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Partitioning Democracy
August 9, 2006 12:01 PM   Subscribe

The practical future of the country formerly known as Iraq. [NewsFilter, but a significant acknowledgement of something long-in-coming.]
posted by digaman (63 comments total)

 
Iraq's salvation lies in letting it break apart.
posted by digaman at 12:03 PM on August 9, 2006


Because it worked so well for India and Pakistan.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 12:06 PM on August 9, 2006


Partition you say? It worked so well in 1947.
posted by chunking express at 12:07 PM on August 9, 2006


Damn it; i'm too slow.
posted by chunking express at 12:08 PM on August 9, 2006


"Clearly, there's sectarian violence; people are being killed. Sunnis are killing Shi'a and Shi'a are killing Sunnis. Kurds seem not to be involved. It's unfortunate, and they need a reconciliation process. The prime minister's pushing for a reconciliation process. There are a couple of other things that are -- oh, how would you characterize it -- things you wish weren't happening. There's some movement of Shi'a out of Sunnis and Sunnis out of Shi'a areas to some extent. There, undoubtedly, are some people who are leaving the country and going to safer places because of the violence... Does that constitute a civil war? I guess you can decide for yourself, and we can all go to the dictionary and decide what you want to call something. But I think, to me, that it is not a classic civil war at this stage. It is a -- it certainly isn't like our civil war. It isn't like the civil war in a number of other countries."

-- SecDef Donald Rumsfeld, August 2, 2006
posted by digaman at 12:08 PM on August 9, 2006


Yes, but how does this relate to the 9/11 attack on freedom?
posted by The Jesse Helms at 12:12 PM on August 9, 2006


I'll just close my eyes and vote GOP.
posted by The Jesse Helms at 12:13 PM on August 9, 2006


the conspiracy-inclined, not only on the Internet, argue that this was the plan all along
posted by matteo at 12:16 PM on August 9, 2006


An idea I immediately discounted because it includes the word "plan."
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 12:17 PM on August 9, 2006 [1 favorite]


patriopsychoticanarchomaterialism!
posted by ZachsMind at 12:24 PM on August 9, 2006


matteo writes "the conspiracy-inclined, not only on the Internet, argue that this was the plan all along"

Yeah, what the hell. These people don't "plan". They toss the dice and hope for the best.
posted by mr_roboto at 12:28 PM on August 9, 2006


It will be a disaster. People talk like regions are homogeneous, but they're not. The populations are dispersed with different groups, so an attempt to partition will be followed by ethnic cleansing, potentially followed by wars over bits of land with oil and other resources. Fights over water, etc.

If it does happen, oil revenue needs to be distributed evenly.
posted by delmoi at 12:29 PM on August 9, 2006


That sounds like exactly what's already happening, delmoi.
posted by odinsdream at 12:31 PM on August 9, 2006


What a shocker! No one saw this coming.
posted by digaman at 12:38 PM on August 9, 2006


Considering the fact that the Iraq was created from three provinces (vilayets) of the Ottoman Empire—Basra, Mosul, and Baghdad—which were (as far as I know) loosely associated but still fairly separate, this seems like a good way to go. Picking the boundaries is going to suck, though, unless they decide to just use the old old lines.
posted by blacklite at 12:41 PM on August 9, 2006


Yep. As digiman points out, many people (the ones who actually had a clue about the history, character and makeup of the region) realized that this was the likeliest eventual outcome of the disastrous foray into removing Saddam. I certainly knew it, and I'm not the Middle East scholar most of the professionals are. I'm not a Middle East scholar at all. I just know the basic history, ancient to modern, and the political history as well. That's all that was necessary to see the reality. To be blind, all you needed was either a lack of education (which is understandable for most people) or ideological blinders.

At this point, we might as well let themselves partition the country and pull out. Unlike Pakistan/India, Israel/Palestine, Lebanon and the other places where it was foisted upon the peoples from on high (and where doing it to cause chaos among the partitioned peoples was actually part of the plan by the colonial powers).

Those who draw the comparison to the earlier partitions need to realize something... the bloody warfare is already happening. Read your god-damned newspapers. It's happening. The civil war is here. It's getting worse. With the US already there. Pulling out isn't going to create a loss that's already happened.

And as Blacklite points out, Iraq was cobbled together from the three regions anyway. Less than a century ago. By Britain.

Fuck. Educate yourselves on the subject at hand, people. Even just the basics. The Kurds have already gotten their partition in everything but name. They won't be giving it up. The Shia in the south know that their partition is theirs in all but name as well.

It's only the Sunni in the middle who deny it all, because they are terrified. I feel bad for them, but what... that's supposed to mean staying the course? Fuck that noise.
posted by the_savage_mind at 12:55 PM on August 9, 2006


The Sunnis won't tolerate any such partitioning because they live in the oil poor regions. Turkey is unlikely to tolerate a fully independent Kurdistan. They are already talking about military actions into Iraq to fight the PKK.
posted by justkevin at 12:56 PM on August 9, 2006


The Sunnis have no power to stop the partitioning. The Shia have the numbers and Iranian support to massacre them, and the Kurds can laugh because their military is the most battle-hardened and competent in the entire country. Sunnis are shit out of luck.

Turkey can talk tough, but they can't attack Kurdistan without US say so. And all the Kurds have to do anyway is say they're a fully autonomous sub-division of a federated Iraq, not technically a country. Just de facto a country.
posted by the_savage_mind at 1:01 PM on August 9, 2006


The real root of so many of these problems lies way back with the British - it seems as if nearly every hotspot on the planet involves tensions among groups that were pushed together or tugged apart by the blithe colonial mapmakers of the ol' Empire - countless tribal battles in Africa, India/Pakistan, Iraq and environs, Palestine/Israel, etc. Sure, a gross generalization, but scan the map and find me a shooting war that is unrelated to boundaries created by Britannia...
posted by twsf at 1:04 PM on August 9, 2006


Those of us "draw[ing] the comparison to the earlier partitions" are hardly naive to the current situation, the_savage_mind, nor deserving of your condescension. Our (or at least my) point is hardly to suggest "staying the course." No statements were made supporting the status quo, here, so kindly shake your quivering finger elsewhere. Skepticism of a positive outcome to partitioning is not the same as supporting the war. It's only and exactly what it is: skepticism of a positive outcome to partitioning. Educate yourowndamnself on reading comprehension.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 1:06 PM on August 9, 2006


The Minds that conceived this war as a "democratization process" are now saying a "federalized" Iraq is the answer? And all the sectarian fighting isn't civil war... well except that it is... and, golly gee, who would know it would all turn out this way anyway?

I can only assume Don Rumsfeld must be high. High on the rose tinted vapors that escape from his own ass.
posted by tkchrist at 1:07 PM on August 9, 2006


Every home a castle! Every man a king! Every child a serf! Every doghouse a stable! Every rock a militia! PatrioPsychoticAnarchoMaterialism! Eiyiyiyiy!
posted by ZachsMind at 1:10 PM on August 9, 2006


Hey Florence? My reading comprehension's just great, thanks. I'm responding to things I read like delmoi's It will be a disaster. My point, which you may or may not have read, is that there's currently a disaster. What part of that did you have difficulty reading, Ms Pot?

Also, you clearly weren't able to read or understand that this Iraq is in fact very dissimilar to Pakistan/India. They were not separate state smashed together only to then be partitioned again soon (in a historical sense) after by a colonial power who hoped they would stay at each other's throats.

I'll waggle my finger at whomever I damned well please, but thanks for your concern.
posted by the_savage_mind at 1:12 PM on August 9, 2006


Turkey can talk tough, but they can't attack Kurdistan without US say so.

I would not bet money on that.

Bush has crippled out military. So the Turks aren't afraid of that. And Bush has crippled out international relations (through the obvious and his support of Israel's invasion of Lebanon) so much so that making a huge stink about Turkey bombing Khurds would be seen as the Pot calling the Kettle.

Turkey is key in both our and European oil movement. It has the ONLY reliable stable government in the region. Turkey has the latitude, the resources, and the money to do what it wants.
posted by tkchrist at 1:12 PM on August 9, 2006


out = our
posted by tkchrist at 1:13 PM on August 9, 2006


twsf, you've hit the nail on the head. What's worse, after Britain lost it's military power in the wake of WWII, they convinced the US to pick up the slack in horrific international rejiggering. See Iran's short-lived democracy, the first in the Middle East, which Churchill convinced the US to cut short, all so BP wouldn't lose any profits.
posted by the_savage_mind at 1:15 PM on August 9, 2006


I've been suggesting the book Florence of Arabia to people who want to understand what's going on in the Middle East but don't want to get into the specifics. It's a great allegory, a physics-for-poets version the historical, religious, and tribal nature of the Middle East.

And it's frickin' hilarious.
posted by MarvinTheCat at 1:16 PM on August 9, 2006


Er, meant you hit the nail on the head vis a vis Britain's nation partitioning/creation, not Turkey. Their I'm still skeptical. Turkey's best ally has been the US for quite a while now, and while they couldn't afford to let us into Iraq and keep their Islamic population quiet, I don't think they can afford to have the US cut them off over Kurdistan. I am cognizant of their belligerency over the prospect of a Kurdish state (just like Iraq and Iran over the years), but I'm not sure it's enough to get them to break off US relations. They depend on them too much.
posted by the_savage_mind at 1:18 PM on August 9, 2006


The Sunnis have no power to stop the partitioning. The Shia have the numbers and Iranian support to massacre them, and the Kurds can laugh because their military is the most battle-hardened and competent in the entire country. Sunnis are shit out of luck.

The Sunnis aren't going to disappear quietly. They formed the backbone of the military under Saddam and I imagine capable of fighting a sustained civil war.

As for the oil wealth, I'm going out on a limb and saying it flows into the hands of the very few, and the very corrupt.
posted by justkevin at 1:21 PM on August 9, 2006


LOL at Americans blaming the British for the disgusting mess your govt has made of Iraq. Can't wait for the Republican talking point!
posted by dydecker at 1:26 PM on August 9, 2006


VI. Stage 2: Iraq

  A. Goal of Stage 2: we had to conquer one of the big antagonistic Arab nations and take control of it.

   1. To directly reduce support for terrorist groups by eliminating one government which had been providing such support.

   2. To place us in a physical and logistical position to be able to apply substantial pressure on the rest of the major governments of the region.

    a. To force them to stop protecting and supporting terrorist groups

    b. To force them to begin implementing political and social reforms

   3. To convince the governments and other leaders of the region that it was no longer fashionable to blame us for their failure, so that they would stop using us as scapegoats.

   4. To make clear to everyone in the world that reform is coming, whether they like it or not, and that the old policy of stability-for-the-sake-of-stability is dead. To make clear to local leaders that they may only choose between reforming voluntarily or having reform forced on them.

   5. To make a significant long term change in the psychology of the "Arab Street"

    a. To prove to the "Arab Street" that we were willing to fight, and that our reputation for cowardice was undeserved.

    b. To prove that we are extraordinarily dangerous when we do fight, and that it is extremely unwise to provoke us.

    c. To defeat the spirit of the "Arab Street". To force them to face their own failure, so that they would become willing to consider the idea that reform could lead them to success. No one can solve a problem until they acknowledge that they have a problem, and until now the "Arab Street" has been hiding from theirs, in part aided by government propaganda eager to blame others elsewhere (especially the Jews).

   6. To "nation build". After making the "Arab Street" truly face its own failure, to show the "Arab Street" a better way by creating a secularized, liberated, cosmopolitan society in a core Arab nation. To create a place where Arabs were free, safe, unafraid, happy and successful. To show that this could be done without dictators or monarchs. (I've been referring to this as being the pilot project for "Arab Civilization 2.0".)...
from USS Clueless - Strategic Overview
posted by y2karl at 1:26 PM on August 9, 2006


the_savage_mind: "My point, which you may or may not have read, is that there's currently a disaster. What part of that did you have difficulty reading, Ms Pot?"

The name is Mr. Pot. And/or Mr. Kettle.

The fact that it is currently a disaster has nothing to do with whether or not partitioning will also be a disaster. And despite your detailed analysis to the contrary, I disagree with your easy dismissal of the Pakistan/India comparison. Not because I am either ignorant or incapable of reading your protestations, but because I disagree with your position.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 1:31 PM on August 9, 2006


I agree with It's Raining Florence Henderson. What exactly does Shia-land look like? Are the minority groups within it afforded the same rights as the Shia muslims? Are they going to be safe from harms way? Ditto for Sunni-land and Kurd-land and whatever other lands end up being formed. Saying violence is happening now isn't really an argument for partitioning the country. It's really just a sign people don't know what else to do.
posted by chunking express at 1:41 PM on August 9, 2006


Not because I am either ignorant or incapable of reading your protestations, but because I disagree with your position.

I don't have a problem with that, but I am curious as to the reasons why you believe they are so similar.

Also, sorry about the Mr/Ms thing. The Florence threw me.

chunking,

I'm not saying that Sunnis in Shia land will be safe, or vice versa. I don't believe that at all. I just know that our being there and trying to keep the country together as one isn't stopping them from being unsafe right this very moment. Civil war is now. Catastrophe is now. Why exactly would splitting them up make that worse? If anything, it would take away the rationale sof the shia militias. If the Sunnis terror groups keep attacking Shia, then the Shia forces, without the US to stymie them, will sweep the Sunni way the hell back into Saudi Arabia. Where many of them actually belong.

If the country is partitioned, then the Shia in Sunniland can move to Shialand, and the Sunni in Shialand can move to Sunniland. Not a perfect solution, but please explain to me exactly how trying to force Iraq to stay together when it is being torn apart by its very members is going to work.
posted by the_savage_mind at 1:48 PM on August 9, 2006


Turkey will invade and occupy Iraq's kurdish north (the parts near the border anyway) if Kurdistan/Iraqi Kurds foment or support secessionist activity among the kurds living in southeastern Turkey.

That said, I don't think this will come to pass. The only player that stands to gain in that exchange is Turkey; their gain would be the oil resources of northern Iraq (or Kurdistan); but even this gain would likely be temporary, and achieved at great cost.

I have long felt that Iraq should partition, because it is a phony state that can only be held together by the iron rule of Saddam Hussein or someone of his ilk.

I, for one, am glad that the tyranny of Saddam Hussein has been replaced by the tyranny of the Iranian ayutollahs (in proxy form), because religious terror is the finest fucking terror there is! I am so fucking incredibly glad we've spread democracy to Iraq! If this really is World War III, as jackass pundits like to opine, we (the US) appear to be throwing the game!
posted by Mister_A at 1:55 PM on August 9, 2006


Because the huge, tax-cut driven deficits run up by the Bush administration have so weakened the Dollar as an international currency, and that debilitation has just begun, by the way, we can no longer count on getting the middle eastern oil we need by merely purchasing it-- anyone who has oil to freely sell will be able to get a better deal from China, India, or Europe.

Our only alternative, then, is to set up a series of weak oil rich states in a sea of hostility, such as we have done already in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, which will sell us their oil at whatever price we want to pay, because if they don't we will simply withdraw our military protection and they will fall about as fast as South Vietnam did when we left there.

This strategy requires we maintain a very strong military, of course, as well as a very strong military presence in the region. It will require such a strong military, in fact, that the US will have to recast itself as an essentially military society, and make preservation and extension of military power the primary focus of politics, commerce, education, and, above all, religion. This is the real underlying logic of the war on terror, or as they're calling it now, The Long War. The Afghanis, the Iraqis, and now the Lebanese are only the beginning of what will become, by an iron necessity, an unending roster of victims.
posted by jamjam at 2:00 PM on August 9, 2006


"sorry about the Mr/Ms thing. The Florence threw me."

No problem. It's understandable. Actually, I was just laughing because I am not merely a Pot/Kettle - am the Pot/Kettle. But a "Mr.," yes.

"I don't have a problem with that, but I am curious as to the reasons why you believe they are so similar."

Because despite the differing historical reasons for the partitioning (the Pakistan/India partition was enacted by Gandhi in a failed effort to prevent exactly the type of ethnic violence the division has seemingly exacerbated), the continuing issues are based on far more mundane and universal problems: majority/minority conflicts, and a sense of entitlement to resources. chunking express and justkevin expressed my opinions on some of these issues above quite well.

And again - I'm not arguing for (or against) current policy in this thread. I'm just voicing my weary skepticism that partitioning will wind up salvaging anything from the situation, except maybe a few American soldiers. But maybe that's enough. I don't know, anymore. Peace is transitory everywhere, I fear.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 2:11 PM on August 9, 2006


"the continuing issues are based on far more mundane and universal problems: majority/minority conflicts, and a sense of entitlement to resources."

Oops! Lost a sentence: - "As expressed in continuing incursions, landgrabs, and border disputes."
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 2:24 PM on August 9, 2006


Good enough. I would differ you on the source of the Pakistan/India split, though. It was instituted by the British under the Mountbatten plan, which Gandhi vociferously objected to. His response in words:

My whole soul rebels against the idea that Hinduism and Islam represent two antagonistic cultures and doctrines. To assent to such a doctrine is for me a denial of God.
posted by the_savage_mind at 2:36 PM on August 9, 2006


My understanding was that while he objected to it in principle, he came to believe it was necessary and ultimately was involved in implementing the plan. I grant that I could be somewhat off in that particualr detail, though, as it's been a few years since I read up on it.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 2:43 PM on August 9, 2006


You could be right. My understanding was that after another of his hunger strikes failed to stave off the political action, he resigned himself to it, but never agreed with it.
posted by the_savage_mind at 2:49 PM on August 9, 2006


According to Wikipedia:
"The partition plan was approved by the Congress leadership as the only way to prevent a wide-scale Hindu-Muslim civil war. Congress leaders knew that Gandhi would viscerally oppose partition, and it was impossible for the Congress to go ahead without his agreement, for Gandhi's support in the party and throughout India was strong. Gandhi's closest colleagues had accepted partition as the best way out, and Sardar Patel endeavoured to convince Gandhi that it was the only way to avoid civil war. A devastated Gandhi gave his assent."
So I'd say your "resigned himself to it" was a good description.

But the result of the partition is what concerns me. I can't see how an Iraq partition would be any less contentious.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 2:57 PM on August 9, 2006


I suppose it would be less contentious in the sense that only the Sunni would oppose it. After digesting this for a while, I concede it's a lot more similar than I gave you credit for. I still think that at this point, an Iraqi partition is the least of the evils facing us and them. The only way to hold them together in a peaceful manner is by leading the country the way Saddam did, which is not something I'm prepared for us to do no matter what Bill O'Reilly says (and I'm definitely not trying to imply that you feel that way, btw).

Once again, no matter what happens, the Sunni are just S.O.L.
posted by the_savage_mind at 3:19 PM on August 9, 2006


It's Raining Florence Henderson and the_savage_mind had differences, went from (humorous) name calling to discussion, found they were not so opposed as originally perceived, ended peacefully.
If only world leader-type people could do the same.
posted by Cranberry at 3:24 PM on August 9, 2006


If we cut and run we’ll have to surrender to them like we did with the Vietcong.
posted by Smedleyman at 3:28 PM on August 9, 2006


"I'm not saying that Sunnis in Shia land will be safe, or vice versa."

Um, IIRC, aren't the Sunnis outnumbered by a rather large margin - 10 to 1 or worse? - even in what's now nominally "Sunni territory?"

If I do RC, then I'll say right out that Sunnis aren't safe anywhere in Iraq right now. I get the impression that the Shia aren't too happy about decades under the Sunni boot, even if it was the secular Saddam's foot in it...
posted by zoogleplex at 3:40 PM on August 9, 2006


Then what would we do for threads here on mefi, Cranberry?
posted by the_savage_mind at 3:48 PM on August 9, 2006


The idea of partitions would mean a Sunni partition in the middle, zoogleplex. It might be small, but it would be defended by, I assume, an alliance with the US. Without oil (or some perceived holy/ethnic properties), there's no reason for the Shia south to ever attack it. Doesn't mean they never will, but it seems pretty unlikely.
posted by the_savage_mind at 3:50 PM on August 9, 2006


the_savage_mind: "I still think that at this point, an Iraqi partition is the least of the evils facing us and them."

You may very well be right. I don't think it would "end" well - to whatever extent any of these sorts of things can be said to actually end - but that doesn't necessarily mean there are any more realistic solutions, either. So "least of the evils" may be the best we can hope for.

Cranberry - I'm convinced that the solution is to make the world leaders use silly, made-up names.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:06 PM on August 9, 2006


For the record, are India / Pakistan relations as bad as the Sunni / Shia? I do realize that they're both nuclear armed countries, and there's some fighting over Kashmir, and occasional associated terrorism, but is there an ongoing conflict there that rises to the mess in Iraq? I just read Fiasco and my impression is that parts of Iraq really are warzones.
posted by Richard Daly at 4:11 PM on August 9, 2006


I'm convinced that the solution is to make the world leaders use silly, made-up names.

Aw hell.
posted by Richard Daly at 4:12 PM on August 9, 2006


SCdB Clueless - the arrogance is staggering.
The Arrogance of Clueless Power.
posted by zoinks at 4:17 PM on August 9, 2006


Richard Daly - I don't have time to dig up my sources right now, but the figure I seem to remember is that there have been over 4,000,000 killed in fighting between India and Pakistan since the partition was put in place. Maybe someone else can verify or correct me? Otherwise, I'll try to find a casualty count later tonight.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:20 PM on August 9, 2006


Some numbers from the Wikipedia entry on demographics of Iraq,
Kurds are 15%-20% of the population, and mostly Sunni (10% Shi'a)
Sunnis are 32% of the population
Shi'as are 65% of the population

Thus
Sunni arabs are 14%-18.5% of the population
Shi'a arabs are 63%-63.5% of the population

So Sunni arabs are about as numerous as Kurds, and Shi'a arabs are about four times as numerous as either of those groups. Shi'as have a clear numerical advantage, but the Sunnis are hardly negligible.
posted by Humanzee at 4:21 PM on August 9, 2006


"The Arrogance of Clueless Power."

You may have seen it before in history as noted in "The White Man's Burden."
posted by zoogleplex at 4:28 PM on August 9, 2006


Egads, that's a lot of people. I'll dig around.
posted by Richard Daly at 4:34 PM on August 9, 2006


From Wikipedia: "The partition of India was a bloody affair. Millions of Hindus and Muslims were killed in communal riots following the partition."

There have also been a number of full-scale wars and continuous terrorism. The Wikipedia article Indo-Pakistani Relations is a good jumping off point.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:47 PM on August 9, 2006


Yeah, it seems like either this will happen or Iraq will some day be known as West Iran.
posted by Afroblanco at 6:54 PM on August 9, 2006


Sorry to butt into this grade-A flame war, but in the sprit of this discussion Flor-ents of Arabia is pretty much crap. Sorry Marvin.
posted by peeedro at 8:39 PM on August 9, 2006


Because it worked so well for India and Pakistan.



India is a democracy, it is slowly, but steadily growing its economy and trying to tackle poverty and deal with the huge population.

Pakistan is on the verge of becoming a failed state. For more than half its history since become independent in 1947, it has been ruled my military dictators. The last military coup occurred in 1999.

Aside from the violence during independence, there have been numerous religious attacks and communal violence between the different groups. But the comparison between this situation and what is going on Iraq today is very different.
posted by ArunK at 10:48 PM on August 9, 2006


*makes up silly names for savage and florence*
posted by Cranberry at 11:17 PM on August 9, 2006


Another particularly neat result of partitioning would be the effective expansion of the Iranian border to abut Saudi Arabia (allowing ever more sunni/shia conflicts), and obviating Iran's need for long range missiles to strike Israel.

Oh win win win! What a brave new American century we're going to have.
posted by wilful at 11:55 PM on August 9, 2006


Pakistan is on the verge of becoming a failed state. For more than half its history since become independent in 1947, it has been ruled my military dictators. The last military coup occurred in 1999.

I'm puzzled by this. USA is, ostensibly, working to spread democracy in the middle east. At the same time it's major allies (Pakistan, Saudi Arabia) are dictatorships, and it's waging a proxy war against one of the few democratic Arab nations (Lebanon).

If it wasn't for Fox News, I'd be very suspicious.
posted by spazzm at 4:42 AM on August 10, 2006


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