2007/04/15

The Growing Toll of Iraqi Civilian Deaths

Be sure to read the reader comments on this important article by our good friend César Chelala. And thanks, César, for stimulating this discussion. The Growing Toll of Iraqi Civilian Deaths - CommonDreams.org - Breaking News & Views for the Progressive Community

What might be the consequences of a rapid withdrawal of "coalition" (i.e., U.S. and British) troops? Moise Naím has argued persuasively -- it's an easy argument to make -- there's no way that any amount of U.S. assistance will make the Iraqi government prepared to provide security, so the immediate consequence might be an increase in violence -- though how things could get any worse is hard to imagine. I've been impressed by Zbigniew Brzesinski's argument, repeated in several recent articles: the U.S. military presence is an OBSTACLE to peace, because it relieves the governing faction from the need to negotiate with its foes. If the government has to defend itself, all by itself, it will either come to terms with its many and varied attackers or succumb, in which case the victors may form some new government. Or, most likely, we may see a repeat of the Somali experience, where nobody wins and everybody loses -- that is, no one faction or coalition of factions has the force to conquer.

The U.S. invasion has just compounded the massive errors by previous imperialisms. But here we are: we can't go back and undo any of it, we just have to figure out where we can go from here. Peace in Iraq, whether as a single country or divided into three or more (a very bad idea, it seems to me, but possibly inevitable given the depth of hostility among Kurds and Sunni and Shiite Arabs and Turkomans)--how to achieve it? A first step is to get U.S. & U.K. troops out of there. Negotiated peace will take far more diplomatic skill and sensitivity than the U.S. neocons have so far demonstrated. A coalition force of foreign troops may indeed be needed to assist whatever government(s) emerge. But the first requirement would be NO U.S. or U.K. MILITARY PARTICIPATION. We've demonstrated our massive incompetence and united almost all Iraqis against us.

2 comments:

Dirk van Nouhuys said...

Why is it a bad idea for the Iraqi’s to divide themselves into three countries as senator Biden has suggested? I often find myself asking this sort of question as world opinion, which is fond of nations despite much evidence of their destructiveness, always seems to want to keep nations unified. I grant that the division of India was very destructive, but the division of Czechoslovakia was not and the division of Yugoslavia seems to me generally beneficial. The same experts praise the division of the Russian empire. Moreover I question whether, considering the terrible cost of the US civil war, it would not have been better if Lincoln had let the South go it's way. Those who say, what about the blacks, should ask themselves if present day US blacks are in a better position that blacks form the English-speaking Caribbean colonies that had a slavery-based society. The reconstruction and its continuing heritage was/is a terrible thing.

But I digress. So, there would be Kurdistan, seems like one of the more functional courtiers of the Near East as it stands. There would be issues between Kurdistan and neighboring countries with Kurdish populations, but those s issues are present now in one form or another. There would be an oil-wealthy Shiite state, presumably theocratic at lest in the immediate future, and an ally of Iran, but not a puppet I think. If we had a sane foreign policy they would gladly sell us oil. And the Sunni state -who can tell. But who can tell now.

gef said...

Very briefly, it would be the continuation of the very bad idea that Woodrow Wilson called "national self-determination," which has come to justify genocidal wars, terrorism (ETA, IRA, Tamil Tigers etc.) & suppression of minorities throughout the 20th & into the 21st centuries: state power for one dominant ethnic group. This is not the place for extended argument, where I think I could demonstrate that every ethnic fractioning Dirk mentions has brought disastrous consequences for minority populations & weaker economies for each state (e,g., the Czech Republic & Slovakia each has far fewer resources than the former Czechoslovakia, & each treats its Gypsies & other minorities even worse than before; ditto ex-Yugoslavia, Georgia, Ukraine, etc.).