A revolt against colonial rule is not the same as a war. Vietnam was a war. Although the American presence grew gradually, it reached a peak of nearly half a million troops by the end of the 1960's; altogether 3.4 million service personnel served in the Southeast Asian theater. By comparison, there are just 134,000 American troops in Iraq today — almost as many men as the British had in Iraq in 1920. Then as now, the enemy consisted of undisciplined militias. There were no regular army forces helping them the way the North Vietnamese supported the Vietcong.
What lessons can Americans learn from the revolt of 1920? The first is that this crisis was almost inevitable. The anti-British revolt began in May, six months after a referendum — in practice, a round of consultation with tribal leaders — on the country's future and just after the announcement that Iraq would become a League of Nations "mandate" under British trusteeship rather than continue under colonial rule. In other words, neither consultation with Iraqis nor the promise of internationalization sufficed to avert an uprising — a fact that should give pause to those, like Senator John Kerry, who push for a handover to the United Nations.
Then as now, the insurrection had religious origins and leaders, but it soon transcended the country's ancient ethnic and sectarian divisions. The first anti-British demonstrations were in the mosques of Baghdad. But the violence quickly spread to the Shiite holy city of Karbala, where British rule was denounced by Ayatollah Muhammad Taqi al-Shirazi — perhaps the historical counterpart of today's Shiite firebrand, Moktada al-Sadr. The revolt stretched as far north as the Kurdish city of Kirkuk and as far south as Samawah, where British forces were trapped (and where Japanese troops, facing a hostage crisis, were holed up last week).
"The Last Iraqi Insurgency", By Niall Ferguson, April 18, 2004
This reminds me of another article I read before the war. Lots of people are talking about the British in 1920's Iraq these days, but few are noticing how well the Limeys have handled Basra. No Falluja's there.
All the Vietnam talk is frustrating. Other places, after all, are far worse. Although Grozny is thousands of kilometers from Kosovo, they are both front lines of the same war. I'm not much of a commentator, but I'll impose two remarks:
First, we Americans keep forgetting to check our history before we start bombing places. The rest of the world follows us, but they follow us not for silly idealistic reasons of peacemongering but to further their own history-driven agendas. Whether the US of A should intervene here and there is not a question that really interests me. But emperors should be aware that smaller nations manipulate them the same as children dupe parents or teachers. Many a war has been blown out of proportion when one dinky state got an empire to ally with it against another dinky state.
The situation I'm thinking of in particular is the Balkans, where we are essentially having the same ol' war all over again and will until either Muslims or Christians are wiped out. We keep forgetting that there's really a Crusade going down.
And that leads to my second comment. In two of the most shocking areas of Christian-Muslim conflict, it is the Orthodox Church that represents the Christian side. Other than Charles Martel and the siege of Vienna the West has largely been free of Islamic violence on its own territory. The East was steadily subdued; then eventually cast off some of the Muslim yoke. The Orthodox have been familiar to defensive wars against Islam for 1400 years. The West has had no such history of preparation, and has replaced religious reasons for conflict with economic ones.
If secular societies would just bow to reality and call the Cult of Tolerance a religion, then we could have a good solid religious conflict. As it is, the secularism in its European incarnation doesn't seem to be all that successful in that most ancient method of victory - outbreeding the competition:
A youthful Muslim society to the south and east of the Mediterranean is poised to colonize -- the term is not too strong -- a senescent Europe.
This prospect is all the more significant when considered alongside the decline of European Christianity. In the Netherlands, Britain, Germany, Sweden and Denmark today, fewer than 1 in 10 people now attend church once a month or more. Some 52 percent of Norwegians and 55 percent of Swedes say that God did not matter to them at all. While the social and sexual freedoms that matter to such societies are antithetical to Muslim fundamentalism, their religious tolerance leaves these societies weak in the face of fanaticism.
What the consequences of these changes will be is very difficult to say. A creeping Islamicization of a decadent Christendom is one conceivable result: while the old Europeans get even older and their religious faith weaker, the Muslim colonies within their cities get larger and more overt in their religious observance. A backlash against immigration by the economically Neanderthal right is another: aging electorates turn to demagogues who offer sealed borders without explaining who exactly is going to pay for the pensions and health care. Nor can we rule out the possibility of a happy fusion between rapidly secularized second-generation Muslims and their post-Christian neighbors. Indeed, we may conceivably end up with all three: Situation 1 in France, Situation 2 in Austria and Situation 3 in Britain.
"Eurabia?" by Niall Ferguson, April 4, 2004
Frankly, I find this funny. End of civilization by the Pill? 'Tis quite risible. Besides, Ferguson missed the other colonizers. How's that for a European future - Sino-Muslim conflict à la Malaysia or western China.
In closing I should note that I don't normally comment on politics; I'm not nearly educated enough. My iignorant interest in history coupled with my overwrought training in philosophical counterfactuals made these articles quite amusing. That's all.