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October 05, 2004


Numerous members of the liberal side of the blogosphere have been making this "Lebanization" argument for several weeks now. [Kevin Drum springs to mind.] Here's to hoping we're all wrong.

I missed Drum's comment, and I read him frequently. If I can track it down, I'll post an update.

"we need a model in which multiple religious factions fight each other and a weak central government, and foreign fighters of all stripes pour into the country."

Plus weak central gov't propped up by outside power? It sounds a bit like Lon Nol's Cambodia if you replace religion with ideology.

Comparing Iraq to Vietnam is simply stupid. The former was a proxy war by 2 great superpowers, who had nukes to destroy the planet. 1 superpower wanted to impose its diseased idealogy on the South, and the other fought to keep the South free. The good guys lost.

The latter is dwarfed by comparison. There is no USSR. There is no military to battle. The people in Iraq don't want the insurgents to further enslave them as Saddam did. But, they certainly don't want us calling the shots either.

This is messiness of the highest order, but it ain't anything remotely related to Cold War confrontations. The comparison to Northern Island is much better.

Northern Ireland, sorry.

Northern Ireland, my ass! What makes Northern Ireland go, is a local majority of unionist Protestants, who have long benefitted from oppressing the local Catholic minority, who, in turn, are part of the Island's Catholic majority.

In Iraq, there is no Iraqi majority, local or global, with actual power. And, the U.S. is supporting no one, of any real importance.

There is only the U.S. and its puppets.
The most likely scenario is one in which the U.S. is thrown out, by a general uprising or protest, joined by literally millions of Iraqis.

It's not clear from Von's quote, so I should say that I wrote that over a year ago and was looking back on it today. I think (alas) that it's held up pretty well. And of course there are all kinds of ways that Iraq is nothing like NI -- the narrow comparison was just the specific pattern of violence directed against the occupier. And car bombs and political assassinations it has been. But I agree that the Leb comparison is probably a stronger one, too.

Navy Davy, your account of Vietnam is hardly uncontroversial, especially on this blog. Many people these days believe that the regime which the US tried to prop up lacked popular support, and that the South Vietnamese welcomed the North in a spirit of repelling yet another outside invader, after France and Japan. There is certainly evidence that the US dropped more bombs on the South than the North. But I digress.

I don't think the NI parallel gets us anywhere constructive. In that case, a resistance movement (PIRA) was effectively persuaded to cease military operations by the promise of a governing structure which would (a) end the hitherto civil rights abuses by the Unionist majority and (b) manage fairly the eventual demographic shift towards a Republican (Catholic) majority in the province. A critical element here was the UK government conceding that if, at one point in the future, the population wished to leave the UK, they would accede. By contrast, there is no way that the US (with its current administration) would ever tolerate an Iraqi regime that might ask them to pack up their bases and leave.

I should also point out that the level of bombing/assassinations during the Troubles (post-1969) at no time came CLOSE to the level of killing we're seeing here. We're talking orders of magnitude.

I lived through the troubles, have family in Iraq, and know several ex-security Ulster hands working as ‘Contractors’ over there. There are some tactical similarities to fighting in one of hot zones of the troubles like South Armagh. But the big difference is South Armagh is tiny the danger zones in Iraq are large and numerous.

In N.Ireland we had essentially two ruthless but very sophisticated groups PIRA and the Brit security machine, fighting a conflict of very measured atrocity. Daily life was barely disrupted for most people, in 30 years less than 3,000 people died.

In Iraq we have the magnificent but firepower reliant US Army facing multiple mutually hostile groups, there is almost no inter-cultural empathy. Mass casualties are routine. An Omagh or a Bloody Sunday would barely make the front page. There are patches of fire approaching the density of the Korean War.

Lebanon is a much better comparison. Iraq is worse than Lebanon. It's never likely to approach the carnage of Vietnam.

Kieran -- I'll add the necessary context.

The other factor about Northern Ireland is that very few people in the rest of Britain cared whether NI was British, Irish or Hungarian. The place has always been viewed as a shithole which just sucks in money. This may well turn out to be the case with Iraq. You'd have to shift a lot of oil over many years to cover $200 billion spent and accumulating interest as of now.

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