TCS Daily


Divided We Stand

By Pejman Yousefzadeh - August 3, 2006 12:00 AM

The current reconstruction effort in Iraq seeks to keep the current boundaries of Iraq whole. But by keeping Iraq whole, the United States may in fact be hindering a successful reconstruction effort and needlessly delaying the achievement of an honorable peace and the successful withdrawal of American troops.

It may be that Iraqis want to keep their country whole. If so, that choice ought to be respected. But in the event that keeping Iraq whole is not a sine qua non of the reconstruction effort according to the Iraqi people, the partition of Iraq into natural boundaries is a way to bring the reconstruction to a successful end while at the same time establishing successor states to Iraq that may be more coherent and easier to keep together than Iraq itself was.

The Original Creation of Iraq

Iraq was created through the Sykes-Picot Agreement and its current boundaries are the construction of Western powers. This has caused Shi'ites, Sunnis and Kurds to be lumped together into a single state.

Because of the sectarian tensions that have existed between these groups, their forced cohabitation into a single state has always been a dicey affair. Sectarian violence was kept at a minimum and tensions were sublimated by the presence of an autocratic Ba'athist regime -- led for most of its existence by Saddam Hussein. But it is doubtful that even Saddam's iron hand would have been successful for long in keeping sectarian tensions hidden away. Indeed, those tensions became strong enough even during the presence of the Ba'athist regime that the Shi'ites staged a rebellion in the immediate aftermath of the first Persian Gulf War and an autonomous Kurdish entity organized itself in northern Iraq. Even if the Ba'ath Party had remained in power, the potent sectarian divisions would likely have caused Iraq to be rent by internal violence.

The long term prospects for a coherent and unified Iraq were therefore never very good. Now, with the removal of the Ba'athist regime, sectarian violence has bubbled to the surface. This does not make the removal of the former regime somehow wrong, but it does mean that the sectarian divisions will have to be dealt with as an obstacle to a successful stabilization effort.

Let's assume for the sake of argument that the Iraqi people may be open to a partition plan. There remain arguments against partition that should be addressed and overcome.

Does partition constitute failure?

There is rhetorical value in saying that a reconstruction effort has been able to keep Iraq "whole" and "unified" instead of saying that at the end of such an effort, Iraq was left "divided." We generally operate under a psychological conceit that says that dividing a country into separate entities is a bad choice and denotes failure in dealing with that country.

But why should this be so? The former Czechoslovakia split apart into a Czech Republic and the country of Slovakia. The partition was peaceful and has led to the existence of friendly relations between both countries. The former Soviet Union is a prime example of a country with sectarian and nationalistic divisions seething underneath the surface. Its partition has significantly lessened the chances of war and conflict between the nationalities and sects that made up the former Soviet Union.

Sometimes partition is preferable to keeping a country together despite all of the internal conditions that doom unity in the long run. In these cases, partition serves as a recognition of and response to the existence of long term instability within a country. Iraq currently labors under its internal divisions. Those divisions may not be resolved in a way that will allow the current state of Iraq to exist in the long term. A new path -- one involving partition -- may have to be taken.

Will an independent Kurdistan poison relations with Turkey?

An independent Kurdistan would likely be one of the Iraqi successor states. Because of traditional animosities between Kurds and Turks, there is the question of what Turkish reaction will be to the creation of a Kurdish state.

Many anticipate that the creation of an independent Kurdistan won't be received well in Turkey. But bringing the Turks around to the fact that there is an independent Kurdish state is not impossible. For one thing, the existing autonomous Kurdish entity is in many ways a state in everything but name. For another, making the existing entity into a homeland for the Kurds might help remove pressure from Turkey to cede any authority or territory for the creation of a Kurdish state. The current Kurdish entity is renowned for functioning effectively and within present-day Iraq the Kurds clearly have the most effective institutions of government running. This autonomous entity is prepared to step into its role as a nation-state if a partition takes place and if an independent Kurdistan is recognized as a sovereign country. Indeed, it is already currently performing key nation-state-like functions.

The fact that a de facto Kurdish homeland exists for all practical purposes should help Turkey acclimate itself to the creation of a de jure Kurdish homeland. There may continue to be issues that need to be worked out between the Kurds and the Turks, but the current autonomous Kurdish entity provides us with a valuable template to fashion a peaceful and workable coexistence between an independent and sovereign Kurdistan and its neighbors.

Will the creation of a Shi'ite successor state lead to Iranian influence?

Along with an independent Kurdistan, two other successor states will likely be the result of any partition. One will be a Sunni successor state. Another will be a Shi'ite state.

The mere mention of the creation of a Shi'ite successor state will likely cause alarm bells to go off in the minds of American policymakers. The concern, naturally, will be that a Shi'ite successor state will become an Iranian satellite, given that Iran is overwhelmingly a Shi'ite country.

This conclusion is premature. The mere existence of two Shi'ite states side by side does not necessarily entail the subjugation of one as a satellite to the other. Nation-states have interests that they pursue rationally (if not always correctly) and these interests -- maintaining a balance of power, balancing against certain threats, bandwagoning with potential allies in favor of a particular policy goal -- play a powerful role in determining national policy and statecraft. Statecraft is not determined merely by the nature of domestic regimes or similarities and/or differences between the populations of various nation-states. Thus, despite the fact that they were both Communist regimes, the Soviet Union maintained a long rivalry with the People's Republic of China. Ditto for the relationship between the USSR and Tito's Yugoslavia.

Will a Shi'ite successor state to Iraq have friendly relations with Iran? Possibly. But that won't necessarily make that state a puppet or satellite of Iran. And we cannot automatically assume that a Shi'ite state will be friendly with Iran. A Shi'ite state will have its own security interests and foreign policy goals to follow. Iran will similarly calculate its own goals and interests and, given the existence of conflicting interests between Iran and Iraq (conflicting interests which led to the outbreak of an eight-year long war between the two countries), it is likely that there will also be conflicts between the interests of Iran and a Shi'ite successor state as well. These conflicting interests -- along with an overall Persian/Arab ethnic division -- will significantly lessen the chances that a Shi'ite state will become an Iranian vassal. To the extent that the nature of populations have any bearing on this issue, the existence of centuries-old tensions and rivalries between Arabs and Persians and the differences between the Iranian theological stance of direct clerical involvement in politics and the Iraqi Shi'ite belief in clerical "quietism" or political non-involvement serve to reduce concerns that a Shi'ite successor state will be in thrall to Iran.

None of this means that we should wholly discount the possibility that Iran may exercise an outsized degree of influence on a Shi'ite successor state. Indeed, any partition process must include strict warnings to Iran stating that attempts unduly to influence the affairs of a Shi'ite successor state will not be tolerated. But we should not believe that it is a foregone conclusion that such a state will become an Iranian puppet, and there are a whole host of disincentives for a Shi'ite successor state to allow itself to be sublimated to Iran. Moreover, if it is a foregone conclusion that a Shi'ite successor state will become an Iranian satellite, that may make the case for partition all the more compelling. Given the majority Shi'ite presence in present-day Iraq, leaving Iraq whole and unified may allow Iran to exercise influence throughout the country if we believe that Shi'ite political ascendancy will allow for the spread of Iranian influence into Iraq. In a worst case scenario, it is best to contain such influence by limiting it to a Shi'ite successor state rather than allowing Iranian geopolitical ambitions to also influence the fate of the Sunnis and Kurds in the context of an Iraq with present-day boundaries.

To arguing on behalf of partition is a difficult. But the amount of sectarian divisions in Iraq may be impossible to overcome while at the same time keeping the current boundaries of the country intact. Partition should be a last resort but it may prove to be an effective way to successfully reconstruct the region and institute a lasting and honorable peace. It deserves consideration as a serious policy option. And if the Iraqi people are open to the partition of their country, we should be as well.

Pejman Yousefzadeh is a TCS Daily contributing writer.
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30 Comments

Ethnic autonomous regions
It probably matters little whether one favors or opposes a partition plan for Iraq. Kurdish and Shiite Autonomous Regions are forming already, and little could be done to stop them from coming to maturity. The ethnic mix is becoming less a fact each day, with a massive population transfer underway that defines every neighborhood in a formerly mixed Iraq as being all Sunni Arab, all Shiite Arab or Kurdish.

This needs to take place under a federal umbrella however, or the newly minted autonomous regions would instantly be attacked by the Sunni state over the division of oil revenues. That in fact was the issue when Saddam ruled them. For that matter it was the issue back when the British first installed King Faisal, a Sunni ruler.

Without oil revenue, Sunni Iraq must enjoy an economy based on dates and camels. They are not going to settle for this.

The real problem the American experience in Iraq exposes is that metropolitan, secular and liberal populations in the world of Islam must resist democracy, or be replaced by fundamentalist theocratic regimes. Majorities in most countries illustrate this.

The regime in Iran, for instance, is held in place by the popular vote. Egypt's urban, sectarian state would be replaced in a heartbeat by the Muslim Brotherhood if free elections were ever permitted. The same is likely the case in Jordan.

Algeria fought an ugly civil war over the issue, and chose to undertake a dirty war against Muslim extremism rather than allow free elections that would certainly have raised them to power. In Iraq, strongman Saddam kept the country secular by preventing religious groups from sharing any of the power. And so on and so forth, across the Islamic Crescent.

But in Iraq, the democratic genie can't be put back into the bottle. Best to go with the inexorable flow, and allow the emergence of autonomous regions within a loose federal structure. We should be learning by now that this is one part of the world where intolerable turmoils develop when one attempts to row against the current.

Good article, Pejman.

Does an independent Kurdistan mean instant war with Turkey?
A former roommate of mine happens to be from the southeast of Turkey, and a Kurd to boot. He is convinced that there is a portion of the current Turkish constitution that says that if an independent Kurdish state ever comes in to existence, that Turkey must immediately declare war on it.

Several other friends of mine from Turkey are absolutely certain that this is not so, others are convinced that it is so and others are not certain. I have spoken to ten different Turks about this, and I have recieved ten different opinions.

It appears that Mr. Yousefzadeh is either unaware of this clause or believes that it is not present in the Turkish constitution. I have not been able to find it myself. Does anybody KNOW if this clause exists or not?

TurcoPundit - Turkey and Beyond
TurcoPundit - http://turcopundit.blogspot.com - "News, views, comments and analyses"

Azad (Free) Kurdistan
You may be asking the question in the wrong way. We can be confident that an independent Kurdistan will provoke a probable majority of Turkish politicians to push for an invasion, and we can assume there are clauses in their constitution they can cite to support the motion.

The Turks are really serious about crushing the Kurds. After arming them to carry out the dirty work of ridding Turkey of the Armenians (by promising the Kurds all the vacated Armenian lands) they turned on their no longer useful tools and tried to crush them. And from the 20's through the 50's Kurds were rounded up, shot and imprisoned in massive numbers.

Eastern Turkey has always been in a state of armed occupation. The powers that be will not tolerate Kurdish independence activities on their border because they know any such entity would be a beacon for Turkish Kurds to join it.

The Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) is an independence group outlawed in Turkey and considered to be terrorists (the classic other guy's freedom fighters). They would undoubtedly be tempted to use a free Iraqi Kurdistan as a base of operation, and thus would invite counter attacks on the part of the Turkish military. In doing so they would draw in the two parties that have split the rule of Iraqi Kurdistan.

The KDP (Kurdish Democratic Party) is led by Massoud Barzani. The rival PUK is led by Jalal Talabani. One is more conservative and religious (I think that's Barzani's people) while the other is more West-leaning and secular (I think that's Talabani's people). Neither would allow the other to rule over their territory following an electoral win, so the place is potentially unstable already.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/4415531.stm

Then there's the Kirkuk problem and the Mosul problem. Intractable mini-civil wars have already begun up here, surrounding the movement of unwanted minorities and the creation of majority Kurdish zones. The Turkomans (Iraqi Turks) are only about 5% of Iraq's population, but this is where they live. They won't leave quietly, having no place to go.

In other words, regardless of political developments, think Irish bar fight. To keep the Turks out, Iraqi Kurds would undoubtedly opt for an Autonomous Region, legally bound to Iraq but de facto independent, and in fact two or more independent provinces, plus a volatile, oil-rich Kirkuk that's on everyone's must-have list. All involved would vote to keep oil revenues for themselves and not share with the rest of Iraq.

Looking good, people. We'll be bringing the guys home any month now.

Pointless gossip
It pains me to have to point out that we have no say over whether Iraq remains one country or divides itself into smaller parts in one way or another.

The legal fact is that Iraq is an independent country, fully sovereign over its affairs. International law, in the form of clearly written treaties to which the United States is a signatory (and has been for over a century) prohibit an occupying power from partitioning an occupied country -- but the occupation phase of Operation Iraqi Freedom ended a long time ago with the establishment of the new Iraqi system of government, ratification of its constitution and election of its government.

In short, that government determines the future of that country. Running off at the mouth here about what they should do is presumptuous, and not just a little rude.

Talk like this is bad enough when it's just among the neighborhood gossips, but when it runs amok among people whose opinion is taken seriously, the offensiveness goes a lot further than the biddies at the bridge club.

You really need to remember who you are and what you can do. You're not an Iraqi, you're not living in Iraq, you're not responsible for Iraq's future. Acting as though you were, and lacking the perspective to provide informed advice, you (like a host of others) only confuse matters and provide power to the enemy we're fighting there are elsewhere in the world.

Having been shot at by them myself, I don't appreciate this effect of your indiscretion. So cut it out!

Divided we stand
Good article. I'm glad to see someone questioning the assumption that Iraq needs to be one country. As I understand it. however, the current system is a federal one and the Kurdish area is pretty independent and peaceful and prosperous to boot. I'm sure the Tirks don't like it and that's good. The Turks wouldn't allow the 4th ID to pass through into Iraq from the North during the invasion, disrupting our plans. They must pay, pay some more and continue to pay for crossing the US in wartime.

If the parties involved decide to split up, here are some difficult issues:
1. What about the mixed population of Bagdhad and some other cities such as Mosul?
2. The army is built with units of mixed ethnic/religous groups - untangling that would be tough - it seems they are pretty well committed to one united country.
3. Regarding Iranian influence in the Shi'ite area, it should cut both ways. A freer more prosperous Iraq should encourage of the same in Iran. Also, is a year or two, Iraq may have the best army in the region.
4. Yes the Sunni area is the only part w/out oil. They need to think about that a little! The danger is that a Sunni Anbar-area nation might become a terrorist haven as Afghanistan was and the US can't tolerate that.

The US invaded Iraq to knock over Saddam partly to destroy a terrorist safe haven. Establishing a democratic Iraq would be a huge gain, but if that ambitious goal can't be attained we can still come out ahead. Regarding Iran, they are part of the axis of evil and the main remaining state sponsor of terrorism and we need to bring them down no matter what else happens. I expect some action after the US election. We could stop oil exports and gasoline imports to hurt them (with some pain for ourselves), bomb them, foment rebellion amongst ethnic minorities (who live in the oil-producing regions)and in a year os so, we should be in a position to invade from Iraq and Afghanistan if necessary.


Missing the point about tribalism
As long as large numbers of people identify primarily with their "tribe", whether religious, ethnic, racial or sexual preference..... or any other accident of birth, and view that it's "us against them", political borders do not matter. There will be civil wars where such groups reside within the same politically determined "country", and there will be wars between countries when they reside within different "countries".

Only when people recognize their common humanity and judge individuals by the morality of their chosen actions rather than by their tribal "identity", can any human progress be made.
Any "country" formed on the basis of tribal identity is primitively uncivilized per se.

Both of your posts thus far are interesting
But is continued fighting inevitable, especially in a divided Iraq? Your point about the Sunnis is well taken, but could it be aleviated through American and Europena aid making the area the cultural and manufacturing sector of the region? As for Kirkuk, does that inevitably fall to the Kurds? Is there some way to split that area between the Kurds and the Sunnis?
It seems to me that the present situation is not working out well. Perhaps the creation of three nations would make the situation easier to handle, even if the violence between the sects continued.
It is unclear what the best answer is for this country, but cutting and running isn't it.

An Uncivilized Christian Nation?
"Any 'country' formed on the basis of tribal identity is primitively uncivilized per se."

Do I understand correctly that you do not believe, or do not want, this to be a Christian nation?

Not very optimistic
Even as the insurgency against American rule has wound down into relative insignificance, horrific ethnic purges have snowballed out of control. At this point, no one knows how or when they can be stopped. Meanwhile we just have to wait and watch, thumbs stopping up our nethers, while the whole horrible spectacle unfolds.

The big news is that the al-Maliki government has thrown up its hands in despair, and America has realized they can't hand the hot potato over just yet. So now we are sending more troops into Iraq, and extending everyone already there for an extra tour. It is obvious there is no power on earth able to deflect the killing.

Before any of this started the peaceniks were telling everyone it was a dumb idea to go there and knock the place over. We were told "What do you hippies know? War is our business. Let us do the deciding." Well, now we know. Saddam was keeping a lid on something that was worse than he was. Now we've got it, and we're just going to have to stay there until it gets better on its own.

Can you imagine the Kurds agreeing to any formula whereby they have to share Kirkuk with the Sunnis? I'm thinking that would be a naive hope. It's a jungle there now, and the strongest will survive at the expense of anyone else unlucky enough to be in the way. That's how they ended up with Saddam, and that's how they'll end up with whoever they get next.

One thing we can and will do is to veto, forcibly if necessary, any partition into three separate countries. The Turks would go to war with Kurdistan, the Sunni rump state would attack the rest of Iraq and the Shiite south would align defensively with Iran. Bush's daddy saw this. That's why he pulled out abruptly before reaching the cusp of victory. He needed to keep Saddam in place.

Mistakes have been made, a lot of them because of the pressure from the peaceniks
The first mistake lands squarely on the head of the military and the strategists. The decision to run through Iraq, without securing various areas as we went, force the military to either backtrack or end up in the situation we now have. Too many armed Iraqis with an agenda. That might have been manageable, but the decision not to slam the door shut and secue the borders was the second major blunder.

Once the occupation began, it was the anti-war crowd's turn to hamper the effort. Every major offensive that killed anyone was was used to show how evil the American Military was. Some incidents certainly needed to be investigated and, possibly, charges brought. But a great many are "sh it happens" things that are a part of warfare, especially urban warfare, and always will be. If the liberals would get off this witchhunt and quit squawking about gitmo, things might be a bit quieter over there. Now our military as to deal with rediculous one-hand-tied-behind-their-backs rules of engagement.

The real lesson of Iraq is to have a plan in place for the worst case scenario and be brutally effecient initially. You can win the hearts and minds game once the violence is over.

Um...NO!
Pejman Yousefzadeh writes that the partition of the former Soviet Union into several countries "has significantly lessened the chances of war and conflict between the nationalities and sects that made up the former Soviet Union."

Let me see...Russia cuts off oil to Ukraine after its favored candidate lost the election...Russia supports an insurgency in a renegade Georgian province, and Putin refuses the Georgian president's request that Russia pull its troops out of Georgia...Russia interferes successfully in Belaurus' presidential election.... Yeah, sounds like everyone is getting along famously.

Evidently, ol' Pejman doesn't let the facts get in the way of the truth.

No Subject
No I do not want any religion to be a requirement for citizenship.

Natural resources
and how does the author of the post visualize a peaceful allocation of unevenly distributed petroleum wealth, given the present circumstances ?

Partitioning and its effect on religious violence in Iraq
Even if ethnic "migration" is taking place to any significant degree there is no evident reason to assume that the sectarian warfare taking place in Iraq would be affected to any great degree by partitioning the country.

The sectarian violence in the Middle East, and Iraq in particular, has more to do with the parochial nature of so many of the residents than with economics. The history of the region is one of nearly constant warfare - if not between Muslims and, well, everyone else, then between Muslim and Muslim over nothing more than the interpretation of a dead man's words, which may not even be accurately cited.

Remember the phrase "Me and by cousin against the world, me and my brother against my cousin, me and by father against my brother..." is of Arab/Muslim origin. It seems to me that so long as there are two or more devout Muslims sectarian violence will be characteristic of their culture. Let's be frank - Islam is in desperate need of reformation in the thorough going style of the Protestant version. Imagine, if you can, Baptists and Presbyterians raiding and killing one another. Even the Irish Catholics and Protestants seem to have finally outgrown pissing matches.

On the other hand, prosperity does seem to have an ameliorating effect on religious purity. Perhaps it might just have the same effect on religious ferocity.

The shining city on a hill
The simple mistake was in thinking Iraqis might welcome us with open arms. The second, unprofessional and unforgivable mistake was to have no contingency plan in place in the event their guess was wrong.

There has never in the history of the United States been an administration so unprofessional as to throw out the extensive and elaborate plans for the taking and the rebuilding of Iraq that both the Pentagon and the State Department had put together. What they did instead was to just wing it! And the craziest part of it is that the American public still has not really caught on. We're incapable of handling our own freedom of choice, and should not be entrusted with the responsibility of voting when we're capable of decisions like this.

Finally, you will have to agree that these are not the kind of people to do any wavering whatsoever due to "pressure from peaceniks". Don't cause my respect for your intelligence to diminish.

It's those ridiculous little rules of engagement and things like the Geneva Conventions that separate us from the beasts. If there's no more distinction to be made between America and the worst of nations, why should anyone back America? Let them go down the path every other empire has gone down-- they are unworthy.

A different interpretation of history
For the most part, the history of the Middle East does not entail constant warfare. What happens is that an instability will arise, there will be turmoil, and a winner will emerge. After that, decades or centuries go by in a condition of stasis, because they have a stable government under the iron fist of a strong man or a dynasty. This was true during the Ottoman Empire, and it has even been true in the colonial and postcolonial era, post-1919. Stalin, Saddam, old Hafez Assad and Mohammed Reza Shah are all examples of such strong men who imposed stability on their countries.

Russia shares such a history. And most people vastly prefer the predictable oppression of a terrible ruler to those short but deadly periods of anarchy when they have no ruler. Iraq is living through one such moment now.

The sectarian warfare taking place now is so pervasive that it is unlikely to stop before the entire population has retired into self-segregated, defensible regions of the country. At present the minority members of nearly every community in the country are subject to being dragged from their homes or off the streets and murdered by members of the majority. On average, one hundred each night.

Eventually, after much more killing, a new strong man is likely to arise. And he won't be that different from Saddam.

Prosperity could have changed all that, of course. But the first thing the US did when we took over the country was to destroy both the job base and the rule of law, and let anarchy and lawlessness reign. Everyone in the country was forced to either become a criminal or a victim. Most of the decent people have either left or are trying to leave.

let them eat sand...by northernguy
There is every reason to believe that the Sunni controlled western part of Iraq has at least as much oil under the ground as does any other part of the country. Probably a lot more because the potential oil grounds are much larger.


If the Sunnis would just stop killing and blowing up everyone who tries to help them it might be possible to actually provide the Sunnis with more oil revenue than the other groups combined.


Otherwise they'll just have to eat sand!!

Get a grip.
1. They are not all having their tours extended. One brigade is staying longer and moving from the North to Baghdad.
2. Sadaam crushed several uprisings, but killed huge numbers of people to do it...including killing off whole Kurdish villages with poison gas. NO, things were not better then except for the murderous Baathists who lead the insrugency.
3. Most Iraqis did welcome us with open arms. I was there and saw some of it.
4. As ugly as the situation is in Baghdad, it has to get a whole lot worse to equal what transpired in Bosnia just a few years ago.

Buck up!

How great it is in Iraq
There were two occasions when Saddam went crazy on a massive scale. One was the Anfal Campaign, when he collectively punished the Kurds and destroyed I believe several thousand villages. The other was the slaughter of the Shiites in 1991, when we encouraged them to rise up against him. And when they did, we abruptly pulled out.

Including those two episodes, Saddam is estimated to have killed about 200,000 people for political reasons, over a 25 year career. That averages out to 8,000 each year.

In the present chaos a hundred people are being executed each day and left on the streets. That comes to 36,000 each year. And there is no resolution in sight, until the next Saddam comes along and restores order.

So yes, Iraq was in fact better off under Saddam. Even with the sanctions there was full employment. The unemployment rate is now above 40%. There was law and order in the streets-- the number one complaint now is the crime and lawlessness. And the government worked.

If you think about it for a moment, of course everyone you saw over there was smiling. When men with guns occupy your country it is standard behavior to smile at them and say "Joe, you numbah one!" Polls taken in Iraq tell a different story, and indicate a majority does not disapprove of killing Americans. But those, of course, are just public polls.

I feel so much better thinking there have been other places and times where things were even worse than they are right now in Iraq.

The good old days in Iraq
Iraqis don't look at it that way. Before it was almost entirely Shi'ites and Kurds who were murdered by Baathists "law and order" bringing thugs. There was full employment as there is in Cuba or N. Korea. Before Sadaam seized power Iraq was a prosperous country and he drove it into the ground much like Castro did Cuba (Cuba was the richest country in Latin America in 1959).

If you live outside Baghdad or Al Anbar province, it's safer and more prosperous. If you're in Al Anbar you're likely someone who thinks Arab Sunnis should dmominate everyone else and you may be the enemy who needs to be killed, impoverished and so on. It helps to know who's side you are on.

I'm reminded of press accounts about "increasing violence in Afghanistan". We read 20 people were killed and we are invited to wring our hands and say, Oh my it's such a mess, we can't win, we can't do anything. If you read the story carefully, the violence involved GI's killing 18 Talibanis after they killed a villager and a cop. Pure anti-American spin, bubba.

Try your line of bull on someone in An Naseriyah and see what kind of reception it gets. We need an exchange program for some of these prissy scolds in the US to meet Iraqi soldiers and their families.

An-Nasiriyah
Is that where you were? I thought that was in the British zone.

Being 100% Shiite, isn't that one of the very quietest spots in all of Iraq now? And wouldn't that logically be a place where hatred of Saddam was at its greatest. After all, once the first Bush pulled our troops out from under them, didn't the Republican Guard come in to slaughter everyone?

I'm going to suggest the experience of An-Nasiriyah is atypical of Iraq as a whole today. Take the back streets around Baghdad and see how people feel.

An Nasiriyah
Most of my tour was near An Nasiriyah which was in the Italian zone. When I got back home, Kerry was campaigning and saying we had no allies, but he was such a great diplomat. 17 or so Italians were killed by a VBIED just down the road fromn us and a US presidential candidate says they aren't even there. You couldn't swing a dead cat at the Tallil PX without hitting Italian, Dutch, Portugese or Korean soldiers. Most European countries sent soldiers into harm's way. Those are our actual allies and he insults them.

We guarded a log base and a refuel spot on the highway. I also served at the HQ camp on the outskirts of Baghdad and spoke with many local nationals who were working on the base (we escorted them). I got to visit with several local nationals - not a representative sample of course, but then a certain per centage of the people wnated to kill me and I wanted to kill them, so we didn't chat much.

MOST Iraqis are Arab Shi'ites like the residents of An Nasiriyah. That's my point. While I'm sure most residents of Baghdad hate the dangerous situation today, what the hell is the alternative. If you want to surrender, to whom do you surrender. It seems now, many Arab Sunnis look to the Americans to protect them from vengeful Shi'ite militias. That's not good, but there is some justice to it!

Your tour there
I'm very interested in your experiences there. If our plan for Iraq was going to work anywhere it should be working around An-Nas. The population is homogeneous and relatively peaceful, and there should have been little or no "bitter-ender" activity.

What was the state of reconstruction regarding employment for Iraqis, public health and hospitals, and schools? You mentioned Iraqis worked on the base. I understand that some contractors made it policy to give employment to locals, while others went out of their way to bring in non-nationals, like the Kuwaitis.

This is a subject I feel very strongly about, as it is my opinion that guys with jobs tend to go to work every day to support their families, while guys with no jobs tend to nurse injustices and go out to make trouble. Any idea what the employment picture was like in town?

Baghdad is in full scale civil war now, in the opinions of most who are reporting from there. But much of the country is like An-Nas, in that you never hear anything about life there. I'd like to know.

What is the alternative? Right now there is none. Just stay there and try to help until it seems obvious we're just adding to the problem. The time to ask more questions would have been before the invasion, when we had more options available to us. Just my opinion.

Reservation system

The reservation system used with nomadic tribal groups encountered in North America is not perfect, but it did allow those primitive peoples to continue to exist, partitioned away from a more advanced culture that they could not sucessfully mingle and co-exist with.

The same system can work well in Iraq and other areas of the Middle East, with tribal reservations within a wider, encompassing state where more advanced social behavior is encouraged and primitive, tribal behavior is not tolerated.

This way, those who are ready to move on to the next level of human interaction are able to do so unmolested while the primitives are given a retreat where they are not stressed by the cultural shock of living among those who are more advanced than themselves.

So if we partition Iraq into reservations, it would be best to retain most of the land including the largest cities in an unpatitioned area where the future of human society there may develop.

America's responsibility
Mea culpa! Mea culpa! Imagine my embarassment to have forgotten that all the world's troubles are the result of American arrogance and imperialism. I hesitate to mention America's theft, (Dare one say 'rape'?), and misuse of the world's precious resources which, as all good intellectuals know, could have been much better allocated with far less environmental impact had they been managed by government rather than simply wasted by private individuals.

Probably needless to say I disagree with at least two of your base assumptions. Consider the third to be in the nature of inquiry, or not, as you choose.

a few mistakes
You said that Iran is held inplace by the popular vote, but don't forget Sadam also was voted in by about 99%; so..a phoney vote doesn't count. Somewhere rectently too you said that the amer. destroyed the employment base in Iraq. Did you know that they had a high unemployment rate there before too; worse that France's even? Also I recently met some American officials who were there at the time and they told me that they didn't prevent the iraqis from collecting their own garbabe, painting their own schools, protecting their own infrastructure, etc. They could have done those things, but when you have somebody else doing it for you for free, why not take advantage; kinda like a welfare dependancy?
BTW, the US could pacify iraq but there is no political will to do it. We might remember than Alexander the Great mangaged to pacify the place, so did, the Mongols, and so did the British with their commical soldiers in shorts. There were also several others too but I forget their names at the moment. Apparently Britain was also a land of continual warfare amongst primitive tribes, then the Pax Romana gave them centuries of peace for the first time. Later the Pax Britannica also sorted out centuries old continual warfare all over the place. But nowadays the west certaily has lost the will to fight. That's why they are bound to lose to people who have the stomach for it like the islamo-facist terrorists.

Why we entered Iraq
I think it's unproductive to just chalk up my complaint as being one of "America is always wrong". My point was that while the Middle East is quite capable of getting into trouble all by itself, our impetuous act has made things much worse in Iraq than they would otherwise have been.

I also discount the ostensible reasons for the invasion. Our intention was not to go after the WMD's (the inspections regime was working fine in keeping any hidden program that may have existed from advancing). It was not to disrupt Al Qaeda (no plausible links were ever shown between the ideological opposites Saddam and Osama). And it was not to rescue the brave victims of Saddam's torture chambers. As we see daily in the news, torture is more prevalent than ever. It's just that now most of it takes place in back alleys and police stations, not in the prisons of the old Mukhabarat.

The reasons, in my view, for our involvement are three. The frivolous one was to "get even" with Saddam because the perps of 9/11 were instantly all dead and unavailable, while Saddam was a sitting duck with a tattered defense capability. And dumb Americans could not be expected to understand or appreciate the distinction between the two. Someone had to pay.

The second, more substantive reason was to provide a platform by which the country's wealth could be privatised. Not just the oil wealth but the whole banana. It was to have been an experiment in creating a thoroughly globalised nation.

They would do in Iraq what had been earlier done in Russia, and instant billionaires would have been able to seize whatever national assets were worth taking. They were to be aided by a new national constitution written to order, to make the process all legal and proper.

This was foiled by the insurgency, and by the time the scheduled trade fairs were held, not a single investor showed up.

But the overriding reason Iraq was invaded was political. Understanding that if Bush had pushed through his domestic agenda without the cover of a patriotic War of the Worlds he would have been an unpopular single-term president, he needed a convenient bogeyman to rally the country around him and crusade against. 9/11 provided the pretext. Afghanistan was too small to qualify as a credible War of the Faith. So Iraq was included in. Had there been no insurgency we would have carried the war beyond, to Iran and Syria. For political purposes.

Free choices in a democracy
"You said that Iran is held inplace by the popular vote, but don't forget Sadam also was voted in by about 99%; so..a phoney vote doesn't count."

Iran's election was judged not to be "phony" by international observers, while the Iraq elections were always known to be rigged. Oddly, people who are used to monitoring elections in odd countries are pretty good at their job, and very far from being naive. You should read some detail about the Iranian election, in which two reformist candidates vied with a centrist, sort of pro-American candidate and a couple of right wingers. Ahmedinejad was a dark horse, and his win surprised everyone. The moderate, Rafsanjani, was expected to do much better than he actually did.

Where the system is rigged is above the elctoral stage. In Iran everything is run by the Supreme Council, and the president is little more than a figurehead. Remember their last president, Khatemi? He was a reformist. How much did he actually get to reform?

Similarly in this country we get to choose one of two-- either the Republican or the Democrat. Anyone wanting to start a third party is at a distinct disadvantage under the rules of the electoral game. So we get to choose from flavors that are in large part chosen for us, by not one but two party committees.

roy see's only what he wants to believe
"the inspections regime was working fine in keeping any hidden program that may have existed from advancing"

The inspections program was broken, even those in charge of it were complaining about all the roadblocks Saddam had put in front of them. Post war investigations proved that Saddam had active chemical and biological programs, and that his nuclear program was ready to restart at a moments notice. The sanctions regime was also crumbling, Europe and Russia were already demanding that sanctions be lifted. Once sanctions were gone, inspections would be gone as well.

"no plausible links were ever shown between the ideological opposites Saddam and Osama"

Many actual links have been shown and documented between not just Saddam and al-queda, but Saddam and many terrorist groups.

As to the rest of roy's garbage, it just returns to the old claim that the Iraqi people were better off under Saddam than they are now.
The problem with that claim is that the only ones who think it are hard left idiots, living outside Iraq. The Iraqi people strongly disagree.

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