May 15, 2003
THE LESSONS OF COLONIES

While listening to NPR this morning -- which I only listened to because WBAI's "Democracy Now" had Arundhati Roy's elegant but platitudinous speech from Riverside Church on Tuesday night -- I caught this fascinating report from Iraq by, of course, the British.

The question at hand was: why is it that in Um Khazar, the port under British control, there has been little looting, social riot, and no killing of troops. In fact, they just quite easily elected their new mayor without much fuss. Why? The interviewer proposed that Um Khazar, as a port, had more of an internationalist culture and community. It's also relatively small, compared to Baghdad, with only 45,000 people.

But then this academic got on and made a great point: The Americans really value "protection control" -- meaning, American troops protect themselves first and then protect the population. The British, and this comes from their historic traditional as a colonizer, are much more comfortable not militarizing their interactions with the locals/natives/etc. "Protection control" is not the point, so you can do much more with fewer troops and more (and different) kinds of interaction. The academic's final point was a powerful one: there has been one combat British soldier death in Iraq. It happened when a British driver got out of his car to help a group of Iraqis who needed water, and one of them shot him point-blank.

(Excuse the length on this post)

Posted by phrisky at May 15, 2003 12:37 PM
Comments

I have found Niall Ferguson's articles in the NYTimes Magazine and other places illuminating. He makes the argument that our problem is that of patience, and I think this is a more accurate representation of the problem than "protection control," though this might have something to do with our inability to nation-build effectively in the short term.

Americans don't find the prospect of tending and cultivating "civilization" in Iraq or any other place the least bit interesting or valuable in any way other than economic gain, though the British were guilty of this as well. We can't pay someone enough to go over there and govern. And so, we're left with Garners and Bremers. We make Orientalism look good.

Posted by: tmonkey on May 15, 2003 04:53 PM

I'm confused...it's an eloquent point, but how can that be true about only one British combat soldier being killed? A few hundred of them died--or did he mean since the end of the 'war' proper that only one had died?

Posted by: Kio on May 16, 2003 12:18 PM

Let's check the world wide wire then, shall we?

I had assumed phrisky was talking about British casualties in Um Kazar.

Posted by: tmonkey on May 16, 2003 12:54 PM

he meant in Um Kkazar. tho i didn't check numbers.

maybe he was just INSANE.
a

Posted by: phrisky on May 19, 2003 07:12 PM

Sorry guys, my mistake, I think. I guess I misread the original post to say only one Brit killed in all of Iraq, not in Um Khazzar. And either way, totally interesting contrast about our behavior and theirs.

Posted by: Kio on May 20, 2003 10:00 AM

you didn't misread it. i wrote it that way. i wasn't thinking. i was all wrapped up in those bold tags.

Posted by: phrisky on May 21, 2003 10:20 AM
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