Saturday, August 23, 2008

No wonder Joe Biden is unpopular in Iraq 

Reuters is reporting that Barack Obama's selection of Joe Biden is not popular among Iraqis, who very much dislike Biden's proposal to partition their country.

Senator Joe Biden may be one of the only U.S. politicians that can get Iraq's feuding Sunni, Shi'ite and Kurdish politicians to agree. But not in a good way.

Across racial and religious boundaries, Iraqi politicians on Saturday bemoaned Democratic presidential contender Barack Obama's choice of running mate, known in Iraq as the author of a 2006 plan to divide the country into ethnic and sectarian enclaves.

"This choice of Biden is disappointing, because he is the creator of the idea of dividing Iraq," Salih al-Mutlaq, head of National Dialogue, one of the main Sunni Arab blocs in parliament, told Reuters.

"We rejected his proposal when he announced it, and we still reject it. Dividing the communities and land in such a way would only lead to new fighting between people over resources and borders. Iraq cannot survive unless it is unified, and dividing it would keep the problems alive for a long time."

Notwithstanding its popularity in certain anti-administration foreign policy circles, dividing Iraq to resolve sectarian conflict is at least as stupid an idea as, say, dividing the United States to resolve sectional conflict would have been (another idea that was popular among Democrats once upon a time). The reasons are legion, but they include the following:
  • The "process" of division would have been at least as bloody as the sectarian conflict it would have replaced, especially given the geographical disperson of the oil.

  • Iraqis do not want and never have wanted their country to be divided, which means they would have been unlikely to have cooperated in the exercise even if the United States had promoted it.

  • A federal Iraq would run the great risk of becoming the preferred battleground of every force in the region that wants to project power (see, e.g., Lebanon).

  • If you believe that the invasion of Iraq has hurt the "soft power" of the United States because it smacks of imperialism (not my view, but an opinion of wide currency on the left), then you have to explain why an American project to draw internal borders within Iraq would not be even more imperialistic (see, e.g., similar such line-drawing exercises by Europeans in 1919, among other years).

  • Except for the theoretical (and problematic) possibility that the troops might "come home" more quickly, how, exactly, would it be in the interests of the United States for Iraq to end up in three pieces?

  • The Biden partition plan was a bad idea from the beginning, and all Iraqis should be grateful that -- so far -- it has gained no footing within the executive branch.

    Anyway, it is a reflection of the diminishing political significance of the Iraq war that Barack Obama, who secured the Democratic nomination in part by making much of his opposition to the war and his plan to withdraw our troops on a fast schedule, is now able to pick as his running mate a senator who voted for the invasion in 2002 and whose favored "solution" would have required more rather than less American involvement in Iraqi domestic politics.


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sat Aug 23, 11:15:00 PM:

    One irony here is that some of the pundits are saying that Biden's foreign policy expertise was one of the reasons Obama chose him.  

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Aug 24, 12:16:00 AM:

    That's one really dumb idea down, but Joe has a fertile mind and will surely create many more.  

    By Blogger Fat Man, at Sun Aug 24, 01:25:00 PM:

    I think that Ron Rosenbaum got it right about Biden:

    “Biden’s sagacity and earnestness act would only go over in the class of dummies that is the U.S. Senate. … Biden has proven himself incapable of opening his mouth without making you cringe at his self-congratulatory pretentiousness.”  

    By Blogger Chus, at Tue Sep 23, 05:49:00 PM:

    ¿What do you think about this video: The truth about Iraq?  

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