In the Arena

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This, about my earlier Iraq post, from a very well informed reader

The conflict described in the Times is a much more of a civil war and therefore the mission to stop it is much more about peacekeeping (or actually peacemaking) and the Congo Crisis would be a good historic model.

There is of course a Sunni-lead insurgency going on at the same time in Iraq.

The point is that a simple COIN model applied to Iraq fails to describe what is actually happening. This is nothing like the Malayan Emergency (the classic COIN example) where you have a distinct group of insurgents trying to overthrow the established order. Iraq is far a more complicated and dangerous situation. In Baghdad you have at least two factions fighting it out for control of the capital in the post-US era which is bound to happen sooner rather than later.

War is actually a pretty good way to settle things. The Civil War in the States certainly put the slavery question to bed for good. Sometimes the best approach is just to let the two sides fight until either one side gains victory or until the two sides are exhausted and agree to compromise.

I agree with almost all of it and wrote a column about it last week.

A quibble, though: I’m tempted to agree with the “let ’em fight it out” point in the last paragraph–I suspect that’s what Plan C will turn out to be–but we have to be aware of the probable consequences: a massacre of Sunnis by the dominant Shi’ites, and the possible armed intervention threatened by the Saudis.
As for the civil war putting the slavery issue to rest, I’d recommend that the reader try Redemption, an excellent book by Nicholas Lemann about the so-called “Reconstruction” period, when white Southern terrorists restored the anti-bellum racial balance of power through the use of violence.
As for Iraq, I know that the chances of success here are improbable, to say the least, but I’m hoping against hope that COIN tactics will calm things down, at least temporarily, and a regional diplomatic/security solution can be implemented. But, of course, that would require different Presidents of the United States and Iraq.