The Best Defense

Inside the briefcase of a well-tanned Tory


This is pretty obscure as far as reading lists go, but then this is warm, muggy Wednesday in late July. So, via BBC, here is a list of suggested summer reading from the British Conservative Party's spokesman for foreign affairs:

  • The Junior Officers' Reading Club: Killing Time and Fighting Wars by Patrick Hennessey
  • A View from the Foothills by Chris Mullin
  • Alan Clark: the biography by Ion Trewin (published mid-September)
  • Pistols at Dawn: Two Hundred years of Political Rivalry from Pitt and Fox to Blair and Brown by John Campbell
  • Electing Our Masters: The Hustings in British Politics from Hogarth to Blair by Jon Lawrence
  • Whitehall: The Street that Shaped a Nation by Colin Brown
  • Neville Chamberlain by Nick Smart (published August)
  • Attlee's Great Contemporaries: The Politics of Character by Frank Field
  • Harold Macmillan by Charles Williams
  • Finest Years: Churchill as Warlord 1940-1945 by Max Hastings (published September)
  • D-Day by Antony Beevor
  • Blood Victory: The Sacrifice of the Somme and the Making of the Twentieth Century by William Philpott
  • Democracy: 1000 Years in Pursuit of British Liberty by Peter Kellner
  • The New British Constitution by Vernon Bogdanor
  • The Life and Death of Democracy by John Keane
  • Democracy Goes to War: British Military Deployments under International Law by Nigel D White
  • Lords of Finance: 1929, The Great Depression - and the Bankers Who Broke the World by Liaquat Ahamad
  • Keynes: The Return of the Master by Robert Skidelsky
  • The Spectre at the Feast: Capitalist Crisis and the Politics of Recession by Andrew Gamble
  • Restoring Financial Stability: How to Repair a Failed System by Viral V. Acharya and Matthew Richardson (eds)
  • Europe's Tragedy: A History of the Thirty years War by Peter H. White
  • Poland: A History by Adam Zamoyski
  • The Generalissimo: Chiang Kai-shek and the Struggle for Modern China by Jay Taylor
  • The Terrorist Hunters by Andy Hayman (currently withdrawn for legal reasons)
  • Terrorism: How to Respond by Richard English
  • The Defence of the Realm: The Official History of MI5 by Christopher Andrew (published October)
  • The Pathans by Sir Olaf Caroe

I hope Tory MPs can expense Caroe's book -- it isn't cheap.


The Best Defense

Iraq, the unraveling (XVIII): don’t hold your breath on reconciliation

Michael Eisenstadt and a member of his posse have a good piece on the barriers to political progress in Iraq. His bottom line: "National reconciliation, if it occurs at all, could take years."

Here are the hurdles he sees:

Vested interests. Perhaps the biggest challenge is that key political parties have successfully exploited ethnosectarian grievances as a means of mobilizing support. These parties have a vested interest in perpetuating the political status quo and would stand to lose a great deal if a postsectarian style of politics in Iraq were to emerge as a result of a successful reconciliation process.

Persistent violence. Ongoing violence, although at greatly reduced levels, prevents old wounds from healing, opens new wounds, and creates the potential for renewed civil war. This reality lends immediacy to one of the principal conclusions of a landmark World Bank study on civil conflict: nearly half of all countries emerging from civil war suffer a relapse within five years.

Elusive consensus. Fundamental disagreements remain among Iraqis on a number of key issues, such as de-Baathification, the oil law, and Kirkuk. The fragmentation of Iraqi politics (more than four hundred parties and entities participated in recent provincial elections) complicates efforts to identify individuals capable of speaking for and negotiating on behalf of broad constituencies.

Justice denied. Many of those responsible for the worst bloodletting in recent years -- including leaders of antigovernment insurgent groups and government death squads -- are still involved in public life as members of provincial councils, the ISF, or parliament and show no contrition for their actions.

Demographic complexity. Because various population groups remain intermingled throughout the country despite years of ethnosectarian cleansing, incidents in one place may have broad consequences elsewhere.

Multilayered conflicts. Iraq's civil war involved conflicts within, as well as between, communities: the "nationalist resistance" vs. AQI, Awakening councils vs. Islamists, Jaish al-Mahdi vs. ISF units aligned with the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq. For this reason, intra- and intercommunal reconciliation is needed. To date, most reconciliation efforts have focused on the legacy of intercommunal conflicts, though ultimately both legacies need to be addressed.

Iraqi political culture. While Arab tribal culture and Islam have provided the normative justifications and mechanisms for reconciliation at the local level, the desire for revenge, a zero-sum approach to politics, and religious extremism have hindered reconciliation at the national level.

Election-year politics. In March 2009, when the government expressed a willingness to reconcile with some Baathists, a number of civil society organizations (all apparently linked to the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq) were formed to thwart these efforts. It will be difficult for the government to ignore these organizations in the run-up to the January 2010 elections, lest it appear "soft" on Baathism and lose the support of key constituencies.

External meddling. Syria, the Gulf Arab states, and Iran supported groups such as AQI and Jaish al-Mahdi, contributing greatly to the 2006-2007 Iraqi civil war and ongoing violence. Preventing the arming, training, and funding of such spoilers is key to keeping the peace in Iraq and moving the reconciliation process forward.

For all these reasons, Iraqis are likely to coexist uneasily for the foreseeable future."

Remind me again of why it was a good idea to invade these guys?

Jayel Aheram/Flickr