Hubris as Operational Strategy

by matttbastard

The idea of Western-style democracy in Iraq doesn’t appeal to anyone. It was our own myth. We thought that if we get rid of Saddam Hussein, people would come together and celebrate and democracy would reign throughout the Middle East. The people who thought that up are people who think Iraq is like Texas. Iraq is not Texas. To Iraqis, tribal affiliations, religion and family mean a lot more than saying, “I’m from Iraq.” You know we’re doing a bad job of communicating our own message when we’re losing the propaganda war to people who cut other people’s heads off on camera. Think about it: People in one of the most Westernized countries in the Middle East would rather trust al-Qaida than the United States. That’s a terrible sign of things to come.

[…]

If I was going to invade Iraq, the first thing I would do is commission the top history experts, top geographical experts, top cultural experts, and sit them down at a table and say, “This is what I’m thinking about doing. Is this feasible?” That was never done. Nobody in their right mind would have taken a look at Bush’s plan and said, “Oh, yeah, that’s going to work.” It’s not possible that it could work. Every historic precedent works directly against Bush’s plan. I know it’s easy to say, but the best solution is not to have invaded at all.

– Kevin Berger, The Iraq insurgency for beginners (interview with counterterrorism expert Evan Kohlmann) via The War in Context

Most of those behind the war…didn’t even concern themselves with Iraq, international law, the chances and risks of a war in the Middle Eastern context. The vast majority of arguments for the war were drawn from European experience of the last two or three generations. Thus, one wrote about the overriding issues such as pacifism and anti-Americanism, appeasement and anti-Semitism, rather than addressing the thing itself.

First and foremost was an attempt to draw broad historical analogies. The fall of Saddam, a desirable enough goal, was compared directly with the fight against Hitler, the democratisation of Iraq with the democratisation of West Germany and Japan after the Second World War and the chance for democratic change throughout the entire Middle East was compared with the end of the East bloc and the quick establishment of civilian democracies afterwards. But virtually nobody had anything to say about the actual domestic situation in Iraq today.

Things developed differently than the expectations of imminent success suggested. And therein lies an almost obscene arrogance that is occasion for a sharp criticism of the West. A country is subjected to absolute misery and with what justification? Memories of our own history. It’s understandable that Iraqi intellectuals fall into a cold rage over this today. But we can assume that these Iraqis have other more pressing concerns. Of course the main responsibility for the disaster is to be borne by the political-military actors who initiated an adventure based on falsified information, unrealistic goals and absurd arrogance. No wonder it went spectacularly wrong. Nonetheless, it must be admitted that rarely was such irresponsible behaviour accompanied by so much empty talk.

– Gustav Seibt, Arrogance, analogy and Iraq

Violence is not a way of getting where you want to go, only more quickly. Its existence changes your destination. If you use it, you had better be prepared to find yourself in the kind of place it takes you to.

And another was this: liberation is not just a matter of removing an oppressive government. It can seem that way when you live under tyranny. Nothing is more comprehensible than people living in apartheid South Africa, or under Saddam, thinking: if only that government were removed from power, things would be better. They would have to be. After all, how could they possibly be worse?

Unfortunately, there are almost always ways in which things could be worse.

– Hilzoy, Liberating Iraq

FIFA On Diversity: Feh!

by matttbastard 

Hey kid, fuck your religion – we have to follow teh rules!!!1:

Soccer’s global rulemakers have decided that no player can wear a head scarf on the field.

The International Football Association Board, which is the sport’s supreme rule-maker, was asked at its annual meeting today to rule on a decision to ban an 11-year-old Muslim girl from playing in a tournament in Laval, Que., last weekend because she was wearing a head scarf.

“If you play football there’s a set of laws and rules, and law 4 outlines the basic equipment,” said Brian Barwick, chief executive of the English Football Association, which is one of the board’s members. “It’s absolutely right to be sensitive to people’s thoughts and philosophies, but equally there has to be a set of laws that are adhered to, and we favour law 4 being adhered to.”

One would hope that FIFA would offer a better reason for disallowing the wearing of hijabs during competitive soccer games than ‘rules are rules’ or ‘you’ll put your eye out’. Instead, the ruling global soccer body has responded with hollow pedantry, joining Quebec Premier Jean Charest in embracing a headscarf-free soccer pitch without explaining why the hijab poses a threat to player safety.

Refreshingly, the coach and team mates of young Asmahan Mansour, the 11 year old player who was forced to leave during a February 25th tournament in Laval, Quebec after a referee determined her hijab violated Law 4, are not backing down:

“Obviously, it’s a disappointing decision. It’s very difficult for us as a team,” coach Louis Maneiro told CBC News.

“I, for one, am in agreement that there have to be rules to protect the children,” he said.

“If it had been a safety issue and the referee could clearly demonstrate that was the case then I wouldn’t have had any problem with that. I hope Quebec can see that.”

After Mansour was ejected from the game on Feb. 25, her team withdrew from the tournament saying they won’t come back until the rules are changed.

“I just hope that one day Quebec will change the rules and I’ll be able to play,” Mansour told CBC News.

“I’m just hoping that any girl with the hijab does not go through what I went through.”

Columnist and radio talk show host John Moore hits the salient point:

Like most dust-ups over integration, 11-year-old Azzy Mansour’s hijab is not the issue. Her “otherness” is. Visual signs of otherness have always been a threat to North Americans. With each successive wave of immigration to our shores there have been complaints about the failure of one group or another to abandon their customs, language and traditional clothing. From the Chinese who laboured on the railways through the Russians, Italians, Ukrainians, south Americans, Vietnamese and now Arabs and south Asians, there has been a malaise in the established community that we’re verging on the tipping point of fundamentally changing what it is to be a North American.