Fun With Stereotypes in Iraq

Rory Stewart: Lord of the Bogs

The conventional wisdom is that the British Army’s long experience with imperial policing imbued it with a very sophisticated understanding of counterinsurgency, the political nature of war, and the imperative of civic-military cooperation. Rory Stewart, who as a “governorate coordinator” for the Coalition Provisional Authority in southern Iraq served in a capacity that echoed the colonial administrators of the British Empire, would probably disagree. His 2006 memoir, The Prince of the Marshes: And Other Occupational Hazards of a Year in Iraq, suggests a British Army that zealously guarded its prerogatives from what it regarded as outside political interference and thus often operated at cross-purposes with CPA policy. The governorate coordinators theoretically wielded absolute power in their provinces, but in reality their inability to command coalition forces left them mostly impotent, with the ability to disburse CPA funds their only real means of influence among their Iraqi subjects. This militarization was to be expected in the Sunni areas, which were gripped by insurgency from an early date in the occupation, but it is surprising that it also occurred in the British sectors to the south, which were mostly peaceful until the Sadrist uprisings began in 2004.

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