The "civil war" was not the spontaneous result of centuries of enmity between Sunnis and Shiites. Instead, it was deliberately engineered by al Qaeda, and they did it precisely because the spontaneous fighting was occurring at too low a level to stop democratic progress in Iraq.
This is the key talking point that has filtered through from the White House into talk radio and the right-wing blogosphere. The idea is to mention the words "Al Qaeda" as often as you can while rarely mentioning the word "insurgent" and dismissing the idea that Iraq is embroiled in a civil war between the Sunnis and Shiites.
To illustrate the absurdity of this stance, I want you to imagine for a moment that instead of invading Iraq in 2003, George W Bush talked to God and got him to agree to send a meteor crashing into Saddam Hussein's palace during a meeting with all the top Baathists of Iraq. Everyone gets killed, including Saddam, his sons, the entire deck of cards, and all of their sons.
In addition, George Bush asks God if he can arrange it so that the payroll lists for the entire Iraqi army and police are lost and they all walk off the job vowing never to return to a job that doesn't pay. As a kicker, GW asks God to ensure that all of the top officials in the Iraqi government receive pink slips informing them they have been terminated and can never work for the Iraqi government again for the rest of their lives.
Given this scenario, what do you think happens next? Do the 500,000 people who've just been thrown out of work into an economy devastated by 20 years of unremitting warfare and suffering from massive underemployment easily find new jobs? Do the Kurds, Sunnis and Shiites sit down and draft a new constitution that protects the rights of minorities and establishes the rule of law in a country that has never had any laws? Do they all sit around the campfire, link arms and begin singing Kumbaya?
Hell no. They go to war. There's no doubt in my mind that if, at any time, you swept away the power structures of Saddam Hussein's regime the result would be chaos and conflict. There's been too much bad blood between the Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds over the years and especially during Saddam when the Sunnis conducted genocidal massacres against the other two groups. The Kurds will fight for their long-sought independence, the Sunnis will fight to get back into power, and the Shiites will fight to hold power and exact hideous revenge on the Sunnis that they have been contemplating for decades.
You can no more put Iraq back together at this point than you could have forced the Serbs, Croats, Bosnians, and Kosovars back into a united Yugoslavia at gunpoint. The breakup of countries that are not cohesive in terms of ethnicity and religion is absolutely guaranteed after the overthrow of an autocratic dictatorship and in the complete absence of democratic, pluralistic traditions. We've seen this pattern repeated over and over again in history. The breakup of Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union are just the two most recent examples.
I maintain that there is absolutely NO WAY to avoid the course of events in Iraq that lie ahead. No number of dead American troops can divert the country from the path of dissolution and breakup that will be bloody and difficult but by no means is guaranteed to be genocidal. Iraq will never become a united, democratic, pluralistic society where Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds live together in peace. If you feel otherwise, I'd like you to show me the evidence.
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