Salon has a greatÂ piece up on Sir Alistair Horne, who wrote numerous books on world history but one in particular, A Savage War of Peace, about the Algerian War of Independence that apparently is a favorite among the bush administration, though for all the wrong reasons:
Sir Alistair Horne mayÂ be the only author in the world whose books have been read and praisedÂ by George W. Bush, ArielÂ Sharon andÂ Â Robert Fisk. Not to mention by much of the senior military staff of theÂ Â U.S. Army,Middle East scholars, State Department policy wonks, and realpolitik statesmen. The distinguished British historian, author of 18 books, became the talk of the U.S. chattering classes when it was revealed thatÂ President Bush was reading his classic account of the 1954-1962Algerian War, “A Savage War of Peace.” Indeed, Bush was so impressed withÂ “A Savage War of Peace” that he invited HorneÂ to come to the White HouseÂ for tea and a talk last Thursday.
[…] That “A Savage WarÂ of Peace” is on the Bush administration’s must-read list is one of theÂ more remarkable intellectual ironies in recent years. Horne’sÂ book recountsÂ the inevitable defeat of a colonialist power at the hands of as mallÂ but determined group of insurgents, the National Liberation Front, who effectively used terrorism to win their nation’s freedom –not exactly the sort of book you would expect Bush and his inner circle toÂ curl up with. As HorneÂ notes, the Algerian War “remains on the statuteÂ books as a prototype of the modern war of national liberation.” Nelson Mandela’sÂ African National Congress guerrillas and Palestinian leadersÂ both studied it, HorneÂ points out. So did al-Qaida. And now, so hasÂ George W. Bush.
What the Bush administration is hoping to learn from Horne’sÂ book,of course, is exactly the opposite of what MandelaÂ and ArafatÂ were lookingÂ for. The latter were searching for information that would lead toÂ victory over occupying powers; Bush officials are looking for clues thatÂ will allow them to prevail over a stubborn insurgency, or failing that, find a viable exit strategy. But there do not appear to be many usefulÂ lessons in Horne’sÂ book for Bush except “don’t.”
This touches on something that had occured to me a while ago, that Bush and the NeoconsÂ have deluded themselves into thinking that they are the perpetual underdogs. No matter that they wield world spanning power and the most advanced army in the history of mankind, they are the dark horse. The Dirty Dozen, fighting the whole Islamo-Nazi army with just a rusty bayonet and a hundred miles of concertina wire strung between their teeth. They redefine everything from this perspective, until the American puppet government in Iraq is a cadre of native-born freedom fighters, forged from the same mold as the Sons of Liberty while the “Insurgents” (implying that they surged in from somewhere outside Iraq) are the hegemonic occupying power, rather than the citizens of Iraq, fighting each other and the US for control of their homeland.
Given that “A SavageÂ War of Peace” is being read as a mirror of the current war, what doesÂ HorneÂ think are the parallels between Algeria and Iraq? “The first oneÂ is the difficulty of combating insurgents with a regular army,” he said. “Too heavy forces, too much collateral damage. The second is porousÂ frontiers. In Algeria, they had Morocco and Tunisia on either side, so the FLNÂ could stage raids and then go back across the border soÂ the French couldn’t get them. Now you’ve got a similar situation in Iraq, with Syria and Iran. The third is the tactic of targeting local police. In Algeria, the insurgents were just a handful compared to what you’veÂ got in Iraq. They realized that they couldn’t beat the French army, so they attacked the local police who were loyal to theÂ Â French.This was enormously successful. The French had to take the army back fromÂ search and destroy missions to protect the police. So both the policeÂ and the army were neutralized. The insurgents in Iraq have copiedÂ the Algerian experience to great effect.”
And Bush seems to be reading between the lines, looking for coded instructions on how to win a war that, before it even started, could only at best, ever result in stalemate. Horne goes on to assert that withdrawal from Iraq will embolden the terrorists. The terrorists, meanwhile, are saying they’d like us to stay so they can kill more of us, so I’m not sure where that little nugget comes form, other than as a side effect from Stiff Upper Lip syndrome.
The whole argument against leaving, lest the situation in Iraq descend into Chaos is absurd. We already passed that floor and have crashed that elevator into the sub basement of dreaded anarchy and civil war. at this point, mere chaos would be an improvement.