Iraq: Hearts and Minds

America seems to be losing the battle for hearts and minds. A single videotape from Osama Bin Laden is enough to get the world talking, while US troops are still broadly unwelcome in Iraq and Arab world opinion of their country is visibly hostile. On the international front, has Washington forgotten early lessons on the power of persuasion?

The World Today
4 minute READ

David Wedgwood Benn

Writing in the 1960s, the American historian Louis Halle made an observation with a direct bearing on the crisis in present-day Iraq. He was highlighting the contrast in 1945 between the military liberation of western Europe by American forces and the military subjugation of eastern Europe by the Soviet army. There was, he wrote in ‘The Cold War as History’, ‘a world of difference’ between the two undertakings. ‘The former’, he explained, ‘is self-liquidating; when it is done the troops can march home’ whereas ‘the latter involves a commitment of forces to which no end and no limit can be foreseen’.

The invasion of Iraq has been presented by its supporters as a war of liberation, designed to trigger a democratic revolution not only in Iraq itself but throughout the Arab world. From this it follows that victory cannot be achieved by military means alone – and will be impossible unless America can win over at least the bulk of the local population.

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