The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Tuesday, January 06, 2004

And why, exactly, might the Shias be letting the Brits off lightly?

Andrew Sullivan has a theory:
The Brits haven't lost a military life in months in Basra. In time, we may see the post-war violence in Iraq as a simple continuation of Sunni efforts to control the country. Entrenched elites take time to remove - and to become reconciled to their loss of privilege.

Wow - so that's all right, then...

He cites a Guardian piece (January 5), reporting on the situation in the British-held area of Southern Iraq:
The last British soldier killed in action in Iraq died in late August. "It's all about managing the Shia mood," the troops' commander, Brigadier David Rutherford-Jones, said before the prime minister's arrival. "Their expectations are very high. I sense that they are outpacing reality a little." He added: "These are big issues."

So it's all down to the British managing the Shia mood, is it?

Isn't wishful thinking a wonderful thing?

Let me suggest a further possibility [1]: the Shia, Arabs though they may be, are not stupid. They know they have 60% or more of the votes in any nationwide election; and want the infidel out the country as soon as possible, consistent with their being able to exercise their majority in shaping the future Iraq [2].

To suggest that they are unable to use self-restraint the better to secure political ends is surely - shock horror! - bordering on racist, surely?

The example of the British Empire stands - where hosts of tin-pot dictators in Africa (mostly) donned their sola topees and made deference to the Westminster Model of parliamentary democracy, so long as their colonial masters were present. As soon as they had returned to Blighty, out went the Westminster Model, and in came the one-party state.

Grand Ayatollah Sistani and the rest have certainly had enough time during Saddam's regime to bone up on these matters...

  1. The point I looked at in a piece on December 17, in connection with a piece in the Journal of Democracy.

    As previously discussed, I'm exercising a self-denying ordinance on drawing conclusions about the situation in Iraq. Calling the game at this distance is plain ridiculous. But raising hypotheses is a different thing entirely. And some suggestions are so ludicrous as to be capable of resolution on the equivalent of summary judgement (or demurrer, to use the old, splendidly Dickensian, term).

  2. Consider also reports that the present system of Kurdish autonomy will be permitted to remain in place following the handover to Iraqi rule (Guardian January 6). Observers wedded to the connect-the-dots approach to political analysis will suppose this to be unwelcome to the Shia majority. In fact, it seems to fit right in: the Shi'ites were never going to be able to make much impression on Kurdistan: far better to let the erring sisters go in peace (ask General Musharraf if he wished that the North-West Frontier Province of Pakistan had always been part of Afghanistan!) and concentrate limited political (not to mention financial) cap├Čtal on securing control of the rest of Iraq.

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