History's End

History will end only when Man does

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  • Tuesday, May 18, 2004

    Partitioning Iraq

    Roger L. Simon has a post where he expresses some curiosity, and dare I say, sympathy, for the idea of partitioning Iraq. Without being rude to Roger, I find this to be a dreadful idea, for so very many reasons. Fortunately, several of the other commenters have done a good job explaining why it isn't as good as it may seem.

    I gave 4 simple reasons why it shouldn't be done:

    1. The Turks would never allow it.
    2. The Sunni Arabs in Iraq wouldn't like it, because none of the oil fields are in their part of the country.
    3. Minorities within the 3 or more parts of the split Iraq would be far more vulnerable, as they could no longer link up to other groups across the country to protect themselves.
    4. No fair division of land could ever be achieved.

    I will now go into much further detail.

    1. Turkey is still, at this point in time, adamantly opposed to the creation of an independent Kurdish state. Helping to set one up would create a great rift between Turkey, a secular Muslim majority democracy, and the United States. We would likely lose a great deal of influence, and such influence would likely be taken up other countries, which is strategically unsound for the US. Turkey is strategically placed near the center of the Eurasian landmass, and as such represents an important hub point that the US needs to be close to. At the very least, the US needs to prevent other powers from having unfettered access and control over Turkey. Close Turkish-US ties are the best means of ensuring that. Hence ticking off Turkey, especially if done so deliberately as payback for holding up the 4th ID, is plain unwise.

    2. This one doesn't require much thought. The sunni Arabs already dislike the US, and separating them completely from Iraqi oil revenue is going to cement that hatred. Unwise. Especially because Al Qaeda is based upon sunni Arabs. A separate Sunni Arab state would likely become a magnet for Al Qaeda, and we would almost necessarily have to keep troops there a long time to ensure that it remains largely Al Qaeda free. This would tie down a large number of our troops in the long run, so it should be avoided, if at all possible. Such a state, without oil revenue, would be isolated from any sea routes, and almost certainly economically stagnant. Partition should be avoided, if for this reason alone. Keeping the sunni Arab Iraqis as part of Iraq creates problems, but it also means that the other groups in Iraq will be able to restrict what the sunni Arabs could do.

    3. James Madison's Federalist 10 gives us a good reason why we should avoid partition. A large, Federal Republic of Iraq will help protect minorities and minority rights, far, far better than a number of smaller states will. There are a number of minorities in Iraq that would be far more powerless in a partitioned state, in a unified Iraq they can cooperate with the other minorities to form a bloc, that while small, can help protect them. Smaller partitioned states don't offer that advantage. A large, unified, heterogeneous Iraq will help nullify small groups of radicals, because they will represent a smaller part of the population in a unified Iraq, as compared to a sunni, shi'ite or Kurd state.

    Hence, it clearly appears, that the same advantage which a republic has over a democracy, in controlling the effects of faction, is enjoyed by a large over a small republic,..

    A Federal Iraqi state represents the best hope of the Iraqi people. It is the best state for restricting fundamentalism, protecting human and minority rights, and ensuring continued prosperity for the Iraqi people.

    4. Again, this largely speaks for itself. Who decides what the partition of land will be? As one of the commenters noted, this smacks of
    the old pictures of English politicians stooped over the maps of the colonies, with sharpened pencils.
    Any division of land between three or more states will create problems that will not be easily solved. Issues such as water rights, over-fly rights, transit rights, etc. will be brought into play. Long term enmities will likely emerge because one side or the other feels slighted from partition. Families could be cut off, tribes as well, and then there are the problems relating to national infrastructure. Simply put, it would be extremely complicated, and cause so many issues of contention we would never be able to put the fires out. Leaving it up to the Iraqis creates problems of its own, as then you can have a majority, likely Shi'ite, determining the fate of the rest of Iraq, and it would be nigh well impossible to fix down the road.

    5. Federalism is the future. If we want to avoid ethnic conflict in the future, we are going to have to make sure that people learn to live together. Iraq is a good place to start. If the coalition is unable to ensure that the people of Iraq can peacefully cooperate, then how can we put back together failed states around the globe? Cooperating across ethnic lines is a Must, if we want to have a peaceful future for future generations. Iraq needs to be a demonstration to the whole world that ethnic conflict isn't our destiny.

    6. Each of the smaller partitioned states would be far less capable of defending itself from its neighbors than a unified Iraq. This might not be an issue now, but it could be in twenty or more years. We have no idea what the future of the Middle East might look like, so it would behoove us to prevent a situation where one strong state (Iran?) could swallow piece by piece the different parts of the former Iraq. The Kurds especially would benefit, as a unified Iraq state would be far more powerful, militarily speaking, than an independent Kurdish state. A Federal Iraq remains the best means of securing the safety of every of the ethnic groups in Iraq.

    And those are just what I thought up of in one sitting. I will repeat what I said before: Partition is Unacceptable. Thinking outside of the box can be useful at times, but in this instance would only lead to problems down the road.


    John Moore has a response as well, you can find it here .

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