Another Perspective: Iraq and Counterinsurgency
By William Tucker
Published 4/4/2007 12:08:50 AM
Americans don’t have much of a colonial experience. Otherwise we would recognize the war in Iraq for what it is — a colonial occupation.
Whatever dreams we may have had of winning a War on Terror in Baghdad or turning Iraq into a beacon of democracy in the Middle East are now long gone. What we have in Iraq is a series of American fortifications where soldiers live a life that reasonably mirrors conditions back home and then once a day or week put on “full battle rattle” and risk their lives by venturing into what is essentially hostile territory.
Granted we have a lot of people on our side and a sizable portion of the population wants us to stay. “Allah Bless the USA” was one piece of graffiti I saw — although it did occur to me later that it was written in English.
But no American soldier goes anywhere in Iraq without full body armor and a humvee. Helicopter flights are made at night and under conditions of extreme secrecy. Anyone with a rifle is a potential insurgent and there are thousands of them. There is no margin of safety.
Ask military leaders how long this is going to go on and they will give you the same response. “We’ve done a lot of studies of insurgencies. There’s never been one that was put down in less than ten years. The 1920s insurgency in the Philippines, the British experience in Sudan in the 19th century — all of them weren’t quelled in less than a decade. Iraq is going to take the same amount of time. We just hope the people back home have the patience to see it through.”
The problem with this analysis is that all the examples are from colonial experiences, both Europe’s and ours. The British are often held up as the gold standard — as in Max Boot’s neoconservative manifesto, The Savage Wars of Peace. Since the Philippines is our own experience and in many ways the best analogy to Iraq, let’s take a long look at what happened.
Read the rest here.