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Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Sherman in Falluja

Bakho, in comments, praises Sherman's Special Field Order #143 (regarding the administration of occupied Savannah, Georgia during the U.S. Civil War) as a model we ought to follow in occupying Iraq. His point, I think, is that Sherman relied mainly on local institutions:
The Mayor and City Council of Savannah will continue to exercise their functions, and will, in concert with the commanding officer of the post and the chief-quartermaster, see that the fire-companies are kept in organization, the streets cleaned and lighted, and keep up a good understanding between the citizens and soldiers.
In Iraq, on the other hand, we've relied mainly on an imported bunch of unskilled ideological hacks holed up in the Green Zone. This seems like a point that's hard to dispute. So I'm just going to ramble on for a while, and hopefully come to some point. But no promises.

In general, there's probably a lot to be gained from studying Sherman's campaigns. Among other things, he was trying to suppress guerilla resistance from people who he also wanted to get along with after the war.

On the other hand, it's easy to imagine Sherman ordering Falluja evacuated and then burned. There definitely are some people who think this is the policy we ought to be pursuing in Iraq and probably other countries too. For example, the anonymous intelligent agent who recently wrote Imperial Hubris. (In fairness to Bakho, I'm not claiming he advocates this).

Overall, I'm fairly sympathetic to Sherman. After all, his total war policies worked: the North won the war, freed the slaves, and eventually reconciled with white Southerners too. And destroying civilian's property, which is mainly what Sherman is vilified for by his critics, isn't the same as killing people. So I think Sherman was pretty justified, as were the Allies in WW II, who engaged in Sherman-like practices, and a whole lot more too.

On another hand, I don't see total war policies as justified in Iraq. It's not like our goal ought to be to subjugate Iraq and turn it into the 51st state, as Sherman wanted to drag the South back into the Union.

Anyway, to get back to the original point: would Sherman's hands-off policies towards administration have worked if they weren't backed by the threat of harsh retaliation, a whole lot harsher than anything the U.S. has done in Iraq? Maybe hands-off policies would work in Iraq if they were accompanied by getting the hell out.


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