'Startling Parallels' Between George Bush....and King George III?
Sunday's Book World section in The Washington Post was devoted, as its cover suggested, to "Iraq: Six books on the lives lost, the money spent and the opportunities squandered." The cover photo implied two American soldiers pointing guns at a terrified and bloodied Iraqi man. Every book reviewed was a liberal book on Iraq or the broader Middle East, and every one was pronounced as wise. But the worst page was Page Six, devoted to "startling parallels" between the American revolution and the Iraqi insurgency, between King George III and George W. Bush...and between our Founding Fathers and Iraqi terrorists?
The Post's senior military correspondent Thomas Ricks reviewed a "brilliant, classic history of the American Revolution" (Piers Mackesy's The War in America, 1775-1783) as a means of attacking Bush's strategic cluelessness: "Five years into their war to retain control of America, the British thought they were winning." But a year later, all was lost by the British. Is Ricks rooting for a "fiasco" to match forever the title of his anti-Iraq war book? The review's title was "Then and Now: The startling parallels between the Iraq War and the American Revolution." Between a painting of George III and George Bush was a text box: "These two wartime leaders might end up having more in common than just their first name."
Ricks and the Post find the most "startling" parallel in how the Bushies and the British arrogantly underestimated the enemy:
At the outset, the British allowed unjustifiable optimism to undercut their planning. There were only a few serious rebels, it was thought, leading a motley army disproportionately filled out by Irishmen and other recent immigrants. Nor did British leaders understand the intensity and vitality of the rebel cause. "I may safely assert that the insurgents are very few, in comparison with the whole of the people," Gen. Sir William Howe wrote in 1775, about the time he became the British commander-in-chief of the war. His brother, the naval commander in the area, wrote feelingly of achieving "reconciliation" with the Americans, presumably after a swift victory.
In another phrase that rings familiar to anyone who tracked U.S. strategy in Iraq from 2003 to early 2007, a senior British officer, Gen. James Robertson, explained that his mission in the "war for America" was to help local security forces put down the rebellion. "I never had an idea of subduing the Americans," he said later. "I meant to assist the good Americans to subdue the bad."
The Ricks article isn't the only exposition of the terrible two-Georges-in-a-pod thesis. Next to that is a smaller article by Book World Contributing Editor Dennis Drabelle reviewing British general Sir Michael Rose, whose book Washington's War: From Independence to Iraq makes the more aggressive, long-form argument. Drabelle began that the thesis "sounds like a comparison drawn (literally) by an editorial cartoonist," but then he just unfurled it for all the liberal Post subscribers to enjoy:
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."
Since bad historical analogies were flowing like a river, former Clinton administration official Daniel Benjamin ended another review by comparing the Bush administration to the terrorists of the French Revolution (an insult normally hurled by anti-war paleoconservatives):
The invasion of Iraq was America's Jacobin moment, when the nation's leadership was seized with the belief that it could do anything, even reshape human nature, because of the power we possess.
Finally, to wrap up the summary of the Post's foolish-American bashing, there's a review of a new book called Dreams and Shadows by WashPost foreign correspondent Robin Wright. Reviewer Geoffrey Wheatcroft recalled how she favorably quoted Hamas against the Americans:
[S]he comes up against the great paradox of American policy: Democracy was meant to be the solution, but it turns out to be a problem. As some of us shyly suggested might prove to be the case, free elections have had outcomes highly unpalatable to Washington. Wright quotes the Hamas leader Osama Hamdan's sarcastic observation that the United States has been like the prince in search of a Cinderella who will fit the shoe, but "if the people who are elected don't fit into the American shoe, then the Americans will reject them."
Hamas as Cinderella? That's another horrendous metaphorical mismatch.