all along, apparently, except when they forgot to do so. The thing about military experts’ predictions is not that they tell the future very well. But they tell you a great deal about the present. John Keegan’s pieces tell you exactly what is being thought at Staff College. So when he starts to explain that a guerilla war was what expertise predicted all along, this is almost certainly untrue on the face of it. It really must be the case that the neocons fooled themselves before setting out to fool the world. but we do learn from this retrospective prediction that none of the soldiers he knows are _now_ expecting the army to escape from Iraq:
The Iraqis have twice rebelled against British involvement in their domestic affairs, in 1920 and 1941. There was no reason to suppose that they would not do so again.
What is now needed is that “exit strategy”. It cannot be found either in the previous British experiments with “air control” or “divide and rule”. For one thing, there are no Assyrians left. The whole community emigrated to America 50 years ago.
A better solution is that of recreating an Iraqi national army, as the British did in the 1920s. There is plenty of raw material – the 200,000 unemployed soldiers at present not under orders and only erratically paid. Their discontent is fuelling the disorder.
It must be a matter of priority to enlist as many as possible, give them Western training and use them to replace the American and British soldiers patrolling the cities and countryside. That programme will take several years until it is completed. Casualties among the Western occupation forces will, meanwhile, continue.
Meanwhile, a little more light has been cast on the character of the man who led us into this mess. An account in Ha’aretz of Abu Mazen’s (presumably bugged) report to the Palestinian Authority of his meeting with Bush and Sharon contains an extraordinary vignette:
Abbas said that at Aqaba, Bush promised to speak
with Sharon about the siege on Arafat. He said nobody can speak to or pressure Sharon except the Americans.
According to Abbas, immediately thereafter Bush said: “God told me to strike at al Qaida and I struck them, and then he instructed me to strike at Saddam, which I did, and now I am determined to solve the problem in the Middle East. If you help me I will act, and if not, the elections will come and I will have to focus on them.”
He’s a busy man. He can only listen to God when he doesn’t have elections to win.