Sunday, November 26, 2006

Is Iraq really in a civil war?

The article in the New York Times by Edward Wong entitled "A Matter of Definition: What Makes a Civil War, and Who Declares It So?" points out both the difficulty and the lack of utility in attempting to characterize Iraq as being in a "civil war." Certainly by some of the common traditional definitions, Iraq is in a state of civil war, but then the response should be: so what? My point is that the situation in Iraq is not driven primarily by the conflict between two "civil" groups, but by the refusal of the U.S. to exit from the stage and allow the "warring" parties to seek their own accommodation.

By the raw numbers of deaths and injuries and destruction of property, Iraq is in fact worse than most civil wars, but the nature of the conflict is somewhat different. Most of the civil conflict comes as a result of the role of the U.S. in Iraq. Absent the heavyhanded presence and influence of U.S. forces, this so-called "civil war" would very quickly be resolved in an accommodation and reconciliation, albeit one that would cause the administration, the Neoconservatives, the rest of the so-called Pro-Israel Lobby, and the conservative elements of the government of Israel to cringe in alarm that their agenda is endangered.

Who knows, maybe simply labelling Iraq as being "in a civil war" would lead to a more rapid departure of U.S. military forces. It is possible, but I wouldn't agree that this is a great purpose for labelling the "civil quagmire" as actually being a "civil war."

Despite the chaos and violence, the parties in Iraq are not that far apart. They need two things: 1) a form of federalism that permits power sharing between a central givernment and other political entities, and 2) for the U.S. to get out of the picture as soon as possible.

The proverbial elephant standing in the middle of the room that neither the article nor the Bush administration talks about is the status of de-Baathification and the extent to which the U.S. prevents any significant accommodation with former Baathists who are mostly Sunnis. The Neoconservatives and the rest of the so-called Pro-Israel Lobby is adamant about cleansing Iraqi politics of the former Baathists, but doing so has dramatically fueled the so-called insurgency and the so-called sectarion conflict. The non-Baathists are fully capable of deciding for themselves the extent to which former Baathists should be able to participate in Iraqi governance. Meddling by the U.S. only fans the fires of the "civil quagmire."

In summary, my point is that focusing on Iraq as being primarily a "civil war" would misguidedly take attention away from the primary cause of unrest in Iraq: the presence and influence of U.S. forces.

So, let's get the U.S. out of Iraq, give the Iraqis a year to negotiate reconciliation and an accommodation, and then we can continue the silly debate abou whether Iraq is in a "civil war." First things first.

-- Jack Krupansky


At 10:49 PM , Blogger Bo Naidal said...

Thanks for this post. Honestly, I've had this image of the country disintegrating into complete chaos if the US left. I think you make a good point that maybe without the US there, they might worker harder to reach reconciliation.

For a while now, I've thought the US would either have to Go Big or Go Home, as they say. Go Big really troubles me, so thank you for pointing out the Go Home is actually a realistic policy.

Thank you!
Bo Naidal

At 11:02 PM , Anonymous Jack Krupansky said...

Yes, the U.S. needs to execute a "Go Home" strategy, but the really important thing is that the "plan" needs to be determined primarily by Baghdad rather than the power "elite" and pundits in Washington, D.C.

-- Jack Krupansky


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