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Why They Hate Us (I): On military Occupation

Discussion in 'International Forum' started by X-PASTER, Nov 25, 2009.


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    Why They Hate Us (I): On military Occupation

    By Stephen M. Walt

    One of the many barriers to developing a saner U.S. foreign policy is our collective failure to appreciate why military occupations generate so much hatred, resentment, and resistance, and why we should therefore go to enormous lengths to avoid getting mired in them. Costly occupations are an activity you hope your adversaries undertake, especially in areas of little intrinsic strategic value. We blundered into Somalia in the early 1990s without realizing that we weren't welcome; we invaded Iraq thinking we would be greeted as liberators, and we still don't fully understand why many Afghans resent our presence and why some are driven to take up arms against us.

    The American experience is hardly unique: Britain's occupation of Iraq after World War I triggered fierce opposition, and British forces in Mandate Palestine eventually faced armed resistance from both Arab and Zionist groups. French rule in Algeria, Syria, Lebanon, and Indochina spawned several violent resistance movements, and Russia has fought Chechen insurgents in the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries. The Shiite population of southern Lebanon initially welcomed Israel's invasion in 1982, but the IDF behaved badly and stayed too long, which led directly to the formation of Hezbollah. Israelis were also surprised by the first intifida in 1987, having mistakenly assumed that their occupation of the West Bank was benevolent and that the Palestinians there would be content to be governed by the IDF forever.

    Military occupation generates resistance because it is humiliating, disruptive, arbitrary and sometimes terrifying to its objects, even when the occupying power is acting from more-or-less benevolent motives. If you've ever been caught in a speed trap by a rude or abusive policeman (I have), or selected out for special attention crossing a border (ditto), you have a mild sense of what this is like. You are at the mercy of the person in charge, who is inevitably well-armed and can do pretty much whatever he (or she) wants. Any sign of protest will only make things go badly -- and in some situations will get you arrested, beaten, or worse -- so you choke down your anger and just put up with it. Now imagine that this is occurring after you've waited for hours at some internal checkpoint, that none of the occupiers speak your language, and that it is like this every single day. And occasionally the occupying power kills innocent people by mistake, engages in other forms of indiscriminate force, and does so with scant regard for local customs and sensibilities. Maintain this situation long enough, and some members of the local population will start looking for ways to strike back. Some of them may even decide to strap on explosive vests or get behind the wheel of a explosives-laden truck, and sacrifice themselves- Read More