Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Throw another log on the fire

The election of Barack Obama, a genuinely moving and historic moment for American blacks, was also the subject of considerable preaching by white people to the effect that if anyone, anywhere, was not moved by this, then there was something wrong with them, and that was their way of giving voice to the American ideology of inclusive nationalism, with the Obama victory and the rejoicing of blacks on that day serving as the bearer of that ideology.

The idea of an inclusive nationalism that transcends ethnic and sectarian lines has been a big factor in Iraq too, and in the period up until now, there has been some effort, however weak, to highlight that strain of Iraqi nationalism. It is true that the proponents of Iraqi nationalism--Harith alDhari, Moqtada alSadr being the most famous--were subjects of vilification in the American media during that period of time, which is not surprising considering America had attacked and occupied Iraq militarily and they were against that and they were for "resistance" to that, so they were naturally to be vilified.

Where in America inclusive nationalism is taken as bedrock truth--and the question of the "nationalism" of people like Hank Paulson and that whole class of people relegated to another dimension--the opposite was applied to Iraq. In Iraq, inclusive nationalism was and is a sham and a fraud, according to the media and the experts.

But in the period up to now, the specific conclusions with respect to American policy in Iraq were still up for grabs. The "Biden plan"--to the effect that no cross-group reconciliation was possible and the only reasonable outcome would be some kind of partition--didn't really take hold of "expert" opinion, and the reason was that there were some who still realized, even in the face of the deafening media blitz, that Iraqis think of themselves primarily as Iraqis just as Americans think of themselves primarily as Americans--(just as we know in our hearts that even the "Kurdish warlords" on Wall Street think of themselves as Americans, if I may be allowed to put it that way).

As it happens, the way to get US troops out of harm's way in Iraq and still control the country--on the cheap, as it were--would be to effect some kind of partition, so as to minimize the risk of a strong, independent and assertive national government reasserting itself. It stands to reason.

And there is this eerie silence from the Democratic Party foreign policy establishment. They are waiting for some to hum the tune for them, before they start up the chorus. I predict the tune will be that not only are the Iraqi nationalists a sham, there actually isn't any Iraqi nationalism at all. There doesn't need to be, now that there is resurgent American nationalism. And this will not be without policy implications.

So it is that a well-known professor who I thought of as perhaps neutral on this in recent years, is now writing not only little one-liners like this: "AMSI and like-minded groups are trying to ride opposition to SOFA to regain influence..." (which is the traditional Iraqi-nationalists-are-a-sham sneer); he is also writing things like this: "If it's just 50% + 1 [in a referendum on the security agreement] and the Kurds vote overwhelmingly yes, and Shia majority yes, it's very hard to see how it [the agreement] could fail. Did the Sunnis demanding the referendum not get this?..." In recent years, this class of people would have been careful to avoid this rhetoric of "the Shias" and the "Sunnis" as applied indiscriminately to the GZ parties and to the people of Iraq as a whole. It appears that niceity has been dropped. It is a delicate thing, the respect for Iraqi nationalism in the midst of all of the destruction and misery that has been caused in that country by American policy over the years. An endangered species, you might say. Not Iraqi nationalism itself, but respect for it in America. It is as if you only need one instance of inclusive nationalism in the world, the American...

As the Front for Jihad and Change said in a recent open letter to both Shiite and Sunni religious authorities:
What happened was treason and a contemptible commercial bargain entered into by the weak of spirit. What was sold was history and the ummah and religion; the price was a few dirhams and an illusory (or fraudulent) authority; and the seller was the enemy of the ummah; but the deal was done...
There is something about that idea of a sale of what is important "for the price of a few dirhams and an illusory or fraudulent authority" that stays with one.

Anyway, here we go again. Only this time with the experts lined up in support of the wise and benevolent American policy, once they can figure out in detail what that policy is. And only this time without even the acknowledgment of actual Iraqi resistance to these benevolent policies--only terrorists and outlaws.


Blogger rmwarnick said...

Nir Rosen wrote a while back that people he talked to in Iraq, Sunnis and Shiites, believed that the USA was deliberately employing a divide-and-conquer strategy.

I wondered if our people were that sophisticated, or if our Iraq policy was more like bull-in-china-shop. Still don't know.

10:38 AM  
Blogger badger said...

I don't see where sophistication comes in.

In war you vilify your enemy, and if your enemy says "I represent my country", you say "No you don't, you are a grasping little piece of shit who represents only your own gang and your own interests." And so on in each case.

Where is the sophistication in that?

12:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

divide and conquer only seems sophisticated when you've been drinking koolaid called 'we made a mistake'..

5:52 PM  
Blogger Rashad said...

Badger, I'm working on a longer response, but briefly, you're conflating two important points. Sadr is no doubt a nationalist, but he is nowhere near an example of "an inclusive nationalism that transcends ethnic and sectarian lines" as you seem to be claiming.

Very recently he has begun incorporating some Sunnis into his protests, but in part that is because his past attempts at Shia nationalism have failed and ISCI, Maliki, Iran, and Sistani all have more influence now than he does. But really, this is a side point to the argument which deserves a longer response, which is forthcoming.

11:48 PM  
Blogger badger said...

we are all ears

7:08 AM  

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