EMPIRE….Niall Ferguson reprises his argument today about why the United States is unable to win in Iraq ? or anywhere else:
Less than a century ago, before World War I, the population of Britain was 46 million, barely 2.5% of humanity. And yet the British were able to govern a vast empire that encompassed an additional 375 million people, more than a fifth of the world’s population. Why can’t 300 million Americans control fewer than 30 million Iraqis?
Three years ago, as the United States swept into Iraq, I wrote a book titled “Colossus,” which offered a somber prediction, summed up in its subtitle, “The Rise and Fall of the American Empire.” My argument was that the United States was unlikely to be as successful or as enduring an imperial power as its British predecessor for three reasons: its financial deficit, its attention deficit and, perhaps most surprisingly, its manpower deficit. Rather cruelly, I compared the American empire to a “strategic couch-potato … consuming on credit, reluctant to go to the front line [and] inclined to lose interest in protracted undertakings.”
This is an absurd argument. It’s not so much that it’s wrong, but that it leaves out by far the most important reason for American failure: today’s colonials fight back. Britain occupied India with a tiny force because the Indians mostly let them, and on the rare occasions when they rebelled the British (like all the other European colonial powers) felt free to crush them in the most brutal manner imaginable.
None of that is true today. The people of Iraq are flatly unwilling to be ruled by outsiders, they have the weaponry to fight back effectively, and the West is no longer willing to spill rivers of blood simply to show them who’s boss. If those things had been true a century ago, Britain never would have had an empire in the first place, let alone been able to keep it.