The Brookings Institute Assumes the White Man’s Burden

by RON JACOBS

 

The liberal warmongers are at it again. In Sunday’s (August 20, 2006) Washington Post, Ken Pollack and Daniel Byman of the Brookings Institution and Georgetown’s Center for Peace and Security Studies offer an analysis and prescription for an Iraq that they believe is already in a state of civil war. Ignoring the fundamental reason that this situation exists–the US occupation of the country–these two men tell the reader that the growing sectarian violence in Iraq will be even more dangerous should it spill over Iraq’s borders. Furthermore, they argue, the latter will eventually occur. This fact alone means that US responsibilities in the region will increase, not lessen.

Prior to this prognostication, the two men write that it would take close to a half-million soldiers to “quash an all-out civil war there.” There is no other alternative offered by these imperial apologists, and this statement is qualified by stating that this is more than the US has already committed. It’s not that Pollack and Byman actually call for US troops to be mobilized for these increasing “responsibilities.” It’s that they write as if there were no alternatives, since in their minds the so-called responsibilities are not ones that Washington chooses to undertake because it sees its empire as being essential to the peace of the world. Unsaid in this do-gooder approach is that the only peace Washington and its apologists (neocon to neoliberal and beyond) want is one that benefits Washington and its corporate masters. If that peace takes a world war, then by god, that’s what will have to happen, but only because its for the world’s good.

Meanwhile, from another corner of the imperial ring, on that same Sunday John McCain called for many more US troops in Iraq. During a conversation on “Meet the Press,” Mr. McCain said that the US must win in Iraq. Otherwise, he added, there would be chaos in the region. If I had been sitting in the interviewer’s chair in the NBC studio that morning, I would have had to ask Mr. McCain what word he might use to define the current situation in Iraq. Democracy? Peaceful transition? Order? From where I sit, the current situation in Iraq is the definition of chaos. The addition of more US troops would only create more, especially since Mr. McCain wants them to go after not only the Sunni and secular insurgency; he also wants them to go after the Shia militias. Now that’s a recipe for calm.

I recently finished reading John Talbott’s 1980 book on the French war in Algeria, The War Without a Name. Instructive for its similarities to Iraq– both in the methods of the insurgents and the reaction of the French–there is a description of the situation seemed particularly appropriate.

What these wishful thinkers ignored…were realities that lay beyond the quantitative measurements of success. They mistook pledges of allegiance made under duress for pledges freely given. The mistook peasants keenly aware of their own self-interest for credulous country bumpkins….They mistook promises made against the future as adequate compensation for injuries done in the past. They underestimated the difference between coercion at the hands of foreigners and coercion at the hands of neighbors and relatives; they underestimated how long it might take ever to come to an end of the rebellion. (p. 191)

It’s not my goal here to equate the insurrection in Algeria against the French with the insurgency in Iraq against the US. However, there are some important similarities. Like Iraq, the insurgents in Algeria fought sectarian battles amongst themselves while they were fighting the occupier. In addition, there were factions within the insurgency that were secular and some that were religious in nature. Indeed, the civil strife in Algeria during the 1990s and early 21st century between the government and Islamist forces had some of its roots in the conflicts between these factions during the war against the French. More importantly for the US, the methods used by the French in their attempts to defeat the insurgents included many of the same used by the US in Iraq: torture, puppet governments, vote manipulation and warfare that included the killing of civilians. In addition, most of the French establishment shared the imperial view that the Algerians couldn’t do without Paris’ guidance–benevolent or otherwise.

So, with Mr. McCain and the Bush people from the right and the Brookings Institution from the liberal side of the spectrum sharing the assumption that Washington’s “accidental” empire has a responsibility to help out its Arab and Persian cousins, maybe the upcoming months will see an increase in the US military presence in the Middle East. If Israel restarts its war on Lebanon, it would seem that the chances of this increase even more. Back in the days when the British thought they ran this part of the world, they called the people living there “wogs.” Today, the US soldiers, spies and mercenaries call them “hajis.” Both terms are means to make them appear less than human in their minds. However, as history has shown, just because an occupier underestimates the people whose land it is occupying doesn’t mean they will win their hearts, minds or land. No matter how many troops and agents they employ.

RON JACOBS is author of The Way the Wind Blew: a history of the Weather Underground, which is just republished by Verso. Jacobs’ essay on Big Bill Broonzy is featured in CounterPunch’s new collection on music, art and sex, Serpents in the Garden. He can be reached at: rjacobs3625@charter.net

 

 

 

Ron Jacobs is the author of Daydream Sunset: Sixties Counterculture in the Seventies published by CounterPunch Books. He lives in Vermont. He can be reached at: ronj1955@gmail.com.

Like What You’ve Read? Support CounterPunch
September 02, 2015
Paul Street
Strange Words From St. Bernard and the Sandernistas
Jose Martinez
Houston, We Have a Problem: False Equivalencies on Police Violence
Henry Giroux
Global Capitalism and the Culture of Mad Violence
Ajamu Baraka
Making Black Lives Matter in Riohacha, Colombia
William Edstrom
Wall Street and the Military are Draining Americans High and Dry
David Altheide
The Media Syndrome Between a Glock and a GoPro
Yves Engler
Canada vs. Africa
Ron Jacobs
The League of Empire
Andrew Smolski
Democracy and Privatization in Neoliberal Mexico
Stephen Lendman
Gaza: a Socioeconomic Dead Zone
Norman Pollack
Obama, Flim-Flam Artist: Alaska Offshore Drilling
Binoy Kampmark
Australian Border Force Gore
Ruth Fowler
Ask Not: Lost in the Crowd with Amanda Palmer
Kim Nicolini
Remembering Wes Craven’s The Hills Have Eyes
September 01, 2015
Mike Whitney
Return to Crisis: Things Keep Getting Worse
Michael Schwalbe
The Moral Hazards of Capitalism
Eric Mann
Inside the Civil Rights Movement: a Conversation With Julian Bond
Pam Martens
How Wall Street Parasites Have Devoured Their Hosts, Your Retirement Plan and the U.S. Economy
Jonathan Latham
Growing Doubt: a Scientist’s Experience of GMOs
Fran Shor
Occupy Wall Street and the Sanders Campaign: a Case of Historical Amnesia?
Joe Paff
The Big Trees: Cockburn, Marx and Shostakovich
Randy Blazak
University Administrators Allow Fraternities to Turn Colleges Into Rape Factories
Robert Hunziker
The IPCC Caught in a Pressure Cooker
George Wuerthner
Myths of the Anthropocene Boosters: Truthout’s Misguided Attack on Wilderness and National Park Ideals
Robert Koehler
Sending Your Children Off to Safe Spaces in College
Jesse Jackson
Season of the Insurgents: From Trump to Sanders
August 31, 2015
Michael Hudson
Whitewashing the IMF’s Destructive Role in Greece
Conn Hallinan
Europe’s New Barbarians
Lawrence Ware
George Bush (Still) Doesn’t Care About Black People
Joseph Natoli
Plutocracy, Gentrification and Racial Violence
Franklin Spinney
One Presidential Debate You Won’t Hear: Why It is Time to Adopt a Sensible Grand Strategy
Dave Lindorff
What’s Wrong with Police in America
Louis Proyect
Jacobin and “The War on Syria”
Lawrence Wittner
Militarism Run Amok: How Russians and Americans are Preparing Their Children for War
Binoy Kampmark
Tales of Darkness: Europe’s Refugee Woes
Ralph Nader
Lo, the Poor Enlightened Billionaire!
Peter Koenig
Greece: a New Beginning? A New Hope?
Dean Baker
America Needs an “Idiot-Proof” Retirement System
Vijay Prashad
Why the Iran Deal is Essential
Tom Clifford
The Marco Polo Bridge Incident: a History That Continues to Resonate
Peter Belmont
The Salaita Affair: a Scandal That Never Should Have Happened
Weekend Edition
August 28-30, 2015
Randy Blazak
Donald Trump is the New Face of White Supremacy
Jeffrey St. Clair
Long Time Coming, Long Time Gone
Mike Whitney
Looting Made Easy: the $2 Trillion Buyback Binge
Alan Nasser
The Myth of the Middle Class: Have Most Americans Always Been Poor?