Thursday, May 27, 2004
Apparently, Max Boot reads OTB.
I like Max Boot, but living in India I know the Indians take a very different view of the Raj than to see it as an exercise in benevolent nation building by the British. Only the most highly educated will even acknowledge that at least the British left behind some useful infrastructure and governmental systems.
We should be lucky that the Arab tribal culture in Iraq is not as pacific as Indian culture, in general, and still very fragmented and factionalized. An Iraqi Gandhi, with the smarts and charisma to unify very different communities toward a common goal with non-violent means, would clean our clocks in the international community.
How would we react to a peaceful protest march of 250,000 people who march to the gates of the Green Zone demanding to be let into sovereign Iraqi territory? Even if we got an intel tip off a day or so in advance? And if we didn’t, well that would be a genuine debacle.
Chris: What are you talking about? That has nothing to do with either of the linked pieces.
Max refers to the British in India as an example of successful nation-building. “The most successful examples of nation-building, such as the British in India, required hundreds of years.”
That is some massive historical revisionism and really undermines his argument. Is it peripheral to his broader point? I don’t think so. If you are going to use “nation-building” as one of your three key indicators, then you should not throw out a frankly ridiculous assertion that the British went to India to help build a nation, especially when he criticizes these same folks later on for the concentration camps in South Africa. That was an awful example, to say the least.
I am mostly astonished that Max would write that. I think he is a fine scholar, so that part really sticks out to me.
My other comments about an Iraqi Gandhi were connected to that comment in that if the Iraqis who want us out immediately were to change strategy and adopt something like this, I think we would be even harder pressed to respond to that type of resistance. Fortunately I don’t think they are culturally capable or have a man of such capability and charisma.
Ah. I missed that sentence. Boot doesn’t say that Britain went for the purpose of nation building, merely that it was a successful case of nation building. It’s something of a stretch, but India is the most successful democracy in that neck of the woods, so the Brits did something right. Of course, you’ve got the whole Pakistan and Kashmir mess, various internecine violence, and so forth.
An Iraqi Gandhi, with the smarts and charisma to unify very different communities toward a common goal with non-violent means, would clean our clocks in the international community.
Assuming our intention was to remain in Iraq indefinitely (which, essentially, was the British plan for India) it would be a problem. Since that isn’t our plan, I think a Gandhi figure would actually be helpful–potentially embarassing, perhaps, but at least there’d be no question we’d be handing the country over to competent civilian leadership with a commitment to democracy.
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