If I were trying to convince people to stay in Iraq, I might refer to Japan or Germany as models of occupation. But General Petraeus picked a different place:
Claiming steady, albeit slow, military and political progress, Petraeus said the “many, many challenges” would not be resolved “in a year or even two years.” Similar counterinsurgency operations, he said, citing Britain’s experience in Northern Ireland, “have gone at least nine or 10 years.”
Petraeus is supposed to be smart. He does realize that the British have been in Ireland for over 700 years, doesn’t he? They showed up in 1169 and were driven out of what is today known as the Republic of Ireland in 1922. Not exactly the metaphor I would use…
Perhaps he was covertly planting the truth in the public’s mind. I’ve seen him twice on Charlie Rose. He’s certainly bright enough to do that.
Petraeus means that Ulster was a cakewalk for UK troops. And problems there are almost over.
What a nice coincidence. This morning I woke up to the Pogues song that has the following chorus:
Years ago I saw a documentary made by an Irish historian and adventurer who was tracing on foot Cortez’s path through Mexico from the sea to Tenochtitlan. In a remote mountain pass, he found an old monument to Cortez, on which was spray-painted “Spaniards Go Home” in Spanish, Aztec, and Yucatec. He got all misty-eyed and said, “Well, now I’m homesick for Ireland. It feels good to be in a place where memories are long.”
I don’t think the Irish situation is particularly close to the Iraqi one. A much more apt comparison could be made of the Israeli-Palestinian problem which also has two groups of people of differing religions living within the same land and with differing claims to its ownership.
Northern Ireland–which is not identical to the historical Irish county of Ulster–has only existed since c.1920, so taking General Petraeus’ comment at face value, its been c.87 years, not c.700 years. Regardless, it’s still a stupid metaphor. If by ten years he meant the relatively peaceful last ten, that’s ignoring the more violent c.25 years following “Bloody Sunday” in 1972. And there was a fair amount of financial aid for the non-army side (naturally called “terrorists” by the army side) from people in the USA. Is the general suggesting people send donations to the people bombing the army?
The Northern “Troubles” really exploded in 1970 and drifted to a “cease-fire” in the mid-90’s. So 25 years would be a good round estimate for Britain’s “counter-insurgency” operation.
However, Petraeus ignore two important factors:
– The operation was almost totally under the direction of British officers from the “mainland”. In fact, one of Britain’s main problems was restaining the local security forces who tended to get out of hand. The bulk of the local population (>50%) identified with the British forces and considered themselves British. How many Iraqis consider themselves American?
– Across the border, the Republic of Ireland considered the insurgents as great a threat to itself as to Northern Ireland. Despite some delays and foot-dragging, the southern security forces acted strongly to prevent the flow of arms and money going North. The Irish government conducted regular meetings with its British counterpart and there was security co-operation at all levels, though there were occasional rifts. Functionally, both countries were allies against the IRA. Neither Syria not Iran will give anything near this level of co-operation aginst the Iraqi insurgency.
I think this is just another example of Bushite “blue-skies” thinking on Iraq. What’s hoped will happen must happen because God is on our side.
I suppose one lesson that can be learned from the last few decades of Northern Irish history is the danger that a poor economy can grow accustomed to an “acceptable level of violence”. In Northern Ireland, a fairly modest economy in European terms, a sizeable amount of the population became employed in the security force and these jobs became their livelihood. The end of the violence was very difficult for many people as they lost their jobs since security was not needed at its previous levels. If Iraqi society goes down this path it will not only become more polarized between the parts of the population that are trusted and employed in the security forces (Shias and Kurds) and those that aren’t (Sunnis) but will also become increasingly intransigent to change to a more ‘normal’ non violent society as it will lose its economic underpinnings – coming from the US taxpayer and its own oil resources no doubt.
A better comparison would be Bosnia and Kosovo, where we were told that the troops would be home for Christmas. Some are still there. The only way to keep those idiots and the ones in Iraq from killing each other is outside force.
Slight difference between the situations in Bosnia and Kosovo, and that in Iraq. In the former, the outside force is what stopped the “idiots” from killing each other; in Iraq, the outside force is what started them killing each other (and both of them killing the outside force). It’s a pretty much textbook example of how to intervene contrasted with how not to.
Kent: “A better comparison would be Bosnia and Kosovo, where we were told that the troops would be home for Christmas. Some are still there.”
A ‘better comparison’ would be with places where troops are *not* getting killed on a daily basis? Where a car bomb in a market would be an incredibly *unusual* event?
A curse upon you Oliver Cromwell You who raped our Motherland I hope you’re rotting down in hell For the horrors that you sent To our misfortunate forefathers Whom you robbed of their birthright “To hell or Connaught” may you burn in hell tonight