Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Informed Comment

Here's an interesting exchange between a belligerent anti-Sunni position on the one side, and a national-reconciliation position on the other. First the triumphalist position:
I was at a public event on Thursday night and someone asked me why the Sunni Arabs didn't just take the best deal they could get. I replied that they think they are the real majority of the country, or that is the public pose (requiring them to invent a million Iranian Shiite infiltrators to explain all those extra Shiites). They think they can push the Americans around and maybe even push them out of the country. They think once the US is gone, they will have a better, not worse chance, at regaining something like their former political ascendence. In other words, they seem to be living in a dangerous fantasy land. Juan Cole on the Sunni Arabs of Iraq on December 10, 2004
Here's the rebuttal:
We should be clear why these bombings are taking place. It is because Bush's policy in Iraq was total victory, along with his Shiite and Kurdish allies, over the previously dominant Sunni Arabs. Bush did this thing as a zero sum game, one where there is only one pie and if one person gets a bigger piece, someone else gets a tiny sliver. The Sunni Arabs-- among the best educated and most capable people in the country-- were offered the tiny sliver. They won't accept US troops in their country for the most part, and won't accept reduction to a small powerless minority. They have succeeded in provoking the Shiites to form guerrilla groups and engage in reprisal killings, as well, as a way of destabilizing the country. Bush's allies won't share power and wealth with them, and Bush himself keeps pushing for what he calls "victory." Today is what his victory looks like after nearly 4 years, and it is highly unlikely to look different any time soon. Juan Cole on the Iraqi Sunnis on January 16, 2007
OK, so it isn't really a debate. It looks like a debate, but really the conflict of opinions reflects the fact that in December 2004 it was American policy to foster the SCIRI/Kurd alliance and limit the Sunnis to "the best deal they could get." Now it is American policy to lure more Sunnis into the political process with promises of constitutional change, de-deBaathification and so on, in other words to reverse the former policy and offer them more than that "tiny sliver".

Had Cole criticized the Bush "total victory" strategy back in December 2004, when the chances of national reconciliation were a lot better than they are now, he would have made a valuable contribution to creating an enlightened American public opinion.

(Cole isn't alone in saying enlightened things only once they are enshrined as US policy. Here is Saudi foreign minister Saud al-Faisal, speaking yesterday about Iraqi political strategy: "[He] renewed his insistence on bringing about Iraqi national unity among all its population, with their different organizations and races and political orientations, although of course that is to be done on the principles of equality and of equal rights and duties, and sharing in the wealth [of the country]." And the Al-Hayat reporter explains that the Saudi statement included a call for "making certain adjustments in the Iraqi constitution to ensure the participation of all groups in the political process," a reference to the national-reconcilitation themes of easing de-Baathification and/or the federalism issue.)

In December 2004, a national-reconciliation approach might have offered hope for stability in Iraq. A Badger T-shirt to any reader who can provide a link to an American opinion-maker who pointed that out at the time. Now, by contrast, the rhetoric of national reconciliation seems to have mostly the function of providing cover of various kinds, most important being cover for Sunni Arab regimes to support American belligerence vis-a-vis Iran.


Blogger Dancewater said...

I have been reading Juan Cole for years now. He used to drive me nuts (sometimes still does) with his pro-violence positions and his jumping to conclusions. He has come a long way. And the thing I like best about him is that he is teachable..... which sounds like a funny (even to me) thing to say about a college professor who knows way more than me about some subjects -- but often not enough to see through the bullshit that our US government throws our way.

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