Friday, May 29, 2009

"Washington's War" by General Michael Rose [1]

I don't know if I'm going to review all of Washington's War: The American War of Independence to the Iraqi Insurgency or not, since the central premise of this book--that there are strong parallels between Britain in the American Revolution and the USA in the current occupation of Iraq--has no direct relation to the subject of this blog.

However, the author of this book is none other than General Sir Michael Rose, commander of United Nations forces in Bosnia from January 1994 to January 1995. This is more than an interesting coincidence--General Rose argues that his experiences in Bosnia provide him the first-hand knowledge necessary to understand the dynamic at play here. In fact, this book is in some ways an attack on the ideals of humanitarian intervention; as we shall see, when the text does address the Bosnian war specifically, it is also a work of implicit Bosnian revisionism.

I will begin to consider Rose's own text in the next post; for now, let us begin with the Foreward, by Professor Sir Michael Howard:

Foreward

This short Foreward is not nearly as clever as Professor Howard would like to believe it is; fully half is taken up with a strained description of the British military experience in the rebellious American colonies, written in a style meant to evoke the current American (and British, it must be noted) experience in post-invasion Iraq. The clumsiness of this piece of writing reveals the flaws in Rose's analysis before Rose himself has taken the stage--one can only see parallels between the British military in American, and the US coalition forces in Iraq if one ignores virtually all context, and shies away from specificity as well. By the time Howard "reveals" that is the American War of Independence, not the current Iraq war, which he is describing, only the dullest of readers will be surprised. For example, one must be completely ignorant of the fact that while the eastern coast of the USA is 3000 miles from London, it is considerably further than that from Washington, DC, to Baghdad.

However, Howard's "aha!" moment does provide a revelation of sorts--his throwaway reference to "the war that the United States has been waging in Iraq, with the British as her unhappy allies" suggests a polemic underneath the guise of historical study.

After giving credence to Rose's analysis of political incompetence in Iraq, Howard does express reservations about his belief that the US should give up and pull out of Iraq; his concern that Rose's belief that "both parties" (it will be interested to see which "party" in Iraq they are referring to) could quickly come to terms and develop a healthy relationship like the US and Britain did, or the US and Vietnam ultimately have. At least Howard recognizes the differences between the Iraqi insurgency and the revolutionary leaderships in both colonial America and--it has to be said--the Vietnamese Government.

However, Howard closes with an approving quote from the Duke of Wellington, to the effect that the hardest thing for a military commander to do is to retreat. His suggestion that this would the noblest and wisest course of action in a fragile state like Iraq, where the "party" we presumably would need to deal with is an insurgency which hardly speaks for a unified national movement, indicates that Howard and Rose are placing the cart in front of the horse. General Rose has an agenda to push, and this book will be an exercise in fitting the facts to fit the theory.

2 comments:

Srebrenica Genocide Blog Editor said...

Dear Kirk,

The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum's has documented and published eyewitness testimonies about the Srebrenica genocide and other Serb war crimes in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Please watch all videos:

1. http://srebrenica-genocide.blogspot.com/2009/05/srebrenica-genocide-videos-ushmm.html

2. http://srebrenica-genocide.blogspot.com/2009/05/video-ron-haviv-eyewitness-testimony.html

Thank you Kirk! :)

owen said...

Kirk, most of your regular readers will already be familiar with Noel Malcolm's devastating review of Michael Rose's account "Fighting For Peace: Bosnia 1994". For those who are not it is at:
http://www.bosnia.org.uk/about/bi_books/long_reviews.cfm?book=148