Sunday, August 12, 2007

More anniversary reflections--l969-2007

This month marks the 37th and final year of the British Army's "Operation Banner" in northern Ireland. The British army was dispatched to northern Ireland in August l969, after the "battle of the Bogside," to calm down fraught communities in Derry and Belfast locked in deadly sectarian warfare. There were voices advocating caution, e.g. it is easy to send an army into a situation...another matter to get it out, but Protestant politicians were at the end of their collective rope Because the army was unable to restore calm and order in the absence of any political agreement, it took 37 years and an average of 30,000 troops per year to...referee a sectarian spat/take the side of the Protestant community/babysit a civil war. 736 British soldiers were killed, adding to about 2500 Protestant and Catholic citizens. Recently, Catholic and Protestant leaders came to a power-sharing agreement, achieving the political accord that would guarantee the peace in northern Ireland. Thus the British army's mission there came to an end.

I wish President Bush and the architects of the Iraq war had taken some counsel from the northern Ireland experience. It's easy to send an army into a conflict area, absolute hell to get it out, especially when there is no prospect of a political agreement that makes real peace possible. Political agreements are hell to achieve, and when they do come, they tend to come over years, even decades, not weeks. Just ask Bill Clinton, Tony Blair or George Mitchell. Occupying armies, even when you call them liberating armies, incur the undying enmity of at least half of a population and end up losing a lot of their own people and killing local citizens. And maybe most important, the capabilities of armed force are extremely limited in troubled areas.

If GWB remains impervious to these truths, we can't do much about it, except to make sure we elect a successor who understands them and will conduct foreign policy accordingly.


Blogger TomCat said...

Bucky, you know well that those who do not learn from history are condemned to repeat it. Now how can Bush learn from history, when he's still trying to understand My Pet Goat?

2:36 PM  
Blogger buckarooskidoo said...

i'm afraid you're right...this is more an expression of my own frustration with the situation than any expectation that bush could or ever would look at past conflicts for perspective and/or wisdom. after all, as we were reminded yesterday on hardball, the president thinks god is speaking through him, and therefore the iraq war is a godly war. what can you do if the president thinks he is joan of arc, save get him out of there?

11:51 AM  

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