After communism and capitalism, there is asterism.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Whither Iraq?

Stirling Newberry at BopNews has one of the best analyses that I have read on Iraq. The summary in a few lines expalained issues that have nagged me for years:

Current political discussion in Iraq is a waste of time, it involves either discussing options that are not on the table – such as heavy occupation – or it involves discussing options that are, in total cost, even more costly than the current light occupation strategy. Light occupation as it is, is asking for distater, cut and run is asking for catastrophe.

The pervasive disconnect between elites and the public on Iraq has been in place since the first Gulf War, when Bush did not explain to the American public that since the Arabs were paying for the war, they got to pick the end state – namely Saddam in power, and Iraq's oil off-line. The costs of this policy were enormous, far more than the money paid to a broke American government at the time.

In the run up to Iraq, the desire to put Iraq's oil on line as the only solution to macro-economic problems that did not involve a major shift of the US economy, was also not discussed. In effect, the 2000 election was an election over whether Iraq would be invaded, and the US public voted against having energy efficiency – which was the only other viable policy.

In the present a third major decision is being made, one where Iraq is being treated as disconnected from oil prices, economic policy and the large questions of how America wants to direct its future. Iraq, the policy, is not a solution to the problems of the future, but its continuation has a great deal to say about whether the worst case scenarios come to fruition. No one is explaining to the public that an Iraq policy has to be intended to do one thing: prevent oil from reaching 100 dollars a barrel.

This disconnect has created three poles of consensus, none of which are viable. This assures that when the decision is made, it will be made without reference to the American public – except in debased form of some poll question that is about an emotionalized version of the issue – and that it will almost certainly be the wrong decision.

His solution - in a nutshell - is to partition Iraq. I feel, however he has missed one thing - and that is the Iraqi people. To split Iraq into a bunch of mini states may look the best of a bunch of worst options but shows great ignorance of Iraqi society and the social forces in the region. After a few thousand years of living in the this land without any divisive borders how well would the Iraqi people take to partition?

The tribes are so heavily intermarried it would be impossible to draw a line and say this side Shi'a that side Sunnis. And then what of the minorities? - would the Turkomen have to be rounded up and dumped on the Turkish border for not quite fitting in? What about the region? If you create a Shi'ite state in the south what happens when the oppressed Shi'a communities that sit atop much of the Saudi and Gulf oil decide that they would like some of this statehood. I will not even begin to start on the problems with Turkey and the Kurds...

To get to the point partition will create exactly the civil war and regional conflict that will push oil prices way past the $100 point.

On the contrary - we are asking the wrong question. It is not "how do we get Iraq out of this situation?" but "how do we let the Iraqi people create the alternative to the insurgency?". Right now the whole western policy has been to create a sectarian government in Iraq - from the parties they let in to these stupid Shi'a Sunni quotas. It is this policy that is at the root of the insurgency and the civil war.


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