Iraq, Manchuria, Askari Street--It's The History News Network!
June 11, 2004 9:47 PM   Subscribe

From Nanjing 1937 to Fallujah 2004; Is the U.S. Repeating the Mistakes of Japan in the 1930s?; Attempting Analogy: Japanese Manchuria and Occupied Iraq and Manchuria and Iraq, 1932 and 2004: you can kiss that Vietnam analogy good bye--when historians talk history, they range farther afield. I ♥ the History News Network! Here is food for thought at an all night, all you can eat smorgasbord--those who teach history are condemned to discuss it and we're all the better for it.

For example, Hala Fattah's Askari Street is my current favorite Iraqi weblog. She gives us the history of the Arab horse, the Pachachi family, the Shammar tribe and Kirkuk, and its place in Iraqi History and she has barely begun to write.
HNN: oh, it's an embarrassment of riches and a fount of endless fascination.
posted by y2karl (23 comments total)
bad analogy IMO. Japan wanted territory. Plus, the world economy would not have been thrown into chaos with a japanese "failure" to "occupy" parts of China.

It was already in chaos.

look folks, since the RR is in the ground now, I can afford to say it....we are in Iraq to stabilize the region, without that, your fuel bills would quadruple at least. Look at this most recent occurrence with 'qaddafi duck' trying to get CP Abdullah whacked, that is nuts and I will say it, that mad dog colonel is a walking dead man mark my words. Sure the Arabic world may "hate" the coalition and the United States right now but they have never liked outsiders interfering. But the world needs the oil and that is the facts.

june 30th folks, thats the plan.
posted by clavdivs at 10:15 PM on June 11, 2004

But the world needs the oil and that is the facts.

Sabotage Cuts Power to More Than 100 Key Electrical Lines

Sabotage attacks have cut the power flowing through more than 100 of the lines that form the backbone of Iraq's electrical grid since the American-led invasion last year, and nearly 1,200 of the huge towers supporting the lines have been toppled, according to an internal Iraqi government report obtained by The New York Times. While most of the damage occurred last year and has since been repaired, the report shows that in the first months of 2004, far more attacks occurred than were publicly reported by the Iraqi government or occupation forces. The report details 68 incidents, ranging from shelling towers to shooting apart lines, in the first three months of this year alone.

The report does not contain statistics since March. The information is generally compiled only at the end of each quarter, said an Iraqi government official who provided the report. But American and Iraqi officials knowledgeable about the electrical grid here said that the pace of the attacks had increased in recent months. "If they've knocked down 1,200 towers, it seems to me that they've knocked down every line at least once," said Hoff Stauffer, a senior consultant and an authority on electrical grids at Cambridge Energy Research Associates, a Massachusetts firm.

Attacks on oil infrastructure cost Iraq over $200 million

Iraq has lost more than $200 million over the past seven months due to 130 attacks on its oil pipelines, prime minister Iyad Allawi said yesterday, blaming foreign fighters for targeting the vital industry

Insurgents sabotage Iraqi infrastructure

Power pylons toppled. Fuel pipelines blown apart. Foreign engineers killed or pulled out. Insurgents are stepping up attacks on Iraq's fragile infrastructure even as the United States pumps in billions of dollars to rebuild it.

But with electricity in Baghdad flowing at less than half prewar levels and a scorching summer ahead, many Iraqis see the struggle to ensure adequate power as a metaphor for a U.S.-led reconstruction mission gone wrong. "We've seen nothing but empty promises," shopkeeper Raad Ghalib said, pausing to open a warm freezer reeking from 65 pounds of meat spoiled by a long outage.

In Baghdad, anger is boiling over as the city of 5 million inches into a summer where temperatures are expected to rise to 120 degrees. Yesterday, it was 106. To cope, most people rely on roaring generators to supply air conditioners and fans. At night they bring out lanterns and candles, and sleep on rooftops outdoors.

Restoring stable electricity supplies is widely considered a benchmark of progress for Iraq's American rulers since they toppled Saddam Hussein's regime in April 2003. But the U.S. struggle to turn the lights on - and keep them on - hasn't been easy. Every step forward seems followed by another step back.

Oil prices shot higher in trading amid reports of an attack on a key pipeline in northern Iraq.

New York's reference light sweet crude July contract climbed 41 cents to 39.07 dollars per barrel in pre-opening electronic deals. The contract remained a long way from a record high level of 42.45 dollars per barrel, however, seen in electronic trading on June 1 following a deadly attack in oil kingpin Saudi Arabia.

An Oil Enigma: Production Falls Even as Reserves Rise

"The data is starting to say that underlying all this, the supply-demand balance is tighter than we thought," Mr. Pfeifer said. "The maturing geological base is starting to rear its ugly head."

june 30th folks, thats the plan.

improvisation is not a plan
posted by y2karl at 10:38 PM on June 11, 2004

y2karl, one of your better Iraq posts..

I believe it is a valid theory and one could probably find lots of other examples with the British .. and other European powers who went through Colonialism and what is often called The Clash of Civilizations. That link leads to an article published in the early 90s that pretty much predicted how the world would change after the end of the Cold War. No longer a world dominated by a clash of Ideas (Capitalism vs Communism) it is now a world dominated by Clash of Culture. And the great cultures of the world are coming into increasing friction because of Globalization. We got an early taste of it during WWII as the process of globalization started but as the Civilizations of the world are catching up to the West they not only want to be equal, they want to more than equal.. and therein lies The Clash of Civilizations a new pattern of conflicts going forward in the future.
posted by stbalbach at 11:32 PM on June 11, 2004

"improvisation is not a plan"

The American government certainly did have a plan for post-war Iraq - albeit one built on unjustified optimism and impractically rigid attitudes towards de-Ba'athification, disbandment of the army, length of the political process and so on. But the fact remains, it did have a plan.

"No battle plan survives contact with the enemy" - Colin Powell

- Admittedly, he's discussing war, not reconstruction of a failed state, but the principle is universal: no undertaking as large and as complex as the occupation of Iraq ever goes according to plan. Criticism of the (woefully inadequate) pre-war planning is justified; criticism of specific improvisations is justified; but criticism of improvisation in principle? That seems a little ignorant. To my mind, improvisation demonstrates competent leadership far more than rigid adherence to old strategy. Indeed, once the ball starts rolling, refusing to improvise at all seems to be a sure-fire way to lose.
posted by pots at 12:52 AM on June 12, 2004

But the fact remains, it did have a plan.

Analysis: U.S. failed to plan for postwar Iraq
posted by y2karl at 1:20 AM on June 12, 2004

"In preparing for battle, I have always found that plans are useless but planning is indispensable" - Ike

I'd suggest they had a plan for how things would work out (singing, smiling, open sesame simplicity... etc) but failed to do any of the research needed to demonstrate it was the best option available i.e. no planning. I completely agree when you criticise them for that. My main point was your comment re: improvisation which I still think is a bit off the mark.
posted by pots at 2:41 AM on June 12, 2004

Hala Fattah's blog is a particularly welcome discovery!
posted by Zurishaddai at 6:21 AM on June 12, 2004

Fantastic post, y2karl (as usual -- keep the info coming, and damn the topedoes!). I haven't even gotten to the Fattah blog yet, I'm still mulling over the Iraq-Manchuria analogy (which I wish I'd thought of, and the fact that the Japanese were using it themselves in 1932 is amazing). But I do have to complain about the over-the-top rhetoric of the first link, exactly the kind of thing that enables right-wingers to say smugly "You see, the left just hates America." To talk about "Johnson and Nixon who escalated the killing to genocidal levels" is to insult the concept of genocide in order to score a cheap rhetorical point that won't impress anyone but the choir. But that's a minor cavil. Thanks for the links and for the HNN site, which I've already bookmarked.
posted by languagehat at 7:09 AM on June 12, 2004

Your point is well taken, pots. I was reacting to June 30th--that's the plan. June 30th is a date. As for the plan involved, well, someone pulled that date out of their ass--oh, wait, right, it had to do with an election. Hmmm. I guess there was a plan. It just didn't have that much to do with Iraq.
posted by y2karl at 7:27 AM on June 12, 2004


The million or more dead Vietnamese would probably disagree that their deaths at the hands of US military power constitute a "cheap rhetorical point." I would agree that "the genocide card" gets played all too frequently to support bad arguments, but the U.S. had a clear chance to stop the killing in 1968 and kept on for five more years, just as Prof Bix implies. And Bix's point is not that an intentional race extinction policy was executed at the direction of Johnson and Nixon, but rather that a numerically equivalent result was achieved.
posted by rdone at 8:22 AM on June 12, 2004

rdone: Are you deliberately misunderstanding me? I was devoting much of my time to antiwar activity in those days; I'm the last person to make light of dead Vietnamese. I'm talking about the use of the word "genocide," which does not mean 'killing a bunch of people.' I have a hard time believing you don't know that.
posted by languagehat at 10:27 AM on June 12, 2004

your fuel bills would quadruple at least

That's going to happen sooner or later, and the longer we wait, the more atmospheric carbon we're going to have to deal with when the inevitable switch comes. I really don't see how we are gaining anything by keeping oil prices artificially low. We all know we can't just keep burning oil forever, and letting the prices go up seems like a perfectly sensible way to encourage people to find other energy sources.
posted by Mars Saxman at 11:22 AM on June 12, 2004

We all know we can't just keep burning oil forever

Bingo, i'd say fossil fuel as the primary mean to propel cars, planes, ships, and to heat homes, has about 30 years of life left...IF that. Who knows what may come about technology wise. Then what is the middle east going to do when the black gold is needed no longer or just small amounts for lubricates, plastics and what have you. Karl has good points but i said THE REGION. We and the coalition are keeping everyone in the neighborhood in check. This is the major cause of so much resentment.

June 30th....the Iraqis get to run the show. Yes, we and the coalition will stick around to make sure someone does not invade and I imagine to patrol abit and other misc. details. But I said it last year, Iraq needs an army and their own secret police to help ferret out these guerrilla fighters so business can resume.

I don't know LH, being anti-war is fine, and I'm reluctant by the day but I hope the iraqis and the other oil producing countries in the middle east get the hint, they have a limited economic life left....clock is ticking and they should get on with the business at hand.

quadruple oil prices, in say a week or three, would through the world into a recession at best and the chinese and others will want their oil and we all know what happens when a major power does not have access to what it needs.

There is a plan karl. To hand over the as much sovernity as possible to aid them in reconstruction. It is ad-hoc, contingent on the ever changing conditions. The guerillas are the ones disrupting the reconstruction not the coalition. What do you except, an etch-a-sketch on mid east peace. allot of these things are private or secret, something people like you and I are not privy too.
posted by clavdivs at 12:53 PM on June 12, 2004

There is a plan...

Yes, pretty much pulled from the ass of General Karl Rove to best enhance the possible re-election--er, make that the election--chances of George W. Bush, slimmer though they grow day by day. A distant second in consideration to said chances are and have always been the wants and needs of the Iraqis themselves.
posted by y2karl at 3:15 PM on June 12, 2004

OK, now I have to thank you for Askari Street as well. I've been reading about the history of Iraq (I recommend A History of Iraq, by Charles Tripp), and this answers some of the questions I had. I'll be following wherever she goes.

I do think she's a little too sanguine about the Kurdish situation -- "it's overblown, we're all Iraqis together, intermarriage, &c &c." The Kurds have been fucked over six ways from Sunday by every single Iraqi government (as well as by their own venal, short-sighted tribal leaders, but that's another issue), and they're not about to sit back and let it happen again. But she is, after all, an Arab Iraqi. We all have our blind spots.
posted by languagehat at 3:48 PM on June 12, 2004

Daqmn I hate it when someone else comes up with an excellent analogy that then strikes you as obvious.
posted by Space Coyote at 4:22 PM on June 12, 2004

A distant second in consideration to said chances are and have always been the wants and needs of the Iraqis themselves.

then post a flurry of these things karl.
lets see....
jobs, security, some respect, CASH?

what else....they want to love there children too? they want to war with another, war on others, they want peace, new racetracks, better power, upgraded technology, booze, to worship in peace, cheap smokes?

you want to post what peace looks like? or you wanna just clacky-clack the negative. You have some solutions, you have a plan, do you understand about what i said, that the region is DYING economically in the long run....GW ain't gonna tell you that. Kerry sure as hell ain't. The region does not have to lose in the longer run, there are plans to transform the region but I will leave that up to you to find.

1# in the political game is getting a Palestinian homeland, which i believe must and will happen.

see, your outrage and indignation has a shelf life of three weeks at this point, as with most things, this could extend a month or three but why are you so seemingly unsure that The Iraqis may just actually pull off peace and become prosperous. The quicker THEY can do that, the quicker our people can get home.
posted by clavdivs at 5:27 PM on June 12, 2004

also, japan would not have had any problems if it wasn't for the US. There is no "US" to our "Japan" at this point, so we can go merrily about slaughtering people for the expansion of the oil producing nations co-prosperity sphere untill we get bored.
posted by delmoi at 5:35 PM on June 12, 2004

also, japan would not have had any problems if it wasn't for the US. There is no "US" to our "Japan" at this point, so we can go merrily about slaughtering people for the expansion of the oil producing nations co-prosperity sphere until we get bored

WTF is that, some sort of rant from the backside of histories bumpersticker outrage?

Japan would have no problems if not for the U.S.?
when? when we wanted to remain neutral even after the Mudken incident? When Germany started setting up shop with the Nanjing government? Stimson said after the Lytton commission, Americans did "not intend to recognize any situation, treaty or agreement" in manchuko. Also, the author of these articles seriously underestimates the role of Puyi and his desire to see a united China . The fact that he was living under Japanese protection since 1927 seems to escape him.
posted by clavdivs at 6:09 PM on June 12, 2004

pots, Powell was merely quoting Von Moltke. All due props to the man, but he was never a battlefield general.

I don't often like analogy-based editorializing, but this one strikes me as instructive. Whether or not one considers the levels of atrocity in the Japanese occupations of the Asian continent as equivalent to what the US is doing, even accounting for a kind of atrocity inflation as our tolerance has diminished (which is of course for the good), there are clear parallels between the Japanese situation then and the US situation now. The China of the period was fractured, weak, and subject to foreign interference in almost every economically significant location or sector, which similarly describes the Arab world of today. If one wants there is the race-memory of supra-nationalistic greatness in both cases, and a yearning for unity and strength which takes form in brutal terrorism, drawing brutal Western response, which came in the form of advancing Western interests rather than simply retaliating for the terrorism. [There's an excellent book on the Rebellion and retaliation, which came out in paper the summer of 2001.]

As long as we understand that history never truly repeats itself, it merely plays the same riffs with updated instruments, this can be illuminating. As the author notes, a comparable end result is what we don't want. But certainly there isn't a comparable external threat to the US; we're a hyperpower, not a great power. Japan had to contend with various spheres of influence; the US sphere of influence is the globe, for better or worse, and we can't even credibly claim the benefit of ignorance or uninvolvement, no matter where we go. Surely the garrison-state outcome is in the range of what I always expected (I think the line, last year, was, "We'll be lucky to get an Egypt.")

One dynamic that doesn't seem to come into these articles is the fact that for 250 years, Manchuria had occupied China. The "Last Emperor" was Manchu; Chinese independence had involved throwing off Manchurian hegemony. (Which is not to suggest the Chinese were happy to shrug off Manchuria by any means.) In any case, the author also omits the role of Russia in jockeying for Asian position. Without Russian competition in boom cities like Harbin, it's questionable whether Japan would have felt the same necessity of invasion. Possibly they could have followed more closely the European model in the port cities (it remains fascinating that today's China is similarly subdivided into "economic zones" with responsibility for exports), should they have been permitted (in 1900 they had fought their way to Beijing alongside the European powers and the US). So the Japan which took over Manchuria was far more desperate and cocky-insecure than the US. (The only occupiers in history which have had a similar geopolitical position have been Britain, before that Spain, and before that, arguably Rome). So at certain levels the analogy falls apart, as they always do.

The main question remains how do we get from here to not-there, and since we know that there isn't a world war in the offing we're left with speculating on how to fail without help (so to speak). I think the democratic political calculus in the US will cut Iraq loose much sooner than the Japanese could have ever conceived. We'd swallow some crow and move on, the next presidential election in mind. In that respect we are far more flexible than the honor-bound military-imperial structure in Japan. Heck, cutting and running is what we're arguably known for. (We tend to have other means at our disposal than overt occupation, when push comes to shove. All that soft power and all.) In the end the US will prefer a "soft occupation" to Abu Ghraib 24/7, the better to get the business that needs to be done off the TV screens. So I don't think we're stuck, in the same fashion, that the Japanese were, once they stepped in the Manchurian muck.
posted by dhartung at 12:14 AM on June 13, 2004

Gunmen Kill Another Iraqi Government Official in Baghdad

the author mentions Japanese not being able to respond to the military actions. He also fails to mention the
killings at home
posted by clavdivs at 8:58 AM on June 13, 2004

Rioting breaks out after car bombing kills at least 10 in Baghdad

In some of the worst rioting since Baghdad fell last year, hundreds of Iraqis threw stones at U.S. soldiers, burned an American flag, danced around the charred body of a foreign contractor and looted a handful of stores Monday in downtown Baghdad.

Well, there may be a plan but....
posted by y2karl at 7:12 PM on June 14, 2004

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