Civil War and Partition

Preislam "During the period from the establishment of the new Iraqi government on May 20 until Aug. 11, the average number of weekly attacks jumped to almost 800. That was a substantial increase from earlier this year and almost double the number of the first part of 2004.

As a consequence, Iraqi casualties increased 51 percent over the last reporting period. The document notes that, based on initial reports, Iraqi casualties among civilians and security forces reached nearly 120 a day, up from about 80 a day in the previous reporting period from mid-February to mid-May. About two years ago they were running about 30 a day.

“Although the overall number of attacks increased in all categories, the proportion of those attacks directed against civilians increased substantially,” the Pentagon noted. “Death squads and terrorists are locked in mutually reinforcing cycles of sectarian strife, with Sunni and Shia extremists each portraying themselves as the defenders of their respective sectarian groups.” "  Michael Gordon


"defenders of their respective sectarian groups"

"Sectarian groups?"  What has been missing from the start of our Iraq venture has been a willingness to accept the idea that Iraq was and is a "state" but it has never been a "nation-state."

In fact, the country created by international agreement after World War One remains what it always was – an artificial construct built on the land that was always just "Mesopotamia" before.

If there can be said to be an Iraqi People, then that "people" are the result of the more or less forced union of several ethno-religious nations over the last eighty odd years.  These people were subjected to "pressure cooker" efforts to develop "Iraqi Man."  The schools were a major instrument in that effort.  Police and media pressure were used as well as all the other instruments of successive governments.  Progress toward "Iraqi Man" took place.  In some segments of the population, a self-awareness of being Iraqi rather than Sunni Arab, Kurd, Chaldean, Shia Arab, etc. took root.  This was most noticeable among army officers, the secular Shia and other more groups directly connected to the central government.

At the same time the masses of Iraqis retained their essential group identities in the categories now so familiar to us all.  These groups are closely tied to similar categories throughout the Islamic and Arab worlds;  Sunni, Shia, Kurdish, Turcoman, etc.

The Americans who launched the war in Iraq imagined that none of this was real.  Believing deeply in a Utopian vision of human social progress and inclined to think that Israel would be benefited by a Middle East no longer obsessed with a view of the world which involved a moiety of Muslims against all others, the American revolutionaries whom we generally call "neocons" openly called and still call for transformative westernization throughout the region.  I would include President Bush and Condoleeza Rice in this group.  It is unfashionable to call for "westernization" these days, so the rubrics of "democratization" and "globalization" are applied with the result that great and revolutionary outcomes have been expected from constitution writing and elections.  These mechanisms of democracy do not yield the results the "neocons" had hoped for because these mechanisms are not transformative.  They are merely expressive of what lies within the collective minds of the people voting.

What lies within the psyches of the peoples of Iraq is a belief that their communities are not "Iraq" as President Bush imagines it.  He believes that these peoples see themselves as individuals, acting as individuals within the polity of Iraq, but most of them see themselves in far older and more deeply rooted categories.

These categories are now engaged in combat on the dusty plains of Mesopotamia.  They are like lions fighting over the "kill" that our intervention has left for them.

Pat Lang

Download 20060901_military_report.pdf

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46 Responses to Civil War and Partition

  1. ikonoklast says:

    “Massoud Barzani, Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) leader and president of the Kurdish Regional Government in northern Iraq, banned the Iraqi national flag in the Kurdish region, claiming it represented the Baath regime.
    KDP leader Barzani has constantly pushed for secession from the national Iraqi administration. He published a notice the previous day ordering the replacement of Iraqi flags with their Kurdish counterpart in all public buildings across the Kurdish region.”

  2. ikonoklast says:

    My apologies for double posting, and thank you for another wonderful and cogent analysis, Colonel.
    With the Labor Day weekend marking the start of the election push, there’s no reason to expect anybody in the administration will acknowledge the reality on the ground in Iraq. The myth-machine will be running in high gear to obliterate any inconvenient facts. Yet again there will be a turning point, and victory will be just around the corner. Any sensible strategic realignment or withdrawal will be craven cutting and running. It will be a hard path to tread, but only those who hate freedom and support the terrorists will shirk from their duty …
    The approved narrative has become as predictable and comforting as a toothache.

  3. Green Zone Cafe says:

    Some quotes from Iraq:
    Sunni professional about Shia: “They’re ignorant and dirty, they can’t run Iraq.”
    Shia talking about Sunni: “They are Bedouin Arabs, people of the desert, all they know is killing. We [the Shia] are people of the valley, from the Sumerians, farmers, peaceful.”
    Kurd about Arabs: “I hate Arabs, I hope the Israelis kill them all.”

  4. John in LA says:

    Many – if not most -of the post cold-war conflicts derive from a natural dissonance between “state” borders and natural ebb and flow of ethnographic life.
    When the UN was formed in 1945, whatever ethnic groups controlled various countries around the world effectively “freeze dried” their states. And the geogrphic structures of these states were protected indefinitely by the non-violability of borders, Security Council recognition of these permanent borders and etc.
    The Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, Uganda, Zaire, Rwanda, East Timor, Sudan all come to mind.
    What’s worse, many of these borders were drawn in European salons for the express purpose of creating permanent instability. The French, Brits etc., had a vested interest in dividing ethnic groups by driving borders amid them.
    In this way, the White Man, the European, the West can stand in as the arbiter, the cop, the sargeant at arms to help this divisive lesser races sort out their problems.
    Sound familiar? This was the formula in the early 19th century and the neocons and others would like a Pax Americana (called globalization, westernization etc.) guaranteed by the Security Council and a monopoly on violence forever.
    When we speak of the neocons desire for democracy and etc., in my view, we are being too kind. The neocons are, again in my view, nothing but a pseudo intellectual branding of aggressive zionism.
    Do the neocons propose bombing China to force democracy? Do they propose the imposition of American-sponsored government in Zaire? Do the neocons propose spending a trillion dollars to subjugate Pakistan’s military government?
    They don’t. The neocons have only ever proposed one thing — the American military invasion of Arab countries. The American occupation of military force on Arab countries.
    The natural forces of tribe and language and religion go deep — hundred or thousands of years. So the White Man imposition of borders and state structures over the past 50 is transient.
    We can anticipate borders being rewritten on the ground, in real time, by local players.
    Expect a Turkish-Kurdish war. Expect a Shiastan in So. Lebanon. Expect a Hamas overthrow of the West’s client “king” in Jordan. Expect a civil war in Saudi Arabia. And expect the Saudi insurgents to propose a local Umma that consumes the GCC states.
    This is what the Hizbollah and Hamas are doing in the Levant — they are re-drafting borders. American forces will, given the Zionists’ grasp on both Democrats and Republicans, likely spend another trillion dollars carrying out Israeli directives.
    But, in the meanwhile, the real prize — Iran, Gas and Oil resources — will find their way to China and exploding East Asia — through separate channels that do not involve the Americans’ military/economic/energy marketing structures.
    The Americans will be kicking down doors in Gaza city. The Chinese will be investing a few hundred billion in Iran, Central Asia and etc., and will be lifting those resources to Asia while the Americans still frantically try to make permanent the hastily drafted borders of the last century

  5. Nabil says:

    This just in – Kurds ban the Iraqi flag in Kurdistan:
    Northern Iraq is going to be just as bad as central Iraq in a couple of years. Kurds are going to ethnically cleanse it of Arabs and Turkmen. Turkey will be intervening in that war in a big way.
    Start praying for another Saddam, because the alternatives are worse.

  6. lina says:

    So is partition the answer? Or will just be another artificial construct? Sen. Biden likes the idea:
    “. . .to establish three largely autonomous regions with a viable central government in Baghdad. The Kurdish, Sunni and Shiite regions would each be responsible for their own domestic laws, administration and internal security. The central government would control border defense, foreign affairs and oil revenues. Baghdad would become a federal zone, while densely populated areas of mixed populations would receive both multisectarian and international police protection.
    Decentralization is hardly as radical as it may seem: the Iraqi Constitution, in fact, already provides for a federal structure and a procedure for provinces to combine into regional governments.
    Besides, things are already heading toward partition: increasingly, each community supports federalism, if only as a last resort. The Sunnis, who until recently believed they would retake power in Iraq, are beginning to recognize that they won’t and don’t want to live in a Shiite-controlled, highly centralized state with laws enforced by sectarian militias. The Shiites know they can dominate the government, but they can’t defeat a Sunni insurrection. The Kurds will not give up their 15-year-old autonomy.
    Some will say moving toward strong regionalism would ignite sectarian cleansing. But that’s exactly what is going on already, in ever-bigger waves. Others will argue that it would lead to partition. But a breakup is already under way. As it was in Bosnia, a strong federal system is a viable means to prevent both perils in Iraq.. .”
    (NYT, Op-Ed, May 1, 2006)

  7. John Howley says:

    The Intl Crisis Group issued a report on Iraq and the Kurds in July:
    The Iraqi Constitution calls for a referendum on the status of Kirkuk by the end of 2007 (i.e., soon!).
    I have seen media reports that the Kurdish parliament is considering a draft regional constitution that includes Kirkuk as part of the Kurdish region (which it is not now). Such a change is a “red line” for Turkey (and probably Iran, too).

  8. John says:

    A friend of mine for the last year has been proposing that we just turn Saddam lose and rearm him. He knows how to quite things down.
    Humpty Dumpty has falled off the wall and all the kings soldiers and all the kings men could not put Humpty Dumpty together again. How appropriate.

  9. Colonel Lang, Excellent analysis here. I’d note, again, that all of this plays into the neocon game plan. I think that the talk about democratization etc. is merely a way of making that plan palatable to the rather idealistic sensibilities of Bush.
    The only form of democractization that he neocons hope to establish is the imperial republican’s notion of client state in Iraq. All other concerns are simply window-dressing.
    With a weak central government in Iraq, the US will continue to impose its will to expand further destabilization in the region. The present anarchy in Iraq allows Iran to look like it is gaining influence; but this appearance only makes the neocon call for invading/attacking Iran look stronger. Whether or not that influence is real is really beside the point.
    Just as long as it looks like Iran is gaining influence–to a president whose grasp of socio-cultural or geopolitical realities is tenuous at best, to a press that relies on the think-tankers who mouthe neocon platitudes–is all that counts.
    On a more macroscopic level, the pieces continue to fall into place for an eventual invasion/attack of Iran. The Israelis have a forward operating base in Kurdistan. While in a more precarious situation, the US troops can simply reinforce its rear and swivel toward Iran and either feign an attack on Iran’s western border or actually use it as a base for special ops tactics.
    The wildcard in this scenario is Turkey and its continuing concern about Kurdish guerilla groups based in Kurdsitan. They’ve already made incursions into Kurdish terrotory to attack these groupos and they’ve bombarded the guerilla camps. Interestingly, they’ve done this in seeming coordination with Iran, which has also bombarded these guerilla positions.
    No doubt, the State Department is taking strong measures to assess Turkey’s intentions here, perhaps promising more economic aid. We must remember that it was Turkey’s refusal to allow US troops to use it as a base for invading northern Iraq that caused Rumsfeld conniptions.

  10. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Cannot Iraq be modeled after Lebanon? Or Malaysia?
    The European nation-state model is not applicable to large parts of the world: India, Africa, China, Malaysia. Why beat a dead horse?

  11. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Kurdish independence is a chimera.
    If Kurds have not forged a state over the past 2500 years, there is no reason to suppose that they will any more successful now.
    Iraqi Kurdistan is, in my opinion, a tribal (con)federation of Barzanistan & Talibanistan.

  12. FB says:

    A closer look appears to indicate that there have been, and are, two groups pushing US policy in the Arab and Muslim world. They have different goals, but appear to be agreed on means. One group is the American Likudniks (or Zionists), whose aim is to disrupt any actual or potential threat to Israel. The other is the Cheney-Rumsfeld clique, which aims to seize control of as much of the world’s oil sources as possible, thus assuring US hegemony (which is also assured by building up overwhelming military power). This group appears to believe that a powerful, aggressive Israel will help the US in achieving its goal (hence the alliance between the two groups).
    What both groups don’t seem to understand are the limitations of destructive military power as a tool of policy, and the reaction such use can produce, which can nullify the gains brute force may achieve.

  13. John in LA says:

    If the Kurds declare independence, Iran, Syria, Turkey and Shia Iraq, together with Sunni Iraq will invade and do everything possible to kill the new nation in the cradle.
    The abandonment of the Kurds was the single biggest piece of unfinished business in the Post WWI Middle East.
    Everyone hates the Kurds for the simple reason that they control the water of the entire region. The aquifers of Iraq, syria, Turkey and Iran largely begin in Kurdistan.
    It has been observed in this blog that Israel’s water largely resides under the West Bank.
    Water is blood. Just ask the Mexicans from whom the United States separated their watered provinces.

  14. Grimgrin says:

    Nabil: Turkey and Iran are allready shelling Kurdish positions.,,3-2329600,00.html
    Is Turkey going to be able to live with an independant Kurdistan, which can use the Kirkuk oil revinues to support efforts for independance amongst the Kurds of southern Turkey?
    What sort of cooperation exists between Turkey and Iran regarding Kurdistan?
    I can’t pretend to know the answers to those questions, but the possibility of partitioning off Kurdistan leading to a wider regional war seems very real to me right now.

  15. W. Patrick Lang says:

    I did not publish your comment because you imply that I am a part of a conspiracy of some sort.
    If you wish to malign me do it elsewhere. pl

  16. W. Patrick Lang says:

    One does not “seize control of the world’s oil.” That is a primitive idea. Oil is a fungible commodity. Those who possess oils sell it and always will. The price is determined 1-by longstanding contracts or 2-by the daily price on the world spot market for what is left over from the long tem contracts.
    Every barrel traded into the spot market directly affects the world price.
    Do you imagine that the people you are talking about would not pay for the oil? Do you realize how disruptive such a thing would be to the world economy? This is the last thing they would want.

  17. FB says:

    There is a credible view out there that, with the approach of “peak oil”, fungibility is no longer enough. To ensure supply you have to control the sources. That is why China is going into Africa and S. America. And the US wants to control the ME; friendly sheikhdoms are no longer sufficient.
    Oil scarcity is going to be even more disruptive.

  18. W. Patrick Lang says:

    Interesting, but I am as yet unconvinced with regard to the “peak oil” theory.
    I have been hearing that sort of thing all through along life and new sources of energy always appear. I am inclined to think that this will continue.
    In any event, the thought of Cheney/Rumsfeld as plotters at that level of sophistication….
    Does your theory envision a kind of mercantilist world in which only the possessors of oil are assured a supply? pl

  19. Tom Griffin says:

    There’s also the issue of who profits from the sale of oil.
    Saddam Hussein was willing to sell oil to the west even during the 1973 embargo, but he used that wealth to build up Iraq as a regional military power.

  20. zanzibar says:

    “Oil is a fungible commodity.” -PL
    Amen! Market players believe this and act in that manner. Another myth is that high oil prices substantially benefit multinational oil companies. On the contrary the higher the oil price the less beneficial to oil companies as their agreements with the owners of the oil source are based on revenue sharing agreements with declining percentages as certain revenue levels are reached. In many cases there are even caps. What this does is completely whack the reserve assumptions on oil company balance sheets and projected revenue streams from wells.
    Pricing volatility can be managed. Producers and consumers hedge prices in the futures market providing liquidity to these markets. Pricing is primarily determined by supply/demand. Speculation and fear are also part of the price equation. Today, supply and demand are evenly balanced at around 85 mb/d. However, demand is expected to be 120-130 mb/d by 2020 with China and India expected to increase their demand over 100% from current levels. One of the issues is that there have not been any major discoveries of light crude in the past 2 decades. And current projections are for 8% average decline in the current wells which implies that these wells will only produce around 25 mb/d in 2020. So other wells have to produce 100 mb/d in 2020 to meet the projected demand. Saudi Arabia which is currently a major swing supplier extracts 90% of its crude output from 7 super giant wells which were all discovered in the 40s-60s and accounts for around 7.5 mb/d of production today. Venezuela has extremely large reserves of heavy crude and Canada has reserves in tar sands that rival Saudi Arabia. The issue with heavy crude and tar sands are the energy intensity to extract and as a result costs and depletion rates are higher. If demand growth continues at current levels we are approaching scarcity economics in light crude as well as in dry gas. And oil and gas markets could remain tight until refineries retool for heavy sour crudes and heavy crude and tar sand production become meaningful. Or of course consumption growth abates.
    The strategic dimension relates to the long term supply contracts and the exploration and production agreements. Putin’s action with Yukos is a reminder of how dicey this business is for investors. In a temporary scarce resource environment “allocations” become important and hence the push by China and India to invest in E&P deals. Not dissimilar to the technology business when demand temporarily outstrips supply for chips. In such situations for example, Intel provides preference to Dell over a small white-box maker. In the short term a supply disruption that takes out 10% of world supply can seriously hike prices. IMO, the use of oil as a strategic weapon by countries like Iran is overstated. Iran has no major industry or agricultural production to offset oil revenues. They need to sell oil more than others need to buy it today. They have a very youthful and growing population and a moribund economy and developing their oil and gas resources is very important. Note that as Iraq’s oil was taken offline it did not impact world supply as Russia, Iran and Saudi were able to increase their production. Although light crude and dry gas are “strategic” resources in the short term I believe both suppliers and consumers want a stable market in their own interests.

  21. MarcLord says:

    Col. Lang,
    As Henry Kissinger said, “Control energy and you control the nations.”
    Regardless of whether ‘peak oil’ is true or not, Western oil company and foreign policy leaders act as if they believe it’s true, and in the US those entities have converged. Theories similar in effect to Peak Oil aren’t new to the 21st century; even when world reserves weren’t in question, local supply in most countries was, and given the last century’s experience a strong case can be made that (in wartime) only the possessors of oil are assured of its supply.
    As for Cheney/Rumsfeld, yes, they envision themselves at the pinnacle of “a kind of mercantilist world in which only the possessors of oil are assured a supply.” There is ample evidence, much of it coming out of their own golden mouths, that they’ve consistently stressed the strategic significance of direct possession of Mideast oil above all else. They and PNAC subscribe to the publicly expressed logic that American economic hegemony cannot be maintained absent continuing military hegemony, and to the strategic wisdom of fighting and winning WW3 before it starts.
    In their minds, the dominance they seek requires direct military possession of ME oil with new bases placed to protect fields, facilities, and pipelines. Control of the Oil Triangle precludes China, Russia, or India from challenging US hegemony together or separately for a century to come.
    Obviously, things aren’t going so great with that plan. Far smarter to have invested all that devious effort in looking for and developing new sources of energy, and in new infrastructure designed to best take advantage of them.

  22. John says:

    The other problem with attempting to control Middle East oil is the long supply line to get it to the United States.
    I am not saying that the Neo Cons are not attempting to do this. I do not know. but they are it is rather infantile thinking.
    If the rest of the world (Russia, China, Western Europe and people living in the Middle East) see the United States and Israel attacking or invading Iran over oil, then through guerilla actions they could prevent commerical quantities of oil from being delivered.
    We can see how effective a few people in Iraq have been at preventing oil from being brought back on line.

  23. Rider says:

    “These mechanisms of democracy do not yield the results the “neocons” had hoped for because these mechanisms are not transformative. They are merely expressive of what lies within the collective minds of the people voting.”
    Brilliant point.

  24. John Howley says:

    More bad news….
    I no longer have power to save Iraq from civil war, warns Shia leader
    By Gethin Chamberlain and Aqeel Hussein in Baghdad
    (Filed: 03/09/2006)
    The most influential moderate Shia leader in Iraq has abandoned attempts to restrain his followers, admitting that there is nothing he can do to prevent the country sliding towards civil war.
    Aides say Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani is angry and disappointed that Shias are ignoring his calls for calm and are switching their allegiance in their thousands to more militant groups which promise protection from Sunni violence and revenge for attacks.
    “I will not be a political leader any more,” he told aides. “I am only happy to receive questions about religious matters.”

  25. zanzibar says:

    The only explanation that makes sense to me is that Iraq was a neo-con ideological project that has gone awry.
    Even GHWB recognized the Iraqi “pressure cooker” and described the consequences of toppling Saddam in his book. In late 2002 there were a few lonely voices that predicted the possibility of “tribalism” that remained just below the surface going amok. Of course they were shouted down in the “we’re going to kick a..” moment. Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, et al were determined to experiment with their ideological project and were unwilling to listen to voices of caution.
    Saud al-Faisal, the then Saudi foreign minister in an interview a few weeks before the invasion predicted,
    “The US and British troops would be bogged down in Iraq for years. There would be civil war between Sunnis and Shias. The real beneficiary would be the government in Iran.
    “And what do the Americans say when you tell them this,” I asked? “They don’t even listen,” he said.”

    And Cheney’s invasion rationale to Faisal, “Because it’s do-able.”
    GWB may have been caught in the “hype” of the moment and believed the neo-cons and felt this would enable him to become a transformative President with the next stop Mt. Rushmore. Iraq has become the signature of his Administration.
    Iraq in many ways resembles Yugoslavia after the demise of Tito and the release of the “pressure cooker” lid. Maybe they go the way of the civil war in Lebanon and after exhaustion they could achieve a semblance of peace with a political settlement. I am afraid the Iraqi adventure has dramatically weakened US credibility and has provided a blue print and training ground for our adversaries to grind us down in a future conflict.

  26. Grimgrin says:

    Col. Lang, I think that it’s not about securing the oil as much as it’s about securing the profits. Off the top of my head, 100 billion or more barrels in Iraq at $50/per, with an extraction cost of what $5/barrel? Keeping that money out of the hands of a Russian or Chineese state owned oil company has to be a priority for someone who’se bought into the PNAC ideal of “precluding the rise of a great power rival”.

  27. W. Patrick Lang says:

    “should be treated as a “strategic asset,” in much the same way Hugo “More Important Than God” Chavez and Vlad “The Impaler” Putin have recognized.”
    “Shuold be treated” implies a policy outcome that you desire rather than a fact of the market place.
    What’s the evidence that Chavez or Putin have dome what you advocate? pl

  28. ali says:

    Ken Pollack pointed out a couple of weeks ago that secession and a full blown civil war in Iraq are likely to lead to a war that spreads out from Iraq’s porous borders.
    In the region we have the recent precedent of the Lebanese civil war to the Islamist revolt that was crushed by the Syrians at Hama. While civil wars don’t always metastasize Iraq’s geography, societal makeup and neighbors (the fat, fragile Gulf Kingships or the Turkish, Syrian, Iranian hardmen) are the ingredients that could lead to a major war that will trap the bulk of the US military in the Persian Gulf indefinitely.

  29. ali says:

    Interesting point here from Reidar Visser reviewing The End of Iraq.
    “Galbraith’s “Iraq was just cobbled together” thesis is similarly trite and equally misleading: it is true that for some thirty years between the 1880s and 1914 there was administrative separation between Basra, Baghdad and Mosul, but before that there had been frequent intervals of administrative unity between some or all of these areas (especially Basra and Baghdad) – as was the case under the Ottomans and Georgian mamluk rule in the early nineteenth and eighteenth century as well as during long periods of the classical Islamic age (and even under a succession of Mongol rulers after 1258, if more flimsily so). Finally, on a more exotic note, on p. 219 Galbraith devotes a line to the long-overlooked Basra separatist movement of the 1920s – but his interpretation of the movement is misleading. In Galbraith’s view, the historical emergence of a Basra separatist movement proves that Shiite ambitions for separate statehood are a “natural” and “historical” thing; the snag here, however, is that the Basra bid for separation in the 1920s had nothing whatsoever to do with Shiism – it was ideologically non-sectarian and in terms of the background of its participants overwhelmingly dominated by Sunni merchants (many of Arabian origin), along with Christians and Jews. Only a few rich Shiite traders joined the project, and then at a late stage.(2)”
    Many successful modern national identities are carefully constructed myths tying together very diverse peoples. The Nation State is often built of fractious tribes. Looked at historically the idea of Iraqi man is perhaps less absurd than it would seems at the moment. In the early 70s many Iraqi’s did believe his day had come.
    It’s the conditions of the last couple of decades that have made maintaining Iraqi unity a nightmare. Saddam set tribe against tribe in order to maintain centralized power. His hammering of the Shi’a South after Desert Storm was particularly divisive. We also have the inevitable ideological spill over from the Iranian revolution as the oppressed Iraqi Shi’a turned to Tehran. Add The Prize more valuable than ever, a crop of ruthless freebooters (no doubt descendants of those rich merchants in the 20s) in positions of power and things do look dire.

  30. W. Patrick Lang says:

    I would agree that it is possible to crerate “Iraqi Man,” “Jordanian Man,” “Israeli Man,” etc. but the effort is a precarious, extended and difficult.
    When I used to visit Iraq regularly in the 70s and 80s it was clear that progress towards that goal was being made, if slowly.
    What we did was to halt the process in the middle, something like the partition of British India or what would have happened in the US if the South had succeeded in leaving. pl

  31. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Col. Lang & Ali:
    I disagree.
    The Iraqi man was always an impossibility since the notion of Iraqi-ness was not flexible enough to accomodate the diversity of Iraq.
    Iraq was religiously, linguistically, and culturally diverse. Not Just Shia and Sunni but also Christian, Sabean (sic?), Yazidi. Lingustically: Turkish, Kurdish, and Arabic. And culturally part Arabian and part Iranian.
    Yet, the state always insisted on the Arab-ness of Iraq.
    The notion of Iraqi-ness of the 70s and 80s had to do with professional classes that were dependent on the State for their livelihood; it had no roots in the broader society.
    Anothe local example is Turkey which suffers from the same inflexibility of the notion of Turkishness. That notion cannot accomodate the Kurdish people. I mention here that the Turkish Republic, since its inception, as systematically expelled non-Turks out of Turkey.

  32. Ghostman says:

    1. I have often said to my friends that you can’t instill Democracy in a man over the barrel of a M-16. I think Democracy has to come from within a man, it must be within his heart and soul. I’m not convinced the Iraqi people yearned for Democracy. I think they just wanted to be out from under Saddam. They might have welcomed “Martian Law” imposed by Martians if it meant the end of Saddam.
    2. The Colonel writes of “Iraqi Man”. It seems it’s been a long process to shape together this concept, and with uneven results. As I understand the Colonel, this project has been underway for 75-80 years. And so, as of 01/03 a sort of Iraqi Man stood…but still rather weak, and made of, if you will, plywood. Still a work-in-progress. And then in 03/03 along comes USA, takes out a baseball bat and smashes this developing Iraqi Man into little pieces. And today we see the results.
    And so I wonder, if it took the people themselves so many decades to even get to the point of a sort of fragile national unity (Iraqi Man)…how is it we, the USA can, in the space of 3,4,5,6? short years create that which the people themselves took so much longer to craft and shape?
    Somehow, in my mind, I keep seeing the image of a teenager in a shiny new truck out on a muddy trail. His rear tires get stuck. Instead of stopping and thinking, he just keeps pressing the accelerator harder. Pretty soon he’s down to his axles.

  33. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Other similar notions such as the Yugoslav man and the Soviet man also disappeared and without US taking a baseball bat to them.

  34. super390 says:

    I still believe that the nation-state system is a good thing.
    God, I sound like Anne Frank’s last words.
    But we have to recall how bad its predecessors were, at least after the fall of Rome.
    I understand the nation-state to have arisen in Europe because a vast number of wars between a vast number of sovereign entities tended to act as a Darwinian reactor to favor those entities able to convert their population’s *relative* cultural unity into an advantage on the battlefield. Therefore the creation of nation-states was a bloody mess, but once created they were damn capable of defending themselves. The nation-states that didn’t have defensible frontiers or had the misfortune to border a much bigger nation-state got weeded out. However, the survivors made the modern world possible:
    1. Thru the Treaty of Westphalia they determined that sovereignity rested in the king, not the Church or lower nobility.
    2. But the Treaty also required that the king be of the same Christian sect as most of his subjects – so sovereignity derived from the majority of the people.
    3. Thus it was possible for nation-states to transition from monarchy to democracy, because enough cultural cohesion existed to avoid crude majority tyranny.
    The tragedy is that once 20th Century men like Woodrow Wilson recognized the virtue of this process, they tried to artificially protect nascent nation-states elsewhere in the world, and eliminate the role of war. I think they failed not only because wars did return, but because the old nation-states had too much of a corrupt interest to draw the borders of new states fairly. The British couldn’t be trusted in 1919, and our neocons sure can’t be trusted now.
    I don’t know a good solution. In Africa, it seems that the entire last 1000 years of European warfare will be recapitulated before a small group of successful nation-states emerge – because war doesn’t just weed out regimes with lack of unity, but lack of integrity. It will be shorter in the Middle East, and in most of Asia the process was completed in the wars of colonial liberation. We can’t seem to find an alternative to war to produce viable nation-states whose leaders have a genuine solidarity with their citizens.
    I do think that a single Arab nation is as genuine as a Chinese or German nation.

  35. Got A Watch says:

    I would not dismiss the Cheney/Oil axis of evil influence too lightly. There was the infamous incident before the invasion of Iraq when Cheney met with American oil industry executives, to apparently “divide up” the oil fields and concessions. Also the legislation the Iraqi government agreed to early on after the invasion which was supposed to guarantee American commercial interests would be at the front of the line in the “new Iraq”. I dont’t believe there was any deep plot here, just a simple urge to seize the oilfields and turn them over to “friendly” oil companies. After all, if Iraq had zero oil, would we be even having this discussion?

  36. canuck says:

    I believe you can have a nation state with more than one culture within a single state. What you can’t have is strong nationalism because that threatens the tenuous ties the bind the cultures together. Canada is that type of nation. It has both French and English heritage. It works best with decentralized governments with weak federal powers. Each goes their own way with minimum interference by the central government. That type of nation is dependent on all the cultures within it having respect for the law. It’s doubtful a nation state could be built in violent societies such as the Middle East–each is too suspicious of the other and turns to violence when their piece of the pie is threatened. Switzerland is another country that is successful with more than one culture.

  37. Jonathan says:

    As to peak oil and related matters.
    Some of the best, clearest writing – in relatively brief chunks – is by Jerome Guillet who writes under the nom de plume of Jerome a Paris. He describes himself as follows:
    “Energy banker based, yes, in Paris, France. Writing about energy, economics, international geopolitics, European and French stuff, and whatever else catches my attention. Very strongly pro-European. Liberal in the US, libéral in France and proud of both.”
    His most recent addition (#30) to his series titled: Countdown to $100 oil, is posted today both at European Tribune (a great site) at;sid=2006/9/4/8515/48189
    and on Dailykos at

  38. Babak Makkinejad says:

    canuck, Got A Watch, SUper390:
    I disagree with the applicability of the model of European Nation States to the rest of the world.
    It is neither desirable nor practical if you are interested in peace and stability.
    The application of the Western Europran model to the rest of the worlf would require the following states to be broken up:
    Spain, Italy, Romania, Bosnia, Turkey, Ukraine, Russia, Kazakhstan, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Inida, Burma, Thailand, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Canada, the United States, South Africa, Zaire, Nigeria, Uganda, Brunid, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Sudan, Niger, etc.
    This is clearly madness.

  39. Babak Makkinejad says:

    My understanding has been that the Western oil companies’ estimates of their reserves in unreliable: they might actually have a lot more in their untapped reserves than they let on.
    There is plenty of natural gas available all over the world. I have heard of many gas fields in the Mobile Bay that singly each could power US for 300 years.
    Guillet’s “hydrogen economy” is a pipe-dream. The only long-term practical solution that I know of, in my opinion, is the breeder reactor technology based on the extraction of U-238 from the sea water.

  40. W. Patrick Lang says:

    I have a difficult time with the idea of Canada as a “nation-state.” A multi-cultural state which has managed to thrive while inhabited by two distinct peoples. That is what I would call Canada.
    As for the USA, we are rapidly moving away from whatever status we may have achieved as a “nation-state.” pl

  41. Soonmyung Hong says:

    In my humble opinion, Fast-Breeder Reactor(FBR) is yet another pipe-dream.
    It uses some kind of liquid metal. It has very good characteristic on paper, but it is far unreliable than mainstream water(pressurized or boiling) solution.
    US/Soviet navy tried to use liquid metal solution on their nuclear-powered submarine, but failed. They replaced all liquid metal reactor to pressurized water reactor(PWR).
    We have huge experiences with water-based solution from steam engine era. Liquid metal solution simply couldn’t surpass them.
    Most of all industrial countries -US, UK, France, Russia, etc- gave up breeder development project. Japan still retain lingering attachment, but I doubt their future.

  42. canuck says:

    Not quite true as I invision Canada. Quebecois (francophones including anglophones) do consider themselves Canadians as do anglophones living in other provinces. There is a common identity that ties both together. Languge does not separate the two and that’s the reason why it’s managed to stay together for more than 100 years. The two founding peoples share the notion of Canadianess. (With the exception of the small minority who would try to separate the two who have become one). The separatists haven’t been successful.
    As long as the central government remains weak, with strong powers to each province, they will remain together because neither culture threatens the other’s existence which makes them distinctively Canadian.

  43. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Soonmyung Hong:
    I agree with you that there are research problems with them: I heard that there was a stability problem with their operation.
    I knew of sodium coolants but not in connection with breeder reactors.
    Do you have to have a liquid coolant for fast breeder reactors to work?
    That many states have abandoned that research does not convince me of it being a pipe-dream; many more are pursuing that other white elephant of alternative energy called fusion power which can never become practical.

  44. zanzibar says:

    Babak, Soonmyung
    An application of FBRs is to produce plutonium. In addition to Japan, France and Russia, India has two operational FBRs and they are also developing a Heavy Water FBR to use thorium fuel since they don’t have much uranium.
    It seems that most FBRs are liquid metal – cooled by liquid sodium.

  45. canuck says:

    Saddam understood tribal warfare and was thus able to squelch Shi’a and Kurd uprisings from threatening his power to govern Iraq. With an autocrat in power, had he been left in power would there have been an Iraqi identity that coalesced? I doubt it…has Saudi Arabia or any other middle eastern country managed to overcome the hostilities that each tribe has for the other? More likely is that one dictatorship will be displaced by another that has grown more powerful. Violence becomes the norm with strong centralized leaders who are able to contain the sectarian groups that make up the governing coalition of tribes. Sunnis by their superior ability to from loose associations with each other were able to dominate over larger groups of Shi’a and Kurds.
    The invasion by the United States replaced Saddam Hussein and became the new authority in Iraq.
    Elections allowed the Shi’a to come to positions of authority they would not have held under Saddam. Factions of Shi’a sought association with Iran to strengthen their tribe (s). The next largest group, the Kurds, who had been held in check by Saddam, demand ‘their’ flag be flown in autonomous Kurdistan. Kurdish forays into Turkey has created a formidable opponent for that likelihood. Sunnis, although the smallest of the groups with its greater ability to organize themselves, utilized its disbanded army to form the initial insurgency. Sunni recruits from other Arab nations have swelled their numbers.
    Democracy among these three groups…well I suppose as long as it suits their purpose of imposing their will over the other two. The only rule each sect doesn’t violate is, “There is nothing immoral about killing an individual so long as he is not a kinsman or an ally.” 
    Without a strong central authority, Iraq cannot function. Partition? How well has that worked in Israel?

  46. Soonmyung Hong says:

    In past half century, most of breeder R&D has focused on sodium coolant.
    Japan Atomic Energy Committee(JAEC) reviewed almost 40 candidates combination for breeder in 1997. Because They got frustrated on their 40 years sodium FBR development.
    So we can start a series of coolant candidates for breeder reactor from JAEC’s report.
    1) light liquid-metal: sodium
    2) heavy liquid-metal: lead or lead-bismuth(Pb-Bi)
    3) gas: CO2 or He
    4) water: pressurized, boiling or supercritical pressurized water
    Sodium is assumed best characteristic and most experienced one.
    Lead-Bismuth is also good, but it has radioactive wast problem. Soviet also experienced a lot of other critical problem.
    CO2 is safe but not so effective. it also need larger plant(higher cost).
    Pressurized water isn’t effective. Supercritical pressurized water seems good, but need more experience. Boiling water is best on water-based category.
    Finally, their decision was to put more development effort on sodium one.
    If they selected other coolant, they must develop whole system from scratch.
    There is more critical problem.
    For FBR, plutonium reprocessing process is mandatory. So there exist great proliferation problem.
    It is huge(if not unbearable) political risk for market dominant energy solution wannabe.
    By the way, I agree with you on fusion reactor research. Tokamak isn’t promising one.

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