9/20/2005

The Ulsterfication of Iraq

Although the analogy between Iraq and Northern Ireland seems first to have been made by John Farmer, between November 2003 and March 2005 I wrote three articles for The Washington Dispatch which were entitled 'America's Northern Ireland', 'America's Northern Ireland Revisted' and 'America's Northern Ireland Redux'.
The thrust of the pieces was that the situation that the neos had created for the USA in Iraq was not like Vietnam, the most recent bad war in the American memory, nor like Malaya, as Rich Lowry would have us believe, but instead was almost directly analogous with the situation that has existed in Northern Ireland since 1969.
I also penned a lesser effort on the same point for 'The American Thinker', entitled 'The Iraqi IRA'. It's not very good and a bit neo, so do forgive me.
There are, of course, some obvious differences between the two environments- the absence in Ulster of suicide terror ideology; the grounding of the Ulster paramilitaries in Enlightenment as opposed to medievalist principles - but to my mind the analogy still broadly holds good, as exemplified by the outcome of the Iraqi elections.
The elections gave some prominent poseurs in the US Congress the opportunity to wave blue-dyed fingers in the air, an action completely free of personal risk, akin to Oxford undergraduates wearing the image of Che Guevara. However, the outcome sealed Iraq's fate by effectively dividing the population along sectarian lines. As I wrote at the time, Northern Ireland is a country with a long democratic but sectarian tradition, and given the difficulty involved in administering democratic Ulster since 1997, it was foolish ever to think that democracy could just be planted and then take root amongst a people without any democratic tradition at all, such as Iraq.
A fairly strong case could be made that the terrorist insurgencies of the IRA and INLA were a form of civil war - not out and out, but with the consistent support of a small but sufficient number of people to justify its continuation for 28 years.
It seems that I might not be alone in my analysis.
Sunday September 18 was a particularly busy day for Col. Tim Collins, with pieces in the Guardian and Sunday Telegraph. Collins is ideally placed to comment - as well as having led the 1st Battalion of the Royal Irish Regiment into Iraq, he's also a Belfast native.
The Guardian piece, entitled 'This is a mess of our own making', seems to be written more in sorrow than in anger. He makes the stunningly pertinent analysis that,
"One cannot help but wonder what (the invasion) was all about. If it was part of the war on terror then history might notice that the invasion has arguably acted as the best recruiting sergeant for al-Qaeda ever: a sort of large-scale equivalent of the Bloody Sunday shootings in Derry in 1972, which in its day filled the ranks of the IRA".
Collins' comments should be contrasted with the 2003 comments of John Derbyshire, that Allied forces should avoid 'The Londonderry Gambit'. , of being sucked into shooting in the presence of large gatherings.
It seems the whole damn thing was a gathering that should have been avoided.
In conclusion, Collins notes,
"It is time for our leaders to explain what is going on. It was as a battalion commander trying to explain to his men why they would embark on a war that I came to public notice. The irony is that I made certain assumptions that my goodwill and altruistic motivations went to the top. Clearly I was naive. This time it is the role of the leaders of nations to explain where we are going and why. I, for one, demand to know."
It's unfortunate that we likely never will.

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