There was no way to correlate the governments of Thieu and Maliki with the wishes of the population, and crushing that will was beyond liberal democracy’s power. Communist thugs in Vietnam and fundamentalists in Iraq went from neighborhood to neighborhood, from house to house, convincing and coercing the people, winning their hearts or blowing off their heads. The alternatives to such “voter outreach” are extermination, expulsion, or exemplary punishment. The liberal democratic aggressor wants nothing of that sort.

In wars, one could win any number of battles but lose the war. Prevailing against an army is useful only if the population is submissive, whether because they are used to tyranny, because they favor the aggressor, or simply because they are terrified. In Vietnam, America fitted the colonizer’s profile; in Iraq—the crusader’s. In both cases, the West was unwelcome. People in Vietnam and Iraq were used to tyranny, but America destroyed that submissiveness by proclaiming freedom and democracy. In Vietnam and Iraq, people had proved easy to terrify (by communists and Saddam, respectively) into submission, but the US specifically renounced the brutal means of their opponents. Recognizing the limits of the aggressor’s brutalities, the locals were not particularly fearful. On top of their lack of fear or benevolence toward the aggressor, the locals blamed it for bloody civil wars, propping up unpopular regimes, and—out of simple xenophobia—for the invasion.

America supported governments that were friendly to its values, and thus automatically alien to the locals, who held somewhat different values—which was the reason why the US invaded in the first place. Collaborationist governments—traitors to the wishes of their people—are less than moral beacons, and are prevented by the US from enforcing their collaborationist values on the public.

The aggressor and the guerrillas have different wills to fight. The aggressor has ultimatly no stake in the invasion. Moot declarations and ever-changing political rationales are poor reasons to die for. Protracted warfare tests the aggressor’s shallow resolve and strengthens the resolve of the guerrillas, who unexpectedly prevail against a much stronger force. After a turning point often perceptible only in retrospect, the aggressor starts rolling down the ladder of military luck, painfully bumping at the steps, with no chance of reestablishing his military position. On the positive side, guerrillas often fail economically after winning politically, and after a few decades the population might develop goodwill toward the ex-aggressor, who is then viewed as a savior.

Post-Ataturk Turkey offers an example of a balanced culturally alien government. Ataturk provided considerable ideological beacons (post-imperial national revival and modernization), while employing moderate and exemplary cruelty. His ideology of national revival was similar to the imperial values the population was accustomed to. People in Turkish cities hated to shed Islam, but understood Islam to be a means of national greatness and accepted the new, Westernized means to that end. Ataturk did not proclaim freedom, and the people habitually accepted the yoke of new rule. A recognizable ideology allowed Ataturk to recruit eager local promulgators. He nourished his power base—the army—rather than dismantling it for previous crimes or for serving the previous regime. Even so, duplicating Ataturk’s feat of balancing oppression with hope, of culturally changing the society without breaking it down, has proven futile with the current Islamic resurgence. If America wants to instill entirely different values in the locals, it must be ready for a prolonged civil war, after which a government supportive of those values may or may not emerge.