Friday, October 5, 2007

Partition This!

Agreeing with David Ignatius is, for me, a thing exceedingly rare – especially on the matter of foreign affairs. In fact, I think this might only be possible when an idea comes along so bad that a hard-nosed realist and a liberal interventionist – er, “postglobalist” – can unite against it. That idea is the partition of Iraq, which was approved by the Senate in a non-binding resolution, and which Ignatius has sensibly opposed in his latest column for the Post.

In my last Exit-Strategies post, I focused on the history of the interwar period, particularly Wilsonian “national determination” and the Paris Peace Conference’s creation of new nation-states, and statelettes, as all part of the bad history of ethno-nation-building form above. Ignatius’s analogy is Vietnam; or to be more precise, he sees a certain sentiment among U.S. policy-makers of the Vietnam era – the gist being, "It was necessary to destroy the town in order to save it" – resurfacing in today’s Washington.

It is a thoughtful, if not particularly original, critique: American war-managers and “laptop bombardiers” love to dream up that one big solution, that grand social-engineering project, that will solve all our problems – while consistently underestimating, or outright ignoring, the costs in human life. Carving up a county in order to save is in this terrible tradition. And one need not strain to dream up some “Iraq immemorial” – a Romantic vision of the nation of Iraq – as Ignatius does at the end of his piece, to oppose partition.

The endgame in Iraq may, indeed, be bloody – entailing either Shia hegemony from Baghdad, the rule of a ruthless strongman like al-Sadyr, or a resurgent Sunni class based in al-Anbar. Someone will become sovereign. But this is a battle in which America should not take a side by either arming and making deals with Sunnis in Anbar or supporting unconditionally the Iraqi parliament.

Indeed, as William Lind has observed, the U.S. has a reverse Midas Touch – anything we touch essentially turns to sh-t – it loses sovereignty and is perceived as “collaboration” or “treason” or a “puppet” of Uncle Sam. So too would any neat little ethno-partitions drawn up in Washington. A stable state will emerge in Iraq only when we get out of this mess.


celticgoog said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
celticgoog said...

I get this strange surreal feeling every time I read these ideas coming out of our idea people. It's almost as if someone has set off an I-have-a-thought-bomb in Washington (not in the White House of course, but perhaps near the Washington Monument), and all these brainy cerebrations have flown in every which direction, and on occasion one or two land in print, sort of like gore on a wall. And when I see what's landed, my question is almost invariably, "What's the point?"

(Also, isn't anyone else interested in answering these posts? I feel a bit silly banging around in here all alone, so will bow out now until someone else tunes in... So long.)

Richard B. Spencer said...

Keep banging around -- our goal is to start a new conversation about leaving Iraq -- that is, to drop a few thought-bombs of our own in DC that shatter the "stay the course" -- "we need to end the war but retain a massive presence" consensus .

Aakash said...

Mr. Spencer - It was good to meet you, a few days ago in D.C.... Same with regards to Mr. Antle and Mr. McCarthy. I didn't realize that the three of you had this Group Weblog.

Keep up the great work, with all that you all are doing.