Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Hell Was Coming to Iraq Whether the U.S. Intervened or Not

A Hell of a Country
Ali Allawi's new memoir shows Iraq's collapse was inevitable.

By Christopher Hitchens
Monday, April 23, 2007

Ali Allawi's memoir The Occupation of Iraq: Winning the War, Losing the Peace certainly deserves the praise and attention it has been getting. [...] The book is written with a very strong combination of heart and mind by someone with an enviable command of English who both knows and cares a good deal about Iraq. He does not make too much of the fact, but having been both a minister of defense and a minister of finance since the fall of Saddam Hussein, as well as serving as a member of the National Assembly, he must have risked his own life more times in the past four years than many professional soldiers have to do in a lifetime. (We have a tendency to forget this, of the Iraqis who step forward as volunteers for the rescue of their shattered country.) [...]

We are sometimes told in weirdly neutral tones that [...] sectarian mayhem has been "unleashed" or even "fueled" by the arrival of the coalition. [...] But Allawi's work is impatient with rhetoric of this kind, or perhaps I should say incompatible with it. He states plainly that:

When the Coalition arrived in Baghdad on 9 April, 2003, it found a fractured and brutalized society, presided over by a fearful, heavily armed minority. The post-9/11 jihadi culture that was subsequently to plague Iraq was just beginning to take root. The institutions of the state were moribund; the state exhausted. The ideology that had held Ba'athist rule together had decayed beyond repair.

[I]f what Allawi says is true, then Iraq was headed straight for implosion and failure, both as a state and a society, well before 2003. Not only this, but its Sunni ruling elite was flirting increasingly with a Salafist ideology. In such circumstances [...] the United States had to face the alarming fact that a ruined Iraq was in its future whether it intervened or not. [...] Hell was coming to Iraq no matter what.

[In fact], hell was already making considerable strides in Iraq in the decade before 2003. Again, Allawi's cool analysis and careful evidence darkens this already black picture. All the crucial indices, from illiteracy to unemployment to the emigration of talent and skill, were rapidly heading south...


Blogger EVadvocate said...

You're wasting your breath Oro. People have already made up their minds on Iraq and the camps are firmly established. No one is looking to understand anything about Iraq, we either believe the U.S. was wrong to invade the peaceful nation of Iraq and that we are the cause of all the misery and civil strife in that country or we believe that President Bush is the Great Satan intent on colonizing Iraq for oil. So don't try any of your shifty "logic" on us.

April 24, 2007 6:26 AM  
Blogger Oroborous said...

So don't try any of your shifty "logic" on us.

I've actually had someone say that to me almost verbatim.

President Bush is the Great Satan intent on colonizing Iraq for oil.

I believe that to be substantially true, although that formulation is a bit simplistic, and I'd not put it in exactly those terms.

It's just that Iraq, and the Middle East in general, is so FUBAR that I think that it'll be a win/win situation if we do manage to be successful in our neo-colonialist adventure.

Failure is win/lose - America and the rest of the developed world, over the next few decades, could eventually manage quite well without M.E. oil, but if the M.E. doesn't manage to shape itself in our image right quick, they will be near-totally dependent on the developed world for food and other aid once their oil runs out by the middle of this century.

Or we might just obliterate 'em.
Depends on how successful Arab terrorists are over the next few decades.

April 25, 2007 9:27 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

The world would be a deal easier to manage if it were true that premoderns (of whatever stripe, but the only category we have to worry about is Muslims, although it is not beyond imagination that non-Muslim Africans could elevate their game enough to be dangerous to civilization) are interested in or capable of doing such modern things as operating a complex nation-state with an economy based on (at least) 19th c. technology.

That premoderns are no different from moderns is the unstated but fundamental opinion of, eg, Bush II. This misconception is costing us a lot.

It is sort of a shame that I don't post at Orrin's place, because the gloating would be insufferable. I don't suppose that, this month, anyone except Orrin would challenge my contention of several years ago that Turkey is not a democracy and never has been.

In an NYT piece over the weekend about the Gul candidacy, some secular Turk was quoted as saying (quoting from memory), 'No majority Muslim society can be a democracy unless the state is secular.'

I would add the corollary that no majority Muslim society can be secular, or not for long.

The examples of this are everywhere, especially Iran, Iraq and Lebanon.

Some 20 years ago, Broad and Wade, NYT science reporters, wrote a book whose title I've forgotten. It was about cheating in science and was a total failure (Broad and Wade are dopes) in that respect, but 2 of the 10 chapters related the history of an Iraqi con artist who duped the governments of Iraq and Jordan into subsidizing a lavish life (including a yellow Cadillac) as a medical researcher working in the US.

The man was so pathetic that the highest position he ever attained in any US lab was unpaid volunteer lab assistant, and even in that job he was fired the first afternoon.

Yet he hoodwinked the supposed elites of what were supposed to be among the most 'advanced' Muslim countries of the time.

The distance between the moderns and the premoderns is so vast that it is as if we are different spec ies. In this respect, Huntington, while correct, was much too cautious.

It would not matter except that a premodern can obtain and use hugely destructive machinery that he has no conception of.

The premoderns of today are not any more (or less) crazy and malevolent and backward than the premoderns of 1898 with their amulets against bullets. The difference is reach. The Mahdi's army had a reach measured in yards.

The Mahdi's successors have a global reach and an empire's punch, or aspire to it.

This is not a situation to be fooled around with by Pollyannas, but that's how we are approaching it.

I am not persuaded that all the indices in Iraq were declining. In fact, the number of genuinely educated Iraqis, compared to the zero of the mid-1980s, has impressed me since we went in.

But I agree that the number never approached the requirement to operate a modern state even if -- which was never the case -- the uneducated masses wanted a modern state operated.

May 01, 2007 9:30 PM  
Blogger Oroborous said...

A modern state doesn't have to be democratic, it just has to be able to use modern technology.

China is a modern non-democratic nation; Pakistan, Jordan, Egypt, Qatar, and the UAE are examples of modern muslim nations that aren't democracies, and Indonesia appears to be a muslim democracy of sorts - although whether any of them will be able to make the leap into the 21st century is an open question.

So while I agree about the pre-modern/modern split, I don't think that as many cultures fit into the former as you seem to believe.

May 06, 2007 1:15 AM  

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