Joseph Ellis weighs in on ISIS

Historians in the News
tags: ISIS, Joseph Ellis



Joseph Ellis is professor emeritus of history at Mount Holyoke College.

To the Editor:

Re “ISIS Is Losing in Iraq. But What Happens Next?” (Op-Ed, Feb. 4):

Kenneth M. Pollack recognizes that any military victory over the Islamic State would not resolve the political crisis in Iraq because, as he puts it, “political reconciliation between the Sunni and Shiite communities is at a standstill.” And he worries that defeating ISIS “would not end the slow-burning Iraqi civil war, but inflame it.”

I concur, but reject his recommendation that only the United States can broker an agreement between the rival sects that permits a functional Iraqi government to emerge after a defeated ISIS.

Despite what Mr. Pollock suggests, the core problem is not Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki’s misguided oppression of Sunnis from 2010 to 2014, which is like blaming a leaky toilet in Altoona for the Johnstown Flood in 1889. The problem goes back over a thousand years.

By removing Saddam Hussein, we exposed the unpalatable but undeniable fact that there is no such thing as the Iraqi people and never has been. The current Iraqi government is really a Shiite government, democratically elected, to be sure, because it is the majority sect.

We must face the fact that we created this intractable mess, and the only political solution is the partition of Iraq into three semiautonomous regions. The Kurds already understand this. A long and bloody civil war between the Sunnis and Shiites is probably necessary before they embrace the inevitable outcome.

Any American political or military presence in that conflict will only worsen and extend the violence and repeat the tragic blunder that triggered the current chaos.

JOSEPH J. ELLIS
Amherst, Mass.




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