Tuesday, June 02, 2009

"Washington's War" by Michael Rose [3]


Rose claims that the research for this book was originally for a projected study of the British military failure to defeat the rebellion by the 13 North American colonies in the late 18th Century. He began visiting some of the battlefields where the war was fought just prior to the terrorist attacks of 9/11. However, he states that the focus of his research changed after the United States declared a "War on Terror." In the very first paragraph, he states the central claim of this book; this passage is worth quoting:

"Over the next five years I came to see you great the similarities are between the policies being pursued by America in the present Iraq war and those of Britain in the eighteenth century. Not only do the same political and military imperatives apply, but also George III's inability to recognize what drove the American colonists to rebel against the British Crown is exactly matched by George Bush's lack of understanding of the motivations of Islamic extremist terrorists."

Rose couches his polemic in plenty of seemingly-reasonable language, and takes great pains to appear balanced and nuanced. He may succeed in fooling some readers; however, that unfortunate use of the word "exactly" gives the game away. Rose wants to pretend that the similarities between the two situations are deep, profound, and transcend any superficial differences--which, of course, he quickly goes on to list in an effort to appear generous and even-handed. However, these rather perfunctory disclaimers (we will later learn that George Washington was not a bloodthirsty and thuggish as, I suppose, Muqtada al-Sadr--although it's very important to note that when discussing the Iraqis or "the Muslims" Rose is remarkably vague and generally avoids any specifics whatsoever) are overwhelmed by over-the-top claims finding glib parallels between the Declaration of Independence and the rhetoric "employed by the insurgents in Iraq today." As already noted, Rose does not bother to identify which insurgents or to quote any specific examples of these 'similar arguments.' The fact that Rose is essentially giving Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia the same moral legitimacy as the Founders is something he quite obviously does not wish to state explicitly.

The key point as far as this blog is concerned is this one:

"The failure of President Bush and Prime Minister Blair to understand the limitations of military force in combating terrorism undoubtedly stems from their misunderstanding and misrepresentation of the wars in the Balkans that took place between 1992 and 1999. My own experience as the commander of the United Nations Protection Force in Bosnia in 1994 demonstrated to me just how far politicians are prepared to go in their efforts to alter history. Even today, in their speeches, Bush and Blair continually repeat the the message that peace was returned to the Balkans by the use of military force, and that efforts at peacekeeping by the United Nations in the region had been ineffective. In this wholly inaccurate analysis, it was the bombing of the Serbs in September 1995 that brought peace at Dayton and it was the bombing of Yugoslavia that removed Milosevic from power in 1999."

Put aside that this is an oversimplification of the arguments Rose is challenging and focus instead on how brazen these claims of his are. Of course, for Rose to claim that the Bush/Blair interpretation of events is "altered history" requires Rose to offer his own version of events. He does so, and those familiar with his earlier works on Bosnia will not be surprised:

"The decision by the Serbs [not, it should be noted, by "the Bosnian Serb leadership"--a telling use of collectivist language common to Balkan revisionists] to sign up to the Dayton peace accord came about, not through NATO bombing, but because the military balance of forces on the ground had been changed by the halting of the fighting between the Muslims and the Croats the year before. The two previously warring factions had formed a federation and it was that federation's military success in the autumn of 1995, when they captured much of the territory that the Serbs had wished to trade for peace on their terms, which finally forced the Serbs to bring a halt to the fighting."

There is a great deal to consider there. For one thing, while discounting the very real military value of NATO bombing to the combined Bosnian Government/Croat offensive (and ignoring Kosova altogether, where NATO again acted as the de facto airforce to the party we supported), Rose inadvertently contradicts his own thesis--it WAS, after, military force that brought an end to the war in Bosnia. Of course, the real problem is that Rose is and was hostile to the Bosniaks as a people and to their leadership, putting him in the position of being an apologist for the Serb nationalist position even if he is not necessarily--unlike so many other Balkan revisionists--an outright ally. The implication that the Bosnian Serbs were ready to trade land for peace and that it was the stubbornness of the Bosnian/Croat alliance that insisted on the dragging the war out is clear. The fact that Rose cannot even grasp the hypocrisy of that statement lets the reader know that he still doesn't get it.

In other words, Rose has still not learned what he failed to grasp while on the ground in Bosnia. He arrived in 1994 with apparently no sense of context or understanding of recent events, so he was unable to properly gauge events and actions with any sense of judgment or perspective. I trust that any readers have already read the previously-linked review of his book on the war itself. Rose has not, after a decade and a half, seemingly learned a damn thing. His assertion that "Without the UN mission, Dayton would never have happened" might be tragically true, but not for the reasons he imagines. At least some of us in favor of humanitarian intervention would like to believe that without UN cover, the West might have been forced to deal more forcefully with the carnage in Bosnia and in shorter time. Having failed to grasp the actual nature of a war he was involved in while refusing to even understanding that its very presence was a factor in the war, Rose now seeks to apply the faulty "lessons" he gleaned to another conflict, on in which his opposition to Western intervention AND his hostility to Muslims uneasily coexist.


Anonymous said...

New Srebrenica Genocide indictment,


owen said...

I came across this quote from Rose's book elsewhere:

"In spite of their confident assertions, the use of military force in Kosovo also failed to achieve its declared political, humanitarian or military objectives. On 24 March 1999, Javier Solana, then Secretary General of NATO, stated that the objectives of NATO's war against Milosevic were to halt the ethnic cleansing and stop further human suffering in Kosovo. In spite of the most intensive eleven and a half weeks of bombing hitherto experienced in the history of war, 10,000 people were killed and one million people were driven from their homes. When judged on a humanitarian basis, it is clear that the mission failed entirely."

The general does not consider it worth noting that the campaign resulted in those one million people returning to their homes and and recovering their autonomy (and eventually gaining endependence) from the forces pursuing the policy of murder and ethnic cleansing.

Is this really the quality of analysis that gains leaders of the British Army their promotion?