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Tilting at Windmills

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December 11, 2006
By: Kevin Drum

THE WORST CASE....As Matt Yglesias points out, for the past few months I've been periodically pointing out that the worst possible outcome of staying in Iraq is not simply that success continues to elude us. The worst possible outcome is that our presence continues to make things even worse. But worse in what way? Suzanne Nossel picks up the ball today and describes six separate ways in which events in Iraq and the greater Middle East could get far more violent and far less controllable than they are now. You can read them here.

My guess is that almost all of her worst-case scenarios are more likely if we stay than if we withdraw. In fact, there's only one thing left that I think we might be able to do to improve the situation before we leave, and it's something that appalled me when I first read it. In a Foreign Affairs roundtable piece last July (scroll down), Chaim Kaufmann recommended that we should accept a de facto partition of Iraq's population at the neighborhood level and work actively to relocate Shiites and Sunnis who live in the "wrong" neighborhoods into safe ones. As he points out, "Some might say that this policy will legitimate ethnic cleansing," and he's right. That's why I initially found it appalling. I still do. And yet, it might be the only option left to us that ameliorates the inevitable. I'm still not sure what I think of this proposal Is it reprehensible to even consider it? Is it cowardly not to? but at the very least it ought to be part of the conversation.

Kaufmann's recommendation is based on his research into four famous cases of 20th century partition. His paper, "When All Else Fails: Population Separation as a Remedy for Ethnic Conflicts," concludes that "In all four cases separation of the warring groups was successful in reducing violence." And since I happen to be reading about this subject at the moment, I might add that at least some of Europe's post-WWII stability can be attributed to the very substantial population movements that were forcibly carried out both during and immediately after the war.

It's depressing stuff. But we might not have any choice but to face up to it.

Kevin Drum 1:14 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (101)

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Comments

We have to deal with the reality we have, not the reality we wish we had.

Posted by: Global Citizen on December 11, 2006 at 1:21 AM | PERMALINK

As with all things related to Iraq, when one slogan fails, just adopt another. You can't partition Iraq in an attempt to stave off sectarian violence. Baghdad is a mixed city, with millions of families with combined Sunni and Shia ancestory. They used to be called Iraqis, until we showed up.

Posted by: enozinho (wetorture.com) on December 11, 2006 at 1:24 AM | PERMALINK

I agree with Kaufman.

Posted by: Linus on December 11, 2006 at 1:27 AM | PERMALINK

George Bush. Dick Cheney, Condaleeza Rice, Donald Rumsfeld, the neocon insiders, the cheerleaders (William Kristol, Wall Street Journal editorial board, all the rest) should be flown to Baghdad and left there outside the Green Zone to experience what they have wrought.

And it should be televised so that those who voted for them can see what they have done.

This is going to be as great a stain on the US as was slavery and the genocide of our native population.

And, not that we don't deserve it, we as a nation will likely never recover, and history will record that this was the turning point that led to our decline.

Oh, send the five Supreme Court justices in Gore V Bush with them as well.

Posted by: hopeless pedant on December 11, 2006 at 1:32 AM | PERMALINK

When am I going to get a blue ribbon commision of my own?

May 16, 2005

July 23, 2006

Posted by: enozinho (wetorture.com) on December 11, 2006 at 1:59 AM | PERMALINK

My guess is that almost all of her worst-case scenarios are more likely if we stay than if we withdraw.

Nonsense Kevin. All of her points are either irrelevent or wrong. I'll only answer a few because I don't have enough time to refute all of them.

1. Significant additional loss of American life
Yes. More lives may be lost. But tens of thousands of lives were lost under Harry Truman when he fought the Korean War and you aren't complaining now. And millions of lives were lost in wWII and you aren't complaining now. Lives were lost but in return we got freedom and democracy which is well worth the loss in lives.

2. Large-scale Iraqi loss of life.
Yes. More lives may be lost. But millions of Korean lives were lost under Harry Truman when he fought the Korean War and you aren't complaining now. Thiry years from now the lost Iraqi lives will be seen as merely blips in the path to freedom and democracy. The Iraqi people will be thanking us just as the Japanese and Germans are thanking us for our liberaion in WWII.

3. A massive refugee crisis.
Actually the only way we can have a massive refugee crisis is if we leave Iraq prematurely without completing the mission. If we do that, the Iraqis will know we have given up on them and they will leave in droves.

4. An Iraqi state and/or people that are deeply hostile to the United States
This will also only happen if we leave Iraq without completing the mission. Right now the Iraqi government is pro-American because it knows we were the ones who brought down Saddam, the savage Caesar of Baghdad. If we leave Iraq now, the Iraqi peole and government will hate us because they will know we didn't fulfill their promise to them.

Posted by: Al on December 11, 2006 at 2:00 AM | PERMALINK

I am this (.) close to agreeing with hopeless pedant.

The blindness, incompetence, and criminal neglect of the white guys controlling this nation's future, their anti-sympathetic attitude in dealing with any culture that they are unfamiliar with, from the French and Germans to the Lebanese and, obviously, the Iraqis, or anybody who disagrees with them beggars belief. Their inflexibility of thought is totally unintelligent/unintellectual -- from Bush and Rove, through Rumsfeld and Cheney, to the plotters and cheerleaders like William Kristol, Wolfewitz, etc., etc.

Pandora's box has been opened and for 3+ full years has remained unrecognized.

The biggest joke this week is Bush reaffirming where Lebanon was headed in peaceful democracy and not recognizing what he has so recently done to abett their disintegration.

We are led by an idiot and believe we are an "educated" nation!

A pox on all their houses. May they suffer what they have wished and visited on so many others.

Posted by: notthere on December 11, 2006 at 2:05 AM | PERMALINK

A;: "This will also only happen if we leave Iraq without completing the mission."

Completing the mission? You have no idea what that means and you should just admit it and crawl back in your hidey hole, you hopeless, bootlicking fool.

Posted by: Kenji on December 11, 2006 at 2:10 AM | PERMALINK

Al--

I'll only ask one question as I don't have the time to dismiss all your baseless arguments.

What is a drove, given all the tens and hundreds of thousands who have already left Iraq for Jordan and Syria (Iran, too)? And given the hundreds of thousands internally displaced?

How big a drove do you need?

Posted by: notthere on December 11, 2006 at 2:13 AM | PERMALINK

Quoting enozinho:
They used to be called Iraqis, until we showed up.

This is utter bullshit. These people were only nominally all Iraqis before the criminal Bush-led invasion. Do you really think that the cleavages between the Kurds and the Arabs, and the Kurds and the Turkmen, and the Arabs and the Turkmen, and (finally) the Shia and the Sunnis really only date to the spring of 2003? I'm not suggesting that violence was inevitable amongst these many groups; Bush's war, and Rumsfeld's failure to plan for a post-war Saddam certainly hastened and magnified the level of violence that accompanied what was going to inevitably be a difficult post-Saddam reconciliation process.
But as someone who knows about ethnic (religious) violence, I concur with Kauffman. Baghdad could be placed under some sort of temporary international governance as was the problematic northeastern Bosnian city of Brcko. Interesting that there hasn't been any inter-ethnic violence in that city since the signing of the Dayton Accords.


Posted by: oneangryslav on December 11, 2006 at 2:13 AM | PERMALINK

Oh, send the five Supreme Court justices in Gore V Bush with them as well.

You'd be needing to send in Rehnquist's corpse.

Kevin, there's a nasty possibility left out Nossel's piece - the possibility of a fighting withdrawal of U.S. troops under fire. Given the necessity of moving through urban areas and over major rivers by very long (and hard to defend) columns of vehicles as we move out the 140,000 troops (and similar numbers of contractors and civilian support personnel), it could be a bloodbath, both for ourselves and for Iraqis.

Steve Gilliard has looked at the routes that'll have to be used. It could be very very bad, especially if it has to be done in a hurry. And the longer we wait to get started, the more likely the possibility we'll need to do it on short notice and in a hostile environment.

One other comment on the Nossel piece. Of her 6 scenarios, 2, 3 and 4 are already happening. Whether or not we get 5 depends in good part on what the Turks (our NATO ally) decide they want to do WRT the Kurdish state that'll be declaring itself independent on their border. 6 is just about certain to happen no matter what we do.

The question of whether to assist in sectarian resettlement depends on the specifics of what we can do and how it'd be received. If we come in encouraging recalcitrant Sunnis to resettle we may get a Ruby Ridge style reception. Even if the people we are trying to help don't shoot at us, everybody else might. This initiative, however well-intentioned, could just give anybody in the vicinity the opportunity to use our troops for target practice.

Posted by: jimBOB on December 11, 2006 at 2:16 AM | PERMALINK

Maybe we should send Jesse Jackson and Jimmy Carter in to fix this mess in the middle east.

Posted by: mcmill on December 11, 2006 at 2:17 AM | PERMALINK

If Jesse Jackson (who is way past his best) and Jimmy Carter had been around, we wouldn't be in this mess!

It took a group-think bunch of right-wing "intellectual" idiots to create this SNAFU. And see how quickly they all cover their tracks!

The ISG have put forward a broad based plan that is not one I agree with totally, but to think we are not at a crisis point, and that severe attitude adjustments are not needed is plain madness.

That's where we are at. Mad King George!

Posted by: notthere on December 11, 2006 at 2:27 AM | PERMALINK

notthere, just one small question:
Did he drove 'n' did he flew?

Posted by: Kenji on December 11, 2006 at 2:29 AM | PERMALINK

Are we already struggling with Palestinians who were moved by Western powers before I was even born, who want the right to return?

What happens when these rearranged Shiites and Sunnis want "to go home?" Just what we need, another intractable problem we could have avoided.

Posted by: biggerbox on December 11, 2006 at 2:33 AM | PERMALINK

Has no one noticed that an agglomeration of Sunni nations (Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain, etc.) announced today that they intend to pursue nuclear technology, "for peaceful purposes, of course"? Which means we will have Shiites with nukes and Sunnis with nukes and anarchy in Iraq between them, which seems to me at least to belong on the list of bad outcomes.

Posted by: Roberta on December 11, 2006 at 2:51 AM | PERMALINK

Disagree w/Kaufmann. We should offer relocation help to ppl who don't want to live in certain parts of a partitioned post-Iraq, if we sign off on that idea. But, we shouldn't actively initiate that.

Regarding Nossel's points:
1. W will continue to look for his pony of American benefits and will "stay the course" on "staying the course"

2. W has already discounted outside estimates of Iraqi loss of life so this doesn't maater to him

3. W is unlikely to fund the UNHCR to its special needs, though with Bolton gone, this isn't impossible

4. W's pony includes continuing to look for the people greeting us with open arms. (More seriously, Nossel's discussion of "the Iraqi government" in this section as though it were a viable entity damages her credibility.)

5. The one advantage of a regional civil war might be Iran and Turkey fighting over Kurdish issues as well as Iran and Saudi-backed forces fighting. Biggest problem is if Iran gets more directly involved in the fighting vis-a-vis Sunni forces, as it's population is greater than all the Gulf Arab states combined. Fortunately, Turkey's population is a counterweight.

6. The terrorists in Iraq will be fighting each other, not us. Nossel doesn't take that into account (contra Andrew Sullivan a couple of days ago) and so loses crediblity on this issue.

In other words, on points 1-4, nothing's changing while the Chimpster is in charge. Points 5-6 probably won't be as bad, maybe not nearly as bad, as she thinks they could be.

Posted by: SocraticGadfly on December 11, 2006 at 2:53 AM | PERMALINK

Partition is probably going to happen anyway. Which is why the Sauds put in their bid for the Sunni portion. (See the Oct speech by Amb. Faisal saying Saudi Arabia would defend the Sunnis.) Which in reverse means the Sunnis have oil the same as the other two regions do and partition is acceptable.
Of course, Iran and Turkey will not want their ow Kurdish populations attracted by a Kurd state in what used to be Iraq, but so be it.

Posted by: focus on December 11, 2006 at 3:06 AM | PERMALINK

Do you really think that the cleavages between the Kurds and the Arabs, and the Kurds and the Turkmen, and the Arabs and the Turkmen, and (finally) the Shia and the Sunnis really only date to the spring of 2003?

Of course not. But we are talking about a war between thousands, not millions. The average Iraqi is held hostage by sectarian violence. He is not engaged in it.

If you partition Iraq, all you do is ensure that the militias know where to fire their mortars without hitting any of their own, creating a situation much like what we called "UNsafe Zones" in Srebrenica. Right now, the violent minority is trying its hardest to create the situation which Kauffman is suggesting. They drill holes in people's heads, or shoot them in the neck, not to exterminate them, but to sow fear, and make people move to neighborhoods where they will feel safer.

Seperating the country by sect will also seal the fate of Iraq's Sunni population, which would be the biggest disaster possible, from the perspective of US interests in the region.

Posted by: enozinho (wetorture.com) on December 11, 2006 at 3:37 AM | PERMALINK

It's depressing stuff. But we might not have any choice but to face up to it.

Congrats for finally catching on. One point about ethnic cleansing: it's one thing if you kill everyone [of a given group] in a area and take their land, another thing if you kick everyone out of a given area, and anothet thing still if you basically rearrange everybody so a given group has the same amount of land and the same population afterwards.

Seperating the country by sect will also seal the fate of Iraq's Sunni population, which would be the biggest disaster possible, from the perspective of US interests in the region.

In what sense? The Kurds are going to kick the Sunnis out of Mosul. Of course, the reason the Sunnis are IN Mosul is because... under Saddam... the Sunnis... kicked out... the Kurds. The other problem is Shia living in Baghdad, mainly, plus scattered groups. In the latter case: Pakistan and India.

As for 'sealing the fate of the Sunnis' I don't see how. If the Sunnis control the majority Sunni, what's the problem?

If you mean sealing the fate of the Sunnis in that they won't be in control of Kurdistan or Shi'aworld, well, no shit.

It doesn't matter: it's going to happen. The real question is, is how bad the bloodshed will be before the deal is sealed.

m, path of least resistance

Posted by: max on December 11, 2006 at 4:00 AM | PERMALINK

What exactly does the US have to contribute in terms of "help" in relocating Iraqis to ethnically homogenous neighborhoods? Does the US have some special comprehensive data on the locations of Iraqis of varying ethnicities? No. Does the US have a greater ability to ensure the safety of Iraqi civilians in transit to new areas than do their own ethnic militias? Seems unlikely. Does the US have the diplomatic ability to negotiate a cease-fire between ethnic militias for the duration of the relocation operations? No.

So what is there for "us" to do in the process of ethnic partition? It might be a good idea for the Iraqis to do it to reduce further bloodshed, but why is this a policy recommendation for the American government, rather than for the Iraqi government, or for Iraqi sectarian leaders? Why do we think this process would go better or more smoothly with our help than without it?

Posted by: brooksfoe on December 11, 2006 at 4:05 AM | PERMALINK

The Kurds are going to kick the Sunnis out of Mosul.

First, lets be clear about what we are talking about. From my perspective, Kurdistan is gone. It might as well be another country at this point. And the Kurds are Sunnis, so when you say that the Kurds are kicking the Sunnis out, I think you mean Arabs. That's fine. Insurgents have been going after the oil fields up North, but there doesn't seem to be widespread Arab/Kurd ethnic violence, but I could be wrong about that.

In the Shia/Sunni fight, we're talking about a political grudge compounded by a religious and cultural grudge. The Sunnis cannot go toe-to-toe with the shia, because when we leave, the Shia will be in a position to take over the army, with all of its equipment (see Yugoslavia).

So what happens when the oppressed majority gets its hands on the army, and its opposition is convieniently located in a particular part of the country? Exactly. Now take a look at a map of the Middle East. Iran? Shia. Iraq? Shia. Lebanon? Shia. Syria? Sunnis ruled by a Shia monarchy.

We won't have an ally left in the middle east with a potent military, not one. It would be an absolute disaster. And what happens if the Shia do try to ethnically cleanse the Sunni? Will we re-invade to stop them? No, the only solution is that Iraq go the way of Lebanon. Baghdad needs to remain a mixed city, and you have to hope that Iraqis will eventually get tired of killing eachother.

Posted by: enozinho (wetorture.com) on December 11, 2006 at 4:41 AM | PERMALINK

What to do with "mixed" families?

Posted by: Marc in Denver on December 11, 2006 at 5:35 AM | PERMALINK

to your amateurish Yglesias and Nossel posts Kevin I suggest as counterpoint Rothkopf's "If We Leave We'll be Back" op-ed in yesterday's Post. Also recent round table on ISG in Foreign Affairs online.

Posted by: saintsimon on December 11, 2006 at 6:48 AM | PERMALINK

Yep, one of the more depressing parts of Judt's story. It's one thing, though, to retrospectively note that the ethnic cleansing of mid-century, with all its horrors, had the inadvertent effect of allowing for greater stability in the reshuffled parts of Europe; another to endorse even a "kinder, gentler" ethnic cleansing as an affirmative policy. There are plenty out there who would be more than happy to see the US follow up its endorsement of torture with a green light for "transfer".

Posted by: Rick on December 11, 2006 at 7:29 AM | PERMALINK

What Ms Nossel doesn't address is the one fear I have, which is the militia's actively turning on US troops, particularly Sadr's.

Right now, all of the militias, as well as other groups, are jockeying for power as well as control. If, as is likely, they control a region, then they will turn seriouly on the US troops.

Posted by: xyz on December 11, 2006 at 7:54 AM | PERMALINK

Wow. This is a proposal that you will hear nowhere in the mainstream media, and yet it should be considered. It shows (once again) how poorly served we are by mass media in America.

Posted by: Raoul Paste on December 11, 2006 at 8:15 AM | PERMALINK

I once heard an Oxford don, Steven Runciman, address the underlying problem here. When asked what creates lasting peace, he responded, "high mountains".

History is a scandal sheet for the same reason geology is rocky.

Posted by: walt on December 11, 2006 at 8:51 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin, once you have separate neighborhoods for Sunnis, Kurds and Shia, then each neighborhood become an easy target for mortar attacks, because the ones firing the mortar know they won't hit their own kind.

It won't be worth our time to aid the ethnic separation.

Posted by: Redbeard on December 11, 2006 at 8:55 AM | PERMALINK

Gee, what a great idea. And Israel can sell them the know-how on partition, too.

Posted by: Bob M on December 11, 2006 at 8:56 AM | PERMALINK

When population groups really truly hate each other (or a sizeable minority within each groups hates the other and is not being adequately constrained by its more moderate majority), it seems there are really only 3 options:
1. An outside force intervenes and tries to prevent them killing each other but does not separate them - a peace-keeping operation;
2. An outside force intervenes and forcibly separates them through relocation; or
3. No on intervenes and they go ahead and kill each other until those who can relocate on their own do so and some kind of equilibrium is reached.

I believe that covers it. So which is it going to be? If we don't have the manpower or will to accomplish 1, we are unlikely to be able to accomplish 2 without the cooperation of the groups themselves. If they're not willing to see large relocations, we're left with 3 -- civil war and ethnic cleansing. Oh - there's one other possibility, I suppose: the coming-to-power of a brutal dictator willing to impose order.

Posted by: DNS on December 11, 2006 at 9:24 AM | PERMALINK

This is ridiculous.


Who appointed us the overlords of Iraq with the authority to force people to move from one place to other in order for us to be able to solve the problems that we created in the first place?

Posted by: gregor on December 11, 2006 at 9:24 AM | PERMALINK

What ever happened to having a moral compass?

Since we've already pissed away most of our moral authority, why not chuck out the rest and engage in ethnic cleansing. At least that way our continued absence in places like Darfur will be consistent with the rest of our policies.

I love it! Let's relinquish whatever shred of global leadership we have so we can save as much face as possible.

Posted by: Strategery on December 11, 2006 at 9:36 AM | PERMALINK

Why stop at asking the Isrealis for advice? Why not ask Turkey? Ask anyone with a name ending in "ian" how they feel about the Turks' abilities in ethnic "problems".

Posted by: thethirdPaul on December 11, 2006 at 9:47 AM | PERMALINK

Kaufmann is the main academic supporter of partition as the solution to ethnic conflict. But there are lots of reasons to doubt his conclusion that separation is (a) feasible and (b) will actually reduce conflict. Nicholas Sambanis at Yale has done a comprehensive study of partitions and he finds almost the opposite: that partition is actually correlated with an increase in conflict. You can find his article here:

http://pantheon.yale.edu/~ns237/index/research/Partition.pdf

I think this only makes sense. Apart from the inevitable carnage that would lead up to a separation, assuming it could ever take place, the separate groups won't like eachother any more when they have their own territories. In fact, the new homogeneity may increase hatred since the absence of "others" can lead to a kind of mindless groupthink that sees no need for accomodation. To give one example, Eritrea seceded from Ethiopia in 1993 but tensions increased and the two countries fought a bloody war in 1998, the consequences of which are still stumping the UN and the rest of the international community.

"Artificial" states are no prizes, but partition, which will inevitably be resisted by some, is worse. If we start it in Iraq, why not in Turkey, Syria, Kosovo, Spain, Canada, etc. No country will support that slippery slope.

Posted by: Internationalist on December 11, 2006 at 9:56 AM | PERMALINK

I'm tired of hearing the "You can't partition Iraq" crew, because they fail to give reality-based reasons why not.

1) We don't have the right. We've been playing God ever since we invaded. No matter what we do, we don't have the right.

2) The Iraqis won't accept a partition. They're partitioning already. We'd be trying to reduce the deaths associated with it.

3) Cities have mixed populations; how do you partition them? Well, the Iraqis are doing it by either killing people, or letting them know it's time to leave or be killed.

No partition of Iraq will be a clean thing. In some cases, there will be geographic features that might help - e.g. the Tigris in Baghdad. Often not. But at least if we can get the Sunnis on one side of a line running through the city, and the Shiites on the other, chances will improve that each side may be able to defend itself from the other's incursions.

But I've yet to see a single argument to suggest that partition would make things worse than they are already turning out to be. It's not like Iraqis will be living in peace and harmony if we just pick up and leave, so expecting partition to produce that outcome is unreasonable.

The question is, will there be more sectarian/ethnic killing in an Iraq partitioned into Shi'ite, Sunni Arab, and Kurd areas, or more such killing if we leave everybody mixed in with everyone else, and let them partition in their own bloody way?

Posted by: RT on December 11, 2006 at 9:59 AM | PERMALINK

"And since I happen to be reading about this subject at the moment, I might add that at least some of Europe's post-WWII stability can be attributed to the very substantial population movements that were forcibly carried out both during and immediately after the war."

Someone happens to be reading Judt's Postwar ;)

Posted by: Me2d on December 11, 2006 at 10:00 AM | PERMALINK

Uh, while I can see the ivory tower appeal in this, it's completely insane.

You steal a person's home, you steal their land, they will never forgive you. Even if you say you did it for the best reasons. You show up with soldiers, guns, and an eviction notice, and things will end very very badly.

Man, you think we have problems in the Middle East now? We send people off on a Trail of Tears, we are going to look back fondly on the problems we have right now.

Posted by: anonymous on December 11, 2006 at 10:05 AM | PERMALINK

What people need to realize about "Al" is that the stuff he spews accurately represents the way George W. Bush see the world. This isn't just right-wing propaganda. They actually believe that repeating words like "democracy" and "freedom" and "victory" constitutes an effective way of turning a disaster into a success.

These people are in control of the most powerful military the world has ever seen.

Posted by: Still on Planet Earth on December 11, 2006 at 10:11 AM | PERMALINK

jimBOB @ December 11, 2006 at 2:16 AM
(citing Steve Gilliard) is right -- except it might be even worse than a fighting withdrawal.

Risking Godwin's Law, suppose the Commander in Chief insists that the army hold the permanent bases & be re-supplied by air, as Hitler insisted that the Sixth Army hold Stalingrad & be suppled by the Luftwaffe. It will fail again (& the Russians didn't have shoulder launched anti-aircraft missiles). We don't even have another army to fight its way to the bases to try to relieve them. Hitler had other assets besides the Sixth Army. On the other hand, Bush could lose the entire US Army.

Posted by: Prior Aelred on December 11, 2006 at 10:27 AM | PERMALINK

Move our troops to Kurdistan. Arm the Kurds to the teeth. Partitian the oil revenues between the Shia, Sunni and Kurds. Let the factions sort it out themselves from there.

Posted by: nikkolai on December 11, 2006 at 10:30 AM | PERMALINK

I recommend partitioning Iraq with a wall of "Al's".

Posted by: Robert on December 11, 2006 at 10:31 AM | PERMALINK

If We Leave We'll be Back" op-ed

So let's never leave that's the ticket!!
Imbecile.

Posted by: ckelly on December 11, 2006 at 10:33 AM | PERMALINK

The people railing against our participation in forcible relocation are misunderstanding what is being proposed. The idea isn't that we'd be part of threatening people and stealing their homes (these things will happen no matter what we do, BTW). The idea is that if populations are on the move anyway, we could make the process less traumatic by providing security and assistance getting settled after the move.

Whether doing this is practical in the current circumstances I have no idea. And if you want a moral objection, you could say that providing this assistance will encourage further ethnic cleansing, and you'd have a point. But the suggestion that we'd be directly involved in kicking people out of their homes at gunpoint is a strawman and an evasion.

Posted by: jimBOB on December 11, 2006 at 10:55 AM | PERMALINK

The purpose of war is to compel your enemy to submit to your will. The way this is achieved is to disarm your opponent, either by killing him or by placing him in such a dangerous situation that he volunteers to surrender his arms. In the case of a decisive victory the victor gets to dictate the law to the vanquished.

We invaded Iraq and attempted to compel the Iraqis to adopt the system of government that we thought was best for them. Some elements of Iraqi society appear to have agreed to submit to our will; others have fought our attempts. It is clear at this point that we will never be able to disarm the resistance to the extent that we will be able compel Iraq to submit to our will.

Even the Iraqis who appear to have accepted our commands may only be making a temporary accommodation so that in the future, they themselves may be in a position to dictate the law to the rest of Iraq.

This is why we have lost the war. It is true that the resistance has never really defeated us in a battle or are able to make us submit to their rule but that was not the reason the war was launched. You dont fight wars to fight battles. We launched this war to dominate Iraq and we have failed to do so.

The civil war in Iraq is in fact a different war than the one we launched. Since we displaced the former ruling power but we unable to hold that position ourselves, a three-way war has begun to decide who will ultimately rule Iraq. The Sunnis, the Sadr Shia, and the SCIRI Dawa based Shia militias, all minorities in the sense that neither of these groups make up more than 50% of the population, are all prepared to use violence to get the rest of the population to submit to their will while the Kurds look on nervously looking for a way to achieve independence.

Separating neighbourhoods into ethnic enclaves will do nothing to stop the war between these three factions. The idea of separation implies that the cause of the violence is the friction created when the groups interact with each other. But this is far from the case -- the root casue of the war is to rule Iraq and to control its incredible oil wealth. The notion of ethnic segregation at the neighbourhood level will only lead to ethnic segregation to an every larger geographic unit. But irrespective of this each of the three groups will continue to use war as a means of getting what they cannot get through the political process, since democracy is not the system of choice for a minority to oppress and dominate the rest of the country. Only military defeat like the US is currently experiencing will convince these groups that war will not provide them the means to achieve their goals of dominating Iraq.

It is far easier to resist being compelled to submit than it is to actually force another to submit. This leads me to believe that the likely result will be a stalemate with none of the three forces in Iraq mustering the wherewithal to compel the other two. So while partition is the likely outcome, an artificially imposed one will do nothing to bring peace. Peace will only come when one group dominates the others or when all groups tire of their efforts and decide to stop fighting and choose to use the political process to achieve their aims, which will be much reduced as a function of military defeat.

Posted by: Kevin de Bruxelles on December 11, 2006 at 11:00 AM | PERMALINK

Recasting this argument a bit, we could, instead of forcibly relocating people, offer safe passage. We do have enough troops to clear and hold a very few corridors for a limited time.

As many have pointed out, this is a terrible outcome, but as many have also pointed out, this may be less terrible than others.

But it may be just as problematic in the long run. The argument has been raised that separating populations invites mortar attacks, which could lead to escalating violence across now well-defined front lines. In such a partitioned situation, full-blown civil war of a type even the wingnuts can comprehend is possible.

Alas, I see no proposed solution that doesn't potentially contain the seeds of disaster.

Posted by: Greg in FL on December 11, 2006 at 11:00 AM | PERMALINK

The US has no legitimate authority to impose anything on any Iraqi person. None. The only segragating Americans should be doing in Iraq is taking themselves out of it.

Posted by: Hostile on December 11, 2006 at 11:06 AM | PERMALINK

the British partition of India in 1947:

"Whatever the "causes" of the partition, the brute facts cannot be belied: down to the present day, the partition remains the single largest episode of the uprooting of people in modern history, as between 12 to 14 million left their home to take up residence
across the border. The estimates of how many people died vary immensely, generally hovering in the 500,000 to 1.5 million range, and many scholars have settled upon the nice round figure of 1 million."

from http://www.sscnet.ucla.edu/southasia/History/Independent/partition.html

Posted by: mas tarde on December 11, 2006 at 11:12 AM | PERMALINK

The Pitch: It a musical, it takes place in Baghdad and it's a combination of West Side Story meets Apocalypse now! I think we can get Salma Hayek to play Maria.

"Dear kindly Sergeant Krupike,
You gotta understand,
It's just our bringin' up-i-ke
That gets us out of hand.
Our mothers all are junkies,
Our fathers all are drunks.
Golly Mohammed, natcherly we're punks!"

Posted by: jerry on December 11, 2006 at 11:13 AM | PERMALINK

I agree completely with Hostile @ December 11, 2006 at 11:06 AM!

Posted by: Prior Aelred on December 11, 2006 at 11:15 AM | PERMALINK

In fact, there's only one thing left that I think we might be able to do to improve the situation before we leave, and it's something that appalled me when I first read it. In a Foreign Affairs roundtable piece last July (scroll down), Chaim Kaufmann recommended that we should accept a de facto partition of Iraq's population at the neighborhood level and work actively to relocate Shiites and Sunnis who live in the "wrong" neighborhoods into safe ones.

The ISG recommended that American forces not begin their withdrawal until early 2008, and then only if the security situation permits it. Taking your word "might", there are many actions that U.S. might take to prevent the worst things from happening. I agree with you that assisting the least harsh separation of the ethnic groups might be one of those actions. Kaufmann isn't the only one who has studied those instances; plenty of people posting here have drawn attention to them over the past couple of years. Even Switzerland was formally partitioned into three cantons with different primary languages and ethnic heritages, and had a civil war. In his 1976 campaign for the presidency, Jimmy Carter drew attention to the fact that much of America is ethnically separated at the neighborhood level, a fact that he vowed to respect.

Under S.H., the Kurds mostly fled or were driven out of their neighborhoods; since OIF, they have mostly reclaimed their neighborhoods and forced the usurpers out, and that is among the least violent areas of Iraq now. Such separation might (that word again) be the least bad outcome.

I applaud your use of the word "might", much better than your gloomy certainty on other matters.

A nearly autonomous, self-governing Arab Shi'ite province of Iraq does pose a threat to neighbors of Iraq: Shi'ites in Saudi Arabia and Arabs in Iran might want such semi-autonomy (or complete autonomy) of their own. But we can debate that (and similar potential effects of a semi-autonomous Kurdish province.)

It is worth remembering also the artificial nature of the nation of Iraq: it was always governed by empires whose capitals were far away, and the boundaries were drawn by foreign empires. Except for failed uprisings against dictatorial governments, this is the first that most Iraqis have had a say.

Posted by: MatthewRMarler on December 11, 2006 at 11:21 AM | PERMALINK

Thanks enozinho for the cold water of reality on this thread. Partitioning will probably happen (please, God, without our help) and it will be a humanitarian disaster unrolling for years. Decades. I keep thinking of Riverbend's early posts about how she has both Sunni and Shia in her family, and so do most people.

But we're not hearing anymore how things are better with Saddam gone, so that's progress I guess.

Posted by: EmmaAnne on December 11, 2006 at 11:33 AM | PERMALINK

During the Troubles in Northern Ireland , the city of Belfast was divided up into Catholic and Protestant sections by means of a series of walls. This did make it more difficult for the two communities to keep on tearing at each others' throats, but the violence still continued, murders were committed and bombs thrown. The walls did not bring peace to the province - bombs and murder squads still found there way across the walls and the two communities remained as hostile to each other as ever. The wall around Israel has not prevented rockets and mortars coming into the country. Turning Baghdad into an ethnic mosaic would solve nothing.

Posted by: mike on December 11, 2006 at 11:34 AM | PERMALINK

We've been playing God ever since we invaded.

Soon, that god will be dead. No lamentations will be written in stone regretting its demise.

partition is actually correlated with an increase in conflict

I think that makes sense. India and Pakistan could not make war against each other if they were one country. Their partition gave the world two competing nuclear powers ready to annihilate each other. The pain of Indian reconciliation would have been horrible, but the consequences of partition have been much worse and longer lasting. Colonizers are not the appropriate decision making authority for nation's problems, even if those problems were created by the colonizer.

If Mr. Kaufmannn seeks to implement partition in Iraq, he should join one of the indigenous factions and begin fighting.

Posted by: Hostile on December 11, 2006 at 11:42 AM | PERMALINK

MRM,

Careful in that use of "always" - Do not think the rulers of Babylon were taking any orders from far away despots.

Or as Shrub would say, history is a very dangerous curriculum for our children.

Posted by: thethirdPaul on December 11, 2006 at 11:43 AM | PERMALINK

Prior Aelred

Yeah, I've thought about the end of Stalingrad as well. I think the difference here is that, unlike Hitler, Bush doesn't have total unquestioned authority. There'd be huge political pressure to remove an army under seige. No one would even attempt to do an all-air resupply operation.

Posted by: jimBOB on December 11, 2006 at 11:52 AM | PERMALINK

As usual, I enter the conversation late, and I don't have time to read all previous comments. Sorry.

But there's an important precursor to the idea of neighborhood level "ethnic cleansing." It's called World War 2. And Jugoslavia. In both, people just "got sensible" and left, moved out, etc. The Germans went to Germany, the Poles to Poland, the Slovenes back to Slovenia, etc.

Sadly, the solution is so obvious that we forget it's there.

Posted by: mc on December 11, 2006 at 12:10 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin: "Chaim Kaufmann recommended that we should accept a de facto partition of Iraq's population at the neighborhood level and work actively to relocate Shiites and Sunnis who live in the 'wrong' neighborhoods into safe ones."

The only thing that the US should "work actively" to do in Iraq is to "work actively" to withdraw all US troops as quickly as possible, beginning immediately.

I've heard some people who supposedly have knowledge of military operations say that the process of withdrawing all US troops "as quickly as possible" in anything resembling an orderly manner designed to minimize harm to both the US troops and the Iraqi population would likely take several months. That's all the more reason to get started immediately.

The US has no business "working actively" to relocate civilian Iraqi populations or "working actively" to intervene in Iraqi society in any way, for any reason.

The invasion and occupation of Iraq was and is a crime -- an illegal war of unprovoked aggression, based on lies, for the corrupt purpose of seizing control of Iraq's oil (a project which, by the way, is still going forward, and is explicitly endorsed by the Baker-Hamilton commission). We need to acknolwedge that the US occupation is a criminal enterprise led by gangsters-in-chief Dick Cheney and George Bush, get out, and then impeach, remove from office, indict, prosecute and imprison the perps.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on December 11, 2006 at 12:17 PM | PERMALINK

I second SA. Like that's news.

Also impressed by Kevin de Bruxelles post.

Posted by: MsNThrope on December 11, 2006 at 12:22 PM | PERMALINK

And before that, the Armenians to where?

Posted by: thethirdPaul on December 11, 2006 at 12:22 PM | PERMALINK

Steve Gilliard has been pointing out for months the very real possibility that, if the conflict with Sadr escalates, the US could find its land-based supply lines cut off and the Green Zone could come under full-scale assault. The troops would then have to fight their way out, and the casualties could be enormous.

Posted by: Joe Buck on December 11, 2006 at 12:22 PM | PERMALINK

SA - I put a short piece up about Gore launching a grass-roots "Carbon Freeze" movement that you might be interested it.

Posted by: Global Citizen on December 11, 2006 at 12:28 PM | PERMALINK

Oops. This isn't the thread I put the link on (see? I'm not a blog whore!) so here is the link.

Posted by: Global Citizen on December 11, 2006 at 12:31 PM | PERMALINK

jimBOB --

Of course they would be pressure on Bush not to hold the bases, but how well has he responded to pressure so far?

And I don't believe that the army could fight it's way out -- we are totally road bound & require huge amounts of fuel -- if they are cut off they is no way to refuel them -- the troops could never carry enough water to march out.

Bush is setting us up for the greatest disaster in American military history.

On partition -- from the magnificent TV show, "Yes, Prime Minister" -- the episode, "A Real Partnership" -- there was an enchange that went something like this:

Civil Servant from the Foreign Office:
"We should have partitioned St. George's Island like we did India and Cyprus and Palestine and Ireland as a part of their independence. It always worked."
(Look of horror on the face of the Cabinet Secretary)
FO: "It keeps them busy fighting each other so we don't' have to have a policy about them."

Posted by: Prior Aelred on December 11, 2006 at 12:40 PM | PERMALINK

Some time ago I went to Wikipedia to see their take on Sunni v Shia. Their pathetic religious fight makes sense only if you can imagine Methodists beheading Presbyterians.

Posted by: Hedley Lamarr on December 11, 2006 at 12:41 PM | PERMALINK

If I click on your link it opens in my PA window and therefor I can't copy and paste it to my browser. It's okay, because I'm sure the redoubtable Paul will email it to me if I ask nicely-nicely.

>wink

Prejudices are what fools use for reason.
- Voltaire.

Posted by: MsNThrope on December 11, 2006 at 12:42 PM | PERMALINK

sent you the link,:)

Posted by: Global Citizen on December 11, 2006 at 12:44 PM | PERMALINK

But there's an important precursor to the idea of neighborhood level "ethnic cleansing." It's called World War 2. And Jugoslavia. In both, people just "got sensible" and left, moved out, etc. The Germans went to Germany, the Poles to Poland, the Slovenes back to Slovenia, etc.

No, that's nonsense. After WWII the native populations of those countries didn't "get sensible" and leave voluntarily -- they were chased out in vicious campaigns of violent ethnic cleansing. For one example, several million ethnic Germans in what is now Poland and the Czech Republic were forced at gunpoint to leave areas that had been their ancestral homes for a thousand years.

Posted by: Stefan on December 11, 2006 at 12:54 PM | PERMALINK

One must keep in mind the twisted rationale of our real commander, Dick Cheney : an all-out large scale civil war will be the justification now to honorably detach our troops from this meat grinder. Back in May, the DoD "lost" a shipment of 200,000 Bosnian ethnic-cleansing AK47s on it's wat to Iraq http://www.guardian.co.uk/armstrade/story/0,,1773106,00.html

and now, another gargantuan DoD small-arms shipment has dissapeared into Iraqi street markets http://www.nytimes.com/2006/12/10/world/middleeast/10weapons.html?_r=1&oref=slogin

The Department of Defense never registered the serial numbers of these weapons!

As to the partitioning of Iraq, maybe we should consider the fact that up until the end of WWI, Iraq was not a country. The British controlled the northern and southern oil fields of Kirkuk and Basra in what was known as the region of Babylon in the crumbling Ottoman Empire. The secret Sykes-Pico agreement of 1916 partitioned the the Middle East between France and England. After the war, the idea of creating the political entity of Iraq by putting toghether Kurds, Sunnis and Shias, even back then, was met with much dismay by insiders who knew that such a union would fly in the face of centuries of local culture. These people are tired of decades of devastating colonial mismanagement.

Posted by: Eviscerator on December 11, 2006 at 12:57 PM | PERMALINK

Prior Aelred

The pressure on Bush to save the army would be coming from people he can't ignore - the GOP power brokers and money people. Losing the army would destroy the GOP as a party. They can't afford to let him do this. And from Bush's point of view, if he wants his post-presidency to be at all pleasant, he can't piss these people off.

WRT the question of whether it'd be possible for an encircled U.S. army to break out, recall that we're not talking about an opposing army with armor and organized troop formations. If necessary, the U.S. forces can punch out in any direction they want without facing strong resistance. So they should be able to secure a path out. But if they have to do it by force against strong opposition, the casualties on both sides will be hideous.

Posted by: jimBOB on December 11, 2006 at 1:11 PM | PERMALINK

hopeless pedant: "Oh, send the five Supreme Court justices in Gore V Bush with them as well."


JimBOB: "You'd be needing to send in Rehnquist's corpse."

Send in the corpse, with Rhenquist's replacement, as well.

Posted by: Barry on December 11, 2006 at 1:14 PM | PERMALINK

Send in the corpse, with Rhenquist's replacement, as well.
Posted by: Barry

But first put a stake through its heart.

Posted by: MsNThrope on December 11, 2006 at 1:25 PM | PERMALINK

The Washington Post, via War and Piece:

So Farouk began preparing to do what neither his father nor his grandfather could have imagined in their Iraq: flee Tobji, an enclave where Shiites and Sunnis have coexisted for more than half a century. Farouk plans to join the more than 400,000 Iraqis who have fled their homes, an exodus that is reshaping the face of Baghdad into neighborhoods polarized along sectarian lines.

Posted by: enozinho (wetorture.com) on December 11, 2006 at 1:36 PM | PERMALINK

I am already seeing billions of dark colored, angry Iraqis showing up at the local convenience stores. They all say:

"You mess with Islam, then we fight"
I just say to them:
"You are a fucking store clerk, nothing else"

THhaks to all you stupid conservatives

Posted by: Matt on December 11, 2006 at 1:41 PM | PERMALINK

No, not all of them left those areas. A million or so were killed in the act. Does anyone want to repeat that ???

Stefan wrote:
- they were chased out in vicious campaigns of violent ethnic cleansing. For one example, several million ethnic Germans in what is now Poland and the Czech Republic were forced at gunpoint to leave areas that had been their ancestral homes for a thousand years.

Posted by: Stefan2 on December 11, 2006 at 2:16 PM | PERMALINK

Jesus Christ, you people are seriously suggesting the USA should indulge in ethnic cleansing?

Here's an idea, how about the USA stops invading other countries, gets out of this horrible mess in Iraq, and we will all agree to wind the calendars back to 2000, put Gore in power, put Saddam back in charge of Iraq and agree the last 6 years just never happened. Unrealistic? No more so than the Nazi, or at least Serb, bullshit being peddled here and now.

Posted by: frizzled on December 11, 2006 at 2:18 PM | PERMALINK

The worst possible outcome is that our presence continues to make things even worse.

I don't think we know what the worst "possible" outcomes are, and I don't think we know what the worst "likely" outcomes are.

Had the British army remained in India longer to facilitate the peaceful migrations of millions of Hindus and Muslims they might have prevented the worst of the violence. Or maybe not.

Had the U.S. invaded Iraq with U.N. backing and 500,000 troops, those troop levels would have been rapidly reduced to about 150,000 in the peace that followed, and we would have about what we have now. I think that's the most likely outcome had KD's favored plan (as he wrote at the time) been followed, though it is obviously not something that can be known. There was in fact a strong U.N. presence in Iraq, and the headquarters was bombed. The UNSC has recently acceeded to the request of the government of Iraq and resolved that the international forces remain in Iraq for an unspecified duration.

The ISG wants American troops to remain in Iraq. The UNSC wants American troops to remain in Iraq. If the Democrats report a bill out of committee calling for American troop witdrawals to begin immediately, I shall be greatly surprised; meaning I think that even a majority of Democrats in Congress want American troops to remain in Iraq.

The agents that most fervently want American troop withdrawals to begin immediately are the governments of Syria and Iran.

Posted by: MatthewRMarler on December 11, 2006 at 2:22 PM | PERMALINK

If a period of days can be said to mark the end of the era, this past week almost surely heralded the demise of the Bush Doctrine. On Wednesday, the Iraq Study Group dealt a death blow to the Bush foreign policy's three pillars of no safe havens, preemptive war and democracy expansion. But it is the passing on Thursday of the neo-conservative Cold Warrior Jeane Kirkpatrick that perhaps best symbolized the closing of the book on Bush's ill-conceived experiment with militant idealism in foreign affairs.

For the story, see:
"Jeane Kirkpatrick and the Death of the Bush Doctrine."

Posted by: AngryOne on December 11, 2006 at 2:26 PM | PERMALINK

The ISG wants American troops to remain in Iraq. The UNSC wants American troops to remain in Iraq.

Too bad, then, that the American people want American troops to leave Iraq.

Posted by: Stefan on December 11, 2006 at 2:32 PM | PERMALINK

Joe Galloway on "The Way Forward"

http://www.editorandpublisher.com/eandp/news/article_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1003495561

Posted by: Prior Aelred on December 11, 2006 at 2:35 PM | PERMALINK

The agents that most fervently want American troop withdrawals to begin immediately are the governments of Syria and Iran.

Hmmm...apparently 75% of Americans are in league with the goverments of Syria and Iran:

Three in Four Americans Support Bringing Troops Home From Iraq

A new Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll conducted October 10-11 finds that nearly three in four Americans (73 percent) agree that U.S. troops should start to come home.

The Fox News poll asked Americans if they agreed or disagreed with this statement: The United States has sacrificed enough for the people of Iraq, and now it is time that they take on most of the burden of their security in their country and let U.S. troops to start to come home.

A strong majority of Americans of all ideological stripes agree with this statement which is similar to the argument the Center for American Progress makes in the Strategic Redeployment plan released last September that American troops have done their share, and it is time for Iraqis to take responsibility for their own affairs.

http://thinkprogress.org/2006/10/14/iraq-poll-2/


Posted by: Stefan on December 11, 2006 at 2:39 PM | PERMALINK

Well, at least ONE ethnic relocation from WWII resulted in MORE violence. Not less. *sigh*

Posted by: Extradite Rumsfeld on December 11, 2006 at 2:41 PM | PERMALINK

The UNSC wants American troops to remain in Iraq.

Wouldn't that be some sort of global test? The liars who love this war have no credibility left. They should be mocked, and their ideas should serve only as an example of what not to do.

Posted by: enozinho (wetorture.com) on December 11, 2006 at 2:52 PM | PERMALINK

Iraqis are politicking:

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20061210/ap_on_re_mi_ea/iraq_politics

Stefan: " ... it is time that they take on most of the burden of their security in their country and let U.S. troops to start to come home.

And yet the House voted down a resolution that would have initiated bringing the troops home *immediately*. If the Democrats read that poll result that you quoted, maybe they will do what I predicted they won't: vote a bill out of committee for consideration by the full Congress specifying that the troop withdrawals begin immediately.

Posted by: MatthewRMarler on December 11, 2006 at 3:10 PM | PERMALINK

Well, at least ONE ethnic relocation from WWII resulted in MORE violence. Not less. *sigh*
Posted by: Extradite Rumsfeld

if Israel disappeared tomorrow the various factions would be at war the day after fighting over control of the corpse.

Posted by: MsNThrope on December 11, 2006 at 3:20 PM | PERMALINK

The agents that most fervently want American troop withdrawals to begin immediately are the governments of Syria and Iran.
Posted by: MatthewRMarler

It seems hard to say whether Iran wants US troops out or not. Quite obviously they want to influence who controls the government of Iraq, but they do have some good reasons for not wanting Iraq to break apart and become balkanized along Sunni, Shiite, and Kurdish lines. Like Turkey, Iran has a fair number of Kurds in their country and a Kurdish state right next to Iran would mean serious instability within in their country. So at some level, there is a basis for US and Iranian cooperation in keeping Iraq from descending into total chaos. But there's probably a lot ideological difference between how the US would like to see that happen and how Iran would.

Posted by: cyntax on December 11, 2006 at 3:24 PM | PERMALINK

Cyntax, I really greatly admire your ability to intelligently address the issues.

(psst... In case you missed the announcement, this is CFShep in new to PA Moliere raiment.)

Posted by: MsNThrope on December 11, 2006 at 3:43 PM | PERMALINK

Thanks MsNThrope (ne CFShep), are we still dealing with fallout from the handle-jacking BS?

You keep up the good work as well.

Posted by: cyntax on December 11, 2006 at 4:01 PM | PERMALINK

Hijacked handles are getting zapped pretty promptly, it seems to me.

Posted by: Global Citizen on December 11, 2006 at 4:04 PM | PERMALINK

It's only collaterally really about the handle hijacking but it is a consequence.

"Insects won't inherit the earth," Cornell University entomologist Thomas Eisner once said. "They own it now."

Posted by: MsNThrope on December 11, 2006 at 4:19 PM | PERMALINK

"Bush is described by another recent visitor as still resolutely defiant, convinced history will ultimately vindicate him."

http://www.nydailynews.com/12-10-2006/news/politics/story/478728p-402763c.html

Posted by: Prior Aelred on December 11, 2006 at 5:00 PM | PERMALINK

"WE" could do?

Oh.My.God.

Posted by: Dee on December 11, 2006 at 5:26 PM | PERMALINK

if Israel disappeared tomorrow the various factions would be at war the day after fighting over control of the corpse.

But I doubt they would be armed with gifted state of the art weapons and encouraged to fight each other by the US. I also doubt a lot of US citizens would become dual citizens, start religious settlements, walk around with automatic weapons and act as if given a property deed by a deity.

Posted by: Hostile on December 11, 2006 at 6:22 PM | PERMALINK

cyntax on December 11, 2006 at 3:24 PM,

that was a pretty good post. I doubt that the U.S. and Iran can reach an agreement (in my opinion, we cooked our own goose when the U.S. did not loudly object to the Iraqi invasion of Iran, not that such objections would likely have had any effects at the time), but Iran might reduce its support for Shi'ite militias if the reward was that the U.S. forces obviated huge weapons purchases for the Sunnis by the Saudis. Their public utterances express that they want us gone, but that could just be a negotiating position.

Posted by: MatthewRMarler on December 11, 2006 at 7:35 PM | PERMALINK

Thanks MRM.

I doubt that the U.S. and Iran can reach an agreement (in my opinion, we cooked our own goose when the U.S. did not loudly object to the Iraqi invasion of Iran, not that such objections would likely have had any effects at the time),

Yeah, that certainly didn't help. We also lost an opportunity right after the Iraq invasion, before the insurgency had gained traction, to negotiate from a position of strength with Iran. I think you're right: ultimately Iran would like to see us gone. But they may believe as the Saudis do that our complete departure would make things worse.

At this point, I'm thinking we pack everything up and go. I think we've lost enough lives and caused enough damage with not a lot to show. The various factions will have to fight themselves to a stalemate before they can move forward with a political solution. Sorry, but I am a bit gloomy on this issue.

Of course we won't go, so maybe we can get Iran to bring some pressure onto the Badr Brigade militias (they were trained by Iran's Revolutionary Guard). It'd be better than nothing.

Posted by: cyntax on December 11, 2006 at 7:57 PM | PERMALINK

Do we really think in this era of globalization that fragmenting societies and hiding behind walls and barbed wire is a step in the right direction? Partition this, partition that, and before you know it we're all falling apart.

Posted by: The Other Alan on December 11, 2006 at 9:35 PM | PERMALINK

cyntax: The various factions will have to fight themselves to a stalemate before they can move forward with a political solution. Sorry, but I am a bit gloomy on this issue.

I generally argue for a more optimistic outlook. It isn't an overwhelming case.

Posted by: MatthewRMarler on December 11, 2006 at 11:55 PM | PERMALINK

Nothing like undoing the mistakes made under Sykes-Picot almost a hundred years later.

Perhaps it's time to admit that the British experiment of combining together the old Ottoman regions of Mosul, Baghdad and Basra into the new country of Iraq wasn't a good idea.

Posted by: Ed Fitzgerald (unfutz) on December 12, 2006 at 4:16 AM | PERMALINK

The 'Peace Wall' in West Belfast separated the general populations of protestants and catholics fairly well. They were reinforced with checkpoints, military patrols and roving APCs however. They also didn't do much to stop the terroirsts on both sides from killing a bunch of people.

Posted by: Ian Paisely can feck off on December 12, 2006 at 5:18 AM | PERMALINK

What then to make of this, hostile?

KILLINGS PUT GAZA ON EDGE
By Richard Boudreaux, Times Staff Writer
December 12, 2006
http://www.latimes.com/news/printedition/front/la-fg-gaza12dec12,0,384304.story?coll=la-headlines-frontpage

"Later in the day, hundreds of enraged mourners burned tires, blocked roads and shut down the city's central market, a possible prelude to warfare in the coastal territory that has been plagued by clan feuds, surging crime and political violence.

Fatah leaders said the slayings crossed a line in the factional struggle for control of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, a conflict that has claimed scores of lives. The episodic fighting triggered by the Hamas movement's upset victory in parliamentary elections in January had not previously targeted children."

Posted by: MsNThrope on December 12, 2006 at 8:21 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin,

I haven't read the paper yet (I will, soon) but just off the top of my head, population exchange is less easy than it sounds. In India, where I'm from, the chattering middle-classes routinely throw out lines like "oh, if only we had exchanged populations, then the we woulnd't have had the massacres, that accompanied the partition of India".

Please. Population transfer is anything but simple. You're talking of relocating people, who've lived somewhere all their lives, who have friends, family and property there. They will never agree to leave -- and will have to be prevailed upon to leave by force (consider how much fuss Gaza's settlers made over withdrawal). This might work for small relocations (like Gaza) but Iraq? (Never for India, though, there were far too many people) Maybe. Although my guess is that it would require a substantial increase in the number of US troops (surely you didn't think the Iraqi Army would be effective at it, do you?) if there is any hope of carrying out this relocation without violence. A straight-partition of Iraq (as opposed to partition at a neighborhood level)? That may work again but there's the problem of what happens to people who get caught on the wrong side (this is exactly what happened in India).

Either way, there are going to be costs.

Posted by: shreeharsh on December 12, 2006 at 1:36 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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