To update my many readers of my thoughts on Iraq, here they are.
Short and Medium Term Recommendation:
- Accept the fact that a multi-ethnic democracy with strong group loyalties and a medium to high population density that has no overriding equalizer, (i.e. a market economy, strong religion, nation of uprooted immigrants, cult like leader, animosity towards some other country or religion etc) is a very bloody affair.
- Let the country break apart into a very loose confederation, – There will probably be one to 3 Shia distinct regions in the South, 6-12 distinct Sunni regions and one distinct Kurdish region. Withdraw to the friendly areas, i.e. Kurdistan and probably a couple of Sunni areas and let the various sides fight it out. They’re doing this anyway and there is no need for American troops to get caught in the crossfire.
- Accept the fact that there will be massive ethnic cleansing with the above option, much is happening already. Do as much as possible within some give time frame, say 10 months to let the ethnic cleansing be as bloodless as possible and not verge into genocide. This is going to happen anyway, many lives could be saved if we do it on our terms.
- Drop the 60s idealism (called nation-building/neoconservatism, or whatever baby boomer term you want to label it) and admit that what is happening in Iraq IS democracy, it’s just bloody and ugly. Diversity only works if no one cares about the differences between people. Primary loyalties are primary.
- I think Robert Kaplan thought of this first, but the proper metaphors for the current Middle East is not WWII, but the Barbary Pirates and the Indian Wars. I.E. it’s time to think small, and act small. Also, let the military get back to what it’s good at, i.e. killing people and breaking things.
- Reward our friends and punish our enemies, but above all, be clear in our foreign policy. We would be well served by coming off of our high horse (bringing democracy, enlightenment, etc) and admitting that we’re in pursuit of our own interest, just like everyone else. We’ve long believed our own hype about our own greatness. While largely true domestically (thank you founding fathers and your division of power) it is much less true internationally due to the way our system is set up. Most of the good things we do are diffused in the form of trade and a myriad of private charities. It’s time to say less and to behave much more predictably. Cross cultural communication is hard enough without adding nuance and tone into the equation.
Long Term Recommendations
- Get out. The Coase theorem applies to the Middle East just like everywhere else. We’re buying our oil now and we’ll be buying it in the future. And contrary to popular belief, it will be less important in the future. Plus, it’s quite likely the Kurds will be very pro-western and peaceful. Their primary loyalty is not divided and it’s not against us.
- Be honest in our dealing with Israel – we don’t have that many common interests, but we are friends – it’s less like the US and the USSR in WWII and more like the US and Japan in the present day (excepting North Korea)
Consequences of The Above
- Lots of blood will be shed – but it will be shed anyway. The key is minimizing it
- People will be uprooted and new vendettas will be started that will last for centuries.
- The Sunni and the Shia factions of the Middle East will have a battleground to fight their proxy wars, much like the Nazis and the Soviets had a battleground in the Spanish Civil War. Then again, they have that now.
- American troops will be used in raids and attacks in the loose confederation of what we’ll still call Iraq.
- Turkey will be quite angry – but that is manageable and can be minimized by the use of carrots and sticks.
I’ll have my post on what I was right and wrong about (regarding Iraq that is) later.