Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Partitioning Iraq

A year or so ago the idea of partitioning Iraq was bandied about and mostly dismissed by pundits of the war. Reality has a way of defying punditry, and as Kevin Drum notes the end result in Iraq may be de facto partition:

Genocide expert Samantha Power takes to the LA Times today to explain how to avoid genocide in Iraq:

Although it has a familiar and thus unsatisfying ring to it, the most viable long-term route to preventing mass atrocities is to use remaining U.S. leverage to bring about a political compromise that makes Iraqi Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds feel economically stable, physically secure and adequately represented in political structures.

....However, if this political pressure fails and U.S. forces remain unable to stave off an ever-widening civil war, the U.S. should go further and announce its willingness to assist in the voluntary transport and relocation of Iraqi civilians in peril. If Iraqis tell us that they would feel safer in religiously homogenous neighborhoods, and we lack the means to protect them where they are, we should support and protect them in their voluntary, peaceful evacuation -- a means, one might say, to preempt genocide in advance of our departure.
As gruesome as this suggestion sounds, I have a feeling we're going to be hearing more about it as time goes by and our options become ever more constrained. Brace yourself.
One result of the Bosnian war has been the partitioning of the Serbs, Bosnians and Croats still living in Bosnia. In any civil war fought largely as a result of ethnic divisions, some degree of voluntary and forced partitioning is inevitable, and we are now seeing the same in Iraq. As Samantha Power explains, it might be best to hurry along the division Iraq's ethnic communities, in the hopes that separating warring groups can drive down the incentive to kill. This is not to say that partitioning ethnic communities in a way that destroys the country you're trying to save is a good thing. However, it is to say that if it's inevitable, then helping it along might bring peace sooner.


Nat-Wu said...

It may sound like an unappetizing choice, and I certainly wouldn't have said that it was the right course of action immediately after the invasion, but at this point you have to come up with an effective way of stopping the bloodshed. If that means segregating the communities, so be it. The reason this won't turn into a Serbian-Bosnian style genocide is that each faction can defend itself internally and we can protect them from each other externally. And that's a good thing because it means we don't have to do daily patrols or have huge bases in the cities where they'll keep getting attacked; all we need is sufficient troops and airpower to wipe out any large-scale movements on the part of the warring factions. If the Bushies were smart they would begin immediately to implement this plan and put a stop to the influx of money from outside "investors". If the Saudis and Iranians are convinced there is to be no proxy war, they can be made to cease fueling the fires.

I have said that I support partitioning before. I also support a near-complete withdrawal of American forces. These two goals are compatible.

adam said...

Ditto, and I love Samantha Power.