cover image: Prospects for Iraq: Some Lessons about Foreign Occupations from History


Prospects for Iraq: Some Lessons about Foreign Occupations from History

7 Jun 2004

This paper, commissioned but never published by Lehman Brothers - was released by one of its authors, John Llewellyn, during the Ukraine-Russia crisis because its finding are pertinent to what may happen should Russia occupy Ukraine. Original summary reads: A year ago, we presented figures that suggested, largely on the basis of UK experience in Northern Ireland, that the US-led coalition in Iraq had insufficient security forces at its disposal to restore, and then maintain, order and stability. One year later, and with the Coalition Provisional Authority about to hand over a measure of control to the Iraqis, this paper starts with that issue, this time examining a range of foreign occupations over the past fifty years. Drawing upon a range of historical sources and analyses, including importantly by RAND and by the US army, two conclusions stand out. First, no post-WWII occupation of a country has been successful at a force ratio of less than 20 troops per thousand head of population. And indeed some occupations – most notably perhaps the French in Algeria – failed notwithstanding a force ratio of nearly 40. To try to bring order and stability to Iraq with a force ratio of just 6, therefore – and to Afghanistan with a force ratio under 1 – is to attempt something that has never been achieved. Second, while order and stability are a necessary precursor of political, administrative, and economic reform, equally the belief that political, administrative and economic reform will be delivered is essential to achieving order and stability. People who do not believe that they are going to get the political reform that they desire will resist the occupying forces, often with considerable vigour. The challenge is to enter the virtuous, and not the vicious, circle.
iraq post-war occupation


John Llewellyn, John Dew

Published in
United Kingdom


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