On 15 November, America officially left Iraq - mission accomplished, the war is over. While pondering the rights and wrongs of the intervention in Iraq, I heard about Sam Main a young Scottish student who was thrown of the Edinburgh to Perth train by the 'Big Man' for not having a ticket. Here, is a wonderful opportunity to examine the ins and outs of intervention and stretch a metaphor beyond what was previously thought possible.
So we have a country and a train both of which are being held up by someone. Saddam was holding up the country economically, morally and culturally by gassing thousands of his own people, suppressing freedom, encouraging corruption and being an all-round unpleasant sort of chap. Sam Main was refusing to get off a train despite not having a ticket. This meant the train couldn't go and a lot Scots would be late for their supper.
On the train the ticket inspector, a splendid white haired old duffer, spent five minutes telling the student Sam Main to get off. Sam swore that he had a ticket, swore he wouldn't get off and swore some more. Meanwhile, Saddam swore he had no WMD' s and swore at the IAEA when they told him prove it. Sam's swearing and Saddam's random invasions and raids really annoyed the neighbours (Kuwait, Iran, Ian Hem and unknown family with under fours). This meant that when the time came, Sam and Saddam couldn't expect any outside help: Kuwait hosted US troops and Ian Hem filmed the whole incident on his phone.
Now comes along 'The Big Man'. 'The Big Man'; Alan Pollock and George Bush respectively, decides he's had enough of the bad behaviour, swearing, invading, repressing, refusal to get ticket/demonstrate lack of WMD's and decides to get involved. He invades the country, picks up the student, throws out the dictator, throws him off the train and executes him. The voice of the liberal left and the guardian is even to be heard on the video as a women cries out: 'There's no need for that!'
Up until now the metaphor has been pretty perfect but here is a difference. Sam Main allows himself to be thrown off pretty easily, not damaging or hurting anyone along the way. Saddam and his cronies on the other hand, have been fighting a bitter insurgency which still rages on. The international 'Big Man' has lost just under 4500 men, 1 trillion dollars and possibly 150 000 Iraqis have died. Sam Main's face got bruised.
The Iraqis were pleased to see the 'Big Man' leave, while the passengers on the train applauded the 'Big Man's' actions. Why was this?
Suppose instead of Sam Main, his fictional twin brother Johnny Main had been on the train. Johnny Main and his chums are a tough Scottish gang who toss cabers, wear black leather kilts and rap about life in Glasgow. When 'Big Man' Alan Pollock tries to kick them off, they fight back and during the next few hours the train is trashed, Alan loses an arm, two of Johnny's friends are killed and the quiet carriage was seriously disturbed. Then perhaps the other passengers might not have been so pleased but might have felt much the same way as the Iraqis.
So, people are happy that Sam Main was kicked off the train when it was quick and easy, just like the quick and popular interventions of history (Libya, Kosovo, Sierra Leone...), but people are unhappy when an intervention is expensive, long, hard and bloody (Johnny Main, Iraq, Afghanistan...). We can conclude that as far as the people are concerned, they don't mind ethical interventions on their behalf as long as it's not too much trouble, no matter the right or wrongs of the matter, as long as it's quick and easy we'll do it!
However there are bodies that are supposed to be thinking about, monitoring and enforcing the rights and wrongs. They represent the law. Both interventions may well have been illegal but only the Scottish 'Big Man' is being investigated by the British Transport Police. The International Criminal Court is leaving the American 'Big Man' well alone.
So, the lessons of this metaphor are twofold. If you're big and powerful enough to make intervening quick and easy and you're more important than the British Transport Police/ICC then intervening is fine. The one thing we need to ask ourselves is this: is Iran's Ahmadinejad more like Sam or Johnny Main, will he be a pushover or a 'hard as nails' Scottish punk?
See the video here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-16198082