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Wednesday, August 27, 2003
No retreat

According to the US Hebrew Gog (anag.),
[The] US President...has said there will be no retreat from Iraq or from the war against terror.
Note the 'or' here. Does this mean he's finally acknowledged that, before the invasion, Iraq had very little to do with external terrorism?
Mr Bush was speaking to US military veterans as the number of American deaths since the end of major combat operations on 1 May surpassed the number killed during the war.
However, the article lists grave disquiet on the part of some observers. It concludes with the news that Oxfam has withdrawn all staff.

Ignoring, for the moment, the point that the terror in Iraq comes as a direct consequence of the Gog's policies, it is necessary to keep a sense of proportion: there are some important facts that people, of either 'persuasion', neglect when discussing Iraq. Firstly, there is the comparison with post-WWII Germany (a comparison not made in the article cited). The occupying powers achieved the successful de-Nazification of Germany but the parallels with Iraq are not as clear as protagonists would have us believe.

Besides the volatile tribal and religious mix in Iraq (far more significant than internal German differences), there is the matter of the pervasiveness of Saddam's regime. Iraq had been a Ba'ath fiefdom for more than thirty years, whereas Hitler's 'Thousand Year Reich' lasted but ten or twelve years. Many (most?) Iraqis would have been born under Saddam's regime; they have known nothing different. On the other hand, most Germans would have had some knowledge of the benign but inefficient Weimar Republic.They could compare this with the chaos that Hitler brought upon his country but few Iraqis remember pre-Saddam Iraq (1979). This makes it silly to underestimate the difficulty of reforming the country. Comparisons with Germany are very misleading.

Secondly, security is a worrying problem. The daily loss of soldiers is daunting (So too are the deaths of so many Iraqis). However, one only has to look back to Vietnam to find that then the daily losses of soldiers often exceeded the current total of fatalities among coalition troops for the whole Iraq adventure. And Vietnam went on for years. Nevertheless, in the modern climate, the piecemeal attrition of the occupying forces is likely to lead to increasing pressure from the US public to bring the troops home. How then is the Gog to point out that the losses, in terms of Vietnam, are relatively insignificant? (How will that run in Peoria?) How too can he resist the growing, touching arguments from the military at home saying 'We may have joined the army but we don't want to be sent to a place (Iraq) where we could be killed'.

This puts a bind on safety/security in Iraq. One obvious way might be to send more troops. The UN is not likely to help without a bigger political stake. My inclination, second guessing Kofi Annan, would be to say, (but much more politely) 'The Gog made the mess; he should sort it out.'

There must be a moral here somewhere. 'Don't start wars (without the UN's approval),' sounds a good candidate. And there's an interesting analysis here, if you've got the inclination.

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