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September 16, 2007

Apocalypse Not

by Nicholas Beaudrot of Electoral Math

I wanted to elevate this essay by Robert Dreyfuss on the consequences of a redeployment from Iraq that Ezra has in his bookmarks. Money paragraph:

Even if post-occupation efforts to create a new political compact among Iraqis fail, the most likely outcome is, again, a bloody Sunni-Shiite stalemate, accompanied by continued ethnic cleansing in mixed areas. But that, of course, is no worse than the path Iraq is already on under U.S. occupation.

Very Serious People take it as a given that we cannot withdraw from Iraq because of some combination of genocide and foreign or terrorist presence. This question deserves deeper analysis. The situation is already very bad in Iraq right now; it's not clear just how much worse it could get without militias acquiring heavy artillery. And that's something that's simply unlikely to happen under any circumstances.

September 16, 2007 | Permalink


I thought we were working to arm both sides... first the Shia by training by them for police and army... and now the Sunnis by recruiting them into "protection squads in Anbar. I agree with Dreyfuss though; it's going to get worse with or without us - the problem is, I think, that a lot of people are still uncomfortable with the idea that we can't do anything to stop things getting worse.

Posted by: weboy | Sep 17, 2007 12:29:25 AM

We're arming them, but it's small arms. For things to get an order of magnitude worse, you either have to believe there will be (a) substantial coordination and no resistance, or (b) someone acquires heavy weapons.

(a) is unlikely; Iraqi society is very fragmented, and there is lots of infighting among Shia. (b) is, for reasons pointed out in the article, unlikely as well.

Posted by: Nicholas Beaudrot | Sep 17, 2007 12:32:46 AM

I'm not clear from the articles what exactly would prevent the Iraqi factions laying their hand on heavy artillery, maybe even some tanks. Second- or third-hand ex-Soviet stuff is not that expensive, and I don't see what would prevent the Shi'ite central government in particular spending oil money and importing quantities of it from e.g. Iran, and using it to level recalcitrant Sunni towns. Creating a defensive line, placing artillery behind and shelling the crap out the other side can be done with low quality troops, and so also negates the possible Sunni advantage in infantry skills and leadership. Why would they NOT try to achieve this, and what could prevent them?

Posted by: JohnTh | Sep 17, 2007 8:54:58 AM

If you track the reports of violence coming from Iraq over any period of time, you'll see that most of the violence is directed against representatives of the Iraqi and American governments - soldiers, politicians, etc. The Iraqi government is widely viewed as a puppet regime that serves only as the public face for whatever Bush wants, which is of course essentially the case.

Attacking an American convoy probably isn't "sectarian," and an attack against Iraqi police or other government force is not necessarily sectarian either. And, as I've posted about before, Iraq is a nation that is utterly drowning in military-level ordnance, so that even the "merely" criminal elements that flourish in the chaos of war zones can appear to be heavily armed militias to American eyes.

I cannot find the article, but I remember reading recently that while Shias, Sunnis and Kurds have never been the best of friends, there is more of a history of living and working together in that area than we are led to believe. It's easy to forget this, but the idea that Shias, Sunnis and Kurds are locked in eternal and unsolvable conflict with one another serves the interests of the region's authoritarian and corrupt regimes and their Western beneficiaries.

A bit of terrorist activity and regional instability are quite tolerable when they provide the platform for untold riches in both petroleum and the arms trade, both of which are of course very important to the US.

Posted by: Stephen | Sep 17, 2007 9:03:01 AM


I expect a higher level of evidence or analysis from you trying to prove a signficant point like this, just as I do when Republican trying to make the opposite argument.

Posted by: Phil | Sep 17, 2007 9:13:25 AM


The beauty of a comments section is that you're given permission to provide that higher level of analysis yourself, perhaps as an example of the type of work you expect from Nicholas.

Posted by: Stephen | Sep 17, 2007 9:20:29 AM

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