1 November 2003

Another fine mess, chaps

An independent think tank in Massachusetts suggests that as many as 15,000 Iraqis have died since the coalition invasion. Bush's repeated assurances that 'progress' is being made ring increasingly hollow.

The question now is, can the US stay the course it has set? I turn to an expert in these matters, the late General Vo Nguyen Giap, the victor of Indochina.

The enemy will pass slowly from the offensive to the defensive,' he said in a landmark speech to his troops. 'The blitzkrieg will transform itself into a war of long duration. Thus, the enemy will be caught in a dilemma: he has to drag out the war in order to win it but he does not possess, on the other hand, the psychological and political means to fight a long, drawn-out war.'

Giap was assessing the French in Vietnam in 1950, and he got it right again with the Nixon administration in 1970, predicting that American public opinion would eventually want out.

Studying this lesson of history, we should expect the Bushies to declare in about the middle of next year that sufficient 'progress' has been made for them to pack up and go home. They can then get on with the campaign to return George to the Oval Office. Middle East peace may take a little longer. What we might as well call the New McCarthyism spreads ever wider through politics and the media. Unable to drag Reds from beneath beds with any conviction these days, the New McCarthyites have developed other tactics of smear and denunciation, as the Queensland Liberal George Brandis demonstrated in the Senate on Tuesday with a disgusting savaging of the Greens' Bob Brown.

Note that I do not think the Vietnamese Stalinists are a good regime. That does not mean Giap's comment can be ignored as a reasonable summary, from an experienced strategist, of the way a guerilla war works. Denouncing the Viet Cong or the North Vietnamese did not win the war in Vietnam. is it really going to win the war in Iraq?

The total failure of colonialism in the last century should make us understand its weakness. The success of the Rumsfeld blitzkrieg has not led to the establishment of security in Iraq. What is different about the colonial adventure in Iraq that exempts it from such weaknesses?

The bugout option reportedly under consideration in the White House is not a solution, it is only passing from the offensive to the defensive stage of guerilla war.

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