Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Iraq, Iran, counter-insurgency and school ma'ams

Michelle Malkin and Bryan Preston (of Hot Air) are back from Baghdad and have posts, photos and video to prove it. Michelle Malkin's is more of a pep talk, though she promises big stuff on the AP-Jamil Hussein affair. Bryan Preston's much longer post is excellent, most of it about the mistakes made by the US planners and conceivers up to now. It's worth reading it all.

A point or two from Preston's post.

The Iranians want Iraq to remain unstable and they want us to have to keep a large force there dealing with the insurgents, terrorists and militias, which is why the ISG’s belief that chaos in Iraq is against Iran’s interests was met with such derision by the troops in Iraq. And believe me, it was.
This is going to be one of the most interesting fields of battle to watch in the next few months: how to handle Iran. And Iran must be handled with decisiveness. Having said that, I'm not sure how to follow up. If the Americans could secure the border, they would have done so by now. In any case, I don't think defensive measures will be enough. The Iranians need to be hurt, to feel that it is very risky to continue supplying and supporting the Mahdi Army and whoever else.
The troops in Iraq will tell you about three successful American occupations if you ask them–the Philippines, Japan and Germany. The latter two took five years to go from defeated enemy to ally, and decades after that before they really stood on their own feet. The Philippine insurgency took 8 years to quell and that country still has myriad problems that keep it from enjoying true First World status a century after the US put down its insurgency. Iraq is a far more complex place than either Japan, Germany or the Philippines and should therefore be expected to take longer to make the full transition to standalone state.
He doesn't mention Italy, which had a complexity of its own. Insurgency would not be the right word; it was more a simmering violence that lasted, on and off, for more than three decades. But the Allies stuck at it, and, as one writer to Corriere della Sera says,
Ask yourself what would have happened, in 1945, the war barely over, if the Anglo-American forces had abandoned us to our fate. My hypothesis: after years of civil war, we would have ended up in the hands of the Soviets.
Replace Soviets with Iranians.

The last excerpt is here because it reminded me of one of Marshall McLuhan's peremptory generalisations. Somewhere in Understanding Media, he said that Westerns were about the long battle to create an order in town that permitted a school ma'am to walk down the street in peace. The following quote is a contemporory gloss on the same idea.
The media poo-poos events like the re-opening of schools in Iraq because as defined on American terms, re-opening a school doesn’t mean much at all. But in Iraq, the re-opening of a school represents a community in the end state of achieving normalcy. A community that has a functioning school also has a liveable level of security, it has functioning services like power and water and has families that aren’t so worried about local violence that they won’t send their children outside their homes. It means there are probably jobs in the area, and it means that those jobs give families a level of economic security where they can think about their children’s future. Re-opening a school in Iraq means civil society itself has returned to that school’s community. It’s a big deal.
[emphasis in original]

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