September 15, 2003

PREMATURE IRAQIFICATION: Reuel Marc Gerecht warns against getting out of Iraq too soon. I think he’s right. So do both Oxblog and Colin Powell. And, in a not-entirely-cheerful take on the Iraq situation, Jim Dunnigan observes that the Ba’ath remnants are counting on us giving up too soon:

What is going on in Iraq is a continuation of the civil war between the Sunni Arabs and the other groups (who are 80 percent of the population), with coalition troops doing most of the fighting. The coalition prefers it that way, for the alternative is Shia, Kurd and Sunni Arab militias fighting it out.

Defeating the Sunni Arabs and its Baath Party organization won’t be easy, for many Sunni Arabs have a major incentive to resist. They realize that once a democratic vote is held, the Shia will be in charge and they will proceed to insure that Shia get the economic benefits long monopolized by the Sunni Arabs. By attacking rebuilding efforts and oil production, Baath believes it can trigger an uprising by Shia militias, increased fighting throughout the country and eventual withdrawal of coalition forces. In a civil war, Baath could take over again. Now if this sounds far fetched, it’s not much different than any of the other schemes Baath has gotten behind over the past half century.

Dunnigan goes on to suggest that a year of this sort of effort will reduce the Ba’ath holdouts to the level of other criminal gangs in the area. I’d say that if Baghdad in 2004 looks like Chicago in 1934, that’ll be a success.

UPDATE: A reader suggests organizing Shia militias under U.S. supervision and “quartering them” upon the Sunni population. Such an approach would likely end Sunni resistance, along with a lot of Sunnis, but in fact the situation isn’t nearly bad enough to require such strong methods, nor is it likely to be. But the classic approach would be to do just that — organize a big and not-terribly-restrained force of hostile ethnic or religious groups and turn them loose. It works, but it’s not pretty.

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