16 February, 2008

The Colonial Office in Iraq

Fabius Maximus has a sparked an interesting discussion of the intentions of various segments of the American establishment, as well as the general problem of try to use the Army and the Foreign Service to administer a de-facto colonial relationship in Iraq.


Fabius Maximus said...

Any thoughts on this article? Comments welcome!

Daniel McIntosh said...

From my comments there...

As a general rule, I’d argue that the time of colony-building is long past. Prior to 1945, there was enough of a monopoly in weapons and organization to play that game. Postwar decolonization was product of the weakness of the remaining imperial powers, the diffusion of weapons and organization, the rise of nationalist sentiments, and the willingness of a patron to support movements in order to provide a thorn in the side of its superpower rival. Even when there is no outside patron, it’s an expensive proposition to impose order. When there is outside assistance to the insurgency (and there's usually somebody who wants to see you fail), it’s damn near impossible.

Add to that the changes in the armies themselves: faster, more destructive, more professional, *smaller*. One can have a large force of second-raters, and watch them fall to a smaller, more proficient combat force, or you can have a small, technically advanced force, and fail to have enough boots on the ground to maintain control over a hostile population.

Maybe Barnett is right that there can be two forces–the (misnamed)Leviathan and the (actually larger)System Administrator–but so far nobody has been able to pull it off.