Monday, December 04, 2006

Iraq: "waking up the morning after"

It can be headachey after a successful "liberation," "invasion," or "conquest" -- when modern armies distinguish themselves by efficient, quick victory.

For then may come a "second war."

When local resistance builds, sometimes with foreign meddling. A guerrilla resistance which sometimes uses what is today called terror, or "assymetrical warfare."

Roads harassed, bombs planted, officials assassinated. Occupying or liberating powers must walk a tricky line between winning hearts and minds and the temptation to show the mailed glove -- with summary execution, long imprisonment or torture.

Occupying powers may eventually consolidate their control, build new orders, consolidate new alliances. But sometimes they overextend themselves, fall into a trap, allow themselves to be bled into collapse.

And so three years after U.S. led forces "invaded" or "liberated" Iraq we have a patchwork headache graphically brought alive in With Each Mile the Divisions Deepen by Borzou Daragahi of The Los Angeles Times.


Other "morning afters:"

When Britain encouraged Spanish guerrilla tactics against Napoleon's occupation of Spain circa 1809. (Goya's vision of Napoleon's occupation above)

When Americans liberated the Philippines from Spain in 1898, only to fight a vicious war against insurgents until 1902. A war which split Americans in deep debate over imperialism and war crimes.

When British troops defeated South Africa's Dutch descended Boers in classic conventional war from 1899 to 1900, then fought a bitter guerrilla war from 1900 to 1902. Atrocities on both sides.

When German invaders sometimes seemed to bog down against partisan guerrilla warfare in Italy and Eastern Europe in WWII. Savage fighting with "no quarter."

When Allied powers successfully occupied and reconstructed Germany and Japan after World War II. Total war had brought total victory and a determined Allied effort to remake the destroyed economies of the defeated.


Today's "morning after" in Iraq is a special yet related headache.

"Foreign fighters" touted as El Quaeda kill and maim while anti-American local Sunnis fight to throw the Americans out.

The end of the totalitarian Saddam tyranny frees up sectarian rivalries, fears and jealousies so that a true patchwork of anarchic violence between Shiites and Sunnis can thrive.

In the wings are Turkey, Syria and Iran stirring things up for their own advantage or to protect themselves from instability which could threaten their interests.

Insurgency, mass sectarian murders, and the prospect of full blown civil war all bubble up to bleed and demoralize the world's greatest military power.

(See Project for Defense Alternatives listing of online studies on the insurgency.)



The US had basically defeated the Philippines insurgency by 1902, but fought a continuing war against Islamic Moro rebels in the south well up into 1912. Uncle Sam won colonial control of the Philippines until 1946.

In Cuba the US secured control and granted independence in 1902, then maintained a more indirect hegemony with periodic interventions until the victory of Fidel Castro in 1959.

The British hung in to defeat Boer insurgents in South Africa by 1902 -- only to find a resurgence of Boer domination in the form of Apartheid racial doctrine in 1948.

Reconstruction of post World War II Germany and Japan:

"Japan and Germany were akin to a firm whose building has burned down and that needed an infusion of capital to get started again. Iraq is like a firm that is putting a business together for the first time, and, as we know, 70 percent of all new businesses fail, " Prof. Eva Bellin of Hunter College noted at a 2004 Harvard University symposium on Iraq reconstruction.

Specific factors working against the success of Iraq's reconstruction, according to Bellin, are its religious and ethnic cleavages, which Saddam took every opportunity to deepen; its lack of effective, meritoriously organized bureaucratic systems; and the absence of any recent tradition of democratic government.

Ironically, she noted, the swiftness with which the United States toppled Saddam's regime and the avoidance of civilian casualties may actually work against the success of the reconstruction. In Germany and Japan the experience of total defeat and devastation broke down old conventions and opened the people to new ideas.


As for Napoleon and Hitler -- they bit off more than they could chew -- "overextended" just a bit. The expanded empires they oversaw crashed to the ground.

Now we shall see if well intentioned Americans muddle their way through in Iraq -- or fall into the same trap.

No comments: