The Prince of the Marshes and Other Occupational Hazards of a Year in Iraq
by Rory Stewart
Harcourt, 396 pp., $25.00
The British governed Iraq under a League of Nations mandate, and with some success, between 1920 and 1932. They returned to southern Iraq in 2003 as a junior member of the US-led coalition which invaded and conquered the country. With the second British coming arrived Rory Stewart, a young soldier and diplomat. The book under review is his story of the part he played in governing, successively, two southern provinces in Iraq, Maysan and Dhi Qar, between September 2003 and June 2004. He tells how the attempt to bring democracy and freedom to Iraq led to the frustration of the conquerors, the dissolution of the state, and the country’s collapse into insurgency and sectarian violence. Implicitly his book is a devastating indictment of a total failure to align rhetoric with reality. It raises profound questions about the purposes and limits of military intervention in the internal affairs of a country in today’s world. The reader cannot put the book down without wondering: What on earth did they think they were doing?