Thursday, February 23, 2006

Civil War in Iraq a Done Deal?

Today's news from Iraq was pretty grim, what with murderous reprisals for the bombing of the Golden Mosque numbering 130 dead. News outlets have been filled with pronouncements that these events represent the beginning of the civil war that will destroy the nascent Iraqi democracy.

Of course, predictions on such events are always worthless either way. But we'll offer some reasons to think that the civil war, for which some seem almost to hope to prove that the American-British invasion was wrong, is not inevitable.

First, the perpetrators of the bombing haven't yet been identified. If they can be identified, and if they represent a fringe or foreign element, then Sunnis and Shias may well unite in their opposition to them, much as Jordan united against Al Qaida after last year's bombings in Amman. Both sides may realize that their best interests are served in uniting against those who would divide them. Interestingly, in most parts of the world Shias and Sunnis live together peacefully.

Second, the enthusiasm of Iraq for self-determination and democracy, demonstrated in the last year's elections, can't be assumed to have evaporated. Faced with the prospect of supporting sectarian warlords or supporting national unity, many Iraqis may well choose the latter, and may prevail.

Third, we have yet to see whether the government's imposition of a strict curfew will quell the violence until the first two factors can play a role. If it's effective for the short term, then a long-term blood feud may not emerge.

Finally, the Golden Mosque can certainly be rebuilt. The Americans and British have already pledged money for just that. Will the construction of a new-and-improved holy site, financed by the nations that brought self-determination to Iraq, become a symbol of the power of democracy to overcome terror?

We're not confident about any of this. But neither are we ready to pronounce--with the 2400 current news stories with the words "Iraq," "mosque," "bombing" and "civil war--to say that it's all over.

Here's how James S. Robbins puts it at National Review Online:

Despite panicky headlines to the contrary, it is not in any group’s interest to wage full scale civil war in Iraq. The Shiites have power without it; the Sunnis could not win it; and the Kurds will sit it out either way and keep patiently building their homeland. So this senseless act of violence against the final resting place of two of the most respected figures of the Muslim religion only proves to the Islamic world that al Qaeda and its allies are true heretics who care nothing for the faith and are out for power by any means at their disposal. Cartoons about Mohammed pale in comparison to this atrocity. I look forward to the mass demonstrations against al Qaeda throughout the Muslim world — though somehow I doubt we’ll see many.


Guy named Courtney said...

I agree, civil war is not in the best interest of either groups, but sadly we're also not dealing with logical thinkers. I doubt that a civil war will happen (this might also change the U.S.'s ROE once again) but I can very well see the unifying of the mhadi milita again. And those are some well armed and fairly well trained soldiers. And that is something that we don't want to have to deal with again

JB in CA said...

I, too, think predictions of a civil war are a bit premature, to say the least. So far, what's going on in Iraq looks a lot more like what went on in the U.S. in the 1960s than in the 1860s. Moreover, 130 dead is a far cry from 600,000. To change the analogy, has anyone (seriously!)referred to the decades-long violence in N. Ireland as a civil war, as opposed, say, to organized gang violence? I wish the media--and, here, I mean all the media--would resist pumping out sensationalist predictions and stick to the facts. We all would be much better served as a result.