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Tilting at Windmills

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September 28, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

THE BIDEN PLAN....Partition Iraq? Marc Lynch thinks not:

As meaningless, non-binding symbolic Senate resolutions go, Joe Biden just managed a doozy. By passing with 75 votes a meaningless, non-binding symbolic Senate resolution in favor of the partition of Iraq, Biden managed to simultaneously: infuriate nearly all Iraqis, who have virtually unanimously condemned the resolution (as have the Arab allies of the US, for that matter); let Senate Republicans off the hook by allowing them to say that they voted for change even though they continue to vote against anything real; and endorse an unworkable plan which would massively increase human suffering while working against American interests in the region and not actually solving the problems.

Come on, Marc, tell us what you really think.

Kevin Drum 2:53 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (61)

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Biden is a heartless butcher. It's not bad enough that we stole the country and stomped all over it. Now we intend to chop it up. Maybe we're hoping the Iraqis will finally bow down and just beg us to leave whenever we're done.

Nir Rosen paints a grim picture of the process we have been managing there and what partition means.

Posted by: Boolaboola on September 28, 2007 at 3:05 PM | PERMALINK

I don't agree with Biden's solution, but I think he has achieved something momentous here. Now, even some Republicans are talking about alternatives to a never-ending war of attrition. That's a start.

Posted by: CT on September 28, 2007 at 3:08 PM | PERMALINK

So boolaboozebrain do you have a better idea?

Posted by: Gandalf on September 28, 2007 at 3:17 PM | PERMALINK

Looks like Dr. Cole agrees with Lynch.

Posted by: Quaker in a Basement on September 28, 2007 at 3:19 PM | PERMALINK

So boolaboozebrain do you have a better idea?

Thank you for asking, Galdalf. It would be a better idea to refrain from partitioning Iraq.

Posted by: Boolaboozebrain on September 28, 2007 at 3:21 PM | PERMALINK


a USA Today, ABC, and BBC. date uncertain.

"The groups also have differing views on where Iraq is headed. Seventy-five percent of Sunni Arabs predict that five years from now, Iraq will be unified under a central government in Baghdad. A 48% plurality of Shiites say it is likely to be a group of regional governments joined in a federation. And a 41% plurality of Kurds say it will have split into independent states."

Posted by: Matt on September 28, 2007 at 3:24 PM | PERMALINK

Seems to me that the Iraqis are doing a fine job of executing, quite literally at times, a de facto partition of their country, so they must be worried that the U.S. Senate is trying to horn in and take some of the credit for it.

With all due respect to Professor Cole, at what point do we just recognize the obvious with regard to the increasing sectarian and ethnic divide in Iraq? Pretend it isn't there? Or try to put Humpty Dumpty back together again?

As must as it was Bush's war that started all this in motion, what sustains the ongoing civil war in Iraq is something that was always there to begin with.

Posted by: David W. on September 28, 2007 at 3:26 PM | PERMALINK

To me, the partition idea stinks of genocidal intent. Edwards may want to consider invading Delaware and deposing its disgusting senator.

Posted by: Brojo on September 28, 2007 at 3:27 PM | PERMALINK

Partitioning Iraq would "compartmentalize" the various warring parties so we could understand exactly whom is at war with whom. It would also provide mappable 'front lines' for each conflict.

(always a silver lining)

Posted by: wishIwuz2 on September 28, 2007 at 3:35 PM | PERMALINK

At this point; I'm not really sure what the fuck Iraqi's think about us. I mean, look at what we've done to their country. What could we do that would make them hate us less?


This resolution is a mouse-fart in a hurricane. More of a waste of time than anything else.

Posted by: osama_been_forgotten on September 28, 2007 at 3:38 PM | PERMALINK

That country is going to partition whether we like it or not. Just ask the Kurds.

Posted by: elmo on September 28, 2007 at 3:39 PM | PERMALINK

That country is going to partition whether we like it or not. Just ask the Kurds.

The Turks would strenuously disagree with you.

Posted by: DJ on September 28, 2007 at 3:44 PM | PERMALINK

Partition is the way to go, but the resolution needs to be binding.

Posted by: Rich on September 28, 2007 at 3:49 PM | PERMALINK

Actually, the partition plan has a certain sense of historical irony and symmetry to it. As I'm sure any historical scholar, like George W. Bush, knows - modern day Iraq was formed by the British after WWI from three provinces ("eyalets") of the old Ottoman Empire called Mosul, Basra and Baghdad.

The partition plan would basically go back to the pre-WWI boundaries. It is something like the converse of the line from the Christian marriage ceremony, to wit:

"What God has put asunder, let no man put together".

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on September 28, 2007 at 3:53 PM | PERMALINK

The Turks would strenuously disagree with you.

The Kurds are already partitioned in their minds. They passed a law outlawing the Iraqi flag, remember.(except for when Iraq wins a soccer game, of course)

Posted by: elmo on September 28, 2007 at 3:54 PM | PERMALINK

I don't know if partition would be good or bad. (I suspect bad.) I do not know whether it will happen or not. (I suspect it will.) What I do know is that it is not for us to decide, it's up to the Iraqis. If they, or most of them, want our help one way or another, we ought to give it, within reason. Otherwise, we -- and especially the Senate -- should STFU.

Posted by: CJColucci on September 28, 2007 at 4:06 PM | PERMALINK

Well, as a Canadian, I would like to suggest that our parliament pass a resolution (non-binding of course) that the best way forward re. the problem of the U.S. and the danger represented therein would be a partition of said state.

(only half in jest)

Posted by: snicker-snack on September 28, 2007 at 4:46 PM | PERMALINK

We need a constitutional amendment outlawing non-binding resolutions.

If we insist on electing fools to the Senate, we could at least make it harder for them to prove it.

Posted by: Boronx on September 28, 2007 at 4:52 PM | PERMALINK

The solution is quite easy. The US needs to go on a full mobilization war footing. Institute a draft, price controls, forced savings, command economy...the whole shebang. Then we

1.) Invade Suadi Arabia and throw the House of Saud out.
2.) Occupy Egypt, Israel, Syria, Lebanon, and the rest of Palestine.
3.) Set up and enforce a 'united states of arabia'
4.) Stay until "democratization" is complete.

This should only cost about $20 trillion, take decades, and result in millions of deaths, including a million of our own military.

If #4 is the REAL goal, then pay the REAL price. Otherwise, war supporters are just bloviating, and trying to get something for nothing. Is this Wilsonianism run amok? Well sure it is, but ya' gotta' go where logic leads. Seems simple to this simple mind.

Posted by: bobbyp on September 28, 2007 at 4:52 PM | PERMALINK

I've always thought this was the best option. Iraq's not a real country to being with.

Posted by: JeffII on September 28, 2007 at 4:57 PM | PERMALINK

Iraq's not a real country to being with.

You may be right JeffII,but what's a real country. Canada? With Quebec in its heart as a distinct nation? The pastiche of nations that is the UK? Indonesia? Hungary with it's 'people' slopping over into its neighbors and its neighbor's 'people' slopping over into it? All countries are constructs in their own ways and there are only about half a dozen or so countries in the world that are largely one national/ethnic group within defined borders. The word 'country' conjures up (or should) a myriad of different arrangements.

Posted by: snicker-snack on September 28, 2007 at 5:18 PM | PERMALINK

I'm in agreement that with the ethnic cleansing that's going on, Iraq is already well on it's way to a partition. We need some creative thinking there to work on a cease fire between the factions and a solid agreement with them on how soon we're getting out.

Posted by: tomeck on September 28, 2007 at 5:30 PM | PERMALINK

All countries are constructs in their own ways . . . Posted by: snicker-snack

Iraq hardly fits that category as it, as with most of the countries in the ME, Africa and Latin America, were created by foreign powers, with Iraq being a "country" for less than one-hundred years.

Perhaps you prefer the term state. Whichever, Iraq is as artificial a national construct as exists in recent history.

Posted by: JeffII on September 28, 2007 at 5:31 PM | PERMALINK

Well, as a Canadian, I would like to suggest that our parliament pass a resolution (non-binding of course) that the best way forward re. the problem of the U.S. and the danger represented therein would be a partition of said state.

A wall along the Mason-Dixon line and restoring Richmond's status as capital of The Other? You may be on to something.

Posted by: shortstop on September 28, 2007 at 5:52 PM | PERMALINK

"Biden managed to simultaneously: infuriate nearly all Iraqis"

Hmmmm - I am skeptical that this is necessarily a perfect proxy for what Iraqis really think about partition.

Polls are crap in this situation:

Sunnis are nominally against partition ONLY BECAUSE they fear getting left without oil/$$. I suspect if you work out a partition plan where Sunnis get 50 years of petro-royalties and suddenly Sunnis would LOVE to have an independent state.

Shiites are nominally against partition because they have nothing to directly gain by it: as the ethnic majority they rule the country either way.

Kurds want their own state. We all know that in spite of the fact that leaders downplay it to placate Turkey.

As someone said above, we need to be thinking more creatively at this point, and I for one think the way to go is to slowly move toward partition as the endgame. How do you deal with Kirkuk? water rights? angry Turks? I don't know. That's what negotiations are for. And in the abstract it seems much easier to force an agreement where the 3 parties are trying to find a way to live apart rather than a way to live together.

It's time to start talking about a least-harm solution over the next 10-20 years, rather than aiming for some pie-in-the-sky kumbayah moment where everyone is happy with what they get.

Posted by: ssdagger on September 28, 2007 at 6:12 PM | PERMALINK

I would agree that non-binding resolutions, in this particular instance, do nothing but give the Republicans cover - to say they have done something when they effectively have done nothing. But I don't agree with what seems to be some almost flippant dismissal of the idea pushing for a soft partition as though there is no need to actually present a valid argument against the notion. There is no doubt that it is an extremely difficult situation to assess, but it isn't as though there are no thoughtful arguments to made for a soft partition - at least as thoughtful as the ones against it and for some other solution (the latter part of which is often missing, yet is one of the most important factors; what else is better and why would it be better than a soft partition?). Here is an argument for soft partition presented at the Brookings Institute:


The Case for Soft Partition in Iraq

Saban Center Analysis, Number 12, June 2007

Edward P. Joseph, Visiting Scholar and Professorial Lecturer, Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University
Michael E. O'Hanlon, Senior Fellow, Foreign Policy Studies

And here is a brief synopsis of the paper:


The time may be approaching when the only hope for a more stable Iraq is a soft partition of the country. Soft partition would involve the Iraqis, with the assistance of the international community, dividing their country into three main regions. Each would assume primary responsibility for its own security and governance, as Iraqi Kurdistan already does. Creating such a structure could prove difficult and risky. However, when measured against the alternatives—continuing to police an ethno-sectarian war, or withdrawing and allowing the conflict to escalate— the risks of soft partition appear more acceptable. Indeed, soft partition in many ways simply responds to current realities on the ground, particularly since the February 2006 bombing of the Samarra mosque, a major Shi'i shrine, dramatically escalated intersectarian violence. If the U.S. troop surge, and the related effort to broker political accommodation through the existing coalition government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki fail, soft partition may be the only means of avoiding an intensification of the civil war and growing threat of a regional conflagration. While most would regret the loss of a multi-ethnic, diverse Iraq, the country has become so violent and so divided along ethno-sectarian lines that such a goal may no longer be achievable.


Posted by: TK on September 28, 2007 at 6:20 PM | PERMALINK

Here is a link to an mp3 of a discussion on the paper I mentioned above:


Posted by: TK on September 28, 2007 at 6:45 PM | PERMALINK

It would be my hope that the next time Michael E. O'Hanlon, Senior Fellow, Foreign Policy Studies, goes to Iraq, he does not return. O'Hanlon deserves a hard partition from this world, which may be the only means of avoiding an intensification of the genocide the US is perpetrating in Iraq now.

Posted by: Brojo on September 28, 2007 at 7:04 PM | PERMALINK

Why is the US Senate saying anything about the partition of a fully sovereign democratic country that's a strong ally in the War on Terror? "Let Freedom Reign," remember?

Posted by: croatoan on September 28, 2007 at 7:55 PM | PERMALINK

"The time has come"

everyone says that now days. I am too. Every country in the ME that the US has shoe-horned itself into has become a tentative state - IE not in the condition into we hope to transform it in due course. No corrective measure has worked.

We suck in the ME. We have had no success except in getting oil. THE TIME HAS COME to dispense with our turgid democratic pieties, get out and make deals with who ever ends up with the oil.

Only then will be able to properly compete with the Chinese, who are not held back by our high-falutin compuctions, for control of oil.

Saudi, Egypt, Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Iraq, Iran, everywhere we shit the bed. ( not to mention Morroco, Afganistan, Somalia, And where ever else) We suck. We need to leave. Lets get the hell out.

Iraq will partition if Biden wants it or not. Biden is gloriously and fabulously irrelevant.

Posted by: exclab on September 28, 2007 at 10:07 PM | PERMALINK

2008 election is over.

Dems ceded it to the GOP by their vote on Iran, the Petraus ad, and general by their faulure to deliver on the war.

The presumptive Dem nominee signed the surrender papers in the last Dem debate.

It's now just a question of whether it will be McCain, Guiliani, or Thompson.

Idiots all.

Posted by: gregor on September 28, 2007 at 10:08 PM | PERMALINK

"The groups also have differing views on where Iraq is headed. Seventy-five percent of Sunni Arabs predict that five years from now, Iraq will be unified under a central government in Baghdad. A 48% plurality of Shiites say it is likely to be a group of regional governments joined in a federation. And a 41% plurality of Kurds say it will have split into independent states."
Posted by: Matt on September 28, 2007 at 3:24 PM
All three major groups see the future of Iraq to their own liking: The Sunni want to wrest control back and control the entire country, the Shia just want to make sure their region is semi-autonomous, and the Kurds want their own independent Kurdistan. It looks like a killer domestic dispute that most cops dread having to respond to in the middle of the night.

Posted by: Doc at the Radar Station on September 28, 2007 at 10:30 PM | PERMALINK

Biden's full plan, which he has been articulating for at least 2 years includes securing the borders to keep out Iran, Syria, Turkey and (not incidentally) Saudi Arabia while the UN enforces the internal separation of the major factions. Yes, I do know that there are tribal disputes among the factions that will still result in blood shed, but we can't worry about that and we can't control all variables.

Historically, separation is the only thing that has ever stopped this kind of civil war. Hell, ask any pre-school teacher and she will tell you that the way to stop toddlers from fighting is to put them in different corners.

The whole of the Biden plan does depend on sharing of oil revenues AND for the US to stop raping Iraq of its oil.

Posted by: Merg on September 28, 2007 at 10:54 PM | PERMALINK

Did anyone bother reading the links? Reidar Vissar nicely punctures the claim that Iraq was "always" 3 separate territories. Truth: The three Ottoman "provinces" were always historically mixed - both Baghdad AND Basra provinces had a Shia majority and Mosul province was an ethnic mix with no one group predominating. Baghdad and Basra were also one province until the late-middle 19th century.

"Iraq" was the name of the lower Mesopotamian region even in Ottoman times. And the regions that make up Iraq have never been separated from each other for over 1000 years.

More importantly, Iraq ISN'T falling apart along neat, clean sectarian lines. Abu Aardvark's post links to Iraq scholar Toby Dodge on the Foreign Policy magazine website; as Dodge points out, there is as much INTRA-sectarian conflict as there is inter-sectarian conflict. Multiple Sunni groups are fighting each other, the Shi'a are in a state of civil war between rival political parties, and even the Kurds have a history of warfare between the PUK and the KDP.

What's happening in Iraq is that central authority has completely fallen apart and multiple groups are vying for power. Ethnic cleansing has been severe, but it hasn't been uniform; as the NYT wrote last week, full surveys show that some areas have become MORE mixed (i.e. people are fleeing ethnic cleansing to go to more secure areas which aren't always run by the same community as theirs).

Lastly, as Mark Lynch points out, as well as Reidar Vissar, Juan Cole, Toby Hodge, and the New Yorker last week - partitioning Iraq, even under a "soft" partition would require MORE US troops and a long-term presence to enforce the division. It's a recipe for even more intense ethnic cleansing and would tie US troops up for years.

Those who want to withdraw just ought to advocate WITHDRAWAL. Partitioning Iraq would do NOTHING to make it more stable and would probably make things worse.

Posted by: Andrew on September 28, 2007 at 10:58 PM | PERMALINK

Andrew, yes I did read the links. Did you read the one I linked to (the Brookings Institution paper) as a counter-argument? The authors of that paper try to address all the points you mention. Of course, you may not accept their arguments as convincing but what they have to say is not less substantial than the arguments provided in the articles you mention. It is not simply a given that a soft partition would make things worse. Like all thoughtful arguments, where one comes down in one's assessment depends very much on which assumptions one finds most plausible.

Do you think that the US should just WITHDRAW and that outcome would be better than trying a soft partition? If not, then what approach do you recommend as being more likely to lead to a better outcome than a quick withdrawal or pushing for a soft partition?

Posted by: TK on September 28, 2007 at 11:39 PM | PERMALINK

We don’t really need Delaware. Let’s give it to the Kurds.

Posted by: antiphone on September 28, 2007 at 11:51 PM | PERMALINK

OK, you want a creative solution...here's one for you.
Lets separate the Men from the Women and children.
Think about it. No more 10 year old suicide martyrs...no more 'death to America' Jihadi schools...no new generation (at all if the separation is long enough)...Rights and education for women...We might just be able to get a real negotiation and settlement going because everybody knows that there is nothing more enticing to an Islamic Jihadi than access to all those virgins

Posted by: Merg on September 28, 2007 at 11:58 PM | PERMALINK

Fait, meet accompli.

I see your entendre, and triple it Mr. Churchill.

Posted by: Sparko on September 29, 2007 at 12:17 AM | PERMALINK

The Kurds don't want Delaware. They want New Jersey...go figure?

(if I had to guess why, I'd say, it's because the stripers are better...)

Posted by: elmo on September 29, 2007 at 12:24 AM | PERMALINK

Kurdish Delaware will be a beacon of freedom illuminating the North American region and striking fear into the hearts of neighboring despots as well as bringing in tourists to it’s world class casinos.

Posted by: antiphone on September 29, 2007 at 12:27 AM | PERMALINK

We need to start with he facts and reality on the ground, which I think Biden is nearer to summarizing.

Every Iraqi says they want to keep Iraq as one country. However, the Kurds are and want to remain autonomous, and have been pushing immigrant Arabs and others out; the Shia have consolidated their majority areas, including ethnic cleansing; Baghdad's religious make up has changed very significantly in favor of the Shia; millions of Sunnis have been displaced, half of them leaving the country.

Has the US shown the least capability of stabilizing the country to the point that, particularly, the Shia and Sunni can live even close to side by side, or to entice the emmigr (and skilled) Sunnis back?

No, obviously not.

Are the Iraqi factions continuing to splinter?

Yes, it would seem so.

A de facto partition is going on, and it may not end as a soft partition.

The problems facing the US are intractable given the political will or grasp on reality of this administration, most prospective presidents, or of the nation.

We now have not only the problems of Iraq that are completely US-created, but the burgeoning problem of displaced people -- a total that increases every day -- but may become an emmigrant flood if the Sunnis are unable to protect themselves.

All this is well beyond the capabilities of this preznit but it would be nice if the politicians would get a firm grip on reality. The Iraq Study Group tried to show a least bad way out; piecemeal we drift towards those recommendations. At least Edwards wants to get out of this mess. I have to say Biden is presenting a plan that is based in the reality, and he is only being proven more right as the year goes by.

Posted by: notthere on September 29, 2007 at 12:50 AM | PERMALINK

Dammmmmmit antiphone! I wanted to respond in kind, but I was ROFLMAO!!!...!!!

Posted by: elmo on September 29, 2007 at 12:56 AM | PERMALINK

TK, I do not believe that partition will do anything to solve the problems its advocates profess to desire.

Partition MIGHT make sense were there three emerging entities ala Bosnia. But there aren't. The Shias and Sunnis are NOT coherent groupings. Within each group there is as much violent conflict as there is or has been between the two.

People argue that Iraq is already heading towards a 3-state solution by itself, but that is completely untrue. It's partially true in the case of the Kurds, but regarding the Arabs, what has happened is basically a complete breakdown of central authority. And that authority isn't being replaced by a "Sunnistan" and a "Shiastan."

(Nor - I might add - is there ANY history of a division between central and southern Iraq based on sectarian majorities.)

A soft or hard partition might still be plausible if it would reduce violence or allow a drawdown of US troops. But I see no way that this happens. Partitions have been fairly common occurrences in the past 100 years, and typically when it occurred, civil wars actually intensified (re: Israel/Palestine, Ireland/Northern Ireland, India/Pakistan); dividing the place would be a way to encourage even MORE ethnic cleansing, only we would now be in a position of having to assist it.

Secondly, how would we enforce it? There is NO governing authority in any of those states. We'd be having to build TWO whole sets of institutions instead of one, while enforcing completely new, never-before-established borders and providing security to two fledging and unstable states.

This isn't merely the best of bad options - it's a terrible option on its own terms. It won't solve the conflict, it won't allow a drawdown of US troops, and it won't have the support of the Iraqi people.

Honestly, if we want to withdraw, we ought to just withdraw. Continue to support Iraqi territorial integrity and support UN-lead efforts at forging a political solution. This would not be a "good" solution, but it's better than the alternatives and it won't incur the costs that a partition (even a "soft" partition) would entail.

Simply put, partitioning Iraq would be an illusory solution.

Posted by: Andrew on September 29, 2007 at 4:16 AM | PERMALINK

The Democrats like to talk about ending the war, but they don't want to live with the possible consequences of ending the war.

Only Ron Paul has the courage to do that, and to end the war immediately.

Posted by: brian on September 29, 2007 at 8:58 AM | PERMALINK

Andrew, I do appreciate that what we are facing in Iraq is a horrible set of choices, with only the prospect of hoping we choose one that has the least worst outcome.

You didn't explicitly say that you think a quick withdrawal is the best of the terrible choices, but I'm going to infer that that is your judgment based on your comments. I actually have a strong inclination for that choice myself, but I don't think there is much doubt that if the US quickly withdraws, the smoldering civil war will burst into a full fledged civil war. If a soft partitioning of Iraq into a federation of states (not independent nations) does not work, then the country will probably also fall into a full fledged civil war, but the consequences of a full fledged civil war are so awful for the people of Iraq and the possible escalation of the conflict beyond it borders that I think it may very well be worth the effort to try a soft partition first. The primary reason not to, is to have judged that it is almost a certainty that a soft partition will not work, as, evidently have have judged. That is a reasonable judgment and it has the important value of getting American soldiers out of danger more quickly and allowing more resources to flow to Afghanistan and domestic priorities in the US. But a substantial number of American soldiers appear to be willing to put their lives on the line to help the Iraqi's come to some sort of workable agreement and I do feel the US has responsibility to try to prevent a widespread civil war if it has some reasonable chance of working. I do tilt toward thinking that there is some reasonable chance of a soft partition working, although I freely acknowledge that it may not.

Argument by analogy is always an "iffy" thing, but often, when it comes to historical patterns, that is one of the few things we can look to, so I can appreciate why you make it. The question is if the examples you gave are close analogies. One significant difference is that in each of the examples you provided the partition was into two independent nations (or with Northern Ireland between one new nation and one with affiliation with Great Briton). Bosnia is a closer analogy with respect to the partitioning taking place as a federation of states within a nation (not that I am arguing that Iraq is like Bosnia in all relevant and important ways, just in that respect). I don't think what happened with the Arabic and the Jewish people in old Palestine is close enough a parallel to be an analogy worth considering. In the cases of Ireland/Northern Ireland and India/Pakistan I believe it it legitimate to ask if the outcome would have been worse without a partition than with it. And I believe there is good reason to think the outcomes would have been at least as bad or worse without partition. When two ethnic/religious populations are very closely interacting that have had bloody confrontations it is not difficult for extreme polarizing groups from both sides to continue fomenting continued conflict.

If you had said that you were in favor of not having a quick withdrawal and trying to work toward a strong centralized government then I would have pointed out that the argument "there is not sufficient reason to believe that the Shia are coherent enough to form a stable federal state so a federated system would not work" - that argument against a federal system, if it is correct, precludes any hope of a strong centralized government working in Iraq. At least it precludes such a thing happening without one Shia group forcefully suppressing other Shia groups AND the Sunnis; which, of course, would only come about after a nasty civil war. So if the argument that Shia are not coherent enough to form a federated state within the nation of Iraq is true then it makes no sense to argue that the US ought to "stay the course" in trying to get the present "government of reconciliation" to work. If it is true that the Shia are not coherent enough a group to form a federal state within Iraq then a full blown civil war is inevitable and it may very well be that the best thing the US can do is get out of the way as best a possible and try to contain the violence to Iraq's borders.

Unfortunately, I don't think there is enough cohesiveness between the Shia and Sunnis (and the Kurds) to form a viable strong central government of reconciliation. I think we should have seen more concrete signs of it crystalizing by now if it were going to occur (sorry about the mixed metaphor). If that assessment is correct then the crucial remaining question is just how coherent are the Shia. If they aren't coherent enough to form a federal state within Iraq then we should probably quickly withdraw and accept the risks associated with the horrible civil war that is likely to follow because that civil war is essentially an inevitability.

Posted by: TK on September 29, 2007 at 9:26 AM | PERMALINK

Those who want to withdraw just ought to advocate WITHDRAWAL. Partitioning Iraq would do NOTHING to make it more stable and would probably make things worse.
Posted by: Andrew on September 28, 2007 at 10:58 PM

I agree. It is a lot easier to keep the grass untrampled if you wait to put in the sidewalks where the footpaths are.

Posted by: Doc at the Radar Station on September 29, 2007 at 11:37 AM | PERMALINK

You should review Daniel Ellsberg’s speech given September 20th at a symposium on War with Iran “A Coup has occurred” at www.consortiumnews.com/2007/092607a.html. Ellsberg points to the remarkable surveillance state that has been created since September 11, 2001. This could not have happened without abdication by our Congress, both parties, and an incredibly lazy media, accepting all kinds of ridiculous propaganda put out by our corrupt government. Don’t be so sure that we have a better political and economic system than France or Germany.

Congress is just masturbating while the new Roman Empire rots from the head. Why don’t the press point out how stupid it is for us to pretend that we can invade, partition and rule Muslim countries? What we do is to inflame Muslims. Our grandchildren will pay a terrible price for this.

Posted by: Old.Bob on September 29, 2007 at 12:18 PM | PERMALINK

Do you think that the US should just WITHDRAW and that outcome would be better than trying a soft partition?

Andrew gave a good answer. Partition will create much more violence than has already been created. The US should withdraw from Iraq immediately, but it also must provide reparations to the Iraqis. All of them. These reparations must be expensive and painful for the American people to pay.

The US must also publicly identify, prosecute and punish its leadership that led the invasion and occupation of Iraq. All of them. I also think the US must be collectively punished, but it is not something we can do to ourselves. The UN or another world body needs to impose economic and military sanctions against the US. The US must have its military broken and its military industrial complex dismantled. If any nation in the world needs to be partitioned, it is the US. Its people have shown themselves too dangerous to the rest of the world to be united behind any domestic leadership.

The US thinks it can impose partition on another region of the world. The world should respond harshly to that hubris.

What is to be feared is not the sectarian violence in Iraq, but the US militant hegemony that manifests itself by invasion, occupation and then national dismemberment. The model used for Iraq was created in Palestine, and the US is eying new targets. For the people of Iraq and the rest of the world, the US must withdraw from the region immediately. The US cannot do anything but make things much worse than we already have.

Posted by: Brojo on September 29, 2007 at 1:42 PM | PERMALINK

Ya know what? We can sit here at our keyboards, shout back & forth within the halls of government, & argue over our back fences until the end of time. Bottom line is the Iraqis will do whatever they want to do, either on their own or in reaction to whatever the rest of the world does.

What does this resolution tell the Iraqis? 1)We are still going to meddle into your affairs. 2)We have different ideas on how to do that, but for the next 16 months you are still stuck with Bush's decisions. 3)We will continue to do the best we can to rob you of a substantial part of your oil wealth. 4)We are still working on #4, but we'll get back to you.

What does it tell Bush? 1)Hey Sheriff! The posse is taking over whether you like it or not. 2)We'll get back to you later.

What do the Iraqis want? Depends on which Iraqi you ask, methinks. And the only opinions we will hear is what the MSM/powerbrokers want to tell us. Oh, & and few isolated cries in the wilderness. Welcome to the jungle, Kiddies.

Posted by: bob in fl on September 29, 2007 at 2:14 PM | PERMALINK
…Only Ron Paul has the courage to do that….brian at 8:58 AM
Mike Gravel, Dennis Kucinich, Chris Dodd all say the same but without the nuttiness of Ron Paul's ideology. Posted by: Mike on September 29, 2007 at 3:00 PM | PERMALINK

I asked this question of Andrew: "Do you think that the US should just WITHDRAW and that outcome would be better than trying a soft partition?" [I'd like to note that the "withdraw" in caps was merely mirroring what Andrew had written previously and was not intended to communicate some kind of negative message toward Andrew.]

Brojo: "Partition will create much more violence than has already been created. The US should withdraw from Iraq immediately..."

Andrew did not actually answer the question of whether or not the US should quickly withdraw from Iraq, he just stated that a partition would not work. But I see that you did answer the question. I would agree that a partition would probably create much more violence than has already been created, but wouldn't a quick withdrawal also do that? I believe the question is, would a soft partition be likely or unlikely to lead to significantly less violence than a quick American withdrawal (including consideration of the possibility of the conflict spreading beyond Iraq's borders)? As I said, there is a reasonable case to be made either way, but I have the impression that many on this board take it as a given that a soft partition would never work without actually having considered the proposal put forward by the group from the Brookings Institution that I provided the link to. With respect to one of the concerns you raised, if you read the proposal you will see that they are not advocating the US imposing a soft partition on the Iraqis (which is why I have used the phrase "push for soft partition"), but instead point out that the present Iraqi constitution provides a legal grounds for the Iraqis to go the soft partition route if they so choose.

Posted by: TK on September 29, 2007 at 5:23 PM | PERMALINK

What I want is for Americans to no longer kill Iraqis in Iraq. Whether a quick withdrawal would result in more Iraqi deaths than a 'self-imposed' soft partition would is beside the point. The stage for violence has already been established in Iraq by the US, and there is nothing the US can do to mitigate it except stopping their great contributions to it. Whether there is any partition or not, or whether the US keeps 10,000 troops or 1,000,000 in Iraq, we will continue to kill Iraqis and they will not be able to determine their own outcome of the overthrow of Saddam. An outcome that will be decided by violence because the US invaded and because of the contingencies of the past. The US has no reason to remain in Iraq. The moral argument to prevent killing cannot be demonstrated. We cannot do it. We kill more innocents than we save. We do not save the innocents that are politically suspect. I think it should also be pointed out we immorally started the whole thing. We, the US, have no moral authority in Iraq. To secure stability requires continuing to contribute to the violence with state of the art weapons which cause mass killings, and, besides, this goal is only to give the petro mercantilists their victory. That is why that American designed puppet legislation to 'divide' oil revenues is always brought up as a way to bring the peace.

Anything the US does in Iraq will result in the killing of more Iraqis by Americans. There is only one way to stop that.

Let me ask you a question. Will Americans contribute to the violence in Iraq if they stay one more day?

Posted by: Brojo on September 29, 2007 at 6:33 PM | PERMALINK

I'm not given to long rambling passages so let me just point out this fact. Even a very wise leader such as Mohatma Ghandi recognized that India's Muslims had to be separated from its Hindu's if there was ever going to be a chance for peace. Thus was born Pakistan. And it was a Bloody process. Ghandi abhorred the loss of life but knew that there was no other way.

Posted by: Merg on September 29, 2007 at 7:11 PM | PERMALINK

I was under the impression the Mohatma was against India's partition. Regardless, look at that outcome: two nations always on the brink of nuclear war with each other. He certainly would have been against both countries developing and arming themselves with nuclear weapons. A partition of Iraq will not result in nuclear armed camps testing each other, it will result in conventionally armed camps raiding across each others borders.

Posted by: Brojo on September 29, 2007 at 7:39 PM | PERMALINK

That’s nonsense Merg.

Posted by: antiphone on September 29, 2007 at 9:39 PM | PERMALINK

Brojo: "Will Americans contribute to the violence in Iraq if they stay one more day?"

Will the medical operations lead to the deaths of patients due to infections?

The answer to both questions is, "Yes". I presume there is a moral assumption behind your question that differentiates between balancing the possible benefits of a medical operation against the risk of a patient dying due to an infection from the balancing of the possible benefits to Iraqis from helping them set up a soft partition (if their government chooses to do so) against Americans killing more Iraqis. If one assumes, as you appear to, that it is morally wrong for Americans to kill even one more Iraqi in Iraq, then, of course, the issue of balancing possible benefits and risks is not relevant. But, if one starts with a different assumption about the morality of the situation - that Americans have a moral responsibility to try a strategy that has a reasonable chance of preventing the greater bloodshed that would result from a civil war if there is such a strategy - then the assessment could very well be quite different from yours. Because of that, I do not think your question gets to the heart of the issue. I believe, to get right to the issue that seems most important to you, that a better question is one about how one assesses the morality of the situation - does one agree with you about the immorality of any American killing any Iraqi in Iraq no matter what the intent or does one agree that such deaths may be balanced by a greater good if it leads to averting a full scale civil war with many times more casualties. If one were to agree with your moral assumption then, of course, the right thing to do is to get out as quickly as possible and do everything possible to avoid having any Americans killing any more Iraqis. But if one does not agree with that moral assumption then that takes them back to the pragmatic assessment of whether or not a soft partition could be implemented if the Iraqis choose to try it and how likely is it that such an implementation would avoid the massive scale bloodletting of a full blown civil war. Everyone one of those questions is extremely difficult to judge, so it isn't surprising that there is a great deal of disagreement about them.

Posted by: TK on September 29, 2007 at 11:15 PM | PERMALINK

I guess I should point out that I have already answered in a prior post the morality question I posed above. I think Americans have a responsibility to try to help the Iraqis implement a soft partition if that is what they choose. I could try to justify the morality of that position to you, but I don't think I could do a good job of it without getting into a very deep discussion about the nature of morality - which is probably not desirable in this context.

It may very well be that the central issues of this discussion could be made irrelevant if the Iraqis make it substantially clear that there is not nearly enough agreement on trying a soft partition to make it workable. If they are presented with the option of us helping them try to implement a soft partition and they turn it down, then I think we should leave as expeditiously as possible - leaving them to almost inevitably to wage a terrible civil war amongst themselves. But at least we could feel we gave them the option to let us help them avoid it.

Posted by: TK on September 29, 2007 at 11:39 PM | PERMALINK

No time to read all the comments, just wanted to share Tom Barnett's comments on his blog about Biden's oped. And before you folks start frothing like Maytags, Barnett is no friend of the current administration.

Biden's been right all along

Decent, reasonable argument for recognizing the facts on the ground and not engaging in wish fulfillment by pretending that flipping the Sunnis against al-Qaeda means anything more than the Sunnis looking out for themselves.

And from a guy who's been right all along on the subject.

Barnett's blog.

Posted by: SJRSM on September 30, 2007 at 8:42 AM | PERMALINK


Posted by: rdw on September 30, 2007 at 12:37 PM | PERMALINK


Posted by: rdw on September 30, 2007 at 1:00 PM | PERMALINK

A number of people are talking about the casualty data and it's even more dramatic when compared to Sept 06. It's not just Powerline. The networks are going to have to deal with this puppy. It's up to you to explain the progress away.

I know better than to talk to your deluded ass, but...Bullshit.

BAGHDAD -- Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, acknowledged today that violence had increased since Sunni Arab militants declared an offensive during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

"Certainly Al Qaeda has had its Ramadan surge," Petraeus said in his first comments to reporters since he returned from Washington to give lawmakers a status report on the war in Iraq.

Now...up off your knees and wipe your chin.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on September 30, 2007 at 1:13 PM | PERMALINK



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