Dohiyi Mir
    In Which NTodd Says His Peace

Tuesday, July 08, 2003
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The Best Analogy


Forget Lebanon, Algeria and Vietnam. For a long time I've felt that the best analogy to the situation in Iraq was...Iraq. Embroiled in one of my many arguments before the war, I did a bunch of research on Iraq's history (as well as that of another messed-up British mandate called Palestine). John R. MacArthur has a good treatment of the subject in today's Providence Journal (ProJo requires registration, so this is from Common Dreams):

[Y]ou cannot indefinitely rule an entire people against its will, no matter how many press releases you issue promoting "freedom." Thus, when I see the nattily dressed American viceroy in Baghdad, L. Paul Bremer III, prattling on about restoring order and bestowing liberty, I think of the post-World War I British high commissioner for Iraq, Sir Percy Cox. Iraqi Arabs and Kurds know their colonial history better than we do, and it's fair to say that even the most pro-Western among them (outside of the claque surrounding Ahmed Chalabi) smell a rat.

Saddam or no Saddam, a nationalist resistance will organize itself around the single issue of American occupation -- a movement that is likely to submerge most religious and ethnic differences.

The question isn't what the Arabs will do, but whether, over the long term, the Americans will support the recolonization of Iraq. Yet how can the Americans make an informed judgment if nobody bothers to examine the British experience?

Too bad our History-Major-in-Chief was just a C-student. In all fairness, it's not just him--our inherent national arrogance seems to preclude gleaning lessons from other nations' experience. We always seem to think we can do better (a positive trait in the right situation). We didn't learn from the French debacle in Vietnam, so why would we pay attention to British failures in Iraq? Meanwhile, our ignorance of history takes its toll:

The Pentagon on Tuesday raised its count of Americans killed by hostile fire in Iraq since the war began in March to 143, a figure that approaches the 147 killed in the 1991 Gulf War.
...
The total number of Americans who have died in Iraq since the conflict began March 20 stands at 212, including the death Monday in Balad. That number includes 69 deaths in accidents and other non-hostile circumstances. About two-thirds of the non-hostile deaths have come since May 1.

In the 1991 war, 147 were killed by hostile fire. The war began Jan. 17 and ended with a cease-fire on Feb. 28. There also were 235 non-hostile deaths, including a number of soldiers who died during the U.S. buildup in Saudi Arabia and others who died in Kuwait after the fighting ended.

The 212th US soldier died today of a "of a gunshot wound in a non-combat incident". Americans are starting to notice, according to the Pew Research Center:

Americans...are taking an increasingly negative view of the U.S. military operation in Iraq. Fewer than a quarter (23%) say the U.S. military effort there is going "very well," far fewer than the percentage who expressed that view throughout the war. Despite this growing concern, two-thirds (66%) favor a major U.S. commitment to rebuild Iraq and establish a stable government there. About the same number (67%) continue to back the decision to go to war in Iraq, down slightly from early and mid-April (74%).

It's not surprising that most people think we should stay and establish a stable government now that we're there--reality on the ground mixed with a "you broke it, you bought it" POV, maybe. And while support for the war was high at the outset, likely due to the "conflict-induced cohesion", it has been waning for some time. I wonder how long our cognitive dissonance will hold sway...

ntodd 
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A non-violent, counter-dominant, left-liberal, possibly charismatic, quasi anarcho-libertarian Quaker's take on politics, volleyball, and other esoterica.

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