Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Defeat Versus Destruction

The situation in Iraq is ugly but some seem determined to predict disaster if Sunni-Shia fighting truly becomes unconstrained.

There are the minority Sunnis split between cooperating in a new Iraq and indulging in a bloody fantasy of provoking foreign Sunni intervention to put Iraq's Sunnis back in the palaces. The Shias are also split--between those wanting to get revenge for decades (and even centuries) of Sunni exploitation and more recently in memory, mass murder and terror, and those willing to move on to establish peace. The Kurds are largely content to sit it out in the north though their troops are valuable assets in the war. Fighting Sunnis with the upper hand while in the army is kind of refreshing, I imagine.

But this can't be properly called a civil war as far as I'm concerned. The Sunnis will simply be wiped out if the Shias and Sunnis who want all-out war get their way. Some Sunnis are even coming around to desperately wanting us to stay to shield Sunnis from revenge. I've been preaching this for years, wondering just how stupid the Sunnis have to be to fail to come on board the new Iraq while our troops are in Iraq to moderate Shia (and Kurds to a lesser degree of importance) desire for revenge.

Strategypage has an article that largely agrees:

The problem with civil war in Iraq is that it's not possible to have a civil war in Iraq. That's because one side is too weak to muster much more that terrorists. Because of voluntary, and forced, departures from the country, the Sunni Arabs are only about 15 percent of the population. Moreover, because of American air power, any concentration of Sunni Arab gunmen would just provide a target for smart bombs. Declaring that there is now a civil war in Iraq ignores the fact that the Sunni Arabs have been resisting their loss of power for over three years. Military historians refer to this sort of thing as "mopping up" after a hostile government has been defeated. Saddam and his government were ousted in early 2003. But Saddam's followers fought on, and are still at it. At least those that are still alive and in a murderous mood. Call that a civil war if you like, but that doesn't make it one.

Could there be a sectarian bloodletting even greater than today's? (Or yesteday's under Saddam, for that matter) Oh yeah. If the Shias decide to go hammer and tongs at the Sunnis, the Sunnis will die or flee to avoid dying. I don't call that a civil war. It will be ethnic cleansing.

We won't get a democratic Iraq for another generation at least if this happens; but we won't have a terror sponsoring aggressive thug state either, as it was under Saddam.

So Iraq may or may not succeed in creating a democracy. They may just get a mild authoritarian government. And we may or may not get our maximum objective of an example for other Moslem countries to follow. But for sure, the Iraqi Sunnis won't be able to hold any piece of land inside Iraq and call it their own.

For what it's worth, I think we can create a new Iraq with an acceptable form of democracy and with sufficient Sunni participation.