From Gertrude Bell's letters, in Iraq, in 1916:

We rushed into the business with our usual disregard for a comprehensive political scheme. We treated Mesop[otamia] as if it were an isolated unit, instead of which it is part of Arabia.... When people talk of our muddling through it throws me into a passion. Muddle through! why yes, so we dowading through blood and tears that need never have been shed.

And four years later:

We are largely suffering from circumstances over which we couldn't have had any control. The wild drive of discontented nationalism... and of discontented Islam ... might have proved too much for us however far-seeing we had been; but that doesn't excuse us for having been blind.

No one knows exactly what [the Iraqis] do want, least of all themselves, except that they don't want us.

[In talking to an Arab nationalist leader] I said complete independence was what we ultimately wished to give. "My lady" he answeredwe were speaking Arabic "complete independence is never given; it is always taken."

Rory Stewart's essay in the NYRB is a must-read. It firms up both my own remorse at being so bloody ahistorical before the war; and my inclination to believe we need to get every last American out of there, before we're stuck for ever.

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