Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Dear John...

Gregory Djerejian dissects some really quite rancid advice from John Kerry re: Iraq.

The notion that we should be setting a timetable for withdrawal seems to be coming up with increasing frequency and might be developing into something of a "narrative" for the Democratic opposition (with exceptions such as Joe Biden) in the USA. I really hope they don't go down that route because I've yet to be convinced that it's other than a rotten idea.

This isn't the first time such an idea has been put forward, whether in a provocative and worthwhile (the only problem with it bieng that it's wrong) way by Michael O'Hanlon or in a markedly less helpful and markedly less coherent way by the Liberal Democrats, Robin Cook and some Tories prior to the last British election.

Pat historical analogies are often dangerous, but it is very difficult not to consider the example of Aden 1967, where a previously moderately successful (though hardly exemplary) COIN effort hit the rocks the instant the British government made its announcement of withdrawal from committments East of Suez come what may and regardless of conditions on the ground. Overnight, the insurgents were sent the message that they only needed to hold on as a force in being for a few months and they would effectively win by default. Additionally, natives working for the COIN effort got a stark message regarding which way the wind was blowing. It no longer made any sense to risk their wellbeing helping the authorities. Intelligence sources dried up almost instantaneously and the network supporting intel-led COIN operations crumbled. On top of that, in a manner similar to Vietnam, suddenly nobody wanted to be the last person to die fighting a campaign that the government back home had already openly given up on carrying to any conclusion. Once you start openly setting rigid timetables for withdrawal, Coalition forces might just as well get onto the first planes back home the next morning for all the good they'll do from that point.

"Eeeeeh, eez a publique 'oliday! Ponh!"

On a not directly related note, Gregory also flags up the French contribution to the reconstruction of Iraq, which can only be described as shockingly miserly, even allowing for the bad blood that exists between France and the US (which isn't stopping them working together in Africa and other places of coinciding interest). It's a real slap in the face to the new Iraqi government - the equivalent of a multi-millionaire encountering a destitute man seeking money for a life-saving operation and pronouncing to sundry passers-by, "Ah but of course I'll contribute! Let nobody say that I don't do my bit for the needy and less well off!" only in order to press fifty pence into his palm before admonishing him not to spend it all at once and stalking away.

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