George III and Bush II

Sunday, March 16, 2008

George W. Bush as King George III? It sounds like a comparison drawn (literally) by an editorial cartoonist. In fact, however, the point is made by Gen. Sir Michael Rose, a retired British Army officer, in his forthcoming Washington's War: From Independence to Iraq (Pegasus, $24.95; available in April). The two Georges are forever tied to two distant wars. "Both were wars of choice," writes Rose, referring to the Revolutionary War and the five-year-old war in Iraq, "and both wars sprang from competing ideologies. In the same way that George III thought civilized society was only possible under royal protection, today President Bush and [former] Prime Minister Blair believe that civilized society can only properly flourish where conditions of democracy and freedom exist. . . . It is inconceivable to them that there may exist people and societies who have entirely different values and ideals."

Rose believes that the British lost the Revolutionary War mainly because their government "attempted to plan and direct operations in detail at long distance without knowledge of the facts on the ground"; similarly, he writes, American commanders in Iraq have had to put up with "tactical-level interference from their political masters" back in Washington, D.C. Self-delusion as to popular sentiment also played a part in the two disasters. The British counted on the support of "three-quarters of a million white settlers and most of the large slave population" if a military offensive was launched in the South. "A similarly flawed assumption," Rose notes, "was, of course, made by the Bush administration about the support that the Americans would get from the Iraqis after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein."

Rose extends his analogy to the British decision to write off the war with the colonies as a failed venture. For Americans to do the same in Iraq, he notes, would leave the country susceptible to a coup by a Sunni-Kurd coalition: "Neither group wishes to see an Iran-backed Shia government in control, nor indeed does America, and together a Sunni/Kurd alliance would prove militarily stronger than the Shia militias. This may not be the ideal solution from a Western liberal democratic perspective, and it would undoubtedly represent a . . . betrayal of the Shia. But whatever happens in Iraq, the final outcome will at least be an Iraqi solution, not one imposed by foreign powers."

-- Dennis Drabelle

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