12 April 2006
Italy may leave the war.
It looks as if Romani Prodi's centre-left coalition has been elected in Italy, which means that the Italians will probably withdraw their roughly 2,500 troops from Iraq.
Get ready for the hand shandyists for war to start telling Italian jokes, as they try to convince themselves that the withdrawal of yet another bunch of occupation forces does not amount to much.
On one level they are correct. 2,500 soldiers out of a combined imperial force of almost 150,000 really does not amount to very much at all. However, to baldly state that and expect that statement to amount to very much is foolish indeed. Guerrilla war is 90% political, and it is on that level that we need to consider the putative Italian evacuation of Iraq.
When the Americans invaded that country three years ago they were gloating that a coalition of the willing went along with them. Politically it allowed the USA to say that it was not an American operation, rather it was a group effort by over 30 countries to liberate Iraq. This was nonsense, but that is not the point: the point is that it was credible to the people who cheered on the invasion. It was a fig-leaf in other words, and like all figleafs it didn't have to cover everything. As this cover gets slowly stripped away, the nakedness of the American aggression is left bare for all to see.
This should have two further effects. The first is on American moral. Not the moral of the hard-line hand shandyists, but of the population in general. Basically, guerrilla wars end when the occupiers can no longer tolerate the continuation of the conflict. That may be because they can no longer stand the economic costs of the war, or it may be because the political costs have become to high to carry. Italy's withdrawal may have the effect of encouraging people who are dubious about the war already to move over into the anti-war camp. In addition, those who are pro-war, may decide that a more dubious posture is called for.
As far as Iraq is concerned, another of her enemies has been forced to leave the war. This will encourage Iraqi nationalists to redouble their efforts to expell yet more imperialist forces. The war will probably intensify, if that is at all possible. Iraqis who are trying to sit out the war on the sidelines may very well decide to join or support the resistance, since they now look more and more like winners. It is far better to be amongst those who will line up for medals when Iraq is finally liberated than to be with those who will have to join another line for the firing squad.
All in all, April looks like a good month for Iraq, a good month for anti-imperialism, and yet another lousy month for the warmongers.