Farsighted thinkers may already have asked themselves this question: What will the final outcome of America's occupation of Iraq be? The answers are varied and the possibilities lend themselves to endless speculation. God knows they have within the Administration, which seems to weave a new tale almost daily.

If you have ever been to a rodeo, part of the answer is already clear to you. In the wild bull riding competition, the cowboy always ends up off of the bull ' voluntarily or otherwise. Sometimes the cowboy is able to walk away. Sometimes he is carried away. He never stays on the bull.

Foreign occupations end the same way--every time. Eventually the occupier--usually bloodied and disillusioned--has to pack his bags and go home, while those occupied remain in place. As Bruce Sprinsteen laments in his classic Born in the USA: 'I had a brother at Khe San, fight'n off the Vietcong. They're still there, but he's all gone.' And so it goes in occupations.

Iraq promises no break in this unbroken streak of failed occupations: The Crusades, Vietnam, Afghanistan, etc. Even the Administration, which has conceded it has no intention of staying for the long term, plans to depart Iraq someday. They may be departing Washington earlier than they plan to depart Iraq.

Like the rodeo bull rider, occupying another country is an unnatural and untenable situation. The bull does not want the rider on its back, and quickly makes that point clear to the rider. On the other hand, the rider, filled with hubris and testosterone, believes that he will survive the bovine storm about to explode beneath him.

Cowboys are not likely to absorb the lesson imparted by witnessing each of their predecessors being tossed like rag dolls from the enraged bull. Likewise, conquering nations are not dissuaded by history. The fact that no other nation or empire has successfully subdued their intended victim does not make them flinch. Our occupation will be different is the lament that could ultimately appear on their tombstone. They see themselves as more enlightened, stronger, more determined or simply occupying higher moral ground.

As the cowboy crashes to the dirt, is flung into the air on the horns of his angry subject and crashes to the dirt again, he briefly contemplates what went wrong, and begins to grasp the sheer stupidity of his earlier strategies. Occupiers learn their lessons more slowly, more painfully and at greater cost. The thrown cowboy will tell those inclined to listen where he went wrong and how he will prevail over the bull the next time. Nations will engage in the same forms of denial and wishful thinking.

The bull is portrayed as aggressive, ignorant and spoiling for a fight. Occupiers paint their occupied with a similar brush. Nobody wants to pay to see a cowboy riding a compliant farm animal. Americans need to be sufficiently convinced of the evil nature of their government's intended victims in order to glue themselves to real-time television coverage of the slaughter and to sleep well at night.

Yet, in reality, the bull is not looking for a fight. The minute the cowboy is removed from his neck, the bull becomes quite docile. He basically wants to be left alone to eat, sleep and make merry with the cows. So too with most of the people of the world. Ire is stirred by heavy handed attempts to make others do something completely unnatural to them, which deprives them of their liberty.

Why are American soldiers perishing daily at the hands of angry Iraqis? Is it because the Iraqis simply want to kill Americans? No. Like the bull, they simply seek to rid themselves of an annoying foreign presence in their lives. One which has added nothing positive to their existence. They wish to take control of their own affairs and do not care to serve as guinea pigs for Washington 's Messianic neocons.

The Bush Administration took every pre-invasion opportunity to categorize nations that opposed them as ineffectual clowns. Now they are begging these same nations to bail them out of their misadventure with troop commitments and other forms of assistance. Like the besieged cowboy, the neocons now see the clown as their only salvation. The clown cannot defeat the bull, either, but he could distract the bull's attention just long enough to allow them to make a hasty escape from their self-created disaster.

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John Peters's picture
Columns on STR: 15

John Peters is an attorney in Michigan, a Libertarian, and a freelance author.