2003 December 02 Tuesday
Steve Sailer On The Iraq Partition Argument

Steve Sailer has written an essay that reviews the arguments for partitioning Iraq. Steve points out that Leslie Gelb, president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations, has come out in favor of partition (same article here).

A strategy of breaking up Iraq and moving toward a three-state solution would build on these realities. The general idea is to strengthen the Kurds and Shiites and weaken the Sunnis, then wait and see whether to stop at autonomy or encourage statehood.

The first step would be to make the north and south into self-governing regions, with boundaries drawn as closely as possible along ethnic lines. Give the Kurds and Shiites the bulk of the billions of dollars voted by Congress for reconstruction. In return, require democratic elections within each region, and protections for women, minorities and the news media.


The only viable strategy, then, may be to correct the historical defect and move in stages toward a three-state solution: Kurds in the north, Sunnis in the center and Shiites in the south.

In his own essay on partition Steve reviews many areas of the world where both peace and prosperity came as a result of partition.

Even when the great and the good are fighting for de facto secession, as in the 1999 Kosovo War, they cloak their actions in paeans to multicultural unity. The result of our interventions in the Balkans was the ethnic cleansing of Serbs from Croatia, the effective partition of Bosnia, and a combination of the two in Kosovo. Yet, Bill Clinton still declared with a straight face, "[T]he principle we and our allies have been fighting for in the Balkans is the principle of multiethnic, tolerant, inclusive democracy."

Baloney. Peace and democracy didn't come to the Balkans until the various states and statelets became monoethnic, intolerant, and uninclusive. But, shhhh, you're not supposed to mention that.

Steve points out some of the problems with partitioning Iraq. Notably, who gets the oil? Also, Saddam Hussien forcibly relocated many Arabs into what used to be overwhelmingly Kurdish cities in the north. At the same time, many Shias moved north from the Shia heartland into poor neighborhoods on the outskirts of what was mostly Sunni Baghdad. Therefore the Shias and Sunnis are also far more intertwined than they used to be. But, as Steve points out, it is not like anyone has a better idea on how to make Iraq governable by anyone short of a brutal repressive dictator.

A division will leave some of each group being governed by a government dominated by one of the other groups. But the lack of a division will leave the Kurds and Sunnis being governed by the majority Shias. So how is division any worse? Division has the advantage of allowing the bulk of the Kurds and the Sunnis to be governed by their own kind. It also would take oil revenue away from the Sunnis and force the Sunnis into being a lot more responsible and a lot less able to cause trouble for others. The Sunnis, faced with the knowledge that they will soon be in charge of their own area, will also have far less incentive to continue their attacks. Plus, the US could draw down its forces in the Sunni Triangle since the Sunni Iraqi state will be the least important of the 3 new partition states.

See my own previous post of almost 4 weeks ago supportive of the partition proposal: Jim Hoagland: Sunnis In Iraq See Democracy As A Threat. Note that partition would turn many Sunnis from democracy opponents to democracy supporters. They wouldn't see dictatorship as a means to allow their faction to rule over Shias and Kurds since the vast bulk of Shias and Kurds would no longer be in their state. At the same time, democracy would be appealing to those Sunnis who would rather not have a dictator oppressing only them.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2003 December 02 01:36 PM  MidEast Iraq Partition


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