Friday, June 02, 2006

More Than Bullshit

While poking around Slate to find the Metcalf article linked in my Fukuyama post, I came across this article on Iraq by Fred Kaplan. Kaplan is roundly disappointed by the approach of John McCain and Condi Rice to the violence in Iraq, which in McCain's words is to tell them to "stop the bullshit." Kaplan is absolutely correct that this is not a mere matter of bullshit or miscommunication, there is a structural problem with Iraq that threatens to rip apart any democratic government put in place. It's the problem I posted on a month ago (May 2nd) that where people identify themselves more by ethnicity or religion than by other political concerns, democracy only deepens the divisions. Every election in the foreseeable future in Iraq will have the same outcome: Shiites win. If you are a Sunni or a Kurd, democracy means you lose.

The issue of how to structure a government that can satisfy all three groups was a major question before we even set foot in Iraq (and one I raised in several contexts pre-TBWJ). They tried to hash this out in the constitutional convention and failed miserably, and basically left the constitution completely open-ended, deferring the problem to later. Now Iraq has struggled month after month just to put together a government after the December election. They haven't even broached the difficult (and likely intractable) question of creating a coherent state in which Sunnis, Shiites, and Kurds can all be satisfied. That is not bullshit. That is likely game over for our grand plan to plant the seed of democracy in the Middle East.

Breaking Iraq into three independent nations will have consequences we won't like (destabilizing Turkey (and possible Syria, Iran, and Saudi Arabia) and creating an Iranian client state in the south), but it may be the only way to end the violence. But as Kaplan points out, there is really no one who can implement a plan like that. The Shiites (who will rule the country as it now stands) have no interest in it. The US and the UN don't appear to have the ability or wherewithal to impose it. Iraq appears to be completely dead in the water, adrift in violence and chaos with no route out.

I give Kaplan credit as well for trying to establish the distinction between Realpolitik and realism that I've argued for here before.

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