August 3, 2007

Two editorial columns from last week’s Boston Globe – one an op-ed by H.D.S. Greenway and another by Jeff Jacoby – provide two historical perspectives on the U.S. counter-insurgency effort in Iraq. Both make for thoughtful and interesting reading, and frankly, I’m not sure which one is right. Who knows, perhaps a little of both?

Greenway’s view is that a historical precedent exists with the British occupation of Palestine following the end of World War I:

“As Washington struggles with what to do with a lost war, consider the British experience in Palestine and their 30-year mandate after World War I. The British entered Palestine believing that they were liberating the land from Ottoman tyranny. Britain, “with its technological and military superiority . . . its entrepreneurial and missionary zeal, its largely democratic institutions, was to take the once-great peoples of the East into tutelage and direct their slow but sure progress under stable and just government,” A.J. Sherman recalls in his book, ‘Mandate Days.’ “This clashed almost immediately with the reality of Palestine.”

“Although favoring a Jewish homeland under the Balfour Declaration, the British genuinely hoped for national reconciliation and peace in Palestine between Jews and Arabs. But from the beginning the soldiers found themselves in a dilemma because, as Tom Segev writes in “One Palestine Complete,” “the government expected the army to impose peace between the Jews and the Arabs, as a result of which it had to fight both of them.”

But the Brits, like the U.S. in Iraq, discovered it wasn’t going to be quite that easy, and instead found themselves suffering casualties in the middle of a civil war no one wanted to end:

“A principle reason for staying on was fear of the chaos that would follow a retreat. But after 30 years of trying to engineer compromise, the British left with their tails between their legs when support on the home front collapsed. Once they were gone, the feared upsurge of bloodshed between Arabs and Jews was realized, and the nightmare of outside intervention from neighboring states came to pass. The ramifications are with us still.

“Ben-Gurion had predicted it all in 1919. ‘Everyone sees the problem in relations between the Jews and the Arabs,’ he said. ‘But not everyone sees that there’s no solution to it . . . The conflict between the interests of the Jews and the interests of the Arabs in Palestine cannot be resolved by sophisms . . . I don’t know of any Arabs who would agree to Palestine being ours . . . We want the country to be ours. The Arabs want the country to be theirs.’ In the end, Ben-Gurion was willing to divide the land. The Arabs were not.”

Jacoby responds to Greenway’s op-ed with one of his own, in which he takes us back to Vietnam, and recalls the suffering and murder that followed America’s departure:

“If US troops leave prematurely, the Iraqi government is likely to collapse, which could trigger violence on a far deadlier scale than Iraq is experiencing now. Iran’s malignant influence will intensify, and with it the likelihood of intensified Sunni-Shiite conflict, and even a nuclear arms race, across the Middle East. Anti-American terrorists and fanatics worldwide will be emboldened. Iraq would emerge, in Senator John McCain’s words, “as a Wild West for terrorists, similar to Afghanistan before 9/11.” Once again — as in Vietnam, in Lebanon, in Somalia — the United States would have proven the weaker horse, unwilling to see a fight through to the finish.”

No matter which perspective you accept, Jacoby’s closing point is one those on both sides of the argument can most likely agree on:

“We are in a war with barbarians who proclaim their love of death and revel in the slaughter of innocents — and are fighting to win. We can choose to settle for defeat in Iraq, but far from ending the war, it will only make it more difficult and deadly. The price Americans will pay if they abandon Iraq will be steep. The price Iraqis pay will be steeper.”

Of course, there are plenty of those in the U.S. who believe that maybe it’s high time the Iraqis started footing that bill.

So who’s right here? There are no easy answers – perhaps, no matter what we do, it will really be up to history to decide; whether it was worth it, and whether it was the right thing to do to begin with.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 01:22 | Comment (1)
1 Comment
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    Trackback by Britney spears paris hilton pics. — September 22, 2007 @ 12:03 am

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