Tyler Cowen Leans Toward Partition.
Unfortunately, the chances for peaceful partition (to the extent they ever existed) are rapidly receding. The best window of opportunity was shortly after the defeat of Saddam when the situation was in flux. Today, partition would be much more difficult to achieve because leaders of the Shi'ite majority are so puffed up with dreams of monopoly power (either through all Iraq elections or by force) in a unified Iraqi nation state.
As Iraq spirals into renewed factionalism, violence, and increased distrust of the U.S. (all worsened by the continued presence of our troops), any option is riddled with numberless potential unintended consequences. The best remaining hope for both Iraq and our national defense is for the US to withdraw as soon as possible from this mess.....though I suspect that Tyler (who supported this war) is not ready to agree!
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David T. Beito - 4/18/2004
I agree with your ideal but just don't think it is possible at this point. I don't think the Shi'ites will allow true federalism. I hope I am wrong.
Jonathan Dresner - 4/18/2004
While I'm sympathetic to the simplicity of partition, the fact is that none of the three territories are ethnically or religiously pure, so partition runs the risk of creating a series of Yugoslav-like ethnic cleansings (there's always the Pakistani Partition if you prefer) that the cloak of federalism might well avoid.
A federal, unified Iraq also could protect each of the smaller entities from neighboring states more effectively (not to mention the apoplexy the Turks would have when Kurdistan was declared).
Then there's the problem of oil revenue: it's not exactly evenly distributed.....
I think a unified Iraq still solves more problems than it creates. Unless we let things get worse, of course.
David T. Beito - 4/17/2004
I just don't think even defacto partition is a vialbe option anymore (if it ever was). Nearly ten years later, for example, the federalist solution has still not solved the Bosnia mess. By contrast, plese note the relative stability of Slovakia and the Czech Republic which made a complete break with the mythology of a cloak and are much happier for it.
Can Shi'ite and Kurd co-exist even under a cloak of federalism? I have my doubts. Another problem with maintaining a cloak of federalism is that it keeps alive the idea that an entitity called Iraq still exists, thus opening the door to those who want to monopolize control of this entitity.
David T. Beito - 4/17/2004
If I believed your premises were right, I might agree with you. Unfortuantely, the evidence over the last year is mounting that the more we try to "help" the Iraqis to create a stable government, the more distant that goal becomes. Currently, I think that leaving the people of Iraq to "to their own devices" is the best alternative we have left.
I am dubious that a federal government will emerge (please note the failure by the UN and NATO to create a federal government in Bosnia). I don't think that the Shi'ites will allow it to happen. This is the Middle East, after all, not Switzerland.
Much as I hate the UN, it could play a constructive role in smoothing an official partition (not a phantom unitary or federal government) to happen. In my view, partition also presents the best hope for Bosnia.
Ralph E. Luker - 4/17/2004
David, Much as I opposed our invasion of Iraq, I simply don't see our withdrawing as rapidly as possible to be a responsible thing to do. We destroyed a tyranny and, in doing so, created an ugly, messy situation. We simply cannot leave the people of Iraq to their own devices. We have to try to help them create some symblance of a legitimate government which is capable of defending itself from internal and external opposition. Surely, Jonathan is right that some form of a federal government is what will emerge, if fate and force allows anything to emerge.
Jonathan Dresner - 4/16/2004
Perhaps we should be considering the possibility of a de facto partition with a cloak of federalism, something along these lines: http://hnn.us/articles/1726.html
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