21 April 2006
Michael Hirsh from Newsweek has beeen looking at the American created mess that is Iraq and has come up with an idea that he says should keep the country together. He calls the wheeze "compassionate colonialism," and seems to think that it's a new idea:
How does compassionate colonialism work? First, you create an Iraqi army that will never be able to stand on its own (the postwar Japan and Germany model)—an army as addicted to U.S. logistical support and know-how as any junkie on heroin. Washington just recently awarded humvees to the Iraqi Army as its "heavy armor." But forget about tanks. . . American helicopters and planes rule the skies here, and that's not going to change for many years. Then, you insist on a friendly government, while letting the Iraqis think it is they who are deciding to be friendly (though this "good will" is driven by the always hovering threat of a withdrawal of support). And finally, you give your companies an inside track on long-term oil contracts—again by noting that their presence in Iraq guarantees U.S. support—without actually expropriating the oil.One error in this argument is that the puppet forces do have heavy armour - about 77 tanks were shipped from Hungary late last year. For the rest, it sounds pretty similar to what the West has tried to do in any number of former colonies ever since decolonisation began after the Second World War. To take Iraq itself as an example, the British set up a puppet state which became nominally independent in 1932, but informal control was maintained by British administrators and two large Royal Airforce bases.
Will it work this time around? The omens do not look good. The British managed to suppress the Arab revolt in 1920 and had time to install their rulers before the bulk of the British army left the country. The Americans do not have this option. Their casualty figures have begun to climb again and whatever they do will have to happen while the war goes on in the background.
Put another way, since Iraq has never stopped fighting the aggressors, there is no evidence to suggest that this plan will allow the Americans to even diminish the number of troops that they have in the country. The local puppets are squabbling amongst themselves and whatever credibility they had with the Iraqi population seems to be vanishing. Unless troop numbers are reduced, the Iraqis will see that the occupation continues - thus their war to liberate their country will go on.
Iraq has become a vicious circle: the Americans want to reduce their forces and leave a puppet regime in power, but they cannot install one until the fighting dies down. That will not happen so long as their army remains in the country.
It is unlikely, therefore, that compassionate colonialism will be a goer as a way to end this war.