Friday, November 14, 2003

British Colonialism
John Keegan, in the UK Telegraph:

None the less, I suggested, there is a fundamental difference between the British and the American approach. While the Americans, for reasons connected with their own past, seek to solve the Iraqi problem by encouraging the development of democracy, the British, with their long experience of colonial campaigning and their recent exposure to Irish terrorism, take a more pragmatic attitude.

They recognise that Iraq is still a tribal society and that the key to pacification lies in identifying tribal leaders and other big men, in recognising social divisions that can be exploited, and in using a mixture of stick and carrot to restore and maintain order.

Via Anne Cunningham, who comments:

I would say that the problem with the British approach is that even if it works in the short term, if there isn't fundamental change and democratization, then there will be a long term problem, and reversion to strong-man politics. After all, the British were in Iraq before, and did not make a lasting impression.

This brings to mind the British Mandate in Palestine/Eretz Yisrael between the years 1917 and 1948. I do believe that Israeli democracy, which developed, and actually began to function, during this period, came into being in spite of British rule, and independently of it, and not because of it. The British goal was to keep the natives quiet, while they utilized the land for their own ends, i.e. as a transportation route for Iraqi oil. Beyond that I don’t think they could have cared less. The other side of this was what was happening in Arab society in Palestine during the same period. Arab society remained feudal and tribal, and, for the most part, uneducated. Not only was it completely uninfluenced by any democratic notions; it was actually attracted to European Fascism and Nazism. The British disinterest in interfering with, or influencing, local politics, beyond the bare minimum necessary for keeping the peace, eventually blew up in their faces with the Great Arab Revolt of 1936 – 1939, the real first Intifada. From this we can learn that the British approach in Iraq may not necessarily serve as an insurance for keeping the peace (although Iraq has no Jews to stir things up ;-)).