April 20, 2003


Must Iraq Stay Whole? (Ralph Peters, April 20, 2003, The Washington Post)
Traditional wisdom insists that Iraq must remain in one piece. Washington subscribes to that belief. The Bush administration insists it will not permit the breakup of Iraq.

But what if some Iraqis prefer to live apart from others who slaughtered their families?

Certainly, our efforts to rehabilitate the region would go more smoothly were Iraq to remain happily whole within its present borders. Our initial efforts should aim at facilitating cooperation between and the protection of Iraq's ethnic and religious groups. But we also need to think ahead and to think creatively if we are to avoid being blindsided by forces we cannot control.

What if, despite our earnest advice, the people of Iraq resist the argument that they would be better off economically and more secure were they to remain in a single unified state? What if the model for Iraq's future were Yugoslavia after the Cold War, not Japan or Germany after World War II?

The key lesson of Yugoslavia was that no amount of diplomatic pressure, bribes in aid or peacekeeping forces can vanquish the desire of the oppressed to reclaim their independence and identity. Attempts to force such groups to continue to play together like nice children simply prolong the conflict and intensify the bloodshed.

We are far too quick to follow Europe's example and resist the popular will we should be supporting. If the United States does not stand for self-determination, who shall?

This is not an argument for provoking secession by Iraq's Kurds or Shiites. Objectively viewed, Iraq's advantages as an integral state are indeed enormous, while the practical obstacles faced by any emerging mini-states would range from the problems of a landlocked Kurdistan in the north to the threat of religious tyranny in the Shiite south.

But reason does not often prevail in the affairs of states and nations. Passion rules.

It is really up to the Kurds to decide whether there will be a federated Iraq or a Kurdistan, and then we should support their decision. After all, there are more Kurds than there are Iraqis and the Kurds are the largest ethnic group in the world without a state of their own. Posted by Orrin Judd at April 20, 2003 10:47 AM

As the article mentions, we should avoid letting it splinter into different groups, some of which are more likely to go fundamentalist. It would be better to keep them all together and let the moderates temper the radicals. A check on religious tyranny.

Posted by: RC at April 21, 2003 12:12 AM
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