January 13, 2004

Ownership, Insurgency, and Indirect Experience

Below is an excerpt you can from the Strategic Issues Research Institute you can find here, or, if you prefer cutting and pasting your links, here... http://www.siri-us.com/backissues/2003/SIT_03-08-07-Iraq-Transformation.rtf It's a list of books recounting the British colonial experience in Mesopotamia. It's interesting he mentions De Soto. When Addison Wiggin and I went to De Soto's lecture on "The Mystery of Capital" this fall, I was struck by how simple the conept is, but how complicated the execution is. In a nutshell, freedom and property are related. Where title to property is transparent and recognized, people flourish. Where it isn't, the "capital" that comes when you apply ownership to the land is wasted, or at least lays fallow. "Titling" existing landholders is one way to move forward...not a bad idea in a country where the State could confiscate or distribute property according to the whims of the dictator. Then again...if there's no tradition of private property, finding out who really DOES own it could be mess. I'm posting this excerpt as a follow up to the New York Times Magazine article, "Major Nagl's War," that I mentioned last night (registration required at NYTIMES.) The Times article is outstanding. Ironic, I know, given that I made the claim earlier this week about big media not having any substantial advantage over anyone when it comes to information. Newsgathering itself--which the Times story is a great example of--is the collection of raw information that might not otherwise get out. And when it's the kind of newsgathering that sums up the actual experience of a person, it's even more invaluable. It comes from direct experience, but comes to use indirectly...through a written account (rather than actually having to learn it ourselves firsthand). The great military historian Liddell Hart said that, "Direct experience is too inherently limited to form an adequate foundation for either theory or for application. At the best it produces an atmosphere that is of value in drying and hardening the structure of thought. The greater value of indirect experience lies in its greater variety an extent. 'History is universal' experience'--the experience not of another, but of many others under manifold conditions." Here's the excerpt from the SIRIUS paper. And as interesting as it is...after reading the Times article...I'm not sure even the most well-prepared Americans will have much success unless the Iraqis genuinely want to as well. "First and foremost, every soldier deploying to Iraq should get an indoctrination seminar that includes a screening of the director's cut of Lawrence of Arabia, and a post screening discussion. That film addresses all important elements of the Arab culture, including hospitality, courtesy and intertribal blood feuds. Officers should be encouraged to read Lawrence's Seven Pillars of Wisdom (available at B&N or Amazon). "For further insight, commanders would do well to read John Bagot Glubb Pasha's War in the Desert (on fighting Wahabi raiders in Southern Iraq 1929-30) and A Soldier with the Arabs (The Arab Legion 1939-56), then track down Major CS Jarvis' Arab Command: The Biography of LTC FC Peake Pasha, about the foundation of the Arab Legion as a constabulary force in Trans-Jordan from 1920-39. On constabulary matters, British Major General Sir Charles W Gwynn published Imperial Policing in 1934. It is a primer containing The Nature of the Army's Police Duties, and Principles and Doctrine and 10 live-fire case studies between 1919 and 1931. These books are out of print and have long since been discarded by US military libraries. They can be found through www.abebooks.com and the Defense Department would do well to arrange new editions for course work at the JFK Special Operations School, National Defense University and the Army/Navy War Colleges. Copies of some of these books continue to lurk in some state library systems and can be borrowed out. "One anecdote about accountability comes from Jarvis' book: "Up in the extreme north of Trans-Jordan, a British official, short of funds, police, officials and everything that goes to form a government, evolved an ingenious system by which he formed four separate and independent districts which were normally most hostile to each other. By this arrangement he could preserve peace and public security by threatening any recalcitrant district with an attack by the others. This system worked like a charm, and as long as this official was in power, harmony reigned." - Maj CS Jarvis, Arab Command; the Biography of LTC FG Peake Pasha; Hutchinson & Co: London, 1942; p. 66 "Finally, commanders should read Peruvian economist Hernando DeSoto's The Mystery of Capital and, if really curious about the art of reconstruction under fire, "The Other Path." These deal with structural economic reform of developing societies as an alternative to revolutionary movements such as Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path). "


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