Friday, September 14, 2007

An Inverse Echo?

In praise of appeasement

Edward Pearce

September 13, 2007 12:00 PM

There is something indecent about the attempts of the Bush people to pretend that Iraq and the Iraq war and the occupation of Iraq are things now quietly getting better. President Bush also invites a comparison with Vietnam and says that "if only the boys hadn't been withdrawn, if only we had fought on".

That plaint is, if you know your history, an echo of a legend familiar in 1920s Germany, the dolchstoss, the stab in the back, the great national betrayal - by student protesters and the McGovern Democrats or by Prince Max of Baden. Either way, a duty was abandoned and a victory spurned. We should have fought some more, died and killed some more. The governments of countries fighting wars lose sight of what war actually is, who dies, who suffers, who endures the ancillary awfulness of it, the man described by Patrick Cockburn who, in the fifth year of Iraqi democracy, squelches through green sewage to reach the nearest stand-pipe.

The people who govern do not really mind about their boys, or the Sun's boys (why boys?) the men, dead or amputated, who they sent off to such trumpets and falsehoods. But they mind far more about those men, potential losers of votes, than they will ever mind about the dead of the other side.

To a greater degree than anyone will acknowledge, the Iraqi dead, do not register, do not matter. Yet across the spectrum, left to right, the burden of the argument for withdrawal, British or American, comes back to British or American casualties.

It will be argued, tediously, that most of the Iraqi dead were killed by other Iraqis. They were killed because advice given by the state department, the Foreign Office or the CIA, advice which itself rests upon commonplace good sense, that a confessional war for mastery would be the certain outcome of invasion, was wholly disregarded. The war was murderous, was vanity, was grotesquely negligent in conception, was in the teeth of history, and please; it was against all rational, selfish pursuit of American and British interests. The US has been in smouldering contention with Iran for 60 years, and for 25 imposed a brutal government there. The possibility that it will bomb Iran is real, is actually canvassed, and may be the valiant decisive thing of 2010.

Yet despite such a preoccupations, the other assured thing which will come out of the terror and counter-terror which the invasion released, is the near accomplished creation in Iraq of a regime of Shia Islam, of those now manning the militias, from whose threats the British army has now been withdrawn to an airport.

Give or take enclaves, Moqtada al-Sadr or his nominee will soon rule Iraq. That government will be on terms of friendship with the government of Iran. The Shia crescent will shine bright upon the Euphrates. Yet from Gertrude Bell down to George Bush senior, it has been the Anglo-Saxon view that the 20% Sunni must rule the 65% Shia. This is because Shia Islam, the minority creed, has historically been more extreme, more theocratic, more of a western enemy.

Never mind our liberal motives or our concern at terrible violence, this failed invasion flew clean against the interests of the US. It has destroyed a tyranny indeed, a tyranny nationally stable and internationally quiescent, one at odds with both Iran and al-Qaida. This invasion has installed social breakdown, the rolling expulsion of the Sunni, and an Iranian writ running everywhere.

We onlookers should mind and mourn the dead, but players of power politics should mind the total reversal of all their objectives. This has been an inverse Munich, an insistence upon pointless action, a failure to see the perfect utility of doing nothing at all. By valiant, decisive action and at some slight expense, the American government has empowered the enemies of America.


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