Professor Hugh White, of Australia's National Defence University, is a fellow whose opinion I respect. Nevertheless, I must take issue with his recent thoughts on the situation in Iraq.
I'm very doubtful that, for example, by training up an Iraqi army we can impose the kind of law and order in Iraq which will prevent this happening. In the end, no army, and no police force in the world has ever been better than the Government it has served. And the Iraqi army at the moment and Iraqi police force at the moment has no effective and legitimate government to serve...Emphasis added.
I think that is flatly untrue. When war comes suddenly upon a people, the very best men rise up to defend their nation. It is the worst men who go seeking political office in those times, to profit and put themselves forward by the tribulations of their kin.
No plainer demonstration can be made than to point to the case of the American Civil War. Someone, somewhere, may have written praises for the Confederate civil government -- I have not seen it. It seems to have been a conglomerate of competing interests, political infighting, bad ideas, and -- lest we forget -- the defense of slavery.
Yet, for the Confederate Army, any number of praises have been rightly made. They are honored at Arlington, at the request of US Presidents McKinley and Taft. Theodore Roosevelt devoted several chapters of his Hero Tales from American History to the Confederate soldiers -- as he did, just as rightly, for the Union soldiers. What is commonly called the "Confederate Flag," so hotly opposed in so many places, is in fact the flag of the Army of Tennessee, also used as the Confederate Navy Jack.
Most Americans, even most Southerners, couldn't recognize the first Confederate National Flag if you put it in front of them. Rightly not -- there is nothing about the Confederate government that merits praise.
Yet I think the Iraqi Army, like the Confederate Army, is apt to be made of the best of men. What I have heard from friends and correspondents in-country suggests that this is the right view of it. For Iraqi politicians, like Confederate ones, there isn't much to be said -- with luck, they will do to hold the line until the Army can finish its business. When that time comes, fighting men freed of their duties on the battlefield can turn their attention to politics. With the deserved love and respect of the people, and the administrative experience necessary to managing a fighting army, they should be a positive force in a future Iraq.