Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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November 25, 2003
By: Kevin Drum

PARTITIONING IRAQ....And speaking of Matt, over at his day job he says that while Leslie Gelb's suggestion in the New York Times of a three-way partition of Iraq wouldn't be pretty, it shouldn't be dismissed out of hand.

It's true that an ethnic partition would be pretty ugly, but for an equally compelling argument against partition go read John Quiggin, who points out that most of Iraq's population is in the central area around Baghdad but all of the oil is in the north and south:

So either a federal government in Baghdad would control revenue from oil that is under the physical control of Kurds in the north and Shiites in the south or the states would get the oil in which case the economy of the Sunni state in Baghdad would be devastated. Neither option seems tenable.

I agree. Giving the Sunni state a permanent claim on oil wealth from two other countries just isn't realistic in the long term, while forced destitution would create an insanely enraged anti-American state smack in the middle of present-day Iraq. It's a disaster waiting to happen.

Oddly enough, Gelb is well aware of this but somehow thinks it's an opportunity, not a problem, because we could use the partition as an excuse to withdraw our troops from the Sunni center:

American officials could then wait for the troublesome and domineering Sunnis, without oil or oil revenues, to moderate their ambitions or suffer the consequences.

"Suffer the consequences" has a rather ominous tone to it, don't you think?

Unfortunately, it's realities like this that keep leading me to the conclusion that unless we want a Yugoslavia-style civil war on our hands, the only option is for U.S. troops to maintain a presence in Iraq for a long time "long" as in ten or twenty years. Just like in Yugoslavia.

And believe me, I don't like this idea any more than you do....

Kevin Drum 4:45 PM Permalink | Trackbacks

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