Saturday, June 11, 2005

History: Learn From It or Live it Again

I don't know where I found this link from, but I've often enjoyed reading The American Thinker which has an article Iraq's Jihad: Past as Prologue.

It's fascinating because it prints letters and diary notes from Gertrude Bell, a British Diplomat who lived and worked in Iraq during the 1920's in post WWI, in which she elaborates on issues of the day and talk about the tribes, the mosques, the Shia, the Sunni and Kurd relationships along with some families of prominence who are still in the mix of today's Iraq situation:

It is edifying to review that experience through the writings, and unfulfilled hopes of the British diplomat, Gertrude Bell. One wishes that a careful reading and thoughtful discussion of Bell’s detailed analyses were a required exercise for all our policymaking elites and chattering classes. Regardless, Bell’s narrative sounds eerily familiar as the cast of characters—from the 1920s, versus the present—seems quite literally frozen in time: Shi’ites led by the very same Sadr family; irredentist Sunnis educated in the Wahhabi tradition; Kurdish “separatists”; and the indigenous, pre-Islamic community of Assyrian Christians, soon to be preyed upon, primarily by their traditional Kurdish Muslim enemies, joined by the other Muslim communities.

Yep. The same thing, over 80 years later. The only time these long simmering fueds have been anywhere near silent was under one strong arm leadership or another. Even then there was infighting amongst the groups, you just didn't hear about it.

Post Faisal's crowning and attempts to westernize Iraq through the 1950's, the other mix into the group has been "urban" vs "tribal" and Iran being much more powerful and influential.

So, the question is whether we have read this and learned anything about it and what should we learn? That Iraq can only survive through strong men ready to kill and consolidate their power? Have the tribes never learned that they are the first to be persecuted in times of trouble? Not erudite bureaucrats that have the helm of power, but scape goats who they use to consolidate their power through position. And the tribes are willing to be used apparently.

Also, read this interview from Col. Hunt regarding readiness and issues of leadership while promoting his new book.

1 comment:

Cigarette Smoking Man from the X-Files said...

Iraq is a place where things both die out and yet survive at the same time. The very name "Iraq" comes from an arabized version of "Uruk", a city-state of ancient Sumer, the very first capital of the very first multi-city nation on earth.

The Sumerian city "Eridu" is where we get our current word, "Earth", and was the first city-state ever (and was considered "the capital of the world" at that time).

Akkadians, Hittites, Babylonians, Assyrians, Persians, Arabs, they all come and go, in some ways, but stay forever in others. So even if unity and Democracy get squeezed away in sectarian violence, in the near term, they will have left their mark and still influence Iraqi politics in subtle ways, milleniae from now.