Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Foresight: Breaking up Iraq ... and More

Note the date:

The Mideast After Saddam
Fault lines: In pondering his next step, Bush must weigh the idea that war would be good for the Middle East
By Christopher Dickey
Newsweek International
Updated: 10:42 a.m. ET Dec. 5, 2002
Issues 2003 - As George W. Bush looks at the Middle East, powerful voices in and around his administration tell him the status quo is unsalvageable. They say Arabs are just waiting for a visionary American president to clear away the corruption and dictatorship that curse the region, starting with Saddam Hussein. Apocalyptic optimists like Joshua Muravchik at the American Enterprise Institute suggest the invasion of Iraq will “unleash a tsunami across the Islamic world,” a tidal wave of democracy and modernization.
BUT THE REAL CHOICE Bush faces—and he certainly knows this—is not between Saddam and democracy; it is between the risks of trying to sustain a shaky status quo and the risks of provoking disorder that might be impossible to control. “Ultimately, he will have to decide,” says Rachel Bronson of the Council on Foreign Relations. “Is chaos good or bad for the region?”
Theoretical social engineering is dangerous. Disarming Saddam is a necessary—and limited—goal that might be achieved in many different ways. Not so the propagation of popular democracy through military occupation. There’s just no good precedent for that in the Arab and Islamic realms, or anywhere in the developing world. The models cited by some advocates of invasion are occupied Germany and Japan after World War II. But as the Carnegie Foundation recently pointed out, the problematic experiences of Haiti, Afghanistan and the Balkans are more recent and more relevant.
The Haitian invasion of 1994 and subsequent reconstruction have given us “political chaos, renewed repression and dismal U.S.-Haiti relations,” Carnegie says. In the Afghan case, “the [Bush] administration’s failure to back up its promises” for reconstruction bodes ill for its commitment to Iraq. In Bosnia, there’s “only a tenuous political equilibrium that even six years later would collapse if international forces pulled out.” The voices of caution in the administration, mostly in the State Department and the CIA, warn that the Middle East, like the Balkans, is a mass of fault lines, and tremors of chaos spread much faster than any new sort of order.
In a worst-case, but not least likely, scenario, it’s easy to imagine Iraq’s coming apart during and after the invasion. The whole Middle East becomes massively unstable, its regimes morphing, its frontiers drawn and redrawn. Turkey and Iran, which have restive Kurdish populations of their own, would feel pressure to impose order on swaths of Kurdish northern Iraq just to preserve their internal stability. Patchwork efforts to establish order would result in compromise countries: junk states that meet some of the demands of national identity but not all the requirements of sovereignty, like Kosovo in the Balkans, the present Kurdish entity in northern Iraq and the Palestinian Authority in the occupied territories.
Traditional divisions may prove an unreliable guide to the fracturing Middle East. Urbanization over the last 50 years throws the calculations off. As we learned during the siege of Sarajevo, immigration to cities can create multiethnic urban centers that greatly complicate the process of breaking up. Today, Lebanon, Iraq—yes, Iraq—Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar and Kuwait all have more than 80 percent of their population living in urban centers, and in most of the rest of the Arab world the ratio is above 50 percent.
Still, the basic fault lines of the Middle East are well known. In Iraq, the breakup likely would trace the three governorates that existed under the Ottoman Empire before World War I: Mosul, which is largely Kurdish; Baghdad, which is largely Sunni Arab, and Basra, which is largely Shiite Arab...

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