November 27, 2006
Admit It's Over
Americans tend to think we can achieve almost any goal if we just expend more resources and try a bit harder. That spirit has built the greatest nation in history, but it may be dooming Iraq. As the head of the British Army recently noted, the very presence of large numbers of foreign combat troops is the source of much of the violence and instability. Our efforts, then, are merely postponing the day when Iraqis find their way to something approaching normalcy. Only withdrawal offers a realistic path forward. Too often in the Iraq debate, we have let intuition, slogans, and appealing thoughts
Talk, Talk, Talk
I am not sure that there is anything that we can do with our army in Iraq that won't make things worse than they are. That may be an un-American sentiment. (Isn't there always something to do, and aren't we always the ones who can do it?) But what are our options? Should we "stay the course"? That only means more of the same awfulness. Bring in more troops? That might have worked a few years ago; now, it would only generate more resistance and make the awfulness more awful. In any case, it is politically impossible here at home. Withdraw immediately?
The partition of Iraq has already taken place. Our choice now is simple: We can acknowledge this reality and try to make the best of a bad situation, or we can continue to resist it at the cost of American and Iraqi lives. This does not necessarily mean that Iraq will split into separate countries in the short term (although the eventual independence of Kurdistan appears inevitable). For now, it simply means accepting a very loose federal system in which Kurds, Shia, and Sunnis take almost complete control of their own affairs. Iraqis themselves have clearly chosen disunity. In the December 20
Keep It Whole
It is a measure of just how unmanageable the war in Iraq has become that an increasing number of politicians and foreign policy analysts are subscribing to Senator Joe Biden's plan to partition Iraq into independent Sunni, Shia, and Kurdish "statelets." On the surface, partition seems like an attractive option. After all, the argument goes, Iraq is already bitterly divided along sectarian lines. Partitioning the country would only formalize what is taking place on the ground. But, despite portrayals to the contrary, Iraq is not so cleanly divided along sectarian lines. The homogenization of Ir
Force Everyone to the Table
It's time to make a virtue of necessity in Iraq. The country is sliding into full-blown civil war. The government is weak and getting weaker by the day; it also shows little willingness to make the minimum commitments necessary for stability--amending the constitution to guarantee Sunnis their share of national oil revenue, allowing lower-level Baathist officials to be rehabilitated, and disarming the militias. The Bush administration and many Democrats have been strenuously resisting these conclusions. But they may, in fact, be our most valuable diplomatic asset. If we accept this reality and
Deal With the Sunnis
The United States is in a quagmire in Iraq because it rushed to war, and then to occupation, without a plan or even a realistic assessment. We must not exit Iraq in the same blind fashion. We need a plan to stabilize Iraq politically before we exit. Any such plan must have numerous military, economic, and political dimensions. But a key feature should be to split up the Sunni Arab insurgency. This insurgency is already deeply divided between secular (nationalist, Baathist) and religious elements and--within the latter--between Islamists focused on Iraq and hardcore utopian revolutionaries (Sal
November 26, 2006
Save Whomever We Can
A few days ago, the brother of my friend Osman was one of seven Sunni workers in a shop in a mixed neighborhood of western Baghdad who were rounded up at gunpoint by Mahdi Army militiamen and taken to the local Shia mosque. There, they were taunted about Saddam Hussein's death sentence and then, one by one, shot in the head. Osman's brother was only grazed and survived. But, when the bodies were loaded into a pickup truck and brought to a nearby Iraqi Army checkpoint, a soldier in uniform noticed that he was still alive.
November 24, 2006
Gay Marriage In Israel
Civil marriage is not permitted in Israel. Historically--that is, when the state was founded in 1947-1948--this was less a concession to the rabbis than to the Muslims and especially to the Christians of Palestine, who were fiercely represented by the Catholic countries in the U.N. General Assembly. The representatives of these governments extracted many concessions from the Zionists in exchange for support of the Partition Plan. Among these was that matters of personal status were to be left to the official religious communions.
November 21, 2006
"Time is running out, and we need to move forward on this," Senator Barbara Boxer declared in a conference call with reporters last week, referring to global warming. The California Democrat will take over as chair of the Senate's Environment and Public Works Committee in January, and she has already vowed to make climate change a top priority, reversing a decade of inaction by congressional Republicans.
by David A. Bell It's a pity that John Mueller's book Overblown isn't getting more attention. Its provocative--and certainly debatable--thesis is very simple: The threat to the United States from Islamic terrorism has been exaggerated, and may be close to non-existent. There is little evidence that Islamic terrorists have the capacity (as opposed to the desire) to carry out further attacks on the scale of 9/11 on U.S. soil, let alone anything more destructive. Anxieties about chemical, biological, and radiological weapons are particularly unjustified.