2007 April 13 Friday
Walls Bring Peace For Iraqis

Audacious Epigone points to a Wall Street Journal story on a US officer who is putting up walls in Baghdad to keep the Sunnis and Shias from killing each other.

Gigot and company must be fuming. Too bad the WSJ's own Greg Jaffe reports (free partial here) on yet another successful example of a constructive wall in a tenuous area of the world:

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- The lower-middle-class neighborhoods that Lt. Col. Jeff Peterson's troops patrol have been the epicenter of Iraq's civil war for most of
the past year. "Every issue facing Baghdad writ large is in our area," he says.

In recent weeks, Col. Peterson has tried a controversial approach to calming his sector. As Sunnis and Shiites have separated into their own neighborhoods, he has resisted the urge to encourage reconciliation or even dialogue. Instead, he has erected massive concrete barriers between the sects.

The Epigonous one points out that I've previously advocated construction of a wall across Baghdad to separate the Sunnis and Shias. When people can't get along we need to admit they can't get along and act accordingly. We do this with divorce courts and "irreconcilable differences".

That lieutenant colonel in Baghdad has been on a learning curve about the nature of the Sunni-Shia conflict in Iraq. Peterson probably came to realize the value of barrier walls when he demonstrated the threat of Shia police.

When the squadron commander Lt. Col. Jeff Peterson took over South Dora, he could not trust the predominantly Shiite police battalion. Evidence linking them to Shiite militias was overwhelming. And his troops had to watch their own backs.

"In many cases, we felt like the national police were targeting us," he said.

Peterson arrested seven police officers he suspected of being behind murders and kidnappings, particularly of Sunnis. They likely weren't the only ones involved, but he thinks the arrests did send a strong message.

You know how the Sunnis claim that the Iraqi police are their enemy? Lt. Col. Peterson has demonstrated with a powerful experiment that, yes, the Iraqi police in Baghdad are the mortal enemies of Sunnis.

Relations between the Shiite police force and the Sunni population were so bad that Peterson decided to lock the police out of a key Sunni neighborhood.

"I thought, given the situation where there was so much distrust, we just had to separate them for a while."

The results were immediate.

"Murders went down, mosque attacks went down," Peterson said. "So, immediately, there was a sense of relief amongst the population that they were no longer going to be subjected to national police running around, and essentially, terrorizing the people."

These national police work for the Iraqi national government that American soldiers are fighting and dying for. Why do the lessons about human nature have to be learned at such a high cost?

Part of the job of the US troops involved in the surge into Baghdad? Babysitting the Iraqi police to protect the populace from them.

Now, when the police are in Sunni neighborhoods, they are always accompanied or monitored by U.S. forces.

Col. Peterson says the increase in U.S. troops made a huge difference. They are able to cover much more territory, get better information on both Sunni and Shiite threats, and monitor the police more closely. But Lt. Steve Harnsberger says it means his soldiers are doing a double job.

"We're trying to control our own elements, but also national police. It seems to take a little bit away from our capabilities, and puts more stress on the squad leaders and the individual men."

Remember, in theory American troops protect the government and the people from the insurgents and militias. But American troops also protect the people from the Iraqi goverment. But the Iraqi government was chosen by an election which, in the minds of George W. Bush and the neocons, is tantamount of a holy bestowal of miracles. (aside: "insurgents" means Sunni fighters and "militias" mean Shia fighters).

The events in Iraq are all nature's way of telling us that some facts about humanity aren't compatible with liberalism. The neoconservative liberals and the left liberals hold false beliefs about human nature. Western democracy only works to the extent that Westerners want freedom not only for themselves but also for their fellow citizens. In Iraq the people see all relationships as defined by dominance and submission. The fight is on over who will dominate and who will submit. They aren't willing to see each other as equals.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2007 April 13 11:29 PM  MidEast Iraq Partition

Stephen said at April 14, 2007 1:08 AM:

The wall idea is nonsense. How does the populous get outside the wall to go to work, school, hospital etc? How do they get food, water and electricity in? How do they pay for those staples if they can't get outside to work?? If there are roads in and out, how do they stop bad guys?

John S Bolton said at April 14, 2007 2:21 AM:

It makes perfect sense to have entry and exits all go through a gate or two, and monitor for
Anonymity and fast getaways allow for freedom-for-aggression, when the police are major perpetrators, or shielding such, their being subject to monitoring will cut down on their aggression.

Kenelm Digby said at April 14, 2007 5:56 AM:

But, alas, the current situation in Iraq will seem like an Episcopalian summer tea-party as compared to the the eventual ramifications to play out from America's insane immigration policy.

Stephen said at April 14, 2007 7:33 AM:

How many entry/exit points would you have for a walled city holding 1,000,000 people? How many highways can close before the ghetto suffers an economic collapse? How many main roads? How many streets? How many alleyways?

Its not as if anyone can tell a shia from a sunni just by looking at them, so they're already reasonably anonymous. However, once you start ghettoising the city, anyone inside the ghetto is by definition 'the enemy'. So the wall building strategy actually helps those who want to remove anonymity (killers) and hinders those who want to retain their anonymity (everyone else). Similarly, setting up a ghetto kind of slows down a getaway - where is there to go?

Walls don't work.

Randall Parker said at April 14, 2007 8:40 AM:


Walls could work easily. You just have to put enough people on each side that each side's economy has a large enough scale to work.

How to do this? Move the Shias to all be on one side of a very long wall and the Sunnis all on the other side.

The only alternative? Bring in about 300,000 more US troops. But that's not going to happen. Why should we pay such a price? The wall is easier and cheaper. It is a more permanent solution too.

Irish Savant said at April 14, 2007 9:33 AM:

The point missing here is that, while the well is poisoned now, the feuding groups got along ok before the invasion.

Randall Parker said at April 14, 2007 9:36 AM:

Irish Savant,

They got along well under a regime that used terror to keep everyone down.

Yes, we should have left that regime in place because the nature of the Iraqi people required it - at least as long as Iraq was to be kept united.

Matt@Occidentalism.org said at April 14, 2007 11:51 AM:

Were things so hard in the colonial days? The US needs to stop trying to be everything to everyone and just choose a group and get behind them.

John Smith said at April 14, 2007 12:07 PM:

Conservatives speak about how vicious Saddam Hussein was to his people. However, he does not seem out of whack with the general level of violence perpetrated by the civilian and militia population.

Walls are very good for keeping people apart who have irreconcilable differences. Unless the Iraqi people act civilized, we don't have to use civilized tactics to keep them from slaughtering each other.

Kurt9 said at April 14, 2007 1:04 PM:

Ralph Peters has written extensively about how humans (outside of the West) are inherently tribal and that they only long term solution in most of the world is to allow the existing nation-state borders (almost all of which are artificial colonial boundaries) to disappear and to allow the various "countries" to become more their natural selves. Having lived in Asia for 10 years has allowed me to disconnect my mind from the multi-culti PeeCee jive that we are all taught here in the U.S. Tribalism (racism is subset of tribalism) comes naturally to the rest of the world.

People here in the states are so brainwashed by the multiculti PeeCee dogma that they simply do not comprehend the nature of tribalism and just how natural it is to the rest of the world's population. The East Asians are tribes (something my Japanese wife readily admits) as well. They simply have bigger tribes than other parts of the world (e.g. Japan tribe: 120 million people). The PeeCee people in the U.S. simply lack the ability to comprehend that the rest of the world is very different than here.

Based on the above, it was obvious from the beginning that, if we were to invade Iraq (which I though was utterly stupid back in 2002), that the only solution will be to partition the country into separate ethnic enclaves. Eventually, this will happen throughout much of the world. As Ralph Peters has pointed out in his books, this process is inevitable and all of the PeeCee whining of the multiculti cultists will not make any difference.

Audacious Epigone said at April 14, 2007 6:29 PM:


Why not model a system of walls on the security fence in Israel? Facilitate the separation of Shias from Sunnis to attenuate the ethnic cleansing on both sides as much as possible.

Saudi money and Sunni fighters from Jordan are going to increasingly find their way into Iraq as the US presence wanes. Why not help draw some lines in the sand? It strikes me as the most prudent way to avoid a prolonged escalation of violence once we leave.

Yes, there will be some infiltration and some logistical tie-ups, but you're making the perfect the enemy of the good. Randall's been right on this for a long time. What are your suggestions?

Andy K said at April 14, 2007 8:16 PM:

What Kurt9 describes above as tribalism is better known in the West as DIVERSITY! It has long been a weakness in the Old and the 3rd World, yet we are always told by our blind PC elites what a great strength it is for America and the West. Only Modern Liberalism could produce such an upside-down twist of logic! This is why we need a long immigration moratorium...we shouldn't import all these tribal divisions unless we want to look like the rest of the world.

John S Bolton said at April 15, 2007 1:10 AM:

Walls do work, and the greater the tribal solidarity of the population involved, and the weaker their loyalty to much larger solidarities, the more interest they have in monitoring the enclosure for aggressors.
Iraq is not an economic zone in the same way that an economics textbook would lead to you believe is universal;
it is more like a welfare project redistributing central oil revenues locally.
The doctrines of universal brotherhood, national unity and reconciliation,
blindfold our government to the success of Kurdistan, which has little difficulty excluding terrorists and sectarian warriors who wear national police uniforms, sunglasses, and masks.
Walls work because exclusionism works, and because inclusionism is a fakey ideal;
you can easily have way too much of it.
When aggressors are included by making a goal of inclusion,
you have failed to appreciate the value of exclusion.
An ideal society excludes aggressors in maximal degree.
Walls, security fences and checkpoints are the means of constraining freedom-for-aggression
especially where such has been allowed to run rampant.

Bob Badour said at April 15, 2007 8:40 AM:


Anybody who pays attention to westerners will recognize the inherent tribalism in the west too. I find it particularly clear when watching Germans or Americans discuss football.

Just recently a local farmer and good friend tried to explain to my why his farm doesn't do business with a local store. He expected me to understand his explanations. Instead, I found it clear his rationalizations were rationalizations. The farm doesn't do business with the store because it is owned and run by 'outsiders' who are not members of the local tribe.

Socialism, itself, is tribalism no matter how much the multi-cultists want to dress it up differently.

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