Thursday, May 17, 2007

Broken Eggs

The Moor Next Door describes events in Iraq from a certain academic point of view, a point of view he rightfully believes is flawed in several ways.

Sarah Shields is an associate professor of Middle Eastern history at UNC Chapel Hill. In a piece titled "Staticide, Not Civil War in Iraq" on HNN, Shields writes that the troubles Iraq is experiencing today are not those of a civil war, but rather and "anti-occupation struggle." The Shia-Sunni struggle is the result of an "exacerbated ethnic conflict" that the United States has fomented "in order to refocus a growing anti-occupation insurgency". The conflict in Iraq is thus very similar to other colonial conflicts throughout history, with Shields referencing Algeria, South Africa, Northern Ireland, and Vietnam as examples.

Actually, there's a simpler way of restating Sarah Shield's point. It's all America's fault. Humpty Dumpty had a great deal to say about academic semantics in Alice in Wonderland.

When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, 'it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less.'
'The question is,' said Alice, 'whether you can make words mean so many different things.'
'The question is,' said Humpty Dumpty, 'which is to be master -- that's all.'

I accept Shield's words. It's the mastery which I reject.

10 Comments:

Blogger 49erDweet said...

w, isn't this all old news from last December? I don't understand why you and the moor are posting about it in May?

Cheers

5/17/2007 07:00:00 PM  
Blogger Daniel5735 said...

So the US "fomented" a civil war in Iraq? Evidence? Certainly someone in State or CIA would have leaked the "let's start a civil war" memo that the Neocons supposed wrote.
And what proof of the united Iraqi opposition to the occupation (other than the uncoordinated confluence of the Fallujeh and Sadr uprisings of Arpil, 2004)?
Even professors should have to cite facts occasionally.

5/17/2007 07:50:00 PM  
Blogger Buddy Larsen said...

Humpty Dumpty eventually had a great fall, and all the King's horses and all the King's men couldn't put Humpty together again.

5/17/2007 07:59:00 PM  
Blogger buck smith said...

There is in fact an "anti-occupation struggle" going on in Iraq. Al-Qaeda and Iranians are trying to occupy it. And the US and Iraqis are keeping them from doing so.

5/17/2007 08:26:00 PM  
Blogger Sardane said...

So true, Buck, but doesn't “anti-occupation struggle” also sound like what parents and their balky post-college kids go through? Time for the over-schooled profs (and sometimes the PR-challenged DoD) to stop calling our presence in Iraq an occupation, when it's actually just a temporary tough job of providing and teaching security and helping to rebuild institutions and infrastructure that someone's got to do, else Iraq slides into an even bloodier mess dangerous to us all.

5/17/2007 09:11:00 PM  
Blogger Kevin said...

It is a very well-reasoned post by the Moor Next Door. This is the type of intelligent discourse we need much more of.

5/17/2007 11:40:00 PM  
Blogger wretchard said...

Many of the Moor's arguments are similar to my own observations about the belated breakup of multiethnic parts of the Ottoman empire which were held together by strongmen until they fell apart. What happened to the former Yugoslavia and Iraq resembles events which attended the collapse the multiethnic empires of the 19th century: the Hapsburg, Russian, British and Ottoman -- and which produced the violent 20th century -- except they happened about 70 years after the main wave. Tito and Saddam presided over the last remaining bits of the Ottoman empire's multiethnic territories.

Iraq itself was carved from the carcass of the Ottoman Empire by the British and the French and ruled by a succession of colonial administrators and strongmen.

The terrible struggle of the Sunni and Shia resembles the fate of Greeks, Kurds and Armenians in the 1920s, someting now forgotten, except perhaps by the Greeks, Kurds and Armenians. The Kurds are probably most aware of the historical context.

This is all well and good from an academic point of view, but the settled 21st century world shudders at the prospect prospect of instability, as the Ottomans, Czars and the Raj once did. The dreams of nations are the nightmares of empires. I think many diplomatic realists really wish that America would act like an empire, having inherited the legacy of those gone by. Ironically the greatest testimony to the lack of America's imperial thinking are its actions to "bring democracy" to Iraq which has caused no end of mirth to the worldly-wise. What empire would unleash national ambitions of people long suppressed? Any empire worth its salt would have restored Saddam or a suitable substitute to power after his overthrow under an American protectorate. Up to the time they slipped a loose around his neck there were people, and not a few in America who still looked to Saddam as the one savior. But only of empire. To the Kurds and the Shi'ites he would be Death. That should not of course have mattered if America was to the manner born.

5/18/2007 02:16:00 AM  
Blogger John Lynch said...

America isn't democracy-in-one-country. We're revolutionaries. Sometimes the revolution isn't in our best interest, but we can't help it. We're prisoners of our own ideology. Hence, democracy and human rights can't be ignored even in a military occupation of a hostile country.

5/18/2007 02:57:00 AM  
Blogger Nouri said...

I wrote this post a few months back, not in May.

5/18/2007 03:54:00 AM  
Blogger allen said...

nouri,

Your bio gives your age as 18. Astounding!

Whatever it is you are doing, don't stop.

Well done!

5/18/2007 07:51:00 AM  

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