The Plank

Dealing With The Inevitable


Christopher Hitchens has a wise piece in Slate
making an argument that many Iraq war critics have either thoughtfully
rebutted or scurrilously
attacked with
accusations of racism: that
Iraq was always a sectarian society bound to erupt at some point. The
chimera of "stability" that clothed Saddam Hussein's no-less-divided
Iraq was maintained by daily, grinding violence--not all that different
from what we are seeing today. Hitchens writes:

If there is a sectarian war in Iraq today, or perhaps several sectarian
wars, we have to understand that this was latent in the country, and in
the state, and in the society all along. It was not the only possible
outcome, because it had to be willed and organized, but it was certainly
high on the list of probabilities. (The Saddam Hussein regime, which
thrived on the worst form of "divide and rule," certainly represented a
standing invitation to run this risk.)

And he states that

those who now deplore and decry the "civil war" (or the "civil wars")
must, in order to be serious, admit that they would have deplored such
an outcome just as much if it had not happened on America's watch or had
(like Rwanda) been something that we could have pretended to watch as
disinterested or--even worse--uninterested spectators.

Something tells me that those to whom Hitchens refers would be the loudest to
demand intervention by the United States in Iraq when that inevitable
civil strife (after, say Saddam's death or yet another ill-conceived war) would have occurred, just as they are now calling for
action in Darfur and did in Rwanda, Haiti, Somalia, et al.

It is not the United States that founded this millennial hatred; it is
not the United States that arms and equips Sunni death squads; it is not
the United States that supports Iranian backing of Shia factions in
Iraq. As Hitchens writes, we had a "rendezvous in Mespotamia that could
not have been averted." To pretend that we could have avoided the
problem of Iraq always was--and, in terms of the debate since the war,
always will be--wishful thinking.

--James Kirchick

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