Thursday, March 16, 2006

Exit Strategy Parallels

There is an interesting article in the current issue of Foreign Affairs, in which Joel Rayburn draws parallels between the British experience in what is now Iraq, post WWI, and the situation in which the US currently finds itself. Rayburn, a Major in the US Army, argues that "costly and frustrating as the fostering of Iraqi democracy may be, the costs of leaving the job undone would likely be far higher, for both the occupiers and the Iraqis."

Although he doesn't address the issue of whether we ought to have enmeshed ourselves in the situation in the first place -- and therefore avoided the cost and frustration -- what interested me about the piece are the many similarities between the political climate and public opinion of both Britain in the 20s and the United States today. Here's what T.E. Lawrence had to say: "The people of England have been led in Mesopotamia into a trap from which it will be hard to escape with dignity and honour. They have been tricked into it by a steady withholding of information... Things have been far worse than we have been told, our administration more bloody and inefficient than the public knows. It is a disgrace to our imperial record, and may soon be too inflamed for any ordinary cure. We are today not far from a disaster... We say we are in Mesopotamia to develop it for the benefit of the world. ... How long will we permit millions of pounds, thousands of Imperial troops, and tens of thousands of Arabs to be sacrificed on behalf of colonial adminstration which can benefit nobody but its administration?"

We have to learn to pay better attention to the lessons history teaches us.

No comments: