
Abraham Lincoln dressed his military campaign in idealistic robes -
as a noble crusade to free the slaves. Like Bush, Lincoln went to
war without a viable plan for the aftermath.
"Mr. Lincoln gropes ... like a traveller in an unknown country
without a map," wrote one New York World columnist in early 1865.
Georges Clemenceau, a French diplomat and journalist who would
later serve two terms as his country's prime minister, observed that
the US had "embarked on the abolitionist sea, without any clear idea
of where their cause would lead."
As in Iraq, regime change left the South in social, economic, and
political disarray. Slaves had made up nearly 40 percent of the
population in the prewar South, and had provided its largely
agrarian economy with a stable - and of course cost-effective -
workforce. With emancipation, the nearly 3.5 million freedmen were -
at least in theory - no longer tied to the land. Talks of
enfranchisement for blacks were foreboding for Southern whites,
conjuring visions of African-American majorities who could use the
ballot to exact revenge on their former masters, or to further the
programs of Republican activists and carpetbaggers from the North.
The division of political and economic resources is the primary
and thorniest issue in postwar Iraq. Efforts at reconstruction
generate resistance in a broad coalition of insurgents formed of
Baath Party loyalists, former Army officers, Sunni potentates, Iraqi
patriots, and foreign mercenaries. Some fight to preserve their
prewar privilege and prominence; some, to curb the influence of the
Shiite majority. Others fight to reject the political, economic, and
social templates the Americans attempt to impose. Still others
simply to drive the invaders from their soil. The violence is
constant, savage, and above all visible, intended, like the March
2003 US aerial campaign, to shock and awe.
The Confederate insurgency was just as brutal and immediate. Just
days after Gen. Robert E. Lee consigned his sword at Appomatox,
Confederate loyalists assassinated Lincoln and gravely wounded
William H. Seward, Lincoln's secretary of state, in a separate
attack on the same evening. …